The Life of a Board Op

Ever wonder if the hosts of a show are really in the studio all day long? Have you ever heard someone at 6AM in the morning for the morning show and then heard them again at 10PM at night? Chances are they did a voice tracked show.

99.1 HITS FM - This was the main station I worked for. This is a CHR / Top 40 radio station.

99.1 HITS FM - This was the main station I worked for. This is a CHR / Top 40 radio station.

What's voice tracking? It's when a host pre-records all of their talking bits during a show. This is generally done for music programs where all they need to do is create a playlist, record their tracks separately, and just plug them into the correct slots.

Nowadays with the advancements in radio automation and playout systems, it's super easy to configure a playlist where all you need to do is drop a file into a server and the software picks it right up and puts it in the right spot. But how do these shows run while the host isn't there?

Enter the board op, or the more technical term, master control room operator. These individuals are responsible for not only keeping the show running smoothly, but also ensuring that the entire station runs on schedule, and everything plays. This includes commercials as well. Board ops are responsible for a lot when no one is around.

Steele Communications in St. John's, Newfoundland. This building held about 100 staff and was the centre of operations for 16 radio stations across the province.

Steele Communications in St. John's, Newfoundland. This building held about 100 staff and was the centre of operations for 16 radio stations across the province.

As a former board op myself, I know just how important the job is, even though it's at the bottom of the job ladder. It may not be the highest paid job in the station, but without a board op, stations wouldn't have a chance at running outside of regular host's, or management's hours. Generally if I were going in for a shift at the station, I was going in on a Saturday morning for 9AM. I always showed up at 8 though to get my workstation prepared for the day and make sure everything is in working condition.

The heart of the building was where 590 VOCM was broadcast from. This was where all of your day's news was heard and where many of the live talk programs were produced.

The heart of the building was where 590 VOCM was broadcast from. This was where all of your day's news was heard and where many of the live talk programs were produced.

The building I worked in housed the master control rooms for 6 radio stations that broadcasted in various locations across Newfoundland and Labrador. Not only did I have to monitor my specific station that I was scheduled for that day, I also had to monitor all the other 5 stations in the building. This meant a lot of running was to be had.

I checked audio levels, made sure songs were playing in order, even made sure commercials played so that our clients were kept happy. But the biggest job was making sure that if we had an event we were covering that day, whichever host was out on the road was getting on air in a timely manner. I would generally receive their audio in an email, I would then record that audio into the system, and then plug it into the right spot so it would play at the right time.

One of the other big responsibilities of a board op is to keep track of what plays. Some of my job carried outside of just monitoring things. I also ran two or three live shows every weekend such as radio bingo or hockey, as well as kept and maintained a logged list of all the songs that played on our syndicated programming and input them into our tracking sheet so that SOCAN knew what we were playing.

I even distinctly remember being at the station on Christmas morning to make sure that everything ran smoothly. I was up at 4AM to be at the station for 6AM so that the morning news would run. The only people in the building were myself and a man by the name of Vince Gallant who has been at VOCM for probably close to 40 plus years.

We played all kinds of Christmas music that morning on all stations. VOCM played Newfoundland made music. KIXX Country played country Christmas music. HITS FM played your generic songs. And K-Rock played songs recorded by rock artists.

I loved my job to bits and while sometimes it was 14 or 15 hour long days, it was well worth it because after all... someone needs to run the station.