The first day Ian Arnold ’98 began working for Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications in 2007, he received a call from the general counsel of a major printing company. It seems the on-air talent at one of the media giant’s Indianapolis radio stations claimed to have obtained an advanced copy of the last Harry Potter book and planned to read the last three pages on the air before the book’s publication.
“By the time (the attorney) got to me, she had called the FBI, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Indianapolis police and the police (near) the printer’s location,” said Arnold. “Literally, they were getting ready to read (the pages) within 30 minutes, so it was scramble, scramble, scramble.”
Arnold, who currently serves as vice president and associate general counsel, ran to the studio where the staff admitted the pages were part of a hoax, written by an intern who was a Potter fan. The printer’s attorney contacted the publisher and learned initially that there was no exposure to a lawsuit.
When the disc jockeys tried to read the second page the next day, however, Arnold had to put a stop to the stunt, since not alerting the general public that the material was fake made them guilty of copyright infringement.
“They blamed not being able to read the last two pages on death threats from parents,” said Arnold, adding the station had actually received some menacing emails and phone calls from parents accusing the station of destroying their children’s enjoyment of the Harry Potter series.
“(The station) actually got more publicity off of that (the threats) than they did from reading the page the day before.”
Scenarios like the one above are commonplace at Arnold’s job, who said there’s no such thing as a typical day. Having to prepare for a constant turn of unexpected events forces him to think on his feet.
He spends the bulk of his time taking care of legal matters for the company’s radio holdings, but also looks after the other divisions, including publishing and digital media, among others.
Radio’s constant immediacy means on-air staff can generally do what they want during their four-hour shift, based on a certain set of rules. He performs annual trainings for on-air staff so they understand the FCC’s indecency rules as well as the legal implications of practices like payola, where record companies pay to have their music broadcast, and plugola, where companies pay the on-air talent to endorse their product without disclosing so to the listener. Arnold said these were the three top concerns.
“Ultimately, we can withstand a lawsuit if somebody slips and falls during a scavenger hunt and (the person) didn’t properly sign a waiver,” he said. “But payola, plugola and indecency are the things that upset the FCC. The one thing we can’t afford to lose are our broadcast licenses. While that stuff at some level may seem less harmful, for our business it’s an infinitely larger threat.”
One of the perks of Arnold’s job is attending concerts hosted by one of Emmis’ radio stations. He saw some of hip-hop’s major stars, including Drake, Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and The Roots, at one of Emmis’ flagship stations, New York City-based HOT 97’s festival, “Summer Jam,” held at the 45,000-seat Met Life Stadium in New Jersey.
“Being there and experiencing it just gives you a view of the things you need to be wary of when you’re planning for the next year,” he said. “Seeing it firsthand is much more valuable that getting a story from someone.”
Arnold’s work happens before the rappers hit the stage, e.g., negotiating contracts with the artist’s record label. He’ll include penalty clauses in those contracts to ensure the event’s success, such as making it financially counter-productive for an artist to be a no-show.
There are additional rewards to his chosen career path, besides working with interesting, creative people. There daily diversity the job brings accommodates his self-proclaimed short attention span, and Arnold finds the variety of problem-solving keeps him engaged.
Hanover’s liberal arts education gave Arnold the opportunity to deal with a broad variety of subjects, while the College’s small class size forced him to interact with faculty and his fellow students on a regular basis.
Additionally, his professors’ use of the Socratic method used to stimulate critical thinking taught Arnold how to defend his beliefs. That training translated well to law school and to his current career.
“I constantly have to solve problems on the phone, in real time,” he said. “The kind of training I got at Hanover from my professors gave me that ability to think on (my) feet, answer questions and be challenged. It really translated into my ability to work in the business world.”
Published Tuesday, June 17, 2014