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Engineer Charles Kinney Is Officially a Radio Legend in Georgia

He's the director of engineering at Cox Media Group in Atlanta

Longtime radio engineer Charles Kinney is about to become a Radio Legend — a title he’s unknowingly been working towards since he was 14, the age his radio career began. Kinney said some of his earliest memories were of being at radio stations with his father, with his first paid radio job being the board-op for “American Country Countdown.”

“Radio Legends” in the Peach State are nominated by Friends of Georgia Radio members for making a difference in radio and audio arts, for serving as leaders of their communities and organizations and for helping to define radio’s future. Kinney, the director of engineering at Cox Media Group in Atlanta, is among those to receive the distinction this year.

While at Florida State University, Kinney performed contract work around the Tallahassee radio market, starting his first chief engineer position at WGLF(FM) in 1991.

At age 27, Kinney was hired by Radio One as its chief engineer in Atlanta. Within three months, Radio One expanded its radio portfolio and Kinney was promoted to Radio One corporate director of engineering, where he shepherded Radio One acquisitions in Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Richmond and Boston, according to a Friends of Georgia Radio press release.

Nine years later, Kinney became responsible for the newly-acquired Cox Radio stations in Athens. He was also a 2022 recipient of The Ditty-McLemore Award for Broadcast Engineering Excellence from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.

Now, 24 years later, Kinney oversees 11 radio stations in Georgia. “The contributions that he has made to broadcast engineering, nationally and statewide, are myriad. As important is his generosity to his fellow broadcasters in times of need,” said Friends of Georgia Radio, a 501c3 non-profit organization compring radio professionals.

In a few days, Friends of Georgia Radio will honor six industry professionals on Aug. 26 at the Olde Towne Athletic Club in Marietta. Ahead of that celebration, and to learn more about his career, Radio World caught up with Kinney, who answered via email.

Radio World: How/where did you get your start in the radio industry? 

Charles Kinney: I literally started when I was a baby. My father was a broadcast engineer, so I have been running around radio studios and transmitters as long as I can remember. My first memories are of helping my dad change tubes in transmitters.

RW: How did you learn your craft? Who were you mentors?

Kinney: My list of mentors is long. First my father, who got me into the business. His good friend Charlie Wooten, who is a legend in his own right in the southeast. Charlie was always there for me in the early days of my engineering career.

By the time I made it to Atlanta, Cox Vice President of Engineering Sterling Davis helped me navigate the world of corporate radio, and gave me the great quote, “We are all smarter together”! Currently, Roz Clark, the current CMG radio head of engineering, continues to help guide me through the ever-changing world of corporate radio!

RW: Any particularly favorite jobs?

Kinney: Well, It would be impossible to say that spending 24 years at WSB in Atlanta wasn’t my favorite. Working for Cox would be a dream for anyone! That being said, Radio One brought me to Atlanta, and I had a great time working there! [It’s ] a very well run operation, and I got to be there during a time of great expansion. Spending time working for [software company] Computer Concepts in Kansas City was also a great time and great learning experience. The current evolution of that company is WideOrbit, which we still use at Cox Media Group today.

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RW: What projects or accomplishments do you consider to be highlights? 

Kinney: The things I am currently most proud of, are putting on the first HD Radio signals on in Georgia. I also love that I have built or rebuilt every site for CMG Atlanta. Transitioning from analog to digital and then IP for the CMG Georgia stations has also been a career highlight.

RW: What do you see as the most important, current technological changes or developments in radio?

Kinney: This is a difficult question. HD Radio has been a huge change, but the push for digital and internet has been huge. In today’s world, you can’t ignore either. One of the things I love about Cox Media Group is that they constantly invest in new technology to keep our group on the cutting edge of technology. We are currently putting in new state of the art equipment for streaming services, but still getting money to keep our legacy operations at peak condition.

RW: What are the current, pressing radio technology projects or priorities at Cox?

Kinney: We continue to modernize our facilities in areas ranging from replacing tube transmitters with solid-state systems to finishing up conversions of our studios and infrastructure to IP-based solutions.

RW: Is the company pursuing virtualization of radio studios in a serious way?

Kinney: We are not aggressively implementing virtualization of entire studios but have implemented software-based solutions for some parts of the radio station such as PPM encoding for streaming as an example.

RW: Is artificial intelligence technology being used at Cox in its radio business?

Kinney: Cox Media Group is taking a close look at opportunities to leverage AI but we have not rolled out anything substantial at this time.

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