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Michael Stockwell: Up to Eleven

BY Jelli ON May 21, 2015 IN Up to Eleven

Today, we spotlight Digity Media’s Chief Engineer Michael Stockwell in our monthly feature “Up to Eleven.”

Michael has been working as a radio station chief engineer for 34 years and maintains Digity’s radio stations 94.5 KBAY and KEZR (Mix 106.5) in San Jose, California.

His love of radio began back in high school and he believes that “you don’t get into radio… it gets into you.”

Enjoy our May edition of “Up to Eleven!”

The Jelli Team


 

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Michael Stockwell

Chief Engineer, Digity Media

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Jelli: What led you to a career in radio?

Stockwell: I was in the electronics class at my high school and through that I got involved in the radio program. My high school’s radio station is KVHSlocated in Concord, CA. I’ve had the radio bug since then.

Jelli: How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?

Stockwell: The biggest thing that defines the San Jose market is that it’s embedded in the San Francisco market. It’s always struggling to have its own identity despite the majority of the Bay Area population living and working in the Silicon Valley. Some of the larger media groups have taken stations out of San Jose and its programming but sometimes we see those stations come back to the South Bay. Our stations are unique because we’ve remained local. We offer listeners local programming that’s true to the South Bay. The Digity slogan is “We Live Here Too.” The people who run the radio stations live here. I’ve been in San Jose for almost 30 years—most people that work here have had at the minimum a 10 year run. One of our on-air personalities Lissa Kreisler has worked at KBAY for 27 years.

Jelli: Are you wearing more “hats” than you have in the past?

Stockwell: The landscape of engineering has changed quite a bit. We’ve gone from a mechanical world to a very data-driven world. Before everything was hands on and now everything is all IP based—data. The upside to the changes that have taken place is things have become more reliable. Transmitter sites are more reliable provided companies are investing money in the sites. Even if money isn’t being spent on equipment we have transmitters that have been running for 20 years. As far as the job of engineering goes we are facilities managers. When I’m asked what the title of chief engineer means my answer is “what doesn’t that mean?” Today, the duties of a chief engineer can cover everything from changing lightbulbs to fixing the air conditioning. It also encompasses everything that goes with the broadcast—from the microphone to the antenna. Now, everything in the radio is computerized. The challenge is these devices are so much more reliable than they used to be but we’re putting all of our eggs into one basket. Our biggest concern is once everything moves out of the radio station it’s out of control. Now, we’re having to rely on third parties. Ultimately, it comes down to how much the company is willing to spend to help create redundancies. And, creativity. How much can you do with very little? That’s what makes it exciting.

Jelli: What is your favorite part of the job?

Stockwell: My favorite part of the job is its different every day. And, I love the people I work with. I never dread coming to work. What keeps me coming back is the need to constantly have to think outside of the box in order to keep things happening.

Jelli: What is the most challenging part of the job?

Stockwell: The most challenging part of the job is keeping up with technology trends. One of the coolest things we did recently in San Jose was change the radio stations over to Voice over IP (VoIP) and we’re now working on migrating the broadcast facilities to an Audio over IP (AoIP) network and consoles.

Jelli: What are you doing social media-wise?

Stockwell: The only thing I’m involved in regarding social media is making sure the streams are up and metadata is being displayed correctly. I’m barely on Facebook myself. The stations post to Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and everything is linked through our websites and mobile apps.

Jelli: What makes your station “unique?”

Stockwell: What makes our stations unique is we’re definitely focused on the South Bay. Here we’re more laid back and the weather is very temperate. People in radio that work in the South Bay have been trying to articulate for years to outsiders what our identity is when they’re trying to sell advertising on a national level. The radio stations have always been in the shadow of the San Francisco market. Our identity is we’re in the South Bay and we live here. Our stations are also identifiable by our talent. On KBAY, we have long-time South Bay personalities Lissa Kreisler and Sam VanZandt. On Mix 106.5 we haveMarla Davies who’s been in the South Bay since the 90’s.

Jelli: Why do you think terrestrial radio stations should invest in technology… like programmatic?

Stockwell: One of my biggest concerns is the radio station losing its ability to manage content. Today, we’re trying to streamline our broadcast facility and be able to more easily schedule commercials, schedule music and manage our ad inventory. Even the consoles and work surfaces are no longer doing anything other than managing the audio—it’s all IP based. It does make everybody’s job easier. If we don’t invest in technology our failure rates get higher. I think radio as an industry is behind the curve technologically. I believe there’s still magic in radio and it’s up to us to keep that magic alive and well. We sometimes do live broadcasts in the South Bay and there’s still a magic in seeing people talk in the microphone and hear their voice coming over the radio.

Jelli: What advice would you give to people new to the business?

Stockwell: Run now! I don’t think you get into radio… I think it gets into you. It’s a bug. And once you’ve caught the bug you can’t get out.

Jelli: What was your favorite radio station to listen to when you were a kid?

Stockwell: KFRC – top 40. I grew up listening to Dr. Don and it was known as the big 610.

Jelli: Bonus question (#11): For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they “must see?”

Stockwell: If you’re not from California I think you should visit the Redwoodsand the Monterey Bay. There’s so much to see in an hour’s drive in any direction. That’s one of the great things about the Bay Area. If you want to get a flavor of San Jose you should go to the Winchester Mystery House and visit thetech museums.

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Michael with the Jelli Appliance.

 

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