Find the Time to Save the Fine

Current crop of profanity delays helps stations control content in new ways.
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Current crop of profanity delays helps stations control content in new ways.

With the legislative momentum to increase fines for indecency sending shockwaves through the broadcast industry, there is a renewed interest in equipment designed to catch problems before they occur.

The broadcast profanity delay is an important tool to protect broadcasters from unwanted fines. Although delays have been available for more than two decades, a number of new features are available to make them more flexible, easier to use and more powerful.

How it works

In the classic broadcast delay, audio is fed into the delay in a continuous stream as the program is produced. It does not leave the delay for a pre-designated period of time, however. This allows the console operator or host to respond to a problem by dumping the offensive material before it airs.

Filler audio - a station jingle, ID or a bleep sound or other audio - can be used to cover the time necessary to build up delay before the program continues. More sophisticated units use digital signal processing (DSP) to build the required delay slowly and undetectably.

Eventide offers an example of both of the above types of broadcast profanity delays. The company's flagship BD-500 is a full-featured delay employing DSP to ramp delay up and down inaudibly. The BD-500 is now being produced with up to 40 seconds of delay time, adjustable in half-second increments; an upgrade kit is available for current owners of the BD-500 with original buffer length of 8 seconds.

"This increase in delay capability is in direct response to requests from broadcasters for additional memory," said Ray Maxwell, vice president of sales and marketing for Eventide.

The length of time dumped from the buffer on activation is adjustable from 1 second up to the entire delay length. The BD-500 also offers something known as the Sneeze feature.

"This is an alternate to the dump button that deletes audio as long as the momentary switch is held down," said Maxwell. It can be used like a cough mute button or to cut away only as long as needed to cover up inappropriate content.

"Using the Sneeze feature can often result in a more elegant cutaway," said Maxwell. The BD-500 is offered at a list price of $3,395.

Eventide also makes the BD-960, an economical delay that uses fill material to enter delay. The BD-960 includes 8 seconds worth of nonvolatile RAM to store a short audio clip. While the clip plays out, the delay unit buffers program audio until the desired delay is achieved and then begins to stream out audio. The BD-960 has a list price of $1,995.

As part of its AirTools line of products, Symetrix produces the model 6100, with up to 20 seconds of available delay time adjustable in intervals of tenths of a second. The 6100 ramps up to delay using DSP and has digital or analog inputs and outputs. The 6100 can be remotely controlled via the optional RC-610 remote, and features TC-89 clock output for an external clock display to show program time in delay. List price for the AirTools 6100 is $2,299.

A different approach

Using a different design approach, the Arse! software from MDOUK harnesses the processing power of a personal computer for broadcast profanity delay.

"Using a PC-based system brings us several key advantages," said Mo Dutta, head of sales for MDOUK. "Firstly, there's a large, clear display that shows the complete status of the system at a glance. Secondly - and I guess that this is the somewhat unachievable holy grail for a profanity delay - we wanted to give the operator an added degree of confidence with something that came as close to being able to 'edit' a live radio show as is possible."

Arse! can operate with up to 30 seconds of delay and can be controlled via mouse, standard keyboard with hot keys or a USB-connected numeric keypad. Delay is built either via a station jingle or promo audio file, stored in the computer, or using the slow build feature to ramp up over a few minutes of programming.

The computer display can show input and output audio levels as well as the amount of built-up delay at any given moment. When undesirable audio occurs, the entire buffer can be dumped, or the Wipe feature can be used to get rid of a preselected shorter interval as small as 1 second. If the Wipe function is pressed and held, audio is deleted until the function is released, allowing custom length edits for better sound.

Arse! is available for $970 list, not including computer and professional-grade sound card.

Also from England, Bel Audio offers the model 5110 stereo delay. The 5110 can delay up to 7 seconds and builds up automatically during regular programming.

The new Content Check from Prophet Systems combines the functions of a time delay recorder and computer editor to form a broadcast profanity delay allowing material to be edited while still recording. Any length of delay between 15 seconds and 60 minutes can be accommodated by Content Check.

"Indecency potential has gone way beyond just one or two words," said Prophet Systems Vice President of Marketing Jackie Lockhart. "We wanted to make it sound good when it goes on the air - not only edit out offensive material, but to make it sound professional and not choppy."

Using the edit keys in Content Check, nondestructive markers are placed at the appropriate points in the program to cut out inappropriate content. Audible preview of the final edit is then available to check the final sound quality before completion. The finished cuts can be made to sound cleanly edited, similar to produced audio segments.

Content Check runs on a computer and uses a professional grade sound card. Complete systems including all necessary computer hardware are available from Prophet Systems for $15,000 list.

And OMT is calling attention to a product it offers called MDelay. It was designed in 1996 for broadcasters who wanted to carry the Howard Stern show in Canada.

"The original airing of the show, uncut, led to penalties and warnings" from the regulatory body in Canada, according to OMT's Ron Paley. "This led our MediaTouch client CHOM in Montreal, part of CHUM, to request a variable high-quality broadcast delay that would permit on-the-fly editing of the show prior to air playout. Denis Dion was the engineer and implemented the MDelay into the CHUM air system."

Paley said John Coldwell of Corus Toronto then implemented the product, and both broadcasters have used it without penalty. The digital system, based on a PC with software, offers 0 to 70 minutes of delay. Paley said it gives the operator three chances to make a change.

"If it can work in Canada," he said, where programming tends to be more strictly regulated, "it can work anywhere."

Expect more products in this arena soon. For instance, ENCO Systems just announced the Guardien, described as an automated profanity elimination and spoken-word logging system. Retail price is $9,995.

President Gene Novacek said, "Guardien adds high-end, speaker-independent speech recognition software to the traditional profanity delay. ... The broadcaster maintains two lists of words or phrases within Guardien. There's one list for words to eliminate, and one list for words to log."

The system monitors an air feed using variable-length delay settings. When a word or phrase from either list is detected, Guardien can bleep/mute and/or log the event.

"The date/time logging is enhanced by storing a small piece of the actual audio for future reference," he said.

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