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Fred Jacobs Can Picture Radio’s Future With AI In Mind

“Anybody can use AI…And I think that’s really been the story of the last year. But many people are scared and to some degree, justifiably so.”

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Fred Jacobs
(Photo: Jacobs Media)

As Artificial Intelligence continues to dominate headlines, President of Jacobs Media Strategies Fred Jacobs has an interesting take on the technology.

“I think that’s part of the problem with the way that Artificial Intelligence has rolled out in radio. It’s like, ‘Oh no, AI is going to come and replace all the DJs.’ I absolutely understand the paranoia there,” Jacobs told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call. “Clearly, the industry does have a track record of looking for efficiencies and downsizing accordingly. But I think that really misses the potential there.”

Fred Jacobs always wanted to go into radio but he said, “I didn’t really have the voice or the talent to be able to be on the air and really make the kind of impact that I wanted to have.”

Instead for the last 45 years, he’s had an incredible impact on audience research, and radio programming. Most notably he is known for developing the classic rock format in the 1980s. His research has led him to be one of the industry’s leading experts on AI.

“People don’t want [AI] at this point, but it’s here and it’s not going anywhere. And it is one of the biggest technical advances that we’ve ever seen,” Jacobs said.

It’s also a technological advance, which has gone relatively unnoticed by the public. Jacobs noted, “In many ways, AI is new but it’s also been around a long time. I mean, when you watch Netflix and it recommends a movie that you’d like based on the movies that you watched, that’s AI.” He added, “When Google or Yelp recommend a restaurant based on where you’ve been eating for the past several years, that’s artificial intelligence essentially predicting how you’re going to react and how you’re going to behave. So we’ve been watching this kind of come together, it seems, for a long time. But now as a result of ChatGPT and similar platforms, it’s really available to everybody.”

Artificial Intelligence has been used by many people in their everyday lives for years and has gone unnoticed. Jacobs adds, “Anybody can use AI in their work, in their personal lives, that type of thing. And I think that’s really been the story of the last year. But many people are scared and to some degree, justifiably so.”

A notable example of people being scared of AI is the Hollywood writer’s strike. “You think about what the writer’s strike was all about. And the biggest sticking point was really about AI and who owns what. So I think a lot of that is really gnarly at this point.” Jacobs later added, “It is confusing right now and the possibility of getting ripped off is really pretty good, especially with voice acting.”

Voice acting is Jacobs’ one concern when it comes to AI. “I worry about the voiceover community in radio because I do see companies trying to take advantage of their using AI voices instead of professional voices. Again, that’s a corner that some broadcasters may want to cut. But there’s a lot to be said for a live human voice. At least I think there is, so I’m looking at it from that standpoint.”

Another concern is who’s hands are writing the “0’s” and “1’s” of the program, but Fred Jacobs believes it’s not as big of a concern as other technology. “When you have all these leaders in the AI space warning that in the wrong hands, this could really be a real mess. Most of technology is like that anyway. So were nuclear weapons, right?” Jacobs later added, “Technology in the wrong hands is always going to be a problem, but in particular — as we know from the last couple of big elections that we’ve had in the U.S. — social media can be manipulated, and so can AI. So people are justified in being concerned about where is this going.”

While the world watches AI develop, some are calling for regulations to be made proactively, unlike other emerging technologies like social media. Jacobs believes, “The federal government hasn’t been especially helpful in regulating social media. They kind of let it sprawl out there before they even maybe even became aware of it. I think [the federal government is] trying to be proactive, but [AI] is developing so quickly that it’s really kind of hard to know where it’s going to go and what forms it’s going to take.”

Jacobs is still convinced AI will be a good thing for broadcasters and producers alike, it’s just the fear of change that gives people panic.

“This year, we had a bunch of AI questions in [our] survey because we wanted to see how [talent] would respond to questions about AI, especially given so much panic that has been in the industry trades,” said Jacobs.

In the survey, Fred Jacobs asked respondents to rate skills that are most important to the job. He followed with a question showing the same skills but asked each person to rank the skills from best to worst. AI rated dead last.

“So here they’re telling us it’s not really important to my success. And oh, by the way, I’m not very good at it,” Fred Jacobs noted. “And my message to them was, ‘You know what? It is very important to your careers. Learn it, embrace it, and figure out how you can make it work for you.’”

Making AI “work for you” may quell concerns of AI taking industry jobs.

“To me, the question isn’t how can we get AI to replace a mediocre run-of-the-mill disc jockey? To me, the question is, how can the run-of-the-mill disc jockey use AI to become a better personality as a preparation tool, as a way to sound more interesting, as a way to be able to tell stories about the music, or as a talk show host, be able to actually frame up your show in a much more intelligent, organized way?,” Fred Jacobs asked. “And the tools are there. We just have to approach them not out of fear, but really out of opportunity.”

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WRVA Host Jeff Katz Gets Special Olympics Tattoo After Raising $15K

Katz made a bet with Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard that if he could raise $15,000 for Special Olympics of Virginia, the pair would get matching tattoos.

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A photo of Jeff Katz and his Special Olympics tattoo
(Photo: Jeff Katz)

WRVA host Jeff Katz has some new ink. Not on a contract, but on his left arm.

Katz made a bet with Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard that if he could raise $15,000 for Special Olympics of Virginia, the pair would get matching tattoos.

The duo actually raised more than the $15,000 goal, so yesterday became “Tattoosday” for the pair, with Katz showing off his new ink on his left arm alongside tattoo parlor owner Mike Ivey of Journey’s End Tattoo Studio, who donated his service to the radio host and sheriff.

Katz has been host of The Jeff Katz Show on the Richmond news/talk station for the past 10 years, and signed a contract extension to remain with the Audacy-owned station last June. In 2023, Katz finished second in the BNM Top 20 for Mid-Market Afternoon Shows.

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Glenn Beck: ‘Why is Journalism Now A Crime to Journalists?’

“Open and free dialogue is the foundation for free society. It is also the foundation that peace can be built upon.”

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(Photo: Glenn Beck)

The fallout from the interview by Tucker Carlson with Russian President Vladimir Putin continues, with Glenn Beck noting that he finds humor in the reaction.

Beck welcomed Carlson to his BlazeTV program to discuss the interview. Before Carlson joined the program, Beck questioned why the response to the former Fox News host’s interview was as swift as it was.

“The news was actually kind of hilarious and it still is. Take any war in history, I don’t care with whom or which leader. Any journalist worth their salt, they’d be chomping at the bit to interview the leaders on both sides, but not this one. Why?,” Beck questioned. “Why is journalism now a crime to journalists?

“There’s been something that the media has now forgotten. Maybe the governments have never known it. But it is that open and free dialogue is the foundation for free society. It is also the foundation that peace can be built upon. Talk with everyone. You don’t have to trust them, even like them, but talk to them, understand where they’re coming from. It’s all very basic. And if anyone currently is criticizing Tucker for interviewing a person who is the leader of the country, we’re currently involved with a shadow war, well, maybe you should just ask Tucker.”

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Former WBBM Anchor David Roe Dies

Roe anchored at the Chicago all-news station for 35 years before stepping away in 2018.

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David Roe, a longtime anchor at WBBM before his 2018 retirement, has died after a bout with esophageal cancer.

Roe anchored at the Chicago all-news station for 35 years before stepping away in 2018. In addition to his work at WBBM, Roe also spent time at stations in Wyoming, Colorado, and Denver before moving to the Windy City as an anchor and reporter in 1983.

“He was a wonderful anchor — nothing ever flustered him,” retired WBBM news anchor and reporter Regine Schlesinger told the Chicago Tribune. “He was unflappable as an anchor and in fact, he was so good at it that whenever anybody new was hired and went through a training process, (management) would always put that person with David because they knew that David knew how to teach them properly.”

“He was very committed to … very much wanting to do good work, accurate, honest work,” added WBBM political editor Craig Dellimore. “It was a matter of trying to be our best. And David was very funny and personable and got along with everybody. He had a very calm manner about him, and that was very helpful in times of breaking news.”

David Roe was 71 years old.

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