Obscenity Delay Makes the News; Eventide Besieged by Mainstream Press

Little Ferry, NJ, 17 April 2004 - The infamous instance of "wardrobe malfunction" resonated in scenic Little Ferry last week when print journalists and television crews discovered the role Eventide plays in keeping America safe from profanity.  Beginning with The Miami Herald and ending with the international Financial Times, Eventide talked with and hosted reporters, press photographers, and television camera crews.  Well-known in broadcast technical circles, Eventide and its famous yellow "DUMP" button newly broke into general public awareness in a swirl of publicity about obscenity in broadcasting and enormous fines proposed by the FCC against the nation's largest broadcasters.

In the late 1970s, Eventide revolutionized broadcast obscenity policing by inventing a product to replace the well-known and remarkably awkward "7-second tape delay."   This tape delay system required two large and expensive broadcast tape recorders.  They were placed several feet from each other, with the tape being recorded on one and played on the other.   The time it took the tape to travel from record head to playback head was the delay.   If a caller cursed, a rare occurrence in those days, the producer had limited options for killing the errant audio, as the physical system admitted little flexibility.  However, as then-primitive computer technology advanced, it became possible to delay the audio in memory chips and, with the use of memory, additional signal manipulation became possible.  Eventide used this possibility to not only delay the signal, but to obliterate it if untoward words were uttered, and then to slowly "build up" the delay time in a manner largely unnoticeable to the audience.  

Eventide's product met with immediate acceptance and delight since program continuity wasn't threatened by irksome callers or accidental expletives.  In the ensuing decades, virtually every radio station whose format risked the realtime airing of listener or guest comments availed itself of this valuable protection.   And there matters rested until...

Wardrobe Malfunction!

The Federal Communications Commission responded to the notorious Superbowl incident by greatly increasing the fines to which broadcasters could be subjected, and broadcasters responded by becoming very, very careful.  A small, rarely assessed fine was no longer a "cost of doing business."  It was now something that could affect the bottom line and possibly result in license action.  Stations that were casual about using delay to police profanity became assiduous.  Stations that were assiduous became fanatical.  And Eventide saw the largest surge of delay product orders in its history.   In the mainstream press it was noted that major broadcast chains planned to invest significant sums in delay units.  In response to the question "From where are they coming?" Eventide became a legitimate subject of inquiry. 

From our point of view, it was most interesting to observe how diverse journalists handled the "story."  Fundamentally, manufacturing is of little interest to the nonspecialist audience.  You don't read about "economical order quantities" in the local scandal rag; neither is there much about lead times and coordinating sheet metal vendors on the nightly news.  So what did get reported?  A few impressions:

One journalist asked "What caused this sudden interest in your product? "  Of course she knew the answer, but WE had to say it - that way it's a quotation!

A major international news network sandwiched a few seconds about Eventide into minutes of commentary by and about Howard Stern, followed by a couple of semi-famous people who disagreed with each other arguing about obscenity in broadcast.  Our intermezzo consisted of a picture of BD500s being frantically produced, packed, and shipped, followed by a few words (actually almost a whole sentence) from our president.  His astute and perspicacious remarks in that carefully edited sentence amounted to "that's a lot of units to sell so quickly." 

The TV crews actually spent some time with the equipment.  It's always fun doing impromptu demonstrations after hunting for those wily patch cables. 

It was interesting to demonstrate to print journalists the ability of the BD500 to disappear mock curses since they are typically unfamiliar with this type of equipment.

One question was asked by everyone:  "How are you coping with the backlog - are stations having to wait for a long time?"  We were pleased to report that all is well.  Of course there is some delivery delay occasioned by the spike in demand, but it is a manageable one, and delivery can be had in a "couple of weeks" instead of the more usual "few days."

It was great fun and entertainment dealing with this spasm of publicity in the normally and deservedly humdrum life of a manufacturing plant.  We'd like to thank The Miami Herald, The Bergen Record, The Financial Times, Channel 10, CNN, CBS Radio, NJ12, CNN Financial News, AM New York, SIPA, and the Associated Press for this unusual opportunity to present our story to the world!

About Eventide:

Founded in 1971, Eventide is a leading developer and manufacturer of digital audio processing products for recording, broadcast and live performance, as well as avionics instrumentation, and digital communication products for public safety institutions. Headquartered in Little Ferry, NJ, Eventide in 1977 invented the very first broadcast obscenity delay, the BD955, and the first Harmonizer brand effects processor in 1975. Visit Eventide on the Web at www.eventide.com.