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1988:  An Update

Since my memo of a year ago, some revisions of our format have been suggested by the following considerations.

1.  Most on-air staff members find a four-hour shift too long.  Three hours would be better.

2.  Although some overlap between on-air shifts is desirable so that staffers can pass on information, one hour of overlap is more than enough.  Twenty minutes would suffice.

3.  Preparing a new 30-minute edition once every three hours is proving rather inflexible in practice.  A more continuous updating process would be easier.

Instead of seven four-hour shifts to cover our broadcast day, next month we will go to eight three-hour shifts, numbered as follows.






5:00 AM

On at 5:30 =

8:00 AM


7:40 AM

11:40 AM


11:20 AM

2:20 PM


2:00 PM

5:00 PM


4:40 PM

7:40 PM


7:20 PM

10:20 PM


10:00 PM

1:00 AM


12:40 AM

Off at 2:30

2:40 AM

Let's examine Shift IV in detail as an example of the new routine.

You arrive at 2:00 PM.  The Shift III anchor briefs you, and the two of you converse with other staff members who happen to be at the station.  At 2:20, the Shift III anchor leaves, and you're on your own for the next two hours and twenty minutes.

During this time you need to accomplish the following:

A.  Re-record Carts A-3-B-C-5-D-6-E at least once.  To maintain our "rejoin time," don't allow any cart to remain in the automation system for more than three hours; so if you find that the previous anchor inserted Carts C and 5 at noon, you must redo them and insert the new versions by 3:00.  Aside from this time constraint, use news considerations to decide which carts to update first.

B.  Re-record Carts 1 and 4 (the weather) every hour with the updated temperature.

C.  Change the feature and re-record Cart 2 as scheduled.  In your case, the new Cart 2 is due at 2:24 ±13, so maybe the previous anchor has already gotten it ready for you.  The new feature is due at 2:42 ±11.

D.  If there's long-form programming during your shift, prepare the capsule carts as required.

E.  Otherwise, you should have time to do extra updates on Carts A-C-D and maybe some others.  This will keep our product more timely.  For example, if football games are being played during your shift, you might want to update Cart C every half hour so that it always has the latest scores.  The last half of Cart C can be rolled in from ¼" tape so that you don't have to keep re-reading the copy.

At 4:40 the Shift V anchor should arrive.  If he's more than five minutes late, start making phone calls, because you won't be able to leave the station until you've been relieved.

Assuming someone is there to take over, at 5:00 you're done.

The Shift VIII anchor, after updating any carts made before 11:30 PM, will start (around 1:30 AM) to make a new set designed to go on the air at sign-on the following morning.  He signs off at 2:30 and then loads the sign-on newscast into the automation system before leaving the station at 2:40.

The Shift I anchor arrives at 5:00 AM.  He checks to make sure that the Shift VIII anchor did his job, then checks whether any urgent news stories have developed over the last 2½ hours.  If any immediate revisions are necessary, he updates the relevant carts before signing the station on at 5:30.  From then on, the shift proceeds normally.

Because of the piecemeal updating process, the listener will no longer always hear the same anchor for the entire half-hour edition.  Therefore, we want the anchors to identify themselves at the start of each four-minute cart.  The routine will go like this:


End of last story on Cart A


Start of 30-second PSA


Start of 26-second Cart 1:

Sounder for headlines or weather


Sounder continues under anchor's voice


Automated clock as sounder fades out:

"It's five minues past four."


Ten Thousand Strong signature music

The start of the Oberlin alma mater, "Ten Thousand Strong"


Beginning of Cart B:

"WOBC News continues.  I'm John Doe."

Start of first story as music fades out

A different ID-type line will introduce Cart A:  "From the campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, this is WOBC.  I'm John Doe."  We're redoing the automatic clock so that the signature music will trail six seconds near the hour and half-hour, and three seconds otherwise, before trailing out.

Finally, one other change.  The Features Editor sometimes has features (such as the New Music Review) that won't fit into the four-minute slot.  So we have authorized a new nine-minute feature format for occasional use.  As with long-form programs, scheduling of these nine-minute features must be announced a week in advance.  After Cart 4's weather at 19:30, the feature will run until Cart 6's headlines at 29:30.  The anchor will simply omit Cart E (squeezing the secondary local news onto Cart D or even Cart B) and Cart 5 (squeezing the sports headlines onto Cart 6 with the local ones).


1989:  A Refinement in Five Acts

To minimize the repetitive tasks for our staff members, we've automated the on-air operation.  But of course it is possible to override the automation and go "live," either for bulletins or for full-length programs.

Some such full-length programs originate from Suite A.  Panel discussions, chamber music, and the like can be originated or recorded here.

All programming, however, reaches the transmitter by passing through either Suite B or its identical twin, Suite C.  (We have two such suites in case one is out of service due to equipment failure, maintenance, training, or other needs.)  Each of these suites has an announce booth, a combo console, and an automated playback system.

There are three off-line booths for production of carts and other recorded material.  Booth D has more elaborate facilities for producing spots and the like, while Booths E and F are for news editing.

WOBC programming is either "long form" or "automated newscast."

Long Form

The long-form shows might include a live basketball remote, a telephone talk show, a taped seminar, or a Studio A discussion.  In each case there would be an engineer at the Suite B or C console.  News updates, about every 15 minutes, could come live from the announce booth, or the engineer could play a cart that he's been given.

Automated Newscast

Most of the time, however, WOBC will be airing its automated newscast.  The newscast repeats itself every half hour, although changes to its content are made continually.

The half hour is divided into five Acts of six minutes each.  Each Act includes three carts totaling five minutes.


1 min

X: Headlines

1 min

Y: Breaking Story

3 min

Z: Major National Stories


1 min

X: National Story w/Local Angle

2 min

Y: Major Local Stories

2 min

Z: Other Local Stories


2 min

X: Sports Stories

2 min

Y: Sports Scores

1 min

Z: Recap Headlines and
    Promo Long-Form Program


1 min

X: Business News

2 min

Y: Secondary National Stories

2 min

Z: Secondary Local/State Stories


1 min

X: Light Story

3 min

Y: Feature

1 min

Z: On the Oberlin Calendar

The sixth minute in the Act is other material:  three time checks from an automated audio clock, a weather forecast from a dedicated cart machine, and a 20-second PSA (either a public-service spot or a promo) from another set of carts.

The actual timing goes like this for the 1-3-1 case:


Cart X (1 minute)




Cart Y (3 minutes)




Cart Z (1 minute)


Sounder and weather





The automation also makes provision for recovering if we get off schedule for any reason.  If we reach the PSA portion of the rotation more than 15 seconds early (e.g., before 05:12), not one but two :30 PSA's will be aired.  If we have not yet reached the PSA portion by 05:42, no PSA at all will air.  This method will keep us within 15 seconds of schedule, although major errors may take several Acts to correct.

The mechanism for the automation is located in racks at the rear of the Suite B and C control rooms.  Each rack features six multi-cart players, each with a stack of five cart slots.

On the top level are three multiplayers side by side:  Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.  These are for Carts X, Y, and Z for each of the five Acts.




Act 1

Cart X

Cart Y

Cart Z

Act 2

Cart X

Cart Y

Cart Z

Act 3

Cart X

Cart Y

Cart Z

Act 4

Cart X

Cart Y

Cart Z

Act 5

Cart X

Cart Y

Cart Z

On the middle level are the controlling computer, the audio clock with its two carts, and the single-play cart machine for the weather.  The weather and current temperature appear three times in different wordings on a 70-second cart.

On the bottom level are three more multiplayers:  Delta and Epsilon for the PSA carts, plus a spare that can be assigned to take the place of any of the other multiplayers should they fail.

With ten slots for PSA carts, each cart will air on average once an hour.  The PSA Director plans to record just one PSA per :40 cart for Delta and to retire these carts after a few days of hourly play, but to record six PSA's per 3:30 cart for Epsilon and to leave each of these carts in the machine for up to five weeks (changing one cart per week).  Each PSA in Epsilon would air only three times in our 18-hour broadcast day, or 105 times in its five-week lifetime.


Controlling the Computer

From the console in Suite B or Suite C, the automation is controlled by the panel on the upper left.  Note that the panel contains green, amber, and red lights, plus three toggle switches of different sizes.

The large, recessed toggle switch on the left is marked NORMAL / EMERGENCY and is protected by a clear plastic door.  Throwing this switch to EMERGENCY will disable the automation and connect the output of your console directly to the transmitter.  You might do this for two reasons:  the automation has broken down, or the sky is falling and you want to air an emergency message immediately.  Otherwise leave this switch in NORMAL, in which case the output of your console will be aired only when the automation system wants it to be.

The medium-sized switch in the middle is labeled AUTO / LIVE.  In the AUTO position, the green light is on and the automation is playing its carts.  Throw the switch to LIVE and the amber light comes on; when the automation is ready, it turns on the red light and your console is on the air.  Present your bulletin or long-form program.  Then throw the switch back to AUTO and the automation resumes; your console is no longer on the air, so now you can use it to record carts or whatever.

The small switch on the right is labeled BULLETIN / LONG FORM and determines at what point the automation will put you on the air.  In BULLETIN mode, you'll go on immediately after the next time check (on average, within a minute).  Should a PSA be scheduled before that time check, it will be skipped in order to get you on the air sooner.  But in LONG FORM mode, you'll go on after the time check that ends the current six-minute Act.  So if you're in LONG FORM mode and throw the LIVE switch at 49:17 after the hour, the automation will put you on at 54:00 ±15 seconds.  In either case, the time check and the red light serve as your cue.

When you return the middle switch to AUTO, at what point in the cart sequence does the automation resume?  Let E be the amount of time we were early at the start of the most recent Act, plus 3 minutes.  (For example, if we were :12 late, E would be 2:48.)  Let L be the duration of the live interruption.  Then the automation follows these rules:

If L < 45 seconds, go to the next cart that would have been played had there been no interruption.

If L > 45 seconds but L < E, air a time check, then go to that next cart.

If L > E, air a time check, then begin the Act whose scheduled starting time is closest to the current time of day.

These rules will put us within three minutes of schedule.  Adding or deleting PSA's should reduce the error to normal tolerances within half an hour.

Signing off at night and back on in the morning is the equivalent of a LONG FORM interruption.  At night, switch to LIVE.  When the automation does a time check and puts you on the air, play the sign-off cart and shut off the transmitter.  The next morning, turn on the transmitter and play the sign-on cart just before the hour as scheduled, then go back to AUTO.  The automation considers the time of day and responds with a time check and Act 1.


Another Revision

Because recording five Acts in 2:20 of your air shift has proven difficult, we have revised the schedule.  Now you will have not 22 minutes but 30 minutes to record each Act, and you will do only four of them during your shift.  This example is for Shift IV.

1:00-1:15  Confer with previous anchor
1:15-1:35  Prepare Act 3
1:35-1:42  Record the three carts
1:42-1:50  Re-record weather and temperature
1:50-2:10  Prepare Act 4
2:10-2:18  Record the three carts
2:18-2:35  Update earlier carts as necessary
2:35-2:40  Coffee break
2:40-3:00  Prepare Act 5
3:00-3:10  Record the three carts
3:10-3:15  Re-record weather and temperature
3:15-3:35  Prepare Act 1
3:35-3:45  Record the three carts
3:45-3:55  Confer with next anchor
3:55-4:00  Pack up and depart


. . . End of
2nd Quarter