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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

(TALENT) The Sensory Deprivation Medium


Clear skies on a blistering, Africa-hot, summer afternoon ? a perfect time for another six-hour remote at one of the local appliance stores. That the turntables and mic stand were squashed into a tilted, rickety corner of one of the front display windows guaranteed another sweltering shift of natural and panic sweat. Plus, melting in public can be such a gripping learning experience.

Two hours into the remote, the sun was angled such that it could beat down on me with cruel intention and no remorse. There was no escaping it, either. For two reasons. 1. This was in the days when we threw the mic open after every record, and we had to get ready for the next stop-set. Unlike today's endless music sweeps and long, grinding spot clusters, there was hardly enough time to leave for a quick whiz, never mind an invigorating rub and a dip in the cool pool. 2. The slightest movement, like getting up from the chair, would shake the turntables and the needle would start skipping and scratching its way across the 45 like a Thompson's gazelle pronking over the veldt. Potting down and grabbing the tone arm to drop the needle back on the record was the only alternative. Not pro.

We were required to dress for remotes back then ? white shirt and tie and, I must say, a pretty spiffy, light tan, camel hair sports jacket with the station's calls stitched into the breast pocket. No jeans. There were some conversations about length of hair, but the station PD reluctantly backed off as the times, after all, were a' changin'. Soft "Beatle boots" were in vogue by then and quite acceptable. (This was well before the platform shoes of the "Disco Scare of the '70s" took their crippling toll.)

Between squinting because of the intense, direct sunlight and the irritating rivulets of sweat burning my eyes, reading "live" spots became a serious challenge. Indeed, I was soaked through to my shorts. I don't believe anyone heard me squish. Plus, I was constantly worried that the record I had slip-cued previously had already jumped the groove.

Meanwhile, as this was an appliance store, the station's sales rep, the GSM, PD, and store management were clustered in front of the fan display ? all of the devices operating at full blast ? drinking old black coffees that had the odor of ancient cooking grease and were poured into plastic cups. Still, everybody was getting along famously. I was knocking back the same oil-slicked swill that had to be stirred in a frenzy because of the powdered, chunky creamer. I perched the cup precariously on the board right beside my ashtray. To be sure, it was a pleased and jovial clutch as the all-day remote was pulling in some serious shoppers. There were "atta boys" and "wayta go's" all around, including for me.

Exhausted and, by then, somewhat gamey, I finally made it to 6 p.m. and signed off. I packed up the logs, copy binder, and the case of 45s, bid my farewells and thanks to the client and, casually and confidently, strolled up the few blocks to the station. Even under those less-than-ideal circumstances, it was still a thrill to be on the radio ? talkin' nasty and playin' the hits.

So. It is highly unlikely that any readers would notice the previous (absolutely true) story was cobbled together with attention being paid to the sensory elements that are available in experience and in the language. I suspect that somebody has already said, "English is too special a language to waste." Radio, however, hasn't heard the news, seen the writing on the wall, felt the impact, picked up on the odors in the air (or on the air), or tasted the fruits of extra attention.

People experience the external world through their senses. We see. We hear. We touch. We smell the environments. We taste. We also have representations of all the senses in our internal experiences. And we process pure, so-called "digital" information. When we speak, we tend to limit those representations in our speech. But, when we do offer sensory representations, we are likely to depend on one sensory expression as a primary modality. Some of us talk about visuals more than any others. Some refer to "feelings" almost exclusively. A few others favor auditory examples in their speech patterns. The reason they do that is because that is exactly how they are experiencing their world.

Obviously, radio, unlike other media, has only one output modality ? sound. Yet, even with that (seemingly) limiting circumstance, we still have the potential to engage in our listeners all of the sensory modalities. Unfortunately, this potential has never been expressed or exploited. "Theatre-of-the-mind" is just an expression that AEs use to impress clients. It is hardly ever demonstrated.

I urge any broadcaster reading this piece to monitor their own outfits and determine how little of these sensory modalities are being expressed on the air and in the commercial content.

Radio has been ignoring all of the available communicative aspects that would make of it an incredibly powerful, informative, entertaining, and influential advertising medium. It has been doing so for decades. The irony lies in the fact that, by improving the communicative elements, radio will be doing itself, its audiences and its advertisers a tremendous service. Win/Win/Win.

Alas, radio continues to limit itself and the results advertisers might otherwise enjoy by making of itself a sensory-deprivation medium. Radio does this by relying ? almost exclusively ? on pure content-information. When people are deprived of their senses, they tend to go inside themselves ? for a while. After longer periods, they go ape-snake nuts. Has radio already arrived at that state? Audiences, if they are expected to participate, must be reached at levels to which they can relate. The sensory modalities is one of those categories.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to talent and creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website

(4/27/2015 12:32:00 PM)
From the same dictionary-
modalities-the ceremonial forms, protocols or conditions that surround formal agreements.
In Ron's constant striving to command new and unusual language (wow 'em with BS), he will occasionally fart one. Miss Havisham at the bar, waiting for a free one.
I'm a cluster owner, Ron. Ever dream of being one?
(4/27/2015 9:49:49 AM)
"radio-vet" seems to have his head permanently embedded. There was no lamenting about any good ol'days. the story was told to demonstrate the lack of sensory modalities in radio.Further, the lack of sensory language is pervasive in radio.
There are many, many elements to radio that require criticism and satire. Alternates are continuously being either offered directly or implied.

Crapping on the messenger has no value.Come up with legitimate, contrary arguments - if you can. (And you won't be able to.)
At least the guy could have read the article before barfing in the comments section. If he is in management, his career and his outfit is doomed.

(4/27/2015 8:08:31 AM)
Obsess- To preoccupy the mind excessively.
To have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic. Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.

-The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language. dwell on remotes you did in the 1960s and lament the state of radio as you compare it to then, week after week, is sick. You resemble 'Miss Havisham' in 'Great Expectations'. Get help.

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