Give your listeners a voice

Putting callers to air for a talk radio segment or podcast interview can add real life to your programme; but how to do it?

While there are numerous ways to do this, bear with as there are some legal implications you need to be aware of.

As a podcaster or broadcaster you are in effect the publisher, and that means you are legally responsible for what you distribute. Interviewees may make claims about people and products that are not true – which puts you at risk of legal action from those offended by what’s said in your show.

And believe me, once letters from lawyers start arriving it’s not only stressful but costly – as you will need to respond and find a way to settle the issue (ideally without going to court).

The safest way to interview people is to have them talk about themselves, their company and its products. As soon as you allow them to stray into saying negative things about other people and their products you risk a legal issue.

Okay, that said; how can low budget community radio stations and podcasters put callers to air or record them? Here are a few budget options…

  1. Connect a mobile phone to a mixer input. This involves using the headphone output of the phone to an input on your mixer. The caller hears the presenter via the phone’s microphone, but their response goes through the mixer.
  2. Google Voice.  Get a dedicated phone number for use on a smartphone or desktop website.
  3. Skype.  Again, you can get a unique phone number or have people contact you via your Skype user account. If using Skype, try the Ecamm Call Recorder app to automatically record all Skype conversations. The app can split the recording into two mono files, one for your voice, the other for the caller (ideal for editing).
  4. Skype TX. This is a pro solution for handling multiple callers.
  5. You can use a standard phone line, but typically the audio quality won’t match the digital options above. You’ll need a gadget to sit between the phone and the line to connect to your mixer. An old school solution is AudioTX which converts a standard landline into a higher quality ISDN line.
  6. FeenPhone A fully duplex (and free) option meaning when one person speaks they do not drown out the other.

Vox pops

When I was a young news reporter stuck for something to write about my editor would send me out to go speak with people shopping in the High Street.

It would mean approaching complete strangers, introducing myself and asking a question about something topical that I thought they would have an opinion on.

Such as: “Do you think the local MP should resign over his decision to …. fill in the blanks.”
Or: “Do you think the police are doing enough to catch criminals?”

Within half an hour I’d get a range of views, likely pick up some good story tips, and return to the office with a bulging note book of names, quotes and opinions. Years later I’d do the same thing for radio.

Using a smartphone or a budget recorder (Tascam make a nice range) you can nip down to the High Street, introduce yourself, hand out business cards and ask for people’s opinion on the issue of the day or something quirky and fun.

You could also ask them to say they listen to your station for some nice homely endorsements.
Not only that, you get to tell people about your station and perhaps pick up a few new listeners.

But Vox Pops (Vox Populi / the People’s voice) can be a quick and easy way to add people’s opinion to your station or show. They can be great fun, and you never know what members of the public will say.

OK – a bundle of ideas to help you put callers to air. Any other ideas are welcome, so do let me know.