Transnational Standards, National Identities and International Morning Shows

IP1 Golo Föllmer with Master students Verónica Ayala, Carolina Guhlmann, Ferdinand Hartmann, Philipp Liebing, Linda Pastoors and Tobias Potratz
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
 

The auditive aesthetic appearance of radio programmes, in practitioners conceptions going under terms like ›station sound‹ or ›stationality‹, is widely assumed to be responsible for listeners' general feeling of being ›in the right place‹, being amongst their own social group and surrounding themselves with cultural artefacts representing values that constitute parts of their own identity, including aspects of geographical, national and ethnic identity.

This contribution to TRE's Berlin Workshop ›Aesthetics and Territoriality‹ made an attempt to lay the ground for a general understanding of everyday radio aesthetics. It sketched a methodological approach that is assumed to help understand whether and how station sounds differ between programmes from different national or cultural provenances. It applied a specific kind of sequence analysis to twelve one-hour recordings of youth radio morning programmes from three German, three English, three French and three Spanish language countries captured via online streams on June 13th 2014.

Both quantitative and qualitative data was gathered from this approach, representing an attempt to cover the full scope of parameters assumed to be responsible for station sound: 1) Types of radio talk were categorized and qualitative speech properties were captured via auditive analysis, rating prosodic features like average pitch, tempo and voice modulation. 2) Non-vocal broadcast elements, especially packaging elements like jingles, station IDs etc. were categorized and rated in comaprison to speech properties and music genres and moods. 3) Characteristics of mixing elements into a broadcast flow were examined, examining the layering of audio elements, volume relations, types of transistions
etc. 4) Finally, spectral sound qualities (results of filtering, dynamic compression etc.) were explored using visual, auditive and machine-based analysis.

The approach offered a range of interesting insights, including transnational typicalities of CHR formats found in correlations between speech properties, choice of music titles, number and style of packaging elements and volume relations and types of transistions between broadcast elements. With the exception of latin-american stations, similarities between stations from all across Europe and including examples from Australia and Africa proved to be bigger than the differences found.

However, the method as executed here also revealed a number of weaknesses. Interrated reliability as well as the appropriate choice of ›comparable‹ stations in countries that have strongly diverse, sparsely and only in the local language documented, and thus hard to assess radio markets proved problematic and will now be re-examined in a second run-through of the material. Also, varying technical audio stream qualities proved an obstacle when trying to assess spectral sound quality. Above all, qualitative as well as quantitative data sometimes proved hard to interpret from a culturally ›foreign‹ perspective, especially concerning speech properties like tempo, voice modulation and accentuation. This problem can most probably only be solved by working in a transnational team of scholars.