Programming Tips

AIR CHECKING 101 - Keith Fowler.

The idea of air checking is to guide on air talent to be the best they can be on air.

Steven Speilberg - “drama movies are real life with the boring bits cut out” 

Keith Fowler – “working on the air is their life with the boring bits cut out” 

Anonymous – “comedians are people who steal jokes for a living”

Keith Fowler – air talent are people who steal entertaining situations for a living”


The Content Director’s job is to show air talent how to cut out the “boring bits” and how to know an “entertaining situation” when they find one and how to fashion on air breaks that are compelling and engage the target audience


ONE thing that is constant about air talent is that they are not all the same

Typical air talent character profile tends to be high ego - low self esteem   

    The best talent are unusual: 

     get used to it, if they were ordinary they would be working in a bank

    Tailor your approach to individual talent: 

     get to know them      

    The air talent is the product : 

     find ways to disconnect their ego’s from the critiquing process     

     Make the air talent a priority: 

     regular air checking is crucial 


     Air talent generally don’t understand or necessarily care about the station’s objectives:

      establish station guidelines –your expectations – goals – “the win”  early      


      Be a good listener:

      show real interest


TWO things CD’s have to do with talent

Emphasise their talent’s strengths

Work on their talent’s weaknesses

TWO further things CD s should do

Be Honest

Be Direct

Leave no doubt


As a Content Director you need to be positive. You have to be a fan of the show. You need to be their professional critic but on balance you have to be a fan.   





THREE stages of Talent Development

There are three stages of talent development. Each stage does not last the same amount of time. And all talent develop at different rates. As a yardstick the first stage lasts twelve to eighteen months. The second stage two – four years. The third stage lasts as long as you let it. You either manage them as mature talent or watch on as their ratings crash.

New Talent (Next Big Things)

Hungry and Energetic  

Willing to learn, take feedback 

Will let their ego’s take a bit of a pounding

Want to succeed

Ratings don’t exist

Competent Developing Talent (Stars )

Have mastered the skills

Are pushing the envelope

Still want to be better

Ratings not secure

Mature Talent (Royalty)

Have all the skills 

Are looking for short cuts

Believe they rule by devine right

Ratings are secure for the moment



FOUR levels of Aircheck Management

There are four ways to approach managing the aircheck process


     Maximum amount of direction and control. Use in critical situations and with new and inexperienced talent or personalities with weak abilities


     Moderate amount of direction and control. Based on explanation and demonstration. Takes more time. Use in situations where you have good talent with real ability good attitudes willingness to learn and respond


     Direct and control thru’ team effort. Use with experienced, professional talent and polished personalities who know what they’re doing


     Talent control and direct with ideas and input from PD. Goal is to keep them in line with station goals and image. Use only with senior talent and experienced personalities


CD’s need to choose and mix and match techniques according to the circumstances and situation.




FIVE techniques for conducting Airchecks

Critique multiple breaks/whole show

    focus on the major issues first 

    fix them one or two at a time

    works with new talent and new shows and as a weekly/ monthly review

Critique specific breaks chosen by you

     heard the show specific things require attention. Pick three or four breaks that illustrate points to be addressed negative and positive

     works with competent and improving talent.

Critique random breaks chosen by you

    heard the show a constant issue needs addressing

    talent is consistent and good  - just checking

Critique specific breaks chosen by the talent

     show is on track  talent chooses 2-3 breaks  

     critique together     

     ask their opinion first respond after

Critique two breaks one good - one ok chosen by talent

     let the talent critique themselves  discuss their process    

Bonus scenario

      don’t critique breaks - “aircheck” the planning and approach

Fix it before it gets on the air




The Aircheck Sesssion


Hold all calls - Start on time

Park the ego’s outside

Make sure the talent knows you’re working with and for them

Keep it moving but don’t leave anything out

Focus on the big issues first fix the smaller things later

Keep it positive

Emphasis good breaks and examine breaks that could be better

Let the talent respond and have input

Encourage..don’t bully.. stimulate   ask questions

Pose hypotheticals..what if.. allow them to develop solutions

Be a good listener be a fan

Critique with passion and compassion

Be firm

Be consistent

Tell the truth even if it hurts

Reinforce the station’s goals and how it relates to their performance 

Be decisive when making decisions

Have them take notes

Close the meeting with agreed takeaways and goals for next show

Give them responsiblity for their continuing improvement