Cable Pay TV

All right, this one’s been buggin’ me for a while.  I am wondering if you know how cable pay TV works.  This is not what you think—not the box thingy.  I’m wondering how HBO or Cinemax works!


For instance, are their movies on DVD?  Tape?  Computer?  Does anyone every accidentally hit “Stop” in the middle of a flick?  With their programming coming at all different times and styles, are they constantly making those “Tonight on HBO” promos?  How do they choose what movies they are going to play?  I have never seen a mistake on those pay channels, that’s why I am always so confused.


Please tell me you have some insight! - Anonymous


Anon:  Instead of relying on my memory or guessing, I called HBO in New York and talked to a few people.  Here are your answers:

  1. DVD?  Tape?  Computer? -  The movies are on tape.  The system is automated in such a way that it would be very difficult for someone to hit the “Stop” button.

  2. Tonight on HBO” promos? - The promos are made by the Creative Services department.  The promos are produced daily.

  3. How do they choose movies? - The movies are selected from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, movies shown at film festivals around the world, film libraries, and contracts with movie studios (the studios regularly advise HBO and the other movie channels which films will be available and when).

There ya go.  Nothing about the “box thingy.”

(Cadaveric Spasm) Forensics Term

Doc:  I know this isn't a cheerful topic, but it's something I would like to know and I figure you would know the answer.  Here is my question . . .


I was watching one of the forensic shows on TV and the story was about trying to determine how a woman died.  The woman's husband claimed she committed suicide with a gun, but the investigators said the evidence didn't support that claim.  They said that, and here is where my question comes in, the woman's "cat something" didn't show evidence of suicide, that her hand wasn't positioned correctly on the gun to indicate that she shot herself.


I guess I wasn't paying enough attention, but I don't know what the "cat something" term was that proved she didn't kill herself.  Do you know the term that was used? - Anonymous

Anon:  I agree that the topic is a cheerful one, but I understand that you need to know the answer.  So here ya go . . .


I'm positive that the term used on the show was cadaveric spasm, which describes a peculiar phenomenon in the human body where certain body parts, usually hands and/or arms, become stiff at the moment of death, usually some type of violent death.  In the story you saw, the woman's hand probably "froze" in a position that would prove that she wasn't the person who pulled the trigger—her cadaveric spasm provided the evidence.  (But I'm guessing because I didn't see the show.)


Anyway, if you want more information about this cheerful topic, click here for many articles on the Internet.

Caller ID

Who invented Caller ID for telephones and where was it first used? - James


James:  An article I found on the Internet—Caller ID Basics—answers both of your questions.  Among other information, the article, written by Michael W. Slawson, states:


The method for sending and displaying the CID information during a silent interval between rings was invented by Carolyn A. Doughty. This invention was filed for a United States Patent on July 12, 1983. It was assigned patent number 4,582,956 on April 15, 1986 with AT&T Bell Laboratories (now Lucent Technologies Incorporated) listed as the assignee….Caller ID was first offered in New Jersey in 1987 by New Jersey Bell.

Calculating Percentages

Doc:  I apologize for not knowing a lot about math or statistics, but I have a question that is driving me crazy.  I have two sets of data that are 1-10 rating scales.  Each set is from the same sample, but at different times.  I'm trying to figure out a way to easily compute the percent increase or decrease in a person's rating.  For example, let's say that a person's first rating is a 4.3 and the second rating is a 7.1.  How do I calculate the percent increase from a 4.3 to a 7.1?  Thanks in advance. - Anonymous


Anon:  You'll notice that I edited your question a bit, but I don't think I changed what you asked.  Please let me know if I did.  Oh, and there is no need to apologize for not knowing something.  Just ask the question.  That's how we all learn.  On to your question . . .


Yes, there is an easy way to compute a percentage increase or decrease in two numbers.  The formula is:


((Second number/First number) - 1) x 100


So, in your example, the formula is:


((7.1/4.3) - 1) x 100, or


66.1% increase


Now, let's say that the first rating was 7.1 and the second was 4.3.  What is the percent decrease?


((4.3/7.1) - 1) x 100, or


-39.4% decrease


That is the formula you need to do your computations.  However, like some people, you probably want a way to do this on the Internet.  I'll give you a break, but I wanted to make sure you knew how to do it yourself.  For a simple calculator, click here.

Call Letter Availability

If a station drops the call letters, does someone else have to wait a specific time before they can be used. Also, how long before they can be used in the same area? - Anonymous


Anon:  When a radio or TV station drops its call letters, they become available to any other radio or TV station, although the rules “W” and “K” rules (east and west of the Mississippi) must be followed.  My understanding is that as soon as the call letters are dropped, they are available to anyone else.  There is no waiting time, even in the same market.


All FCC call letters registration and changes are now performed online.  You can find more information by clicking here:  FCC Call Letter Information.

Call Letters

Hello. First off great column, you are a wealth of knowledge! I just was wondering why all the radio stations east of the Mississippi start with a W, and all West of it start with a K. Where did this get started and do those letters stand for anything. How do other countries work it? - Anonymous


Anon: Thanks for the comment about the column. This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get in introductory broadcasting classes. However, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel, go to this web site: call letters.


Then click here: International call letters to answer your question about international call letters. This 4-page document is very interesting.

Call Letter Questions

Doc: I gots ta know…Why are there exceptions to the Mississippi river rule about W call letters east of the big muddy and K call letters west of the river, such as KDKA in Pittsburgh, and WOAI in San Antonio.  Also, New Orleans, which is west of the river, has more W calls than Ks.  What’s up with that?


Don't ask me why, but I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about that.  The product of a demented mind?  As ever - Jerry


Jerry:  OK, Mr. Demented….so that I don’t have to reinvent the information wheel, here are two great websites that explain everything you need to know about call letters.  (You’ll find that the exceptions are those radio stations that were grandfathered prior to the Communications Act of 1926.)


Check these out: Call Letters One and Call Letters Two.

Call Letters Into Stopset

Doc:  Your column is always such a great read and I’m glad you still do it.


I was hoping you could comment on a debate at our Mainstream AC station.  I and others on our staff come from school of thought that says we shouldn’t say our call sign going into a stopset, yet our APD (who conducts our air check sessions) insists that we say our call sign as the last word out of our mouth before the first commercial hits.


BTW: Our PD, who’s our morning guy, has given APD autonomy on this matter, but he doesn’t say the call sign going into a stopset. What research, if any, supports or refutes either position?  Thanks and keep up the great work.


PS: What’s the story on Buell Motorcycles?  - Anonymous


Anon:  Thanks for the comment about the column.  I appreciate that, and I hope you learn as much as I do.


OK, are you ready for defeat in the debate?  Sorry, but here are the reasons why you and the others on your staff lose the argument with your APD…and why your PD needs to get with the plan.


I’m not sure what you have learned from this column, but here is one thing you should NEVER forget:  Whenever you discuss what should and should not be done on a radio station, or what is good, bad, exciting, boring, hip, cool, far out, phat, or anything else, you absolutely must divorce yourself from the situation and attempt to look at it from the perspective of an average, everyday, normal, radio listener.  The type of person who doesn’t breathe, eat, and sleep radio as you do.


One of the things you learn very quickly if you conduct radio research is that listeners don’t remember much.  They don’t remember if the jock gave a time check.  They don’t remember how many times they heard the same song that day.  They don’t remember jocks’ names.  And they often don’t know which radio station they’re listening to.


I’m not sure if you believe this, but listen to me know and believe me later because I have seen this thousands and thousands of times in the past 20+ years of conducting research.  You, and all of the other radio people in the country, put your blood, sweat, and tears into developing the best product you can, and yet there are still many, many people who, when asked which radio station they’re listening to, will say: “I don’t know.”


So you have to tell them.  You have to tell them as often as you can.  Why?  Because they don’t pay attention.  They are distracted.  They are NOT radio people.  Now you may say, “But won’t they get tired of hearing our call letters or moniker mentioned all the time?”  The answer is, “NO.”


I can’t give you the name of the radio station because it’s proprietary, but a few years ago, the station’s PD, after seeing high phantom cume numbers for his radio station in a perceptual study, made it a policy that the radio station’s call letters must be said 100 times per hour during morning and afternoon drive.  This included mentions such as, “WXXX Traffic,” “WXXX Weather,” “The WXXX #1 Hit of the Week,” and so on.


Guess what?  Not only did phantom cume drop significantly in the next perceptual study (and ratings go up in the next Arbitron), but there wasn’t ONE…let me put that in bold…there wasn’t ONE listener who complained that the call letters were mentioned too often.  If you think about this for a moment, you’ll see that it isn’t any different from what television stations and networks do with bugs—nearly all of them have their ID in the lower right corner of the screen all the time.  (Viewers don’t complain about that either.)


OK that’s one reason.  Let me repeat….You need to ID your station as often as possible because average listeners don’t pay attention and they quickly forget.  Trust me.


Here’s a second reason.  Do you know, or does anyone else at your radio station know, when a new listener will tune in for the first time?  I’ll answer that for you:  No you don’t.  There are 86,400 seconds in a day and a new listener can tune in at any one of those seconds.  I assume you want them to know which radio station they’re listening to.  I’m assuming you want them to know your identity.  Well, then you must tell them.  But when do you tell them?  I don’t know and neither do you, so why take a chance and lose a new listener?  Tell them as often as you can—before stopsets, after stopsets, before and after songs, and so on.


Your APD is correct here—100% correct—the research in radio as well as the research in persuasion theory supports this.  Radio research shows that people forget and that people tune to you for the first time at any time during the day.  Persuasion theory shows that to successfully persuade, you must have repetition of the message.  So start repeating.


By the way, you may ask, “Do listeners think call letters or monikers are talk and could constant repeating of them create a perception of too much talk?”  The answer is, NO.  Call letters, monikers, and the radio station’s frequency are not consider talk by listeners.


Finally, you ask, “What’s the story on Buell Motorcycles?”  I’m not sure what you mean here.  Are they good bikes?  Yes, they are if you don’t mind the riding position (more like a squid bike or crotch rocket).  They are fast, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.  Is that what you wanted to know?

Call Letter Mentions

How many times should I mention my call letters or moniker during an hour?" - Marc

Marc: I have never heard listeners complain that a radio station says its call letters, slogan, or moniker too often. The answer, then, is . . . as many times as you can.

Calls to Radio Station - Percent Who Call?

I was told that only 2% of my listeners call our radio station.  Is that true in every format? - Anonymous


Anon:  The percentage of listeners who call a radio station varies by format.  In most cases, CHR receives the most calls, although some News/Talk stations with popular talk shows often receive a good number of calls.


But in nearly every case, the percentage is low…somewhere around two percent, and it's often the same people who call.  If you keep a log of the calls to your radio station, you can get a rough estimate of the percentage of calls.  Just divide the number of calls by your cume.

Campaign Contributions

Doc:  With all of the political stuff in the news, what happens to the money a candidate if the candidate is unsuccessful or drops out of the race?  For example, would Gov. Richardson donate the remaining money to Obama or Hillary?  Does the unused money revert to the people who contributed it?  Can the candidate keep the money if they plan to run for office again? It has always puzzled me.  Thanks very much and I enjoy your column immensely. - Anonymous


Anon:  I'm happy to hear that you enjoy the column.  Thanks very much and on to your question . . .


Since you have been reading the column for some time, you should know that I don't like to reinvent the information wheel, so here is a good answer to your question—click here.


If you want more information, go to the Federal Election Commission's website.  You'll find a lot of stuff if you click on the "Quick Answers" link at the top of the page.

Canadian Music

I have heard that Canadian radio stations are required by the CRTC to play a certain amount of music by Canadian artists.  How much are they required to play? - Jeff


Jeff:  So, you wanna know how much Canadian music the radio stations have to play, eh?  The information in Section 3 of the Canadian Broadcasting Act says (edited):


Under the Commercial Radio Policy, 35% of all music aired each week on all AM and FM stations must be Canadian.  In addition, 35% of music broadcast between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday must consist of Canadian content.


French-language radio stations are required to ensure that 65% of the vocal music they broadcast each week, and 55% of vocal music broadcast between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, is in the French language.


Seven per cent of music aired on ethnic radio stations each week must be Canadian.


The 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. rule is there so radio stations don't bury the Canadian stuff after midnight, or other times when listening is low.  For more information about the CRTC, click here.

Car (Automobile) Heater Question

Doc:  I have a mechanical question about the heater fan in my car.  The heater fan has four settings, but only the high speed works; nothing happens on the first three settings.  I have tried to find the answer on the Internet, but can't find anything.  Can you?  If so, would you please tell me which words you used to find the information. - Anonymous


Anon:  Searching for information on the Internet can be difficult if you use too many words or the wrong words.  There is a lot of information about the problem you mention on several websites.


I did a search on Google using these words: car heater only high speed.  When you do that, you'll see several articles explaining that the problem with your car's fan relates to the Fan motor resistor module.  According to many sources, most vehicles have two resistors for the fan—one controls the lower fan speeds, and one controls only the high speed.  This is done for safety reasons since you'll almost always have one good resistor to use to defrost your windows or have heat in the car.


Anyway, here is the search I set up so you can find more information.

Cardboard Children Scam

What exactly is the "cardboard Children scam?”  I have had several folks email and call me about it, and I can't find anything about it. - Ken


Ken:  I haven’t heard about this one, but there are some references on the Internet.  One site, Corporate Travel Safety, has this explanation for the “Cardboard Children” scam:


While not restricted to Europe, the “cardboard children” can be seen unabashedly choosing their victims, confronting them and making off with their valuables—right outside of well know tourist attractions such as the Coliseum.  This is how they operate.  Roving bands of usually 6 to 10 children of various ages, confront a tourist while holding a piece of cardboard.  Usually the cardboard has something written on it like, “Food Please,” or some other sympathetic plea.  The tourist is momentarily confused by the cardboard being shoved up against them.  The purpose of the cardboard is to distract.  While the gypsy children swarm the tourist and press the cardboard against the person's body, they also create a scene by shouting and begging for money or candy.  The distraction de-sensitizes the tourist's body to the feel of little hands entering their pockets, wallets, purses, or unsecured waist packs.  These thieves have even been known to cut the rear strap of a waist pack or strap of a purse.  The raucous event can takes less than 30 seconds to perpetrate.


There ya go.  The ankle biters distract you with a cardboard sign and then steal your stuff.  Just another reminder that, “Having children is like being nibbled to death by ducks.”


By the way, here is a search for more information about travel scams.


Doc:  I have seen the "Cash4Gold" commercials several times on TV.  In case you haven't seen the ads, the company says they will pay you for your old gold and other jewelry items.  They provide a special mail pouch and you supposedly receive the money in a few days.  Do you know if this is a legitimate company?  I'm asking for myself and I'll pass the information along to my listeners.  Thanks for the help. - Anonymous


Anon: Yes, I have seen the Cash4Gold commercials on TV.  Instead of me trying to explain anything about the company, I set up a few searches for you so you can read comments about the company made by other people.  I think you'll have a good idea about Cash4Gold after you read some of the articles in the searches.  Click on these links for more information (some of the items may be repeated in the searches, so check a few pages for different items):


Cash4Gold One

Cash4Gold Two

Cash4Gold Three

Cash4Gold Four


In the future, if you have questions about the credibility of a product or service, it's a good idea to search the Internet for help.  In your search, input the name of the product or service and then add problem, complaint, scam, and fraud (individual searches) after the name of the product or service and you will usually find enough information to let you know if the product or service is credible or legitimate.

CD Burning

Doc, does it matter that much if you use CD-Rs that are indicated for music (digital audio) as opposed to ones that are not when burning music onto them? I would think so. What is the difference between the two types of CD-Rs? - Anonymous


Anon: From what I understand, there is no discernable difference between the two types of CDs. There are several articles on the Internet about this.  For example, click here.

CD Burning

Hello Doc…A computer problem here. I burned a couple of tracks off my computer (all legally paid for downloads by the way) and I want to burn them onto disk. I had no problem with this, but the CD doesn't work on some stereos. It works in my wife's car, my computer CD, and my home stereo, but not in my car. Do you know what the problem could be? Thanks.. - Anonymous


Anon: Unfortunately, vehicle CD players are notoriously selective in what types of CDs they will play. While some play virtually any type of CD, others are very selective. Although I'm not promoting any specific type of CD for you to use for burning, I have heard that Sony and Imation CD-Rs seem to work reliably in most vehicle CD players. If these don't work, you'll have to experiment to find out which type of CD-R your car will play.

CD (and DVD) Finalizing

Dear Doc: When you burn a CD or DVD you must go thru an on screen process called FINALIZING or the disc won't play on other units.


What does this actually do to the disc and why is it necessary?  I picture a bunch of little men running around the disc painting on the signal.  That's my FINAL question for this week.  Hi to your lovely wife Darnell.  As ever - Jerry Gordon


Jerry: I passed your "hi" to my wife and she returned the "hi" to you.  So now you're even.  By the way, she still talks about our visit to your radio station and watching you on the air.  She was very impressed with your skills.  On to your question . . .


I didn't know the answer to your question, so I sent it to a friend who knows this kind of stuff.  He referred me to an article on the PCWorld website.  Here is part of the article:


Multisession or Finalize?  For data or video, select a multisession burn, or finalize your disc.  With write-once DVD-R and +R, and CD-R, you can choose to add data to the disc in separate burning sessions over time (called a multisession write), or lock a disc so you can't add more content (called disc finalization).  You'll need to decide which route you're taking before you initiate the burn.  If you want to play any part of your disc in stand-alone DVD players or recorders, you'll need to finalize it.  DVD drives in computers, in contrast, can read off a multisession disc, but only the most recently added content.


I think the explanation eliminates your vision of a bunch of little men running around.  If you want to read the entire article about creating DVDs and CDs, click here.

CD Longevity

Doc: Is it true that the way they are making compact disks now (vs. back in the 80s) is that they can hold up for about 100+ years?  If so, what was the difference in manufacturing CDs then?  And are all CDs truly different (store copies vs. promotional copies vs. blank CD-R)?  Thanks - Mark in Portland


Mark:  I read several articles about the topic and found that the longevity issue is a hot topic among folks involved in CD manufacturing.  The reason why current CDs last longer today is due to new technology, new manufacturing processes, and new standards.


But this is beyond my level, so I found several sites for you to check:

  1. A great site for all types of information about CDs is: MS Science.

  2. A good article about longevity is here: Longevity.

  3. Also from MS Science is a good article about frequently asked questions: FAQs.

  4. Finally, I set up a Google search for you for more information: CD Longevity Search.

CD Stuck in Car

Doc:  A friend gave me a CD to play and I put it in the CD player in my car.  The problem is that it's stuck and won't come out no matter how many times I hit the eject button.  Do you have any idea how to get the CD out of the player?  Thanks in advance. -  Anonymous

Anon:  If you check this Internet search, you'll find dozens of suggestions about how to remove a stuck CD.


However, most of the suggestions refer to sticking something into the player to try to pop the CD off the spindle, or whatever it's called.  (More than likely, the problem is that the hole in the middle of the stuck CD is a bit smaller than the spindle, and it's stuck on it.)  I'm not too thrilled about suggesting that you stick screwdrivers, knives, or anything else into your CD player, so I think the best suggestion is one I received a few years ago that seems to work every time.


Turn on the CD player and hit the play button.  After the CD plays for a few seconds, simultaneously tap the eject button and, with a closed fist, lightly hit the dashboard above the player.  The CD should pop out.  If your CD player is after-market and not installed in the dashboard, then just lightly tap the player when you hit the eject button.


Notice that I said to "lightly" hit the dashboard with your closed fist.  Don't whack the dashboard as if you were trying to drive a nail with a hammer.  A few light taps will do.


By the way, the CD should pop out even if you can't get it to play.  Just turn on the player and simultaneously hit the eject button and lightly tape the dashboard or player.  If that doesn't work, then you may have to take your car to an audio shop or the car dealer.

CDs - Best Selling

What are the best selling CDs? - Anonymous


Anon:  Your question is a bit broad, so I’m not sure how to answer it.  Do you mean the best selling of all time?  In a specific year?  I don’t know.


So…I set up an Internet search for you that will probably include your answer.  Just click here: Best Selling CDs.

CDs - Maximum Audio Time on a Compact Disc

The maximum audio time on a standard compact disc is currently 80 minutes.  Are there any steps being made by the CD makers that will enable the audio CD to extended at a longer play?  DVDs last for hours.  Why not for audio? - Jean


Jean:  There is a lot of information about CDs and DVDs (Digital Versatile Disc) on the Internet.  Here is some stuff I found…


“CD-Rs come in 650MB or 700MB formatted capacities, and virtually every CD burner can handle either.  Because they use special formatting, CD-RWs top out at 530MB.  Today’s DVD burners generally write up to 4.7GB on a single-sided DVD-R or DVD-RW and up to 9.4GB on a double-sided disc.”


There are several articles on the Internet about new CDs that can store up to 2GB.  I set up a Google search for you so you can find out more.  Just click here: New CD Capacity.


You may also be interested in learning more about the differences between CD and DVD, click on this link: CD vs. DVD.


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