In the radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...
industry, an aircheck
is generally a demonstration recording, often intended to show off the talent of an announcer
An announcer is a presenter who makes "announcements" in an audio medium or a physical location.-Television and other media:Some announcers work in television production , radio or filmmaking, usually providing narrations, news updates, station identification, or an introduction of a product in...
or programmer to a prospective employer, but mainly intended for legal archiving purposes. A scoped
(short for "telescoped" - by analogy with pressing the ends of a hand-held telescope to reduce its size) aircheck usually contains only segments where the announcer is actually talking, along with a bit of the music or commercial on either side. In an unscoped
aircheck, all programming is left intact and unedited, including music, commercials, newscasts, jingles and other on-air events.
Another category of airchecks are those recorded "off-the-air" by listeners, using consumer or semi-professional equipment. These airchecks became more common with the advent of radio-cassette recorder
Boombox is a colloquial expression for a portable cassette or CD player. Other terms known are ghetto blaster, jambox, or radio-cassette. It is a device capable of receiving radio stations and playing recorded music , usually at relatively high volume...
The oldest known aircheck may be of a 15-minute broadcast by Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....
on Los Angeles station KHJ
KHJ Radio in Los Angeles, California broadcasts Spanish-language entertainment programming as La Ranchera. It was also one of America's most formidable Top 40 radio stations in the 1960s and 1970s as 93 KHJ before changing its format in 1980....
and the CBS
The CBS Radio Network provides news, sports and other programming to more than 1,000 radio stations throughout the United States. The network is owned by CBS Corporation, and operated by CBS Radio ....
network from September 2, 1931. It was recorded by the RCA Victor company of Hollywood and is fully documented in the Victor files at the National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent agency of the United States government charged with preserving and documenting government and historical records and with increasing public access to those documents, which comprise the National Archives...
. The recordings were made by RCA Victor at the request of rival network NBC, which apparently wanted to monitor the then-rising young singer. The sound of the recording suggests that it was made by placing an open microphone before a high-quality radio (a method known in the radio trade as a "mike-feed"). This recording is available online at Reelradio http://www.reelradio.com/gifts/bckhj31.html#bckhj31
Airchecks can be recorded directly off the air (from a tuner or modulation monitor), from the pre-air feed that goes into the transmitter
In electronics and telecommunications a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which, with the aid of an antenna, produces radio waves. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating...
(which has usually been modified by the station's processing), or directly from the on-air console before the station's processing has been applied.
Some radio stations used "logger reels" for airchecks. On these large reels of tape would be recorded the air signal at super-slow speeds. These reels were kept by the station for regulatory purposes (e.g. to provide an audio record that commercials ran as logged or to confirm aired content after allegations of inappropriate content). After a time, normally around 30 days for most stations, these logger reels would be reused or discarded.
Many airchecks are made by the announcers themselves on a recorder that begins recording when the microphone is turned on and then goes into pause when the microphone goes off. In the 1960s and 1970s reels of tape were used for these "skimmer" airchecks. Later it was cassettes. Today many stations use minidisc
The disc is permanently housed in a cartridge with a sliding door, similar to the casing of a 3.5" floppy disk. This shutter is opened automatically by a mechanism upon insertion. The audio discs can either be recordable or premastered. Recordable MiniDiscs use a magneto-optical system to record...
s, recordable CDs or computer digital recordings for aircheck creation.
Airchecks made by listeners, generally with consumer-grade equipment, are often lost to poor quality copies made with tape machines that are not aligned to the recording machine. Many airchecks were made to record DXing
DXing is the hobby of tuning in and identifying distant radio or television signals, or making two way radio contact with distant stations in amateur radio, citizens' band radio or other two way radio communications. Many DXers also attempt to receive written verifications of reception from the...
reception, which often included fading, static and interference.
DJs use airchecks to critique themselves, sometimes with the Program Director listening along with them to provide suggestions for improvements. Announcers keep some of their airchecks as "audio snapshots" of their career.
Airchecks are also recorded at radio stations to send to clients to show how their live commercials, remote breaks or contests sounded.
Some airchecks of older radio programs are highly prized by collectors, due to their nostalgia
The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of , meaning "returning home", a Homeric word, and , meaning "pain, ache"...
value. For example, "baby boomers" often enjoy listening to airchecks recorded from "Top 40" radio stations in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly if they are airchecks of the same stations that the person listened to when they were a teenager or young adult. Many such airchecks were made in the 1960s by DJs who then sent them to troops in Vietnam, and a surprising number have survived. Another class of aircheck has to do with transitions between programming format
A radio format or programming format not to be confused with broadcast programming describes the overall content broadcast on a radio station. Radio formats are frequently employed as a marketing tool, and constantly evolve...
s on a given station, where recordings are made of the final hours of an old format or early beginnings of a new format.
More surprising numbers of airchecks have survived from listeners during the Top 40 era, many who recorded talented DJs to learn how to be DJs, and many who recorded Top 40 music because it was cheaper than buying the 45s.
Airchecks are also used in the Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...
industry, mostly for billing purposes. An aircheck is the only accurate record of what aired on a TV station. Stations generally maintain airchecks for 1 year.
Generally, airchecks are recorded by the Master Control
Master control is the technical hub of a broadcast operation common among most over-the-air television stations and television networks. It is distinct from a production control room in television studios where the activities such as switching from camera to camera are coordinated...
department of most TV stations, and are recorded on VHS. The standard is 3 8-hour tapes per day, one per each shift. On this tape contains the Video of the On-Air receiver at the station recording what actually broadcast, usually there is a time-of-day graphic superimposed over the video to keep track of what aired and when it aired.
In fact, local TV programs were not recorded until the early '70's, when video tape became available to consumers. One early reference of a television aircheck is The Real Don Steele TV Show http://www.reelradio.com/rdsc/rds74tv.html
, from KHJ-TV, Los Angeles, in The Real Don Steele Collection at REELRADIO.