With live 'remotes,' radio stations take their shows on the road


August 30, 1991|By Eric Siegel

One has gone up in a hot air balloon. Another has hopped a ride on a jet ski. Still others have manned a fast-food drive-in window waiting for the reappearance of Elvis, given away lottery tickets in the rain -- even ambushed new fathers outside a hospital delivery room.

Thrill-seekers? Voyeurs? Just plain crazies?

In fact, they are none of the above -- or maybe all three. They're Baltimore radio disc jockeys, taking their shows out of the studio and onto the road, on the seas or into the air.

In radio parlance, the shows are "remotes" -- made possible by sophisticated portable transmitting equipment and the zany imaginations of promotion-minded executives and air personalities.

And some stations, looking for every edge in the ratings-driveworld of radio, say remotes give their broadcasts a shot of adrenalin, boost their visibility and bring them closer to their listeners.

"They give you a chance to be where the activity and thaudience is," says Russ Mottla, the on-air program director of WIYY-FM (98 Rock), who will do his show this afternoon from the boardwalk in Ocean City.

"They put a different spin on a show by giving it a livbackground and a live feel," adds Steve McNee, program director of WGRX-FM (100.7), which for the second year will air from outside the delivery room of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center on Labor Day morning.

Get it? Labor Day from the labor room.

Well, not exactly the labor room.

"We're out of the way," confesses program director McNee.

"We talked to some expectant fathers before their wives gave birth. Then later, they'd be back with details," Mr. McNee says of last year's broadcast. "We talked to nurses and doctors about some of the things women say in the heat of labor, like 'Keep away from me. You're not going to touch me again.' We even hadtwins born on the air last year.

"This is certainly something that's going to appeal to our listeners. The typical classic rock listener is in the situation of starting a family or having a family," he adds.

But not every outlet is convinced these radio road shows are worth the effort. Roy Deutschman, vice president and general manager of urban contemporary WXYV-FM (V-103) and country WCAO-AM (600), says his stations will have air personalities participate in public service events such as the AIDS and United Negro College Fund walkathons but adds, "We do not typically broadcast live.

"I think there's a great deal of control you have to maintain in a broadcast and you can only do that in the studio," says Mr. Deutschman.

There are remote broadcasts from major events, such as the Preakness or the Maryland State Fair. Others are commercial remotes in which stations broadcast from businesses -- such as the one country WPOC-FM (93.1) will do tomorrow from a local Ford dealership, or the periodic Steve Rouse and Company Grocery Store Olympics on oldies WQSR-FM (105.7), done from supermarkets and featuring such events as toilet tissue tosses. These remotes often include giveaways and command a premium from advertisers.

But the most successful radio road shows, station executiveagree, are the ones they dream up.

look for something that we feel is going to keep people listening to the station a little longer, or that they're going to be talking about when they get into work," explains Greg Dunkin, program director of WMIX-FM (106.5).

For example, the station broadcast a "Lottery Friday" segment the day before the state's $20 million Lotto drawing Aug. 10. On that remote, morning personality Mike McCarthy stationed himself, in the rain, at a Towson gas station and lottery outlet, and gave away $700 worth of lottery tickets while Tamara Nelson manned the controls in the station's studios.

"This man here, just walked up in workout shorts and a sweater. What's the name?"


"You know what you're chances are of winning?"


"Exorbitant, exorbitant. Tammy, you got that thesaurus?

"This one guy, in running shorts and a T-shirt, was flagging down cars for us," says Mr. McCarthy. "I guess he thought he was part of the show."

Mr. McCarthy says a remote is more physically and mentally demanding than being in a studio. "You have to be part stand-up reporter and part stand-up comic," he says.

You also have to be ready to improvise. Glenn Beck of WBSB-F(B-104) was doing a remote from outside a polling place last Election Day, that by his own admission, wasn't going well when he hitched a ride in a listener's car. 98 Rock's Mottla was broadcasting from Sandy Point State Park on the first day of summer when he accepted an invitation to ride a jet-ski to the Bay Bridge. "The best thing about these things," he says, "is that the listeners end up being the stars."

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