Sunday, January 2, 2011

How To Annoy Master Control

In another installment in my continuing series learn how to interact with your local television broadcasters.

If you call NBC and try to get through to Brian Williams, chances are you won't. He's a star, and the NBC phone maze is designed to keep the typical person who might keep Mr. Williams from focusing on his job with conversation that might be more than a little distracting. ("Hi. I wat chu ev'ry nat. Yur cute.") Other departments, mainly the sales and office staff, keep business hours and can also get away with a reasonable amount of honesty with the wayward caller. And if you happen to get through the maze and your call gets to the technical operations center (TOC) you'll likely get something that sounds like The Situation.

"Whadya askin' me for? I'm havin' a bagel, here."
(Somehow I get the impression that network TOC operators generally don't live in Midtown and lunch in The Rainbow Room.)

Your local TV station does not have such luxury, particularly in master control where the phone is manned 24/7 by a dedicated and highly motivated member of our technical operations team. Here's a photo of one of our team members.

Blog administrator has removed said photo of dedicated and highly motivated member of our technical operations team due to the fact that the bird he is throwing the camera is indeed NOT the NBC peacock.

Knowing that such a person has nothing better to do but answer your call, you the common television viewer can take advantage of this. Listed below are tips in how to annoy master control.

* Call with a news tip. Master Control operator will tell you you need to call the newsroom number... you know, the one we put on the air in every newscast. Ignore the possibility there might be an email address on the station website. After operator gives you the news tip number start your rampage about the abortion clinic on the south side of town. Leave no detail untouched. (You won't be able to see the operator throwing away the the strawberry yogurt he was trying to eat when you called, but trust me he does.) After five minutes conclude your call, but never do as the operator suggests and actually call the news department because you know Obama has told us not to tell the truth.

* Something is wrong with your sound. Call master control. Don't bother to check to see if any other cable channel is doing the same thing. Start the conversation with, "What's wrong with your station?" Operator will scan the wall of meters and monitors in front of him and tell you all on his end is operating as it should; the issue must be at your end. Refuse to accept this as fact. The operator can't know what he's talking about. Don't be dissuaded by the fact that you are the only person who's called in with this issue, and if the station was indeed transmitting its audio in Spanish there's a fairly strong possibility that some other viewer just might be calling in to say something about it. Be sure to keep operator on the phone through at least one sloppy local break. When your three year-old nephew walks up and shows you the SAP button on your remote, share a laugh with the master control operator. OK. Assume he's laughing on the inside.

* Buy a case of cheap beer. Chug it. Call master control during the eleven. Hilarity ensures.

* Your cousin, wife, or both just got sent to prison for shooting somebody, and the TV news showed her being sentenced. Call master control and threaten slander lawsuit for defaming your cousin's character. Operator will ask you to call back during business hours. You say you'll do more than that; you just may show up and teach somebody a lesson. An hour later ponder why you're spending the night having a very uncomfortable conversation with people who wear badges.

* You are in charge of public relations for well-meaning but disorganized non-profit civic organization. Produce a public service announcement on your own on. (running time 47 seconds.) Show up at the TV station lobby door at 1:34AM with your VHS tape wrapped in a plain brown box. Beat on door and buzz intercom. Master control tells you to come back during business hours. Leave the package at the door. An hour later ponder why you're in the back of a cruiser while the bomb squad blows your tape to smithereens. That was your master.

* If you work at the station, park in the operator's spots. No. Really. She won't mind walking two blocks back to her car when her shift ends at 3:30AM. Oh, and master control loves running out to feed the parking meter during "Good Morning America." It keeps them in shape. The fact that you find all four of your tires flat is just a coincidence.

* You take your scout troop on a tour of a local station. While in master control you say to the operator nice and loud for the general manager to hear, "Looks like you get paid to just sit here and watch television." Operator suddenly wants to show you the tape archive vault. He walks you down the hall and forces open a pair of heavy doors. He shoves you into the darkness. You suddenly realize master control is on the second floor.

And it's just that simple. And don't worry. In all seriousness, we in the TOC would never resort to violence in retaliation. We broadcast engineers tend to be a pacifist group who believe in keeping our phasers set on "stun." Miscreants are dealt with by our Security Officer Lt. Worf, and you would simply be placed in the brig for the remainder of the journey... where one of our dedicated and highly motivated technical operations team members will keep you company by talking about "Star Trek."

You've been warned.

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