Taking Phone Calls On Air

Article 8 min
In this American Forces Network (AFN) Radio Refresher video, Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Snider explores taking phone calls, editing phone calls, recording a tease and playing phone calls.

Taking Phone Calls

The goal of a radio show is to communicate your message to your audience. The most effective and engaging way to do this is to involve your listeners in your show. Phone calls enrich your show with new dynamic content and create two-way communication with your listener.

You can take phone calls through the Axia board by combining this feature with your production computer's ability to record audio. You can record your phone calls, edit them down and play them on air as though they're live.

PRO TIP: Never take a phone call live without screening it first!

Let's look at what parts of the board are involved.

  • Record Mode Button
    The record button is your best friend during a phone call. Presets for this feature may vary, so verify the setup with your tech support. This button takes mic one out of program one, which is the live output of the board. It also prepares your phone system for talking and recording. Finally, record mode changes your headphone audio so you can hear your caller.
  • Phone Panel
    The phone panel is where you pick up, put on hold and hang up a call. One item of note that will vary by affiliate is how the phone call light operates. However your studio is set up, this is your main indicator of when a listener calls in.

One important step in taking a phone call is to make sure your line is open! Forgetting to properly hang up or not checking if there's a technical issue can cause you to miss out on great content from your listeners.

Before taking any call on air, ensure you have a new audio file ready to record in Adobe Audition on your production computer.

Symbol of an ā€œiā€ within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: Check with your local command to ensure you are using the most up-to-date and compliant software.

PRO TIP: Check out the AFN Radio Refresher on Using Studio Production Computers!

When that phone call light goes off, the first thing you should always, always do is start recording the call in Audition. An easy keyboard shortcut for this is shift plus space bar.

Once you're recording in Audition, put your board in record mode. Your mic and phone line are now prepared to record, and your headphones are ready to listen.

Note that in order for your listener to hear you, you still need to turn on and pot up your mic one input. In order for you to hear your caller, you need to pot up the phone line audio to an acceptable level as well. Because you're in record mode, none of this will go into program one, your live output.

The final step before you're connected to your listener is to answer the call on your Axia board. You'll see a flashing arrow next to a button on your phone panel. When you're ready to answer, push that button and greet your caller.

Symbol of an ā€œiā€ within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: Your studio and phone setup may vary. In some cases, when you go to answer the call on your Axia board, buzzers will alert you, and lights will come on and flash. In most cases, when a call comes in, you will see a flashing square button. Pressing the flashing square button will answer the phone immediately.


DJ: AFN, the Eagle. Who's this?

Caller: Hey, what's going on? It's Chad.

DJ: Hey, what's up Chad? How you doing man?

Caller: I'm doing pretty great.

DJ: Happy to hear it. It's Halloween season, right?

Caller: Absolutely.

DJ: Hey, you have a great day man. Thanks for calling in. Take it easy.

Caller: Hey, thank you, DJ Chris.

Recording a Tease

As you're exiting your call, keep everything set up, hang up with your caller when appropriate by:

  1. pressing the drop button,
  2. then potting down
  3. and turning off the phone output on the board.

Now you're still recording your mic audio into Audition.

PRO TIP: Record a tease at the end of your phone call!

Use this moment to record a transition out of your call and tease into your next break. If you have a contest running, give a final response to the caller, then restate your contest and phone number to encourage more calls.


"...and I want to know what your favorite Halloween story is, what your favorite tv show is. If you've got a special Halloween story, give me a call. 065-44-3609 or DSN 423-3609."

Recording tease audio into the end of your phone call, even when the caller has already hung up, means the audio won't sound different when you play it. You can cut and play this recorded phone call as a fully prepackaged break. Once you've recorded your tease:

  1. Pot down and turn off mic one.
  2. Then, press the record button to take your board out of record mode.
  3. Finally, stop recording in Audition.

PRO TIP: Press the space bar to stop recording!

Editing Phone Calls

Now that you've ingested all your audio for your phone call, let's chop it up.

Phone calls can have awkward silences. Sometimes this is because of delays over phone lines, people being nervous to call, especially kids or any number of reasons. Taking the time to cut out those silences can transform a slightly awkward phone call into a smooth one. Cut out content from your call that isn't beneficial to your listeners, side conversations or long hellos and goodbyes; they can go. You want this call to offer something to your listeners.

PRO TIP: Always listen to your final audio!

Before you move on, play back your call. Be sure the content is appropriate to air for your listening audience and matches your intent.

Playing Phone Calls

If your call is good to go, use the hard limiting effect in Audition to even out the audio so the call sounds smoother on air. Check with your affiliate for specific settings.

If you've recorded and properly edited the call, you can play back this phone call as a prepackaged break.

  1. First, silence all system sounds on your production computer by going to your Windows Audio Mixer and leaving only Audition as an output.
  2. Then, select your phone call audio track and ensure your play head is at the start of the track.
  3. Now, level your production computer output on your Axia board to negative 10.
  4. Ensure it's outputting into channel one, your live output.
  5. Turn on your production computer output. Despite having your production computer output fired, nothing should air live at this point until you play the call in Audition.
  6. Your production computer space bar now fires the call on air.

A recorded phone call should work as any break. Play the call over a fade. As the call is playing, mix a bed under it and have your call ride the next song's ramp. This takes a bit of math. Subtract the next song's ramp time from the total call time in Audition to determine how far into the call you should fire this song.

PRO TIP: 1 minute - 15 seconds = 45 seconds

If your phone call is one minute long, and you pick a song with a 15-second ramp, you would fire the song under the phone call around when your call is played for 45 seconds. Fade your bed down and pot the song up as the call ends for a seamless pre-produced break.


DJ: [Song ends and fades out] AFN, The Eagle, who's this?

Caller: Hey, what's going on? It's Chad...Absolutely.

DJ: Hey, you have a great day, man. Thanks for calling in. Take it easy.

Caller: Hey, thank you, DJ Chris.

DJ: [Song begins to fade into the background] And I want to know what your favorite Halloween story is, what your favorite TV show is. If you've got a special Halloween story, give me a call 065-44-3609 or DSN 423-3609. [Song ramps up]

You may want to save these calls for later reference. Congrats, you've taken a phone call. Practice makes perfect. In no time at all, it'll be second nature. Have a great show!

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