14 October 2012

WTSP 10 News' change of voice over announcers

If you are a frequent viewer of WTSP 10 News (the CBS affiliate here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area) and their programming such as their newscasts (which I like as an alternative to Bay News 9, which partially survives on stories shared from the St. Petersburg Times as both have a news sharing alliance with each other) you have by now noticed some changes that took place at the WTSP camp out there on 11450 Gandy Blvd.

One change which is obvious is the return of America's most popular game shows - Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! - to WTSP.  Right after the Great Tampa Bay TV Affiliate Switch of 1994 and WTSP's conversion from being an ABC affiliate to a CBS affiliate as we know today both game shows stayed on for several years, then moved over to the relocated ABC affiliate in Tampa, WFTS ABC Action News.

Let me digress for a moment back in the days when Jeopardy! was on WTSP.  This was around 1995, back in the days of the reliable Emergency Broadcast System used to warn us of severe weather.  I was watching Jeopardy! at home and the weather outside started getting worse by the minute, due to the summer thundershowers that are a common occurrence in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.  Right after Jeopardy! announcer Johnny Gilbert announced, "and now, here's the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek" then three beeps went off along with a text crawl on screen warning of severe weather on the horizon.

What I was thinking:  Was Johnny Gilbert playing with the beeper signal?  I knew that the beeper signal originated from WTSP's studios, but the timing was perfect to the nanosecond.  Luckily, the beeper signal was not the two-tone Emergency Broadcast System signal (which, by the way, would have required WTSP to interrupt programming).  (Today we have the Emergency Alert System, which is ineffective when it's used for a national emergency as was demonstrated in November 2011).

Now on to another change that took effect over at WTSP 10 News:  You may not notice this, but WTSP has decided to change voice over announcers.  Don't confuse this with the announcers that you hear on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, but this is the announcer you hear anytime you watch a promo for an upcoming program, such as this example:  "Today at 4, on 10 News".

(I can only give you textual examples of what you hear on WTSP 10 News, as actual sound samples would more than likely violate copyright).

What I can say is this:  WTSP 10 News and its general manager, Ken Tonning, should be proud of the return of America's two most popular game shows back home after several years being on WFTS, the Tampa area ABC affiliate.  However, I think Ken Tonning made a mediocre choice when it comes to picking a voice over announcer for the station - besides, the past two WTSP station announcers did a much better job at promoting WTSP 10 News to its fullest.

Now for a backgrounder on voice over announcers who do TV station promotional materal (which are called in broadcast speak "promos").  Back in the old days, a TV station used to have a person called a staff announcer that used to work for the station as part of the team.  Not only the staff announcer did all the promos for the station, the staff announcer was called on to assist with other station related tasks such as voicing news summaries (especially back in the days when television was not 24 hours a day) and other tasks that may be determined by station management from time to time.

Fast forward to the technological marvels of ISDN telephone service and the Internet.  These two technological marvels enable anyone working in the voice over industry to perform their profession without the expense of moving to New York or Los Angeles.

Today, the typical voice over announcer has a few television stations plus numerous radio stations as their clientele.  A typical voice over announcer's day is receiving scripts from the clientele TV and/or radio station and recording the script in a studio built for that purpose.  Most voice over announcers set aside a portion of their homes and convert a room or two to accommodate the professional grade equipment needed, as well as make the room as soundproof as it can be to achieve the best possible sound.  Besides, having a voice over announcer setup at home significantly reduces overhead costs for the voice over announcer as office space can come at a significant premium depending on the metropolitan area involved.

As soon as the voice over announcer completes a voice over task the finshed products are sent to the client over a dedicated ISDN telephone connection.  Some voice over announcers have a restricted access FTP site on the Internet where their clientele can log in and retrieve the individual MP3 sound files.

Even though most voice over announcer work is done by way of ISDN and the Internet, we still have live voice over talent that is still used today.  A great example is the annual Academy Awards telecast on ABC, and Academy Awards telecasts 83 and 84 were announced by Tom Kane (with assistance on Oscar telecast No. 84 by a newcomer on the Oscar telecast block, Melissa Disney).

So, I gave you a little backgrounder on voice over announcers who do promo material for TV as well as radio stations.  As for WTSP 10 News, perhaps WTSP general manager Ken Tonning could have done better if he wanted to polish the image of WTSP 10 News for the new TV season to try to beef up the ratings in the Tampa/St. Petersburg TV market.

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