Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

A case of PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair)? Tell us about your war stories!
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billcroghan
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by billcroghan » Tue Sep 20, 2016 5:51 pm

Back in the 60's my first college radio station, carrier current, I had it on after midnight testing, making numerous announcements, "broadcasting for testing purposes only" when that got boring I'd say "...for technical purposes only." Didn't take long until I announced "...for testicle purposes only". Only heard from one listener.

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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by RodeoJack » Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:43 pm

I'd bet the single word, uttered in frustration, is a fairly common experience for announcers.

At 18, and about 3 months into my first "real" radio job (Sunday sign-on at the big country station in town), I introed a song. It's about 12:15 when, a few seconds later, I switch off the wrong turntable motor. Very quietly, but while still wearing the mic from my left tonsil, comes the word, "S..T!"

"S..T!" loops through the hated Shure PA microphone (no low end), Gates Yard, Sta-Level, M3529B limiter, Collins 21B (892Rs!), mod monitor, and headphones... with surprisingly little latency, and re-inserts through my rookie ears.... instant sweat.

It's at this point that you convince yourself that nobody listens to radio on Sunday morning, even the number one station in town. They're all at church, right? Of course they are.

Monday morning, I walk in, having convinced myself I've dodged a bullet. Owner (6'12'' Texan) walks out of his office... "Hi, Jack! Enjoyed your show yesterday... especially right about 12:15! Boss grins & goes back into office.

Jack hides out in shop the rest of the day....

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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by ChuckG » Thu Sep 22, 2016 10:08 pm

My biggest on-air screwup (to date, there's still time...) is not being on air at all.
Late 70's....slept two hours past sign-on because my clock radio was set to the station I hadn't signed on yet. It just hadn't occurred to me... :lol:

Saw one jock get hauled off after making a drug deal on the studio phone...which he'd forgotten to take off-air first. Knock knock...
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Shane
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by Shane » Sat Sep 24, 2016 12:16 am

Along those lines, I was doing Sunday morning sign-on duty (some stations in Eastern PA had a peculiar habit of signing off on Saturday night instead of Sunday) and was attempting to drive the 50 miles between Easton and Reading (to then-WHUM) in a snowstorm. It became obvious I wasn't going to get there on time.

I stopped somewhere and woke the PD up to explain the dilemma. Well, since the first hour was just regular format music and few commercials if any, he said just do the best you can; let me know if you can't get there in time to sign on at 7.

Which caused me to wonder if the first hour of programming was purposely allowed to be sacrificed due to the likelihood of a part-timer having partied too hard on Saturday night, but I never asked.

Earlier, I was somewhere between full- and part-time at WHTG in NJ, an AM daytimer which continued after dark on FM with "beautiful music" done the old-fashioned way with turntables.

Now some of you will remember back in those days it was common for some stations to propose more and more news and public affairs programming with each renewal. I suspect that was the case here because every night before sign-off at midnight, we would air one of the Public Affairs shows from Sunday. One of them was called "the Art of Aging" produced by Rutgers University. It began with sick-sounding distorted violins and then an announcer who intoned everything he said as if he were talking to someone not very bright (I don't think Alzheimer's had a name yet but that could have been the intended audience).

I was working two jobs at the time, so it was often difficult to stay awake especially during the PA shows right before sign-off. One night "The Art of Aging" did me in. I started the tape, loaded the sign off cart, put my head down on the desk and ZZZZZzzzzz!

I woke up with a start at 12:22am, immediately played the sign-off cart - all 3 minutes and 40 seconds of it - and shut everything down.

Even though the owner lived in the building, which was a ranch house that was one half her living quarters and one half the radio station AND there was a curtained window between her office and the control room, apparently the curtain never parted. Never heard a thing about it.

Oh, did I mention that the world's most polite silence alarm - it made a soft tinkling sound - was out of order that night.

When I eventually became emboldened enough to tell this story on myself I would add that there was a running joke here every time somebody messed up, "Oh well, no one's listening" we'd say. I would then say, "I guess I proved it!"

Don't ask me what I put down in the logs. I don't even remember but it sure couldn't have been the truth.

Back to WHUM: on the staff were 5 ham radio licensees: me, the PD, the news director, the chief (read: only) engineer, and the GM. After the PD my first contact with any of these was the engineer, who since he had to make all the arrangements for the church programs anyway, was permitted, I think, to get commission on those and sell them himself.

So from one week to the next there might be different programs with different patching arrangements and he was always careful to call the "trained monkey" and slowly and deliberately spell out what was needed to be done for that weekend's programs. Eventually, he figured out I wasn't a trained monkey and we got on very well with each other. After about 6 months of part-time here I was promoted to full-time on the midday shift.

Wiz, as we fondly referred to him, was especially appreciative of how I kept the transmitter logs even when I was part-time. One time he took an extended vacation of 5 weeks. He arranged for a backup, but may have forgotten to tell him about the timer at the transmitter that automatically, if not entirely legally at the time, would change power levels.

I noticed when a new month started that we were still changing at the old times so I would turn the transmitter back off and return it with night power until the designated time then switch back.

It turned out that Mr. Part-timer was the only one who noticed and when Wiz got back he had several weeks of logs with the incorrect power change time dutifully logged. Except on Sunday morning.

His solution was to have everyone re-do their logs, writing in the correct times even though this was tantamount to forgery. He took me aside and said something like, Now I'm not asking YOU to do anything illegal, all you have to do is copy what you already correctly logged.

Ok fast forward a couple of years and the transmitter goes down about 1:20 or 1:30 in the afternoon near the end of my shift. By this time I was known to be someone who knew a few things. There were some simple instructions written down on a small sheet headed, "instructions for takeout pizza" which I can only surmise was someone's idea of keeping those instructions secure from terrorists.

They called for first, turning off the main plates, then the filaments, and only then (but the instructions didn't say "only then") turning on the filaments of the aux, and then the plates after some specified warm up time.

What I did was first, turn on the aux filaments. Then attempt to revive the main. No luck so I went to the aux plates, pushed the lever switch on the Rust remote control to Raise and... Nothing. This didn't look good. Wiz came in and asked what I did and I told him. He said, "don't blame me cuz I didn't design it but you have to follow those instructions to the letter or the whole thing locks out as a safety measure. Now excuse me while I go the transmitter and untangle this mess!"

So I, probably the most technically-oriented of the air staff, was forced to stand there in the control room for 20 minutes unable to do anything about the problem I just caused! Awkward! The PD was pretty tech-oriented too but he didn't come on til 2. In the end, everybody had a good laugh at my expense. Hopefully, it made me more lovable. :)
Mike Shane, CBRE
---Omaha---

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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by ChuckG » Sat Sep 24, 2016 4:01 pm

Shane wrote: It turned out that Mr. Part-timer was the only one who noticed and when Wiz got back he had several weeks of logs with the incorrect power change time dutifully logged. Except on Sunday morning.)

I had the opposite problem- correct nighttime readings dutifully logged while the DA was operating at low power, ND on a STA. I had to line them all out, initial them and write in "incorrect logging procedure, operator being re-trained".

Then there was the operator who, when asked by a visiting FCC inspector how to turn the transmitter off, opened the Mike channel and thwapped the SM7b with his fist. Sure enough, the BC5H which i was pushing to -98 +115% on the skirts of a DC overload- did. And down she went.
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Shane
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by Shane » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:00 pm

Well, if you have a dialup remote control you're supposed to have an alternate method of turning off the transmitter. Unorthodox but that'll work!
Mike Shane, CBRE
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by themarcshow » Sun Sep 25, 2016 12:11 pm

My most memorable screw up came in the midst of some severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings.

I was still youngish in my broadcasting career. I was the afternoon guy and the most weather savvy- perfect for this afternoon when things were 'sparkin' and arcin'.

Our 100kw FM has a reach of about 75 miles in each direction so I got plenty of time that spring doing severe weather coverage for storms all over our listening area. This particular storm was impacting my local city so I was simulcasting on our two local AMs as well. One studio, three stations.

I always listend to the FM air signal in my headphones as our old McMartin transmitter had a tenancy to pop off air when the tower took a lightning strike. I needed to know if I was actually broadcasting.

As fate would have it, in the middle of going through the 'move to an interior room on the lowest level of the building away from windows' script, I hear POP.....and static. Our FM was off the air. I screamed out the biggest " OHHHHHHH CRAAAAAAAP!!!!"

About 5 seconds later I remember I'm still live on our 2 AMs. Without missing hardly a beat I switched my headphone feed to an AM Air monitor, quickly apologized for a slight technical difficulty, and carried on as if nothing happened. A few minutes later I took a break and turned the FM back on.

My Ops manager laughingly asked me the next day what the "OH CRAP" was all about. He hadn't heard it, but one of his good buddies did and passed along the story. No harm, no foul.

I'm just glad I didn't use a higher level four-letter-word.... Always assume the mic is hot.
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rdlafore
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by rdlafore » Sun Oct 02, 2016 4:35 pm

I was working as CE and News guy at a station in South Georgia. For news, I would take the AP copy and edit it...usually. This one day, i did not have time to edit, so I grabbed all of the AP copy I could find and sat down at the mic. I started reading. Things were going well. Then I got to a story about a kid being kicked out of a branch of the military because he insisted on wearing his Yarmulke or Yamaka. I saw the word, and drew an absolute blank. But I heard my voice saying something like: "....the military would not let him wear his.......little hat."
The jock on the other side immediately fell to the floor laughing. This broke me up, and I attempted to finish the news while either laughing really hard, or trying not to laugh.
It was the longest news cast I ever remember doing. I spent the next twenty minutes answering the phone. Oh boy.

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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by Joe Friday » Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:17 am

When I was brand new in the business, I worked for a TV-FM-AM combo. One day, while working in TV master control, I was building some sort of cable in the rack that housed our master control switcher. Endeavoring to do the best work possible, and impress the folks who had taken a chance on this green kid, I plugged a 1500W heat gun into the rack power strip to apply some heat shrink tubing to the masterpiece I had just created. About 10 seconds later, the audio monitors died, and I ran around to the front of the racks to find the off air monitor had gone to black, and we had lost audio. This was in the middle of one of the top rated shows in our line up at the time, TPIR.

Completely oblivious to the fact that the heat gun had tripped the breaker for the power strip that powered the master control switcher, I ran around for several minutes trying to figure out to patch the raw CBS network feed onto the STL. One of my colleagues who was six months my senior was equally overwhelmed. While we were busy flailing around, the master control operator (who also had a first) that had been with the station since before they put the TV signal on the air quietly got out of his chair, went to the breaker box, found and reset the tripped breaker.

30 seconds later, all was well. I learned a great lesson about staying calm in the face of serious problems. Fortunately, no spots were lost, and the DE had a good laugh at my expense.

A few years later, I was engineer for a FM. I got in the car on a Saturday morning, turned the station on, and.....dead air. We were live 24/7 at the time. I lived about 30 minutes away from the station, and called the hot line on my bag phone almost constantly from the time I pulled out of the driveway, with no answer. I tried the PD as well, but could not get him to answer the phone either.

Just as I pulled into the parking lot, after I determined that the studio had not burned down over night, I heard one of our sweepers, followed by an ID, and a song. I ran into the control room to find a very shocked jock who had been asleep for at least four hours. He managed to keep his job...until the same thing happened again about three months later.

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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by Bosco » Fri Dec 30, 2016 3:35 pm

Way back in 1977ish, I was at WCUB and then WKKB in Manitowoc, Wis. Cub was a daytimer at the time. I worked with 'Irving' our name for the Gates 'automation' that you could walk away from for about three hours max. I did that from signoff of WCUB to 2AM for WKKB.

For those of you who remember patch panels.... I had to do some patching to go around a studio one time. Of course being a newbie, I did the reverse phase trick for stereo.... L+R became L-R. Nobody noticed until the following morning when the morning simulcast began and WKKB had no audio!..... About 11 am I got the 'phone call'....

Another one... How many of us at signoff had to put the next days' carts in the carousels? Every once in a while I somehow managed to get them in upside down.... Hard to do but, I did it...You can guess what the outcome was... No I wasn't fired....

Then there was the DJ (not me) who flipped the production room on the air and proceeded to produce a spot live..... I politely walked into the production room and tapped him on the shoulder (it was about 10pm after a 20 minute drive to the station).... He had a few of those wonderful cuss words and the mic was open....

lewiscallaway
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by lewiscallaway » Fri Dec 30, 2016 8:13 pm

Cool to see you on this forum Bosco!

Dude111
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 Your biggest on air screw up

Post by Dude111 » Tue Jan 24, 2017 5:20 pm

My friends father one time was reading the news on this AM station and there was a prankster that worked there who several times tried to mess him up ON AIR!!

This one time he was reading the news and this idiot took a match and lit the news he was reading on fire!!

The guy didnt panic though,he simply said "Thats it for the news" and went to a song........


I tell ya dues,if that was me,THAT GUY WOULD PAY FOR WHAT HE DID!! (I would report him to manager,etc)


Thats about the worst attempt I have heard of others trying to make someone screw up.....

lewiscallaway
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by lewiscallaway » Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:30 pm

Well I just had one a few weeks back. I was installing a new NexGen computer and support had me do a test voice track. Sure enough the next day I get a call that instead of the Bob and Tom intro, it's me going testing, testing, 123, I hope this works!!

jeeisenz
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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by jeeisenz » Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:15 pm

I was part time at the time at the #1 station in the market. My shift had just finished and we went to the bird for the overnight show (After MidNite with Blair Garner). Severe storms started rolling thru so I stuck around for a bit. WeatherEye gal calls with an update.

Now this was a while ago - so After MidNite still had 4 breaks per hour. We were coming up on the :22 local break so I figured I would take her live. Get the wx sounder loaded and everything else set as I need to. Go to grab the mic and move it into place for me - get a static shock (the room was pretty dry). The S-bomb comes out of my mouth at that point. Look down at the pot - it's up and ON. :shock:

Apparently the static zap was enough to jump the "ON" circuit for the mic and turned the channel ON. Never heard about it from anyone.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why whenever I'm in a studio - the mic is ALWAYS potted DOWN!

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Re: Your Biggest On Air Screw up..

Post by kkiddkkidd » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:02 pm

AND my vocabulary potted down...
jeeisenz wrote:
Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:15 pm

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why whenever I'm in a studio - the mic is ALWAYS potted DOWN!
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