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 www.solidgoldgem.am 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!

Joy.

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"


NINE!

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.


 http://www.timcowlandradioexpert.com/?p=444&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Monday, March 24, 2014

PART 2 : Mannequins Killed the Radio Star

My "Mannequins Killed the Radio Star" blog was the second most read of the many I've written. But in terms of response people were surprisingly mute - I fear anyone not being 'politically correct' in radio nowadays will be shunned, which as I will be 65 this year.. is fine. With huge groups controlling the UK radio industry now it's unwise for anyone who is not retired to say anything. I was told by private message:

"there were some other people who were mightily offended!"

.. so at least it IS provoking some response, and as I said you cannot change the world with 'silence'. But I can stay 'silent' now as I do not need to do more than pull-together representative comments from listeners, who fortunately are not silent. What my blog discussed partly resolved last night when a dj called Dean Martin said his goodbyes 'Gold' listeners.  Their Facebook page was inundated with hundreds of annoyed listeners. But in our new ultra-informed world they were not just annoyed with 'Gold' but with 'Global'...


Can`t believe you have taken Dean off your website already when his shows still going.....you really are the lowest of the low,and after 12 tonight even though i can i`ll never listen to any Global station again.. (expletive deleted)

More importantly... an expert on the subject also drew his conclusions over the removal of all but one dj show a day. Who better than a legendary UK radio dj who opened the original London 'Gold' to comment on Twitter:


Many years ago I opened up the daily service on Capital Gold, tonight it finishes as a proper radio station,what a tragedy.

Of course the virtual closure of 'Gold' (as the listeners see it) is purely so Global try to direct them towards 'Smooth' radio, now replete with its 'cast' of tv people acting as 'model' dj's. But how has this been received by listeners; what are their comments on Smooth's Facebook page?

Err, Global have learned a lesson from the 99% negative comments on 'Gold' and today NO post on FB from their new 'star' breakfast presenter (ex sportsman) Andrew Castle. And over on Twitter?


Introducing your new Smooth Breakfast show!

This had 3 re-tweets and 1 favourite, and terse comments such as:


Switched radio on in car on way home from work this morning and no Simon Bates???

They've done away with him! Can't bear this new man. New station for me.

And just 2 other posts from one listener, then this from Kate Garraway (who presents the show after Castle):


Loving the new sound of smooth radio this morning - hope you are too - let me know when we chat at 10!! Xx

Which raised these responses:


Missing the legendary Simon Bates. Tuned out to Magic!


That makes two of us.... now tuned into Chris Evans Radio 2

This had just 4 re-tweets and 9 favourites  (from their thirteen thousand followers...) BUT of course was seen by thousands....

Not quite the stuff of a successful transition from Simon Bates?

It ended with:


Smooth where's Simon Bates and why did no-one tell me he was going?

The new breakfast host then finally did a personal post:


Thank you....let's do it again tomorrow.

I wonder what their advertisers make of all this? For a station with such a huge number of transmitters and broadcast mediums shouldn't they be worried?

A blog* from a 'radio advertising expert' says:


"Overall, there will now be 18 Smooth stations across the UK. This includes their 6 existing FM stations and the 12 re-branded Gold AM stations.
The Smooth brand has been designed to niche target a new type of slightly older listener with refined tastes and a high disposable income."
The writer forgets that the '12 re-branded GOLD' stations were of course on the AM frequency which many of its (much) older demographic will still call 'medium wave'! People who tune-in for 50s and 60s pop, rock'n'roll, served-up with strong American accents on the station ID's are hardly the stuff of 'refined tastes' that Smooth is seeking?

Today the radio 'almightys' and Radio Academy 'lovies' are nearly all at a European Radio Conference in Dublin so I can throw-in this quote from a speaker into the (gold) melting pot:


"You have to destroy a radio station to rebuild it" says Dan Healy


Surely the trick to re-building a station such as Gold (with its lowly 2-3% Audience Reach), is not to LOSE current listeners? Many responses on 'Gold's Facebook page suggest they already  have - as noted by the'A516digital' page: 

"The changes have been viciously criticised by some listeners who have taken to the internet to protest, as it will leave them without an oldie station on the dial, while others who are in the reduced coverage area aren't happy at the loss of presented programmes on the station"

When people have 'grown up' with a station, they believe it is theirs, no one else's, as the comments from 'Gold' listeners show: 


So that's it, goodbye Gold a station I first listened to as "Supergold" 24 years ago when I was just 13. It really wasn't just "oldies" that listened to Gold, Global but your bean counters didn't tell you that. Its been great, now I am off to get the Ipod - goodbye!

And finally a comment from a young mother (of the 'refined tastes' Smooth seek) to 'Gold's most popular dj Dean Martin on his last show: 



My boy turned 8 yesterday and he loved listening to your show. I tried to get through to get a request in for him for his birthday last night but obviously everyone had the same idea. This morning I came in to his bedroom to find him crying. Crying because he loved listening to your show whilst he went to sleep and loved how you interacted with your listeners. He now wants me to find another radio station that does evening requests as he doesn't want to listen to an automated radio station. He got so upset that I got upset too 

My Conclusions: 

In 2014 the radio audience is far more aware of their choices/options than ever before, and no one can afford to throw-away faithful listeners (especially young mothers and their child...) who rightfully regard it as THEIR radio station. This is exactly the kind of topic discussed when young mothers get together or interact on social media! Not the best 'word of mouth' to have?

No one really knows WHAT will happen to Smooth and 'Gold', but looking 5 years into the future will 'everyday radio folk' see this on the Radio Today Newsletter?

"Andrew Castle and Kate Garraway will be inducted into the Radio Academy at a glossy ceremony on London"





*  http://www.timcowlandradioexpert.com/?p=444&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Mannequins Killed the Radio Star"


Radio in Britain has never before changed so swiftly as it has in the last 2 weeks. Between them Global Radio and the BBC are either turning what was once a great entertainment industry into an 'advert machine' without professional dj's, or making changes to 'balance gender' and be politically correct. 


All this goes on with very few comments from radio 'professionals', but in the case of Global's stations there is a torrent of listener voices... At Smooth and Gold out go iconic radio dj's Simon Bates, Kid Jensen, Pat Sharp, Lynn Parsons, Carlos and others, and at 'Gold' all but one of the dj's are 'let go' as it is to run continuous music (and ads) twenty hours a day! 

At Smooth, in come 3 women who have basically worked in television but who are now being marketed as 'dj's. Foolishly BBC Radio 2 started this 'fashion'/ personality led trend, and others follow, even though they don't have the BBC-sized budget to get real personalities. 

The image used for the first 'cat walk' of the new 'Smooth ladies' resembles shop window mannequins, with no allusion whatsoever to the fact they play musicWith just a little cartoonizing the image suggests 'Barbie broadcasters' ... 



BBC Radio 1 also had an 'all mannequin' weekend.. err sorry 'all female' weekend. There was a succession of rather vacuous Barbie broadcasters most of whom the listeners are unfamiliar with as they are usually confined to times of day (or night) more suiting their skills. There is more about this below.

This mis-balance towards women on radio did not cause a 'butterfly effect' in another part of the (radio) universe with a Somerset levels size inundation of male dj's. Indeed the opposite is happening. 

'Globally', the industry lost a pile of experienced males dj's when the station called 'Gold' announced that weekdays it would soon only have only ONE dj (on its breakfast show) and all the other (male) presenters were leaving! Within minutes listeners were very vocal in an almost universal (Global?) negative response to the changes. 

Hundreds of negative comments were posted on the Facebook page of first Smooth, and then 'Gold'; internet petitions started, and comments raged in many Facebook pages. What was surprising about this was that the listeners clearly felt it was THEIR station being ruined, the type of allegiance to a station we thought had died years ago.....

....clearly it lives on in the over-45s!

As well as short sharp comments there was clear focus in many, such as these about 'Gold'.


We your listeners don't seem to have any say in what we want regardless to the amount of emails sent.The DJs that have become our friends over the years have done us proud,but more they have done Gold proud and you have treated them disgustingly.Shame on you.
Like many other listeners to this great station,we cant believe that you are getting rid of 4 presenters...Disgusted isn't the word...non-stop music may work after midnight...But during the day.Well sorry to tell you.Many of your listeners will jump ship,go back to hearing mundane rubbish that's classed as music these days...Well,sorry to tell you,I`m one of them.RIP GOLD as we know it was...

Our German friends have always said there are two problems in England,class distinction and bad management.Here we have,from Global,a typical case of BAD management.They have a highly successful and very popular radio station,so decide to put it beyond the reach of most of it's loyal listeners,to encourage us to listen to Smooth.That's not encouragement,that's denying us choice.Shame on you Global for all this crap

And typical of the comments posted on the Smooth Facebook page:


Why are we suddenly being inundated with BBC rejects ??? Where are all my favourite presenters gone to - Dave Lincoln, Andy Peebles, Dave Brown ????? Also when Smooth began you would very rarely hear songs repeated but now you can hear the same song in every show  The original pleasure is going going gone

Eventually such was the venomosity towards tv presenter Kate Garraway (who replaced dj Lynn Parsons) that after Monday they stopped posting a daily 'topic' for Garraway to prevent more comments. 

Even 'soap' actress Tina Hobley who had arrived in a swathe of "from Coronation Street" publicity, received such negativity they do not post a Facebook plug for her Sunday show now. This is perhaps because anyone asking for a request during it is informed by other Facebook users that it is all 'recorded'

Radio listeners are now 'savvy' to ALL this...

Such is the strength of feeling that actual listeners (as opposed to radio anoraks or blog authors) have even found the obscure 'business' Facebook page for Global and it has had an endless stream of comments and petitions about taking off the dj's from Gold, such as:

Disgusted with you Global  well and truly, How can you treat your loyal staff this way?? All they have ever done is keep your Gold radio going and making it better as the years have past!!! How can you sleep at night, knowing you are disrupting families live's ??? You should hang your heads in shame!!! Oh and while i'm at it, you will slowly lose your Gold radio station because you need listeners don't you?? to keep a station going...................Well bye bye Gold because these changes you have taken upon yourselves is putting Gold into it grave!!!! It's gonna go down

With the hundreds of comments posted on Facebook they can afford to cancel their next few 'focus groups' !?

Of course what is ironic is that both Smooth and 'Gold' are managed by 'suits' some of whom have decades of radio experience and are members of the 'Radio Academy'. Yet members of the (so-called) academy, and nearly everyone else, turn a 'blind ear' to the ELEPHANT in the room. 

The fact is that 70% of national British commercial radio is now controlled by the programming theories and whims of very few people whose primary criteria is profit and loss, NOT what their listeners want. It's a similar scenario to the 'London v. Britain' banking situation.

Will we ever see the 'Academy' doing what any open organisation would and have a meeting with a debate between 3 of the 'Barbie broadcasters' and 3 of the redundant dj's? 

I doubt it... So those in the industry (and the many now out of work) have to just keep quiet..... and hope it might change.

It won't ~ dissent by silence has never worked

Sadly things are just as bad within the BBC.

Under ever-increasing pressure from groups such as 'Sound Women' their 'all female' weekend on Radio One ran for over 2 days.  Few had much to say.  

Sarah-Jane Crawford 'bellowed': "No sausage fest out here tonight... it's all about the xx chromosome. Hehehe" * 

Jameela Jamil : "I want to eat bacon off Jason Derulo's stomach"

Hardly liberating? And I do hope 'Lord' Tony Hall (who has pushed for 50% females on BBC Local Radio breakfast shows by this Autumn) loves this. And of course the male dj's were still being paid to take the weekend off.

But looking at the graphic below suggests that despite its attempt to be politically correct and 'gender balance' its radio stations, all the BBC has done is divide women into 2 types. Even though it IS radio, not tv, it's clear what a key criteria is for being on Radio 1 (I say 'being' it's hardly work) ....





Worryingly, the invasion of newly-trained women (or those already there being pushed up the ladder) on BBC Local radio is costing the licence payer even more as they cannot sack the male presenters (some are moved to sport or news). And the almost inevitable 'maternity leave' means the BBC will also have to financially cover more of this - and presumably pay some of the cast-aside male presenters to do the shows? 

The BBC seems to ignore the fact that radio is inevitably a 'career' and building a following is an on-going job. If the broadcaster has  2 or 3 'maternity leaves' in just a few years the listener soon forgets about them.

In 2014 the new 'broadcast barbies' and 'BBC Local Radio women' will increase in number, and Radio 1 will start planning their next 'all women' day. And sadly, in an industry that has lost all its imagination, by 2015 a crop of 'women's days' will doubtless appear all over British radio?  The 'baby elephant' in the room, will growandgrow, whilst the 'suits' will let perfectly good professional dj's and presenters 'wither on the vine'.

Of course, unlike the BBC, Global can perhaps be partly forgiven for this cavalcade of changes as their radio output is partly linked to their financial income.  Lord Allen, the Global Radio 'chairman' (as the Independent's journalist Chris Blackhurst calls him) wisely points out** that:

"BBC Radio 1, 2 and 3 have a combined content budget of £123.6m

 ...and Capital, which is up against Radio 1

...Heart, which is against Radio 2,

...and Classic, which takes on Radio 3....

... have a combined content budget of £19m"

With £104.6 million MORE... the BBC has no such excuse......

The British Radio Industry is losing many of the very talented people who have been the fabric of radio for the last 10, 20 even 30 years, and no one seems to be defending them!  This is why I was surprised by a recent blog*** by 'guru' David Lloyd. 

To sum it up he argued at length that radio is 'better' now. I find it surprising that the man who created the popular 'radio moments' truly believes this. He concluded:

"I have a feeling that the restructuring of radio is now approaching completion; and the medium is finding its place in a different world.  Different sorts of people will be involved.  Radio can be a curated background blend of your favourite songs, or it can create a ripple of dialogue which can continue in many places, not just on the air.  Another golden age of radio is beginning."


If by "different sorts of people will be involved" ....he meant more women, he's right


If  "radio can be a curated background blend of your favourite songs" meant no dj's for 20 hours a day, he's right


If  "a ripple of dialogue which can continue in many places" referred to London's LBC dressing itself up (mannequin style) as a national talk station, he's right


But as regards "Another golden age of radio is beginning", sorry David,  tv presenters, and women with just a few months hurried training (be it by the BBC or a commercial group) will NOT make another 'golden age of radio'. 


THE 'golden age' of radio in the UK was created by people who had natural talent, who loved music, loved radio, and had the voice and personality to share their 'radio selves' with the audience. Because of that the audience loved them, and 'stuck' with them. 

I firmly believe that the gift of being a great broadcaster is a natural one. You cannot teach more women to paint pictures just because you want more female artists ~ you'll end up with some very average paintings ~ and I'm sure we ALL know good radio is about 'pictures in the mind'.


With its huge budget the BBC can afford to do exactly what pressure groups dictate, and it seems the currently prevalent forces in commercial radio will blatantly copy it, though on (relatively) tiny budgets...  

"Mannequins HAVE Killed the Radio Star"

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/the-week-in-radio-women-rule-the-airwaves-for-international-womens-day--but-men-still-call-the-tune-9188232.html

** http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/lord-allen-putting-an-obsessive-attitude-to-work--and-making-it-pay-9195868.html

*** http://davidlloyd-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/were-old-days-better.html

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dear BBC - I'm typing as fast as I can....


I was going to call this blog "DouBBCle Standards" when I started it yesterday, but the BBC faux pas are coming at us so fast I've had to re-name it and ..... type as fast as I can to get it on today! 

Firstly, I ask "How MANY  acts of (alleged) bullying does it take for the BBC to act on them?"

‘Thirty’ ... or ‘Several’ ??

“THIRTY”

(The Independent 24 January 2014)

Rod McKenzie: “complaints by more than THIRTY current and former members of staff. A dossier of statements from 17 serving and former members of the BBC’s Newsbeat, describes a “climate of paranoia and fear” in which they worked under an editor who has been moved following a year-long inquiry into bullying and harassment across the BBC.Rod McKenzie has been given a final written warning and moved to another role outside of the BBC network news following complaints by more than THIRTY current and former members of staff. 

Throughout the disciplinary process Mr McKenzie has disputed the claims against him, and has since pointed out that some of the claims were not upheld. Statements seen by this newspaper detail alarming levels of distress experienced by young BBC journalists who are required to produce news for Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s audience of 16-29 year old listeners.”

“SEVERAL”

BBC News website 5 March 2014

Mark Lawson:  BBC arts presenter “is to leave Radio 4's ‘Front Row’ after 16 years, it has been announced. ‘For personal reasons I shall be taking a break from live daily radio journalism’ he said in a statement.  The broadcaster's departure follows allegations of bullying among SEVERAL staff in the BBC Radio Arts Unit.” 

I know nothing more than is stated/alleged, but I do wonder how many MORE than THIRTY it might take for the BBC to actually SACK someone? I also wonder if Mark Lawson is maybe 'ticked-off' that he only had 'several' but is treated this way?

But all of this pales into insignificance compared to that heard on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, as aptly recorded and visualised on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/vMWDyF4V4YE

Anyone who has actually worked in radio might find the official BBC statement rather too 'fantastic' to believe.

"There was a technical mistake where sound effects being prepared in another studio for an unrelated item were accidentally broadcast over the news bulletin"

Given that sound fx have not been broadcast over their news in living memory, do they truly think anyone believes this given that the fx matched perfectly the dialogue of the Pistorius story? Of course I'm sure no one thinks it was rowdy young journalists larking around in the next studio as the bulletin went out, not realising it had an 'open mic'?

If the sound fx were being made for an 'unrelated item' the BBC would have said what it WAS for? Unless they work a VERY long way ahead for making sound fx for Halloween.... I have no idea what 'unrelated item' they would fit...

So, BBC Coventry /Warwickshire, is it for Halloween?

Of course there is the fact that now rather than being one of the worst-performing BBC Local stations, at least people know it exists.  Now where was it as regards 'average hours per listener' in the official Rajar audience figures in September 2013? 

You find it!




Sorry, that was naughty; BBC Coventry /Warwickshire had just 8.6 hours so did not even get into the 'top 20', and an equally poor 15% weekly reach. 

This leads me to ask WHY the BBC continue with very brittle, speech-led local breakfast programming when it clearly does not work in many areas? 

There is also the factor that 'Lord' Tony, the BBC DG wants '50% female co-presenters on BBC local radio breakfast shows by this autumn', as widely reported last year. At a time the BBC needs severe financial stringency they are responding to feminist pressure groups and promoting inexperienced  or newly trained (in a hurry) staff onto what should be their main show of the day. 


(In MY 40 years radio experience
 good broadcasters are never 'trained' they are born...)


All the above is purely to be SEEN to be politically correct to the feminists!

The only glimmer of hope in this awful management/ politically correct mess is that the BBC Local stations are showing some signs of change by employing REAL broadcasters such as James Whale on BBC Essex. With 40 years experience, he cut his 'radio teeth' in the north-east for decades and was also very successful on London's LBC. Similarly, ex-commercial radio dj's are used on weekends or late nights on some stations. But they would be far better (mature) candidates for the breakfast shows, or the afternoon show on BBC Coventry /Warwickshire!

Instead, BBC Local radio blunders on blindly with 'university type' staff, several decades younger and out of touch with their ageing audience, playing music often issued before they went to school.

SOLUTION: just close down the FIVE least successful BBC Local radio stations, and put the next lowest 5 'on notice'. It will save building rental, reduce pension and wage costs.

And of course, get some MATURE presenters and journalists.

If I can't convince the BBC, just dig out the report John Myers did on BBC Local radio. You paid for it, so READ it !
__________________

Postscript: I was delighted when 2 hours after I posted this it was 'favourited' on Twitter by BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine, and I had a supportive email from a BBC Local Radio editor - thank you.