Radio Communication on site – my point of view

A cup of old hotel coffee seemingly filtered through a soggy sock and a visit, cup in hand, to the radio shack to pick up “my ears” for the day ahead. This is the morning ritual of any self respecting Producer about to start a day on site.

We place our trusty Motorola in the same bracket as oxygen, some would say more so, because at least we could radio someone to tell them we don’t have any oxygen, whereas if we don’t have a radio – how the hell are we going to tell anybody anything!

Whether you’re a “Slinger” and throw the radio over the shoulder (with the strap under one arm so the radio sits just right on the opposite shoulder) – or you’re a “Hipster” and prefer to clip your device neatly to your belt, you would be lost without your radio!

Communication on site is one of those things we all take for granted, the rapid onset of “Gig Foot” is a sure sign that the truck with the radios is late.

Radio protocol is also something amusing and takes on many forms depending on who has been let loose on the airwaves. Those of us who have grown up with the trusty M have a firm grasp on pushing the button, talking and then letting go of the button. – simples!

This fairly basic procedure, more often than it should, evades the newcomer to on-site broadcasting; the result, as we all know, is a garbled mess that would stump Bletchley Park.

The ensuing communication, as we try to resolve the issue, can be equally comical, with one coherent message of explanation followed by a string of similarly useless responses that no one understands – and then, complete radio silence as the offender is taken off air and shown how to work the radio properly. The rest of us resuming normal radio chat without a single mention of the babbling rookie.

Radios can be dangerous things in the wrong hands! A well documented story of the forklift driver who inadvertently sat on his radio transmit button, whilst ordering his weekend supply of narcotics on his mobile phone springs to mind. This arse cheek broadcast was unfortunately sent to every radio on site, including the one being held by the policeman in the control room – Bummer!

Communication on site and the management of it requires careful thought at the planning stage; we should consider the groups carefully when creating our radio allocation sheet.

There is the Over Enthusiastic who sees the radio as a wearable item, proudly displayed, rarely used and never removed, even at dinner! Caution should be employed here; if you offer them a covert earpiece these people are likely to have a spontaneous orgasm on the radio shack floor.

The Less Enthusiastic who need a radio but don’t actually want to be contactable, either because they are far too important – or far too lazy and finally, the Steely Crew who have toured with everyone from Pink Floyd to the Muppets (and have the stickers on their climbing hats to prove it) – they need a radio and aren’t afraid to take off their fingerless gloves to use it.

As technology improves so do our trusty radios, we have moved into the digital age where we can selectively “dial up” the people or groups we want to talk to. We are told we are less likely to be hacked or listened into by brand competitors scanning our airwaves outside the venue trying to conduct poorly executed espionage. Odd but true, this type of thing does happen, generally because the offender has watched far too many Bond movies and needs to move out of his mums house to get a life. But sadly it’s become a consideration we need to think about.

Over the many years of radio communication we have adopted certain well thought out and catchy phrases to communicate the various dangerous scenarios we tend to have to deal with at our events. Phrases such as “Mr Case” which simply means a bomb or suspect package has been found.

I received the call once, that “Mr Case requires my urgent attention” and responded with “I don’t know who Mr Case is, please ask him to email me or take a message”! – the response I received back made my ear spontaneously combust.

We love our radio, its something we often take for granted but would cry like babies if we didn’t have one strapped somewhere about our person during a gig. It is how we communicate with our team, tell the hotel how crap their coffee is, make the show run to time and avoid walking a marathon on site – without it we would simply be a gaggle of gig foot infested wingers with nothing to say and no means of saying it anyway!

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