Tour of CBS Radio facility in Los Angeles

********************   Post Updated on April 27th, 2011   ******************************

I was informed that I had some incorrect information regarding FCC regulations and so I have removed the piece that is incorrect.  Thank you to K.M. Richards for correcting me on this.

Also, I meant no disrespect to the DJs and the tough job they have in an era where everything is totally computerized.  I guess I had grown up watching old TV shows and had a different idea of what happened in the sound room.  I always thought the DJ was busy selecting the next song from a file cabinet full of music while one song was playing as well as answering the phones and doing all kinds of manual stuff.  I guess it is more of the fact that my "glamour bubble" was burst with the reality of computerization in everything.  I am totally fascinated by the inner workings of how the music is selected and the programming that comes into play to coordinate everything.  Plus the slotting of commercials based on area for over the air broadcasting while coordinating the proper commercials for Internet broadcasting is a daunting feat in itself.  I would love to have the experience of being a DJ for just 2 hours 'cause I'm sure I would be blown away by the work and coordination it takes to put it all together - it's never as easy as it looks.


Every once in a while, I get a chance to visit a facility that can be categorized as “pretty cool”.  A couple of weeks ago, I had such an opportunity and thought I would do a quick blog post on it (meant to get this out sooner).

I had a chance to visit Blake Handler (an MVP in Los Angeles) on Monday, April 11th at his work. Blake happens to work for CBS Radio and he was able to give me a quick tour of their facility. I’ve always wondered how things worked in the radio business and this was definitely an eye opening experience.

In the “old” days, music was stored on cartridges that were inserted into the DJ’s console and so the DJ actually had to do some work during the show. Today, everything is pretty much computerized so the songs are all stored on a server and then streamed out. The DJ has a computer screen that shows the list of songs that will be played as well as where commercials will be aired. Other than acknowledging the next song to be played, there really isn’t a whole lot for the DJ to do. To be fair, this does depend on the format of the program. If it is a talk show, then the DJ is definitely responsible for hosting guests that are there in person or on the phone and guiding the conversations that take place. For non-talk shows or news programs, it didn’t seem like the DJ had that much to do.

Also, for news programs, I found that most of that is somewhat scripted and approved before the newsperson reads it over the air. I say “somewhat scripted” because it is usually the news person who writes the initial piece and the editor may make minor changes before it is approved. Ultimately, it is still unique information, but I always thought it was totally ad-lib and off the cuff. Now, I know it is highly regulated.

Another interesting thing for radio stations that also stream music on the Internet.  The music licensing has restrictions on how many times in a given period a single artist can be aired as well as separation of tracks from the same album. Example – it Is not allowed to air all 60 continuous minutes of songs from Phil Collins. There are rules for how often a song can be played as well as how often different songs from a single artist can be played.

Since a lot of radio stations are also being broadcast over the Internet, the coordination of commercials seems like a science. As an example, if the franchise owner of a McDonalds paid for a commercial in the Los Angeles area, but not in the Irvine area, then the station has ensure the commercial is only aired for the area in which it was meant. This also means that a different commercial would air over the Internet since that could be heard in Phoenix and therefore the commercial would mean nothing to me here in Phoenix. This is definitely a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.

I really enjoyed the tour and am glad Blake was able to take time out of his day to give me the personal tour.

Harold Wong

Comments (1)

  1. rseiler says:

    The RSS feed left off at "I had a chance…"  I can't wait for the rest.

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