JENNiRADIO: For Kids, By Kids

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KALY-AM 1240 in Albuquerque, N.M., launched in December 2010 with the youngest radio station owner in the United States. At 14, when she took her JENNiRADIO - For Kids … By Kids music format to air on KALY, Jennifer Smart already had eight years of experience as a nationally syndicated talk show host, first on the Family Tech Show, and then on the Smart Family Show and Online Tonight. Jennifer created the JENNiRADIO music format to reach tweens and teens, and with encouragement from industry veteran David H. Lawrence XVII and Bob Perry, decided to extend the format from its online home to a terrestrial broadcast station of her own.

Jenny Smart on the air

After a nationwide search, we settled on a former Disney Radio station in Albuquerque, which offered the benefit of a good market rank (#68) and convenient access to Los Angeles, where Jennifer does a lot of red carpet interviews with celebrities. Because the station had been dark for 10 months, we faced some challenges in getting it up and running again. Nevertheless, we bought it during the fall 2010, integrated the Disney equipment we had acquired with our own equipment, secured FCC approval by December, and finished up just two minutes shy of our Dec. 18 on-air deadline for JENNiRADIO.

The facilities

We didn’t acquire a studio facility along with the station purchase, so we went with what we had: a hut standing in the middle of a field in northern Albuquerque. With some help from independent engineers, I built a station that would support not only Jennifer’s production and broadcast work, but that of the Jennifer Smart Foundation’s Find Your Voice program, which gives a voice to local kids by putting them on the air.

In the studio Jennifer uses E-V RE-20 mics, as well as Sennheiser MK4 studio condenser mics, along with a Behringer Powerplay Pro headphone amp. We have used PreSonus VXP voice processors for a long time, largely because we felt they dealt very well with the sing-songy quality of kids’ voices and the extremes of quiet and loud we get while recording them. The processors don’t have automatic gain control, but they have a de-esser, compressor, equalizer, limiter and expander, so we have been able get the levels and control we needed, and to keep Jennifer’s voice relatively level. We still love them today, though they’re no longer made. She has used them since the beginning, and we still have four or five that, eventually, we’ll need to replace.

We use iMediaTouch for automation, and it has worked well for us. Like the PreSonus units, this is a tool we’ve worked with for nearly a decade. We originally learned about it through David Lawrence, and we saw it in action at CNET, which used iMediaTouch for a San Francisco Bay Area radio station it ran in the 2000s. I had friends working there, so once we got into the broadcast business ourselves, we knew that we’d have people who could give us a hand with the system. Being computer people, we also liked the look of it and thought it would look great with our studio decor.

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