Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Technical Difficulties? Just Sign Off.....

Although you can't fault a station or network for experiencing technical difficulties during a live broadcast, you can and should question why they would cause a major market radio station to give up and end a live broadcast prematurely.

WSCR 670 The Score in Chicago was, as scheduled, airing the Chicago White Sox vs. Colorado Rockies spring training game on Sunday (3/23). During the second inning, the station obviously lost the feed. It seems there were no local hosts available. The station aired several minutes of commercials with no explanation. Next, it suddenly joinded CBS Radio sports right in the middle of a segment. A few minutes later, they returned to the White Sox game.

However, the feed was cutting in and out. The feed returned after the bottom of the 5th inning and going into the top of the 6th. Play-by-play voice Ed Farmer came on and said, to the effect of, "Since we continue to have technical difficulties, we are going to sign off for today". Farmer then recapped the game, gave the date and time of the next scheduled broadcast, thanked the fans for tuning in, and signed off. After a couple more commercials, the station, gain without explanation, re-joined CBS Sports Radio as if nothing was wrong.

Yes, I know this was a spring training game, but I also know this is a Chicago CBS radio station. One that should be making a reasonable effort to air the program they promised. This is a sports talk station when not airing play-by-play, using today's technology. This is not 30 years ago when there might not have been a phone available other than the broadcast line.

Over the years, I have advised my sportscasting students about having a backup in the event of a lost conection or feed. It is unfathomable that this broadcast was stopped, even if it meant Farmer describing the game via a cell phone in the booth, his own or someone else's, until the official feed is regained. I have experienced someone doing play-by-play into a phone and being patched through on the air, even with lesser sound quality, because the show must go on.

But there is more to this mess. This was one of only nine White Sox games this all sports station is airing this spring training. However, they don't even air the entire broadcast for all nine games as it is.

For whatever reason, WSCR stops the play-by-play after five innings of three of those games to merely take phone calls from fans who converse with Farmer and analyst Darrin Jackson. Every once in a while, they throw in an update about what is going on in the game. The station seems to think that listeners would rather hear some fan talking about who the third baseman should be instead of how the third baseman is actually doing in the game. This, when the station has 20 hours that same day available to talk about the team all they want.

Now, they obviously thought nothing of dumping out of a promised live broadcast because they had an excuse. This broadcast also ended at the same time on the MLB At Bat application, which carries the actual flagship station's feed. Thus, as one of the millions who pay for At Bat, I was deprived of something I have paid for and was promised, in addition to the WSCR listeners who were left stranded. Oh, and the Rockies came back with five runs later in the game and changed the outcome.

This also happened days after rumors have begun to surface that CBS Radio sister station WBBM might be bidding on the Chicago Cubs radio broadcasts later this year. If this group can't even stick to airing an entire game due to "technical difficulties" and feels the need to take listener calls instead of providing play-by-play, shoudn't this be kept in mind?

WSCR has done a poor job with their coverage as it is. There have been, and probably will be, numerous times throughout the season when they forget to turn off the 7-second delay and the broadcast lags behind real time. Farmer and Jackson often admit to reading out of town scores off the stadium scoreboard, as if CBS can't afford to have online updates available at all times. During regular programming, many of the "scoreboard update" segments during nights and weekends fail to give out of town pro sports scores. 

All of this while some radio executives continue to wonder where their audience is going. As a long-time radio guy, I hate this. If radio had kept doing its job, we wouldn't need our phones to listen to the other team's feed and to check the scores we want as often as we want. If only you could get "a score" while listening to "The Score".

Meanwhile, an ooops for CBS-TV during the weekend's NCAA Tournament coverage. Play-by-play voice Andrew Catalon made a specific ethnic reference to Przemek Karnowski, who is of Polish descent and lays for Gonzaga. Catalon did apologize on the air soon after, during the Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State game, and reportedly went to personally apologize to Karnowski and his coaches following the game. As of press time, no "public" disciplanary action was taken by CBS-TV, and Catalon has already worked his next scheduled assignment.

Regular season college hoops continued to be successful for ESPN. Sports Business Daily reports that the 2013-14 regular season was the highest rated season ever for ESPN's telecasts. Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN, which each aired a share of lesser games to at least provide live programming, both averaged less than 10% of ESPN's regular season ratings.

JACKSONVILLE: The Jaguars aren't making enough changes on the roster to satisfy the fans, but they are changing radio stations for the coming season. WJXL 1010 and 92.5 will take over as flagship stations, with nearby WGNE 99.9 Middleburg also airing the games. This ends the association with WOKV AM/FM, which had aired every game since the team began in 1995.

In addition, WJXT-TV 4 takes over the TV rights to the Jags' exhibition games, and is adding WKMG-TV Orlando to the fold as well. Those games were previously shown on WTEV-TV.

ALBANY: WROW 590 will air Army football starting with the coming season, as well as WBPM 92.9 in Hudson Valley, as part of a 5-year agreement. WBNR 1260 Newburgh will air the Army basketball games.

RENO: KSGG 1230 has dropped a music format and gone with syndicated sports programming. Hardly a distinction in Reno, since this makes FIVE sports stations, or six if you include ESPN Deportes 1450.

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