Thursday, January 31, 2019

Time to STOP the spendthrift BBC radio monolith!

With the news that "BBC rejects report on 5Live...." **

....everyone seems to be missing the juicy irony of the BBC 'spokesperson' saying, 

"This is shameless paid-for lobbying"...

...when the UK public are FORCED LEGALLY to PAY for a whole tranche of radio stations that are unnecessary...



and 6Music.... 

NONE of which cater for the musical tastes or interests of those over 50....

And with Radio 2 being "1990s Radio 1 regurgitated" and mainly new (obscure) music by trendy artists during the day.......

.... and BBC Local Radio auditioning 18 year olds as 'presenters' for low-listening night time shows.... 

...the BBC does NOT have even ONE station catering for those over 50 !!


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Does 'Radio Today' really only want comments it agrees with?

The story published by internet radio news service 'Radio Today' about Heart taking over from 'The Bay' and Smooth taking over 'Lakeland Radio', and the resultant loss of local shows, and job losses, prompted some lively comments, admittedly by the 'usual suspects'. 

This was in contrast to the complete lack of interest, and response, towards most radio ‘news’ stories. So it’s interesting that Roy of 'Radio Today' has now written:
“Whilst you can expect the usual amount of “It’s a shame the stations are losing their local names and mostly local programmes” (hell, even I love the good old days!), it still shocks me the number of people who will personally insult the people behind the decisions, and call groups like Global all the names under the sun for making progress”
“Progress” ? For whom?
The station or the listeners?
And I’m not sure why he is ‘shocked’ given that the responses are very typical of the few who bother to comment. There is nothing new, because there has been nothing new from the huge major radio groups for many years. Their unimaginative, heavily-formatted ‘one size fits all’ stations full of carefully photographed ‘presenters’ is the equivalent of a loaf of sliced white bread. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with them, but nothing to get excited about when they take over yet another station and lose the local roots and most of the local team….
Does ‘Radio Today’ really expect anyone who contributes to these very specialist forums to be excited, or make positive comments about an industry full of white sliced loaves?
Discouraging comments from fervent radio lovers is not the way to go Roy…. your 'Radio Today' cannot just pander only to the people IN radio...  like any cultural/art discussion, there has to be room for dissent...


The original news story + replies: 

Monday, February 5, 2018

In Praise or in Memoriam? The 'Self-op' DJ

An old photograph of Radio Trent from the middle-80s prompted 'stream of consciousness' memories of hundreds of days doing 2, 3 or even 4 hour shows - it was a photo just of the desk. Few surviving 'studio' photos don't have a grinning DJ in, or an ephemeral pop star, tarted around the UK's commercial stations to promote a long forgotten flop... 

But here we can see the switching, the faders, and of course, the 'can't live without' cartridge machines. In this respect Radio Trent was supreme, not 4, not 5... SEVEN machines to play with! A purist might argue 'they are not 3 stacks'of the 70s' as they are the later, less glamorous, 'not easy to pile on top of each other', solo machines. With these, ones index finger had to dash further between the (ever) green 'play' buttons than on the ITC 3 stacks...

Not shown are the turntables; there were 3 - but sadly the original 1976 Gates turntables (seemingly cast in one piece from American battleship metal) had been replaced with some more slender, sleek, stylish 'grams', perhaps originally designed for the radio studio on the SS Enterprise?

But I digress - I want to write about the missing ingredient.  As far back as the late 70s Gillian Reynolds lamented the solitary, insecure (self-employed) life that DJs had to lead.... And by the 21st century, no Gates, or ITC machines were to be seen in radio studios.... 

Nor were many DJs....

The commercial radio DJs who used these desks kept their jobs not only by having short holidays, a great voice, and deep knowledge of music, but because they COULD operate a desk, and could understand all the switching, and balancing needed. They knew how to cue a vinyl disc with 2, 10 or 30 seconds off the front so it perfectly followed a jingle. And they did all this as they interviewed unlikely combinations of  guests: "today Agnes from the National Trust, our beauty consultant Sue from the Guerlaine counter at Debenhams, and Barbara Windsor who is in Panto at.... " And all without even a producer in the studio....

For over 20 years radio has been infiltrated by 'money men' (and at the BBC, agents). Now the stations' philosophies does not embrace many actual 'DJs', but instead 'personalities' from the world of TV, newspapers, the theatre, or worse still, sport. And sadly the undiscerning UK radio audience never notices - they are more interested that a new voice has previously been 'seen' on Coronation Street, or singing an Lloyd-Webber song on a London stage. 

I say 'voice', and by that I don't  mean a true 'radio voice' - because we were suddenly confronted by people with little tone, timbre, pacing or WARMTH in their voice - and most loved themselves rather more than the songs they played. And rather than talk about their bus journey into 'work' (radio is NEVER work) they speak of very little of any meaning, and some have to be scripted/ recorded ahead of broadcast as they cannot get though an hour or two of 'links' without stumbling. This is fine for the 'specialist' shows Radio 2 spend a fortune on to broadcast to their smallest audiences - but even daytime listeners now have their ears assaulted by 'personalities' who have NO no idea  'how to DJ'.

  • Some read out phone requests, hospital radio style... giggling regularly...
  • Some hang a whole show around their 'crew' in the studio, who giggle to order...
  • Few have been avid record collectors prior to their agent calling to say 'you got it !' 
  • Most have no idea how to match the end of a jingle with the next song... 

Almost universally it is now no longer acceptable to actually be a 'DJ'; you have to be a 'presenter', be part of a 'team' - who speak to each other rather than THE actual listener. Only 'bubbly' Waynes and Chantelles are allowed to call-in, and then only safely pre-recorded. And for national radio you definitely need a  switched-on London 'agent' to negotiate your meteoric wages...

What about 'commercial radio' DJs ? 

'Locally' (though in truth 85% of 'local' output often comes from London) whole swathes of 17 year-olds who previously might have been taken on to do overnights on a station, or at the very least be a trainee producer, find themselves working at Lloyds Bank, or a call -centre... in-between short 'escapes' to do an hour or two on the local hospital station.

All of this went hand-in-hand with a huge change in how radio was presented.

...the glorious studio desk at the top of the page....

............. was replaced by a computer screen and a



The change in how radio shows were be created meant that the computer system, soothed by someone who actually knew the music, could massage every 24 hour day into life, in a few minutes. And the 


..... meant literally ANYONE could now be a radio 'presenter'.... 

Sadly, this ethos, while perhaps being 'ok' for kids listening (less and less ) to BBC Radio One, was also cast over all of BBC Radio 2, where now just a few REAL DJ's cling to their last years, trying to ignore the idea of 'retirement'....  In a press photo of over 40 'presenters' employed by the BBC (on this one station) the number off actual DJs was noticeably small - rather like a few pedigree dogs amidst a sea of strays at a dog's home.

If you are under 45 you may well wonder what I am whittling-on about? And the attitude towards radio (and the need for any kind of radio) of the next few generations may extinguish it all anyway. But even so the industry is now sprouting training 'academies' (at a time more radio jobs are vapourising like a Dr. Who villain), and wages in the commercial sector are going down - £20,000 a year for a self-employed DJ on some stations.

Perhaps the one glimmer of hope is the Internet? 

Dozens of stations run by old DJs, at least give their younger volunteers, a chance to be creative - learn, and love, and share good music, in dozens of formats....

p.s. I missed a key point from this Blog

When each commercial station had a team of DJs covering 24 hours, the daily social interaction both on and off-air, and in weekly meetings, was part of the 'magic' that made them so special.  

Nowadays the breakfast show team are treated like royalty, and nurtured and guided until they are 'let go' aged 39, and the DJs on the other shows 'sent' from London have often not even visited all the areas they broadcast AT!! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The BBC 'gets its financial knickers in a twist' - again

I'm not the first to say it since Carrie Gracie's liberating / betrayal / disgraceful letter (take your pick), but THE simple answer to this woman's desire to earn the same as male journalists is to pay them the same as her! They are massively overpaid by a corporation that has for years been told to cut costs. Voila !
Of course there is more to it than that - Gracie is clearly a skilled communicator, but how often do we want, or need to hear about China? Surely, Washington and other cities are far more 'newsworthy' to the typical BBC viewer/ listener. The output from Washington is certainly higher on a day-to-day basis, and so the male staff in such locations are perhaps on higher wages because of  their experience and longevity. But Gracie, playing the 'gender balance card' the way she did, means a lot of women less-talented than her will now get 'their knickers in a twist' about the wage element of future jobs. We must not let 'gender balance' and political correctness add even more to the HUGE amount of public money consumed by the BBC. 
And here is the CORE thing that needs to be answered by the BBC 'suits'.  WHY does the BBC persist in using high wages to TIE 'talent' to Aunties apron? There is a large department endlessly promoting its staff training, work of the 'academy' (read 'broadcast school') , its 'diversity' (read 'only non-white job applicants allowed') . If the training is so good WHY can't the over-expensive, wage-rise demanding staff be TOLD to pack their bags - there must be hundreds waiting to 'be them' !
The BBC cannot have it BOTH ways. If they are not going to use new talent, close the departments nurturing it  and employ 'talent' from commercial radio and TV !
Forgetting the cost, exactly what does 'gender balance' achieve? Three years ago (Lord ) Tony Hall decreed every BBC Local Radio breakfast show had to have a female presenter as well as a male one. That over PC decision COST money, and as subsequent ratings haves shown was a DISASTER. But now, ignoring his own past failures, he is pushing for another chance to rectify the mess HE created by giving the BBC Locals back TEN MILLION POUNDS! If he were a gambler by now he'd have been checked-out of the casino... but of course few leave, and even those being 'investigated' just temporarily 'step aside'... but that's another story...
Back to Gracie, who was actually presenting the programme her letter was discussed on by others, as she had not actually quit the BBC at all, only her position reporting from Beijing. Indeed it is now known that she has "returned to her former post in the BBC newsroom" - the 'jobs for life' ethos that percolates through many levels of the BBC.  And given that lovely BBC pension I doubt she will exit 'on a point of principle'. More likely she'll push hard, protected by the likes of other overpaid, vociferous staff like Clare (£500,000+ salary) Balding. 
There must be 100 fully trained, experienced 'BBC women' with Gracies's skills who would be happy to work for aunty in Beijing. But then of course there is Gary (2 million salary) Lineker....  an individual whose precise skills are lost on most people except some (doubtless male) BBC suits who agree his 'wage'. 
So, thinking about it..

Dear BBC 'Suits',

GIVE Carrie Gracie her pay rise - it's not your money the suckers who still pay the licence fee are paying it!

Monday, January 9, 2017

What the HELL are the BBC Radio 2 'suits' thinking?

BBC World Service broadcasts in 60+ languages, and has just started broadcasting in “ Igbo, Nigerian Pidgin, Yoeruba and Amharic" (very politically correct). 

It is partly funded by the UK BBC licence fee, will also get £289 million from the UK government in 5 years and some money from the ‘profits’ (remember the BBC is NON commercial!) of “BBC WorldWide Ltd”!

All very worthy... BUT the BBC also seem to be saying

 'bugger the overnight workers in Great Britain'

.. as have just announced the £50 million a year

BBC Radio 2 to cut ALL live shows at night!

The response from listeners is already LOUD and critical; here’s my view as someone with over 35 years experience in UK radio who has also visited dozens of radio stations in North America, Australia and New Zealand.....


What a DISGRACE.... for a station with a FIFTY MILLION pounds a year budget.... to not be LIVE overnight!

How condescending of Jeff Smith to say in the press-release** "It’s important that we offer Radio 2 listeners a way into curated, genre and mood orientated playlists... we are introducing 'Radio 2 Playlists'... uniquely curated by our leading music presenters" given that the VAST majority of their DJs ('presenters') are NOT from a radio background!

Exactly 'WHO' are the listeners who need to be "offered.. a way" to get to know music? With a MATURE audience the listeners have huge collections of GOOD music already. It's the young (London-based) producers who need a musical education. 

Stop making Radio 2 into a second Radio 1 with grossly unsuitable songs and endless YAP, with non-DJ shows of esoteric music presented by jaded grade 3 'personalities'....

It seems from THIS, "our audience can enjoy on the radio or on demand ... the BBC Music app on their mobile devices” they also want to re-train listeners away from real 'radio' on to apps and mobile devices. At 60? at 70? Radio 2 is MEANT to be for more MATURE listeners.

Two LIVE overnight shows would only need 3 DJs (not presenters) aged 40-55, to cover 52 weeks a year - if Radio 2 advertise it they'd get 100s of applicants - total annual cost only £300,000*! They would get dozens of experienced former commercial radio DJs applying, and NO producers needed as they KNOW their 'oldies'! 

WHY can't this paltry sum be paid for by "BBC WorldWide Ltd" ??

But overall the 'BBC trough' needs to be emptied.... 

...and the 'suits' and managers cut by 50%


UPDATE - COMPLAINTS : with over 150 people now complaining about these changes you CAN do more than just posting on social media, do it via the BBC complaints email form - at least they are forced to read your thoughts.


( BBC 'stars' like Gary Lineker could each donate £100,000 from their multi-million pound 'salaries'.... only 3 are needed...)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Radio - the train is leaving the 'platform' ~ an anniversary blog

You know you LOVE radio ....... when you hang on to 'Selector Music Logs' from your station for 28 years! 

Of all the ILR stations I worked on it is the most fondly remembered one. I ran it from 1988 to 1994, great years for UK radio, finally free of many IBA/Radio Authority rules about 'meaningful speech', and 'needle time'. And we could finally have jingles from JAM Creative Productions of Dallas, so 15 years after ILR began we were at last on an equal footing with BBC Radio's 1 and 2 as regards our on-air identification (read 'imaging' or 'sonic logos' if you are under 35)

I was Head of Music & Programmes for GEM-AM right from the start - I had a SUPERB on-air team, did the (annoyingly catchy) jingles, and even named the station - a great privilege.

We re-invented the philosophy of the original station with our internet station Solid Gold GEM AM launched 5 December 2012. And by 'we' I mean a team with over 300 years total experience in radio!

One of the KEY people who makes our internet station 'tick' (digitally speaking) is Andy Marriott ('Marrow' to his listeners) and it is HIS music log above from 1988.

We launched the original GEM-AM on 4 October 1988 and the team we had then are now renowned as stalwarts of UK radio - the launch OB involved an Olympic runner and was commentated on by David (Radio Moments) Lloyd, the legendary (even then) John Peters was on breakfast, in the daytime we had Tony Lyman (now with nearly 40 years in UK radio under his belt), the late, much-missed Brian Tansley, and Anne Marie (Minhall), now a key part of the sound of Classic FM.

Anne Marie in 1988

Other 'young' names on GEM-AM in the early years were Graham Wright and Paul Robey (now on BBC Local Radio), indeed Graham is STILL with us on Solid Gold GEM AM along with other GEM 'originals' Paul Burbank, Jenni Costello, and Tim Rogers.  And of course, Andy Marriott - he was on afternoons and the Saturday early show which he STILL does now for us weekdays 6-8am and Sundays 6-9am ! 

'Marrow' - Andy Marriott in 1988

The concept of the original GEM-AM lives on now on www.solidgoldgem.amWe have a total of 18 DJ's which is about 15 more than the so-called UK 'Gold' station which now just churns out endless songs, unannounced for most of the day, in the dreariest radio format I've ever heard. 

So I'm delighted we are still able to bring you a 'Gold' station with 6 of the original GEM team + 12 other talented DJ's who ALL 'Love the Oldies', of which we have a library of EIGHT THOUSAND!

We are only a small station, (all our DJ's volunteer their services), finances make it impossible for us to 'grow'. But as well as being there for our listeners we hope we make some more open-minded young DJ's, radio consultants, and 'radio gurus' realise there IS more to radio than microscopic playlists, jaded TV 'personalities' trying to DJ, and 'sonic logos'

Most importantly, they need reminding that RADIO is primarily about people with 'radio voices'** ! 

Today's radio is awash with 'yoof' orientated stations, dj's who drop their 'n's', accents so thick they are hard to understand, (remember communication?)

There is a HUGE hole in the UK radio market: commercial radio is drowning in 'suits', research, overseas owners and consultants. And the multi-layered BBC management with its over PC, gender-balance philosophy is light years away from the radio Sir Terry Wogan** created ~ which was adored by his fervent listeners. 

Despite endless cross-promotion and getting its breakfast DJ on TV shows, and dwindling listeners, the 'suits' at BBC Radio 1 persist after each ratings survey with the 'we are popular on other platforms" excuse. 

I have news for you .. the train has left the station.

And FIFTY MILLION pounds a year to run BBC Radio 2 ? !

How much longer will (now) better-informed licence-payers put up with all this? And 'yes' those 'TV detector vans' never worked - they lied !

Judging by Twitter (a 'yoof platform' that all the BBC Locals seem to use endlessly as their much older audience shrinks) that BBC licence fee 'gravy train'.... is also leaving the station....

As we look forward to celebrating Solid Gold GEM AM's 4th anniversary on 5 November, I may be dismissed as a 'radio dinosaur' by those early-retired 'suits' with their millions of pounds worth of radio station shares, or on huge BBC pensions ~ taken early of course!  But read what is below, which I wish I'd said. 

If you don't know who said it you should not be in radio ~ if YOU need to gulp as you read it, YOU are one of the guilty ones....

"The proliferation of radio stations has led to a tremendous lowering of standards. The people are beginning to sound like blancmange. If what you are being paid for is to introduce a record programme you must give it something more than the hip phraseology ...a request....banality. If you are being paid to produce a record programme you must give it: yourself."

Friday, June 3, 2016

Will Sarah Cox or Fearne Cotton take over 'Pick of the Pops' ?

Of course to titillate and catch your attention I was looking into the future (gender-balanced of course ) with the blog title - it's just to lead you to a more serious blog... 

Yesterday, one of our secretaries at Radio Trent/GEM AM in the 80s and 90s indignantly posted this on Facebook: 

"Incredulously Radio 2 has only one presenter out of eight on their regular slots today. What's so special ... it's half term! Mayo doesn't start till 5pm for goodness sake!! In Commercial radio we'd have been crucified by Radio Authority if we'd tried to do similar! Even the news and sports presenters are off Breakfast which makes a mockery of the opening jingle. Perhaps it really is time to switch over.."

Although it was years since Debbie worked in radio she has a better idea of radio programming than those over-paid 'suits' at BBC Radio.  Apart from Jeremy Vine and few others, I find it unlistenable both in terms of the music choice, and the 'dj's' they use, but as Deb's pointed out, it was the WORST ever..

The line-up included: Nicki Chapman (from some house-buying TV show) Zoe Ball (was a kind of dj in Radio One now does glossy TV  shows) Kate Humble (who?) in for Steve Wright (and merely a 'TV  presenter') and to add cost to injury they put on two people, so actor (and TV  star) Charles Dance joined her!  And with Sarah (I lost 1 million listeners on Radio 1) Cox on breakfast and Vanessa Feltz on Jeremy Vine's show it was clearly nothing to do with giving us the best person to cover the shows, merely more of the BBC's increasingly tiring gender-balance nonsense. 

Someone needs to tell the BBC 'suits' that gender-balance will ONLY work if you put women on who can communicate, have good voices, and KNOW about the music they play!

BBC 'suits' seem to think that just because someone is on TV, or has sold a few records 15-35 years ago it makes them worthy to broadcast on a National radio station. but most importantly all this is why BBC Radio 2 costs the licence payer 


Add-up the costs of those TV people who cannot 'self-op', so need more producers and engineers (+ the BBC are paying their agent's fees as well) and I'd guess that over a year that costs about 85% more than employing ONE 'relief presenter' to cover ALL holidays as I used to do on my stations in the 80s and 90s. 

Weekdays between 5am and 7pm there are 6 shows, so if each presenter takes 6 weeks holiday a year (or time off to do more TV/ launch their books..) that is 36 weeks show cover needed a year, in other words it can be one ONE job, and be (say) Alex Lester, a 'proper' broadcaster relegated to the graveyard shift on Radio 2 at present as these TV folks 'play' at being dj's....

Take a deep breath.. there is more....

As if this on-air debacle was not enough we found out this week that Tony Blackburn is being replaced on 'Pick of the Pops' by Paul Gambacinni. So they are getting rid of their BEST KNOWN on-air personality, and to add insult to injury, putting an American on the run-down of 2 old BRITISH charts (did the 'suits' not realise?)

Did Gambo go crawling in to get this show? No! Quite the opposite - he was 'told' he had to do it*, and bless him, for in return doing a very long podcast with Trevor Dann in which he lifted the lid on all kinds of unsavoury BBC management attitudes. For radio trade 'news' aimed at the business, it also very quickly made the national press+.

It's a long podcast but I recommend you listen to it* all; if you don't have time, here are some choice 'cuts':

(This week's Crucifying Countdown!)

No.5 "Sometimes I walk in to do a program me at Radio 2 and I see someone sitting-in for someone, and I feel as if someone has walked-in off the street, as I don't recognise this person"

No. 4 "The chasm between talent and management has never been as wide or as deep as it has under the current management. Another of the great chasms is high culture versus populism, you have Tony 'Royal Opera House' Hall versus Tony 'Top 40' Blackburn.

No 3 "We at Radio 2 know that the current management of the BBC dismiss us."

No.2 "Poor Tony Blackburn is universally regarded at radio level as a scape-goat - it was a brilliant (BBC) manoeuvre as all the press attention of Dame Janet's report was on Tony"

And... Britun's Numbur Wuuunnn!"

"The BBC is not a team effort anymore"

Oh, bubbling under..... is 'news' just in - on the same day the BBC announced that Fearne Cotton is to sit in on Graham Norton's show over the summer and to add more cost to the show she has an 80s pop start doing it with her. 

Does it count as gender-balance if a man is on the show as well :-)  ?

Cotton is EIGHTEEN years younger than Norton, only 35, and will be unfamiliar to mature listeners as she was on Radio 1 until LAST YEAR - playing music Radio 2 listeners would definitely not have enjoyed. 

If she did Radio 1 because she loved the music, she must have dramatically changed her music tastes in 12 months....

Cotton is remembered by adults for her appearance in the BBC tv coverage of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant++ 

How on earth do the BBC 'suits' think she will be 'right' to fit-in on a major weekend show for a MATURE audience on a national station? And it's not just 'radio people' who are noting this, some listeners are VERY musically aware as witnessed by many comments on the Gambacinni podcast such a from:

Dave Crane: "sadly the 80s stuff that Sara Cox plays are the "obvious" hits and nothing much else - if only it was done in a more informed and in depth way like the Sounds of the 60s show was done, then it could be brilliant - well at least for the music! I feel that Radio 2 should not forget 50s, 60s and 70s music either. What does sicken me about the current output of Radio 2, are the constant bombardment with ADVERTS (promos for other shows) - which totally disrupt the flow of every programme - and are also too long and repetitive. The music output is also very repetitive - always playing the obvious oldies, and overplaying modern stuff on the PLAY list. Then there's so many rubbish TV presenters playing at radio - and hardly any DJs who know and love the music the play.  I know what I want to hear on Radio 2 - and they're just not doing it!"

When listeners get THAT aware, and animated in their feelings you know a radio station is NOT getting it right for them.

Lastly..... ask yourself WHY Radio 2 have not taken on Simon Bates to do 'Pick of the Pops'

  • He works on a BBC local station so could voice it from that studio rather than travelling to London
  • He has a GREAT voice and is still well-known from his Radio 1/ Classic FM days
  • He was HUGE on Radio 1 and played songs from the later charts when they  were new!

Surely it can't be that someone at the BBC still holds a grudge from his Radio 1 days?

So...... with all respect to Paul Gambaccini, who is a great factual broadcaster, I ask the BBC 'suits' WHY is Simon Bates, a 'proper' dj  not taking over "Pick of the Pops"?

If all else fails, maybe it will be Cox or Cotton on it, sooner than you might imagine?

The 'suits' who control Radio 2, seem to be steering it younger and younger; if it continues there will be NO national station for mature listeners! 

They push gender-balance to extremes, waste MILLIONS of pounds on non-radio staff, are completely out of touch with listeners, and leading gilded-lives in London fuelled by the licence-fee funded BBC gravy train....


+ BBC is 'worst employer of all time', says Radio 2's Paul Gambaccini