Monday, August 10, 2015

I hate financial waste of the (legally enforced) BBC licence fee

A BBC Local Radio journalist accused me of 'hating' the BBC...

I don't...... I just hate financial waste of the (legally enforced) BBC licence fee. 

If you read the stories below, I wonder what word you would use to describe how it makes YOU feel ?!

BBC News Chief gets 

£24,000 pay rise

 (as hundreds of staffers

 are laid-off)

So she now earns £215,000 a year.....  This is a great deal more than she would earn in (self-funded) commercial tv and radio, which operate on much smaller budgets than the BBC's! 

WHY does the BBC pay so much?

Of course all this is comparatively unimportant compared to the crazy, awful PR disaster the BBC has had over *Alan Yentob's interview.  He is chairman of Batmanghelidj's organisation. 

The interview was about this kid's 'self-referral' organisation (let's face it, how may PARENTS would trust giving their kids money not knowing how they might spend it - so HOW could this organisation think that acceptable?) 

Watch the interview where Channel 4 lifted the lid on it:

Notice how he keeps telling the interviewer to 'wait a minute' ?

In The Telegraph on 8 August Patrick Sawer reported :

Paul Marshall, chairman of ARK Schools – a leading provider of academies – said the trustees appear to have failed in their duties. 
“The role of the trustees was obviously to make sure they had in place alongside Camila those types of management and that’s what central government was asking for. That was a fundamental failing of the trustees.”

"The trustee coming under particular pressure to explain what he did to ensure good governance at the charity is Alan Yentob. 

The BBC executive – who has been chair of trustees at Kids Company for 18 years – has been critical of his own organisation’s (BBC) handling of the story – even buttonholing BBC reporter Lucy Manning to criticise her coverage."
(my underlining)

Yentob earns £330,000 a year for his part-time role as 'Creative Director' at the BBC !

The BBC pay far too much to a few privileged
'luvvies' suits and journalists.
They could lose these staff
and keep the ones who do the work
and save a LOT!

How much longer are the Government going to tolerate these crazy high wages, and WASTE of a licence fee the public are forced to pay!?

If you agree, one way you can make YOUR opinion known is here:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's time for David Holdsworth to resign

With the news that...

"David Holdsworth has announced a new direction for BBC local radio stations, with a focus on personalities and production" *

...a lot of questions need to be answered, and someone held to account for what is a failing/mainly dismal service, that lost its way in a mire of journalists, editors and manic, hasty, 'gender-balancing', under Holdsworth's 'watch'.

Why did it take this man so many YEARS to understand what everyone else in the business KNEW needed to be done!?

The speech breakfast shows should have been replaced with 'music and speech' ones years ago, and most of the 'editors' pensioned off. Having hastily trained  25 year olds doing a breakfast show aimed at 50-70 year olds is ridiculous.

As regards "We will be offering training with more emphasis on production and presentation skills"  that has never been in doubt. With public money the BBC over-trained, over-researched, and over 'gender-balanced'.  

But given that there is a huge staff mis-balance of non-musical/ personality-less  journalists on these failing stations HOW do they propose to give the 'personality' training and WHO with!? 

They don't have those skills.... and have no BUDGET to employ yet more people...

Will they get rid of the hastily-trained female breakfast 'presenters' only taken on last year (at Lord Tony's behest) to 'gender balance' the stations?

Will they get rid of the truly awful, lethargic, personality-less 'voice idents' made by McCasso?

Surely, having to make these changes goes against everything Holdsworth perpetrated

He oversaw  a failing, journalist-heavy regime. 

It's time for David Holdsworth to resign.


Update: a quote from my August 2013 blog:

To Tony Hall: 

I'd love to charge a large consultancy fee, but here is some free advice: the PROBLEM with BBC Local Radio breakfast shows is that :

  • They are run by NEWS side of the BBC
  • The presenters are often ex-University students
  • The presenters are too young to relate to the audience
  • The shows sound like a radio version of Blue Peter

Your solution is to employ former ILR presenters from each area, have a 80/20% mix of music/news, and pay for them by getting rid of a whole tier of Local Radio management, as 'guru' John Myers suggested in a report the BBC seem to have lost.

Look in your filing cabinets Tony!


Friday, December 12, 2014

"Carry On Radio 2..."

Finding myself with no radio station for a few weeks as Solid Gold GEM AM 'closed' I ventured onto my Roberts WiFi to seek both musical enjoyment and perhaps hear a few neat 'radio tricks' I could 'borrow' if I did get a new show.

Being a 'jingle anorak' of 50 years standing, naturally I 'tuned' to BBC Radio 2 with its 'award winning' jingles and 'amazing music' played by an 'amazing line-up'. The Welsh woman I heard last time I tuned in (who wanted to know if I was "enjoyin' lisnin'....'') was thankfully gone... But what I heard was not agreeable.....

  • a 10 minute sequence on breakfast with EIGHT over-lapping (yappy) voices, and just half of an 'amazing' song
  • a succession of 'modern' songs that were not 'amazing' but sounded like 1970s singles by Stealer's Wheel or Billy Ocean
  • some sort of hospital radio style request show presented by a less than  'amazing' woman who sounded like a jaded nurse
  • Radio One interrupted transmission several times; the ever-young (excellent) Jo Whiley kept appearing on promos or a whole show
  • a crossed landline with BBC Radio Blackburn meant for one breakfast show it REALLY needed sub-titles as a woman mumbled her way through
  • I can only presume a complete digital failure on the Ken Bruce show meant the system switched to auto and played a track by AC- DC
And those 'award winning' jingles? I only ever heard two in any 45 minutes. And a heavily produced traffic jingle which is always spoken all over except for the vocal.An acapella would have done and saved the licence payer £3000. And there is a thumpy news jingle + forgettable 'Steeler's Wheel' type dj namechecks. 

The legendary (truly 'amazing') Tony Blackburn, and Steve Wright, two of the few ACTUAL dj's on the station, have forsaken the 'award winning' jingles and gone to jingle companies in Dallas and New York - I wonder why?

Now, I can hear the 'usual (troll) suspects' typing away on Digital Spy instantly about how successful Radio 2 is. 

But why IS it?

With 85% of the UK's commercial stations only geared to cater for under 40s there are not many other places for 40+ to go. So BBC Radio 2 is actually the only horse in the now lame (radio) race.... 

BBC Local radio does speech breakfast, with some (hurriedly trained) young women, and rather older men holding it together. And with NO music on Beeb local breakfast, the Bauer and Global stations can breathe a sigh of relief that 'Chantelle and Dwayne at breakfast' will get a passable audience - but if they don't the afternoon team 'Angelina and Riley'  can be swiftly moved to breakfast as 'Chantelle and Dwayne' are despatched to the dole office without murmuring a word...

With no choice other than to revert to Radio 2, it's carrying BBC Radio Walford with Peggy Mitchell's 'Golden Hour', what sounds like an old aircheck of Terry Wogan from 1984 - but minus the great JAM jingles, and BBC Radio Blackburn firmly control late Saturday nights.

Bob Shennan seems to have forgotten that radio is a one-to-one medium, and non-radio people shouting or mumbling over each other (in less than 'radio voices' or thick accents) does not make an 'amazing line-up'. Playing music by 'undiscovered' and 'un-signed' bands often leads to unlistenable music. And a string quartet led, re-work of 'Pictures of matchstick men' I heard FIVE times in 3 days is nothing like 'amazing music'.

Of course listening to Radio 2 I also could not avoid the 'first ever BBC Music Awards'. 

In an industry that already has far too many awards and not enough new talent to award them to, this really is superfluous. As if to prove my point the grossly over-glossy event actually gives just THREE awards! Its core aim seems to be to have the giant Radio 2 support its ailing 'cousin station' Radio 1. Forget choice - the event was carried on both stations simultaneously - a note from Global's (very small) book of 'how to do radio' perhaps? 

The BBC Music Awards was a tv/radio concoction that cost a fortune at a time the BBC has been asked repeatedly to use its (publicly funded) budget more wisely.

It consisted of over-played, worn-out songs by artists who either spent too much (or for one too little) time at their hair stylists, and endless cliches from the 'stars' and uneasy mix of presenters, a middle-aged man, and a woman wearing a dress that frankly looked rude - not quite the Radio 2 audience.

All the BBC Music Awards told us about today's radio and music business is that there is very little 'amazing music' and it's heavily over-played. The fact Radio's 2 and 1 were linked for this suggests we really do not need Radio 1 any more, as Radio 2 and the other higher-numbered BBC music stations, have stolen much of its ground.

I caught some of the Radio 2 breakfast today and yes it played the same number of songs in half an hour as the number of awards at the event last night - THREE. 

I think it's time for the BBC Speech Awards.  Radio 2 breakfast and all those local speech breakfast shows could hold an 'amazin' glossy night, and simulcast it on tv... blow the expense!


Postscript: *  The Guardian's report showed it was not well-received by the audience

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Tale Of Suits, Consultants and Dinosaurs ~ Metro Radio 'seeds' 40 years later...

Lightning knocked out my computer for 6 days last week.... so having caught up with an email back-log.. here I am 9 minutes before July 15 starts.... and I have not written my "I was on Metro Radio on its launch day 40 years ago" blog.

Of course, it seems impossible that it was 40 years ago... and at the time I was the most surprised one, as any show on 'Metropolitan' would have been superb. But Peter Lewis (famous in London in the 70s as an LWT continuity announcer) had faith in me. He gave me THE spot I wanted - the morning show - 9-11am. Even more amazingly my (radio) name 'Len Groat' proved invaluable as in the centre of Newcastle is THE 'Groat Market' so it was easy to choose the show's title.

A few years ago a radio 'futurologist' called me a 'dinosaur'; a comment I now take as a compliment. Because the fact was that at Metro having been given our shows we were trusted to do what we felt right. So every show had a theme tune - ALL the music was chosen the dj team - free choice - we created our own features - and my only 'guidance' was to 'sound like Pete Murray'! 

Even before I went up to Newcastle I'd had an embryonic jingle company in Poynton record me some 'Groat Market' jingles, and by launch day my rack of jingles, 'stabs' pads and promos numbered over 60. All clues to the fact that I was actually going to sound (a little) like Alan Freeman rather than Pete Murray!

But the early days on 'the North East sound' were not halycon. The original breakfast dj was replaced within a few months, and my show extended to 9-12. The 15 minute serials, and assorted quizzes were dropped as were some of the team of producers employed to do these, and a new Programme Controller brought in. A three-strong night time team (for a 2 hour show) was cut to one, but a very special 'one' - James Whale - an amazing communicator, thoroughly nice guy and now a (radio) lifetime mate. 

When I was on university radio in Swansea from 1968 to 1974 I had made myself 'Programme Controller', and amazingly in September 1974 I was asked by one of the former quiz producers to work on a new jingle package - (he had worked on Andy Pandy for BBC tv for decades). Having collected PAMS jingles since the 1960s I was delighted that Emison quoted an 8 week delivery period but PAMS said 3-4 ... the rest became early ILR history as we were the first ILR station to air Dallas jingles. 

I don't need to insert a link to the package as anyone who is interested either has it or knows it very well. My re-lyric of a song first done for 13KOL Seattle was  "Driving down the A1 on a weekend trip to Whitley Bayyy" ~ sung in a Dallas accent of course! These dynamic jingles stunned the local people, got us noticed and the mentions of 'Metropolitan' or 'MBC' went to be replaced with just METRO RADIO.

I was also asked to help find and train some dj's to replace the BBC types who left, so just 3 months into my radio career, I was focussing less and less on my morning show. But I loved it! It was not long before the second person to do breakfast was replaced (sensibly) by someone who was 'local' and knew the area from long-term experience. Bill Steele was continuity at Tyne Tee TV and his cheeky warm personality wrapped in a great radio voice meant that  by the middle of 1975 we were 'on a roll', and my show was again extended to run 9am to 1pm.

What could go wrong? Well nothing really? But firstly I came back from a short holiday  in 1976 to be told by another of the former 'quiz producers' (who always ran around carrying a clipboard to make himself look essential)  that he had removed some of my jingle carts as they were unsuitable. He was ex-BBC and had never even been a dj. 

I realise 40 years later this man was the very first 'suit' I ever encountered.

Then in Spring 1976 a Canadian consultant was brought-in. It was clear things were to change - and this man had NO idea about either the area or how to relate a station to a British audience. He presented an hour of my show to demonstrate to everyone 'how to do it'. Unfortunately he forgot to fade up his mic for his first link...

I realise 40 years later this man was the very first 'consultant' I ever encountered.

Impetuously/intuitively I knew the time was right to move on as radio HAD to be better....  I LOVED my show but my passion for American style radio (and desire to live somewhere less windy and rainy) meant I resigned at the end of a week, But the pc (who was previously a history teacher) asked me to do a final show that Sunday. How things have changed when dj's leave! Of course as ILR was new and 'trendy' in 1976 my leaving was covered on the front page of the Chronicle.

I always felt I was a reasonable dj but would be better suited to running a station (+ although I'd been voted No.1 dj on Metro I knew James Whale would soon assume that title!) 

The rest is history - after joining Piccadilly briefly in 1977 I joined Radio Trent in Nottingham as it 'cleared out' many of the original team. By 1978 I was fortunate to have the 'dream career' - the 9-12 morning show, and 18 months later the hands-on creative responsibility for station sound, dj recruitment and training. And yes the jingles! I already hear shouts of 'anorak' and 'dinosaur'. 

By 1982 I took myself off a regular show and had a GREAT team to run. Despite having to run 9 minutes of commercials an hour, limited 'needle-time' and IBA 'meaningful speech' rules in the early years our team included natural talent so we shone! Talent such as John Peters, Dale Winton, Peter Tait, Pete Wagstaff, Tony Lyman. Guy Morris, Steve Merike, was joined by locally 'discovered' talent such as David Lloyd, Anne Marie Minhall, Andy Marriott, Paul Robey, Rob Wagstaff, Andy Miller, Gary Burton, Erica Hughes, Craig Strong, Jenni Costello, Paul Burbank, Krissi Carpenter..... and later over 17 years too many others to mention. It meant we had a winning sound. And it continued unabated as I later looked after 25 dj's working on 4 stations (the truly wonderful GEM-AM was 'my baby' from 1988 onwards) . 

In th late 80s I welcomed Selector to rotate our music, but erased the 'research' programme from the computers as I believed in intuition not research or 'training'. Does that make me a Dinosaur? But going back to 15 July 1974 and that first day on Metro, I have to thank the station for my first 'break' that opened the door to 17 most rewarding years with Radio Trent, and then from 1988, GEM-AM. The latter 2 stations will always be closest to my heart, but without the Metro morning show, they would never have happened. 

Sadly, radio today is a reflection of how the UK radio industry is littered with 'suits' and research but NOT 'policed' properly by Ofcom. A German company now owns Metro Radio and they send the same shows to Teeside on what was one of our competitors transmitters from 1975 - Radio Tees - an area that is distinctly different and desperately needs a 'heritage' style station.

So, forty years on - although I say "thank you Metro", that goes to people, a riverside building ,and a station that has long since disappeared.  

But all was not in vain. 

What I learned from those early years now serves me well on where I present the '1960s Cafe' each day at noon. Amazingly, we are 'trusted to do what we feel right'! and 'ALL the music is chosen the dj team - and we have PAMS (and JAM) jingles. And, this is the best bit...

....not a research person or 'suit' to be seen!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The oldest 'jingle rack' in the world?

"43 years later the jingle cassettes with overly-neat, multi-colour Dymo labels with enticing names, still hold their audio secrets" (The minutiae of a dj's life). 

Like most of us (in the older generations) my earliest memories of jingles are the "organ and sassy female" vocals on "Sounds Fine it's CAROLINE"... which were quickly out-classed when Jean Oliver (and the PAMS gang) sang "It's Smooth Sailing" and "Wonderful, Radio, London!" 

As a quiet, introverted 14 year old in 'posh' Twickenham (Dickie Valentine lived on our road) I was already determined to escape London at the earliest opportunity - I never liked big cities. My only solace was that I could actually get Radio London loud and clear all day every day. But unusually (for 1964) it was the sung jingles that got my primary attention. 

Like "a Bee to a flower" I was drawn into a new world, so whilst other 'teenagers' bought football boots and balls, I had a Philips 'magic eye' reel-to-reel tape recorder and spent my pocket money buying he latest American singles, and magnetic tape to record the radio. Soon I discovered a man in East Anglia who HAD some of the PAMS jingles I'd heard about for sale!


Now I need to jump to 1971 (no room to get nostalgic about my 'bedroom' station Radio Sceptre on 221) By '71 I did mornings on Action Radio at Swansea University (Britain's second uni-radio service that I started in '68), and afternoons at Radio City. I still remember "serving Hill House, Mount Pleasant, Cefn Coed and Singleton Hospitals, this is the Swansea Hospital's radio service Radio City...." And at night... discos. I had to (as it's fashionable to say now) 'step-aside' from my academic studies as I failed to dissect frogs or understand the finer points of George Elliott's novels  - I learnt later he was a 'she'!

So by 1971 to pay my £3.50 a week rent on my 'flat', I HAD to WORK - sheer shock. As much as I disliked it, the only way to be paid to dj was discos. I certainly was not the only introverted disco deejay in South Wales (or the world) who did it to kill time until they could get into radio. And it paid well; for 3 or 4 night's work you could live like a Welsh king and eat at the White Elephant Curry House 7 nights a week!  Some days were spent at Swansea library getting addresses for broadcasting organisations in Australia and New Zealand (after I visited Manx Radio in 1971 I realised I'd never get a job there) but a move of 12,000 miles defeated even my enthusiasm for radio.

All this leads me to announce that I think I have the oldest 'jingle rack' in the world!

'The Len Groat Get Together' jingles were needed for all the radio shows and the discos. I was the 'star turn' (after the bingo) at the Aberaman Working Men's Club, and even had one night in Swansea (oooh) at 'Pandoras' where 'disco go-go girls' danced reluctantly to the Ronettes 'Baby I love you' (my choice..) 

Between nearly EVERY disc ............ I played a jingle! 

And they were 'cut and splice' versions of those great PAMS jingles from 'Big L' Radio London, and many others "Happiness Is...." "GoGoGoGoGoooooooo" and even some from a company called Pepper Tanner "The Station That's ALL Heart.." And in the early 70s, with no ILR, the record companies threw endless singles at those of us on their mailing lists (good old Probe with Steely Dan and the 4 Tops). 

For three years this was the crazy world I lived in, a radio-loving dj forced after a day 'on the wireless' into the dark realm of night-time discos... until Independent Local Radio was (finally) announced! 

Despite my determination I was still surprised when I was asked for interviews at Capital (Michael Bukht & Aidan Day) and Piccadilly (Colin Walters) But when I was offered a JOB by Peter Lewis of Metro Radio (Metropolitan Broadcasting) I was so flabbergasted I had to ring him to ask again..

'Are you SURE I've got the MORNING show?"

I had..... 

And so the cardboard box (it was for a Shure mic) that held my jingle cassettes was put away but (sub-consciously?) never thrown away. Now 43 years later the jingle cassettes with overly-neat, multi-colour Dymo labels with enticing names, still hold their audio secrets... as I have no cassette player.

Lastly, for those who can only go back as far as Plessey CT80 or ITC 3 stack cart machines, a secret - I spent hours opening up the cassettes, removing the 'leader' and all but 60 seconds of the (fragile) tape - so to re-cue.... all I had to do was 'hit' re-wind.

The rack was only used for 3 years - but the 'art' of Dymo labelling served me well - I both carted and labelled the on-air jingles at Metro for nearly 2 years.

On July 15 this year it will be forty years since I did my first morning show on Metro's launch day. I've learned a lot about radio since that day, but as the 'oldest jingle rack in the world' shows, my foundations go back to those crazy wonderful days in Swansea....

Friday, June 6, 2014

Both Radio 1 and 1Xtra were grossly OVER staffed

This Blog has no amusing or 'clever' title as it's serious..

We are told by Radio Today that "DQF changes at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra mean nine presenters are leaving and a new Sunday Rock Show is introduced"


Well, forget the last bit about a 'rock show' - it's a minor distraction and 3 hours of 'rock' (whatever that may be in 2014) is 'neither here nor there' as fans of that genre have the high-profile Team Rock now...

The MEAT of the press-announcement is:

"Edith Bowman, Nihal, Mike Davies, Rob Da Bank, Jen Long, Ally McCrae, CJ Beatz, Crissy Criss and Robbo Ranx, will all be leaving the networks"

So NINE presenters are being 'let go', in the name of financial stringency. 

But hang on, can we assume the 'suits' at Radio 1 only found out about the recession in Britain this year.... 

..... it started EIGHT years ago. 

WHY does the BBC take EIGHT years to make financial savings many other companies had to undergo many years earlier!?

Today's programming 'fashion' means that NINE presenters would easily be enough (with a little voice-tracking) to STAFF a whole radio station!

Forget the fussy, over-detailed BBC press-release : this means one thing:

.... both Radio 1 and 1Xtra were grossly OVER staffed.

If the BBC 'suits' had ANY idea about how to conserve the lavish amount the British public are forced to pay in the licence fee, surely all they had to do was close 1 Xtra, SEVERAL years ago!! 

The BBC quietly foisted it on the country, and apart from Annie Nightingale (kept on as a token-gesture since the BBC lost John Peel?) how many of the other presenters could 15-30 year olds even name? 

In fact, even many of the 'names' who have survived the chop at Radio 1 are not names except in cliquey London music circles and to record companies peddling material that sells in extremely low quantities.

How much longer are the politicians going to allow Radio 1 (and Radio 2 with nearly FORTY on-air presenters) to continue 'acting like a poorly-run London bank' with licence payer's money?

In contrast there are now dozens of skilled broadcasters, redundant because of the appalling Government policies as  executed by Ofcom , that have virtually 'closed' all the local UK commercial radio.  Appallingly one commercial station network now has just THREE presenters and 21 hours a a day with NO voice!

WHY should the BBC continue to be  allowed to have voluminous funds when they budget so VERY poorly, and produce these ultra dull stations - Radio 1, and 1Xtra?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A gold bar down Bjorn’s trousers

In my earlier ‘Mannequins’ blog I wrote about the views of a 'radio advertising expert'* on the 12 'Gold' stations being changed to ‘Smooth’ by Global. He commented:

"The Smooth brand has been designed to niche target a new type of slightly older listener with refined tastes and a high disposable income"

To capture the spirit of this SMOOTH have posted a picture on their Facebook page of Abba, (in which Bjorn wears VERY tight trousers) and captioned it:

“We love looking in our ABBA archive, we've just found this - HOW tight are Bjorn’s trousers?!”

Naturally, listeners with ‘refined’ tastes have commented suitably:

“Bet when he farted he didnt hear the noise till he took them off !!”

“Looks like blood flow has been cut off to his right t*sticle.”

“Budgie smuggler alert!”

“Tight ass springs to mind!”

“about as tight as a Welshman's sheep”

Listeners with refined tastes...... ? 

Sometimes, the listeners you want.... are not the listeners you get...

And I have to point out that after the hundreds of anti-Smooth comments on FB by the ‘Goldies’ (a new group furious about Smooth taking over 12 of the ‘Gold’ AM frequencies) I don’t think it’s..... a gold bar down Bjorn’s trousers.