How to put callers to air

Give your listeners a voice

Putting callers to air for a talk radio segment can add real life to your station’s output, but how to do it?

While there are numerous ways to do this, bear with, there are some legal implications you need to be aware of.

An unruly caller can shout out obscenities that may offend listeners, or make claims about people and products that are not true – which puts station owners and presenters at risk of legal action. And believe me, once letters from lawyers start arriving it’s not only stressful but costly.

Ideally, presenters handing calls from members of the public are journalists or understand media law so they can keep callers in check and ensure balance is maintained.

Ideally you will record all phone-ins and hang on to those recordings for 3 years minimum – just in case someone complains down the track.

Pro stations will have a delay on their output, perhaps 10 seconds. That means that what listeners hear happened 10 seconds ago. That delay gives presenters a chance to ‘dump’ a caller before their offensive comment goes to air.

  1. 10 second delay
  2. Dangerous comment
  3. press dump
  4. zero delay
  5. 10 second delay builds up over the next few minutes
  6. Full delay. Back to the callers.
  7. The dump button is pressed again just before the top of the hour news so it goes out bang on time.

Ideally callers can be vetted before they are put to air.

Ok, that said; how does one put a caller to air? Here are a few budget options…

  1. Connect a mobile phone to the mixer. This involves using the headphone output of the phone to an input on your mixer. The caller hears the presenter via the phone’s microphone, but their response goes through the mixer.
    Downside: The phone might interfere with the mixer.
  2. Google Voice.  Get a dedicated phone number for use on a smartphone or desktop website.
  3. Skype.  Again, you can get a unique phone number or have people contact you via your Skype user account.
  4. If using Skype, try the Ecamm Call Recorder app to automatically record all calls.
  5. Skype TX. A pro solution for handling multiple callers.
  6. You can use a standard phone line, but typically the audio quality won’t match the digital options above. You’ll need a gadget to sit between the phone and the line to connect to you mixer.
  7. An old school solution is AudioTX which converts a standard landline into a higher quality ISDN line.
  8. FeenPhone A fully duplex (and free) option meaning when one person speaks they do not drown out the other.

OK – a bundle of deas to help you put callers to air. Any other ideas are welcome, so do let us know.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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