It’s day one of Standard Time, and I’ve been up for 4 hours.
Those two clauses are related.
For as long as I’ve been working at Main Line Broadcasting on the weekends, we’ve had problems with our on-air computers handling the twice-a-year time change. Despite the fact that Daylight Time has been a thing since… what… the 1880s???… the company from which we get our on-air software has never quite figured it out.
And, since I work weekends, I get to clean up the computers’ mess. It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have 6:00 am long-form programming on all three of our stations (which I’ll now plug: 98.9 Liberty, 93.1 the Wolf, and Big Oldies 107.3). On two of the stations, those are infomercials that have to hit at 6:00am, and the third station is debuting our new public-affairs program, “In The Community”.
I wasn’t planning to wake up until 5:00am, but my body had other ideas, and I was up at 3:30am. This was a good thing, since I had remembered last night (while helping produce Richmond’s 39-0 whomping of Rhode Island for the Wolf) to grab copies of the early-morning logs, so I could turn on the radio and see how bad the situation was.
It wasn’t good. Programming had drifted about 30-40 minutes off-kilter, meaning that those 6:00am programs were going to air closer to 5:00am. So… at 4:30am, I was walking into the Arboretum to fix the problem.
It was the computers – and the support people who told our management how to handle the time change – that let us down.
This requires some explanation. In order for automated radio stations to run properly, their music directors always put in more than 60 minutes of music each hour. The hour ends with an “update” marker, which resyncs the playlist to the top of the hour. When everything’s working, this keeps commercials and long-form programming on schedule. When it doesn’t work… someone goes in at 4:30am.
What happened last night is that our local staff (the new chief engineer and the various music/program directors) did what they were told was right. But it all went wrong… they were told to put two hours of music into the “1:00 am Daylight Time” hour – since that “hour” would last two hours (the hour before the actual time change – 1:00am Daylight Time – and the hour after – 1:00am Standard Time).
That would have worked, if they hadn’t actually told us to keep the update markers in.
At 1:58am Daylight Time, the updates fired – dutifully wiping out all of the extra music put into the system. At 2:00am Daylight time, the time change took place, rolling the clocks back an hour. This put the update markers out of sync with system time – at 1:58am Standard Time, the “2:58am” update was scheduled. The computer looked at this, said “HAH! It’s not 2:58am!” and ignored it. So what wound up happening was that each station lost an hour of music at 1:58am DST – but gained a few minutes back at the end of each “hour” as the extra music I mentioned above actually played. This is why, by the time I checked in at 3:45am Standard Time, the stations were at various offsets. And none of them were going to fix themselves in time for that 6:00am programming.
And if this doesn’t fully make sense, there are two points to keep in mind:
1. I’ve been working with this system for 9 years and I still don’t think I can coherently explain radio automation in a short blog post and…
2. I’ve been up since 3:45am.
So now, I’ll say something I never thought I’d EVER say. It’s 8:00am, and I’m going (back) to bed.