Thursday, December 20, 2012

ILR’s first Blogger ?

ILR’s first Blogger ?

“There are stages in every disc jockey’s career when all he utters turns to dust, though he may not realise it at the time. He may get an inkling of this state of affairs when he is taken off his normal show and given the overnight job, or 6 to 8 on a Sunday morning. This happens more often to the chap who is on the staff. Contract men are just got rid of. At these times, keep your mouth shut in the office, stay bright on the air, check all local place names for their proper pronunciation, and start looking for another job. The reason you need to do all this may never become clear but one thing is plain. You can’t argue with it.”

Some good advice there, yet rather more pert and to the point than the more verbose ‘blogs’ that litter the internet from 2012’s ‘radio Gods’, and would-be ‘disciples’? And as you may note there is only mention of ‘he’. This was before we were blessed with likes of radio ‘stars’ such as Fearne Cotton and Vanessa; or the gaggle of female side-kicks on just about every 'ILR' breakfast show in Great Britain.

Further clues about when this ‘blog’ was composed can be gleaned from this:

“You will pass your programme controller in the corridor and , seeking a word of confidence in your ability, say “All right?” “Great” he will say. But little do you know that he is at that moment on his way to see the managing director and that the managing director will have taken great dire offence at the way you said. “Goodmorning” or pronounced a local place name. It will then be the programme controller’s stern duty to pass these weighty matters on to you as if you had broken all ten commandments simultaneously.”

Of course in 2012 most dj’s would be unlikely to pass the programme controller ‘in the corridor’ as the majority of surviving dj's (it’s a dying breed) are 50 to 350 miles away from the group’s programme controller. The dj is more likely to get a short email when 'he' goes into work to voice-track another week of shows?

 “Pop radio isn’t old enough yet to have solved the eventual mystery of where old disc jockeys go to....  With the imminent expansion of ILR there will be a bit more job security and choice of location for a few years anyway. Perhaps a few will go into the lower echelons of management but as training in ILR is in a rudimentary state it seems unlikely that such opportunities as arise will go to disc jockeys. It’s a pity that the industry seems to hold them in such contempt, especially when they are its bread and butter.”

And of course there WAS ‘more job security’ in the 1980s, and part of the 1990s. But in 2012 much of the industry DOES still treat dj's with 'contempt'. It expects them to be bright, sharp and topical within a 'programme straight jacket', and a 'variety' of the same 30 songs. All this carefully marketed- researched- moulded for a target audience of under 30 year olds for whom 'X Factor' is the 'cultural' highlight of the week.

By now you’ve worked out that the 'revived' words of 'wireless wisdom’ go right back to the 1970s, the days of ILR’s innocence, long before the intrusion of consultants and financial advisers caused it to lose the ‘L’, and now the 'I'. And I also had to cheat here, and remove a large clue at the  “....” which (amusingly) said..

‘apart from Radio Hallam’.

Yes, these gems were selected from a longer article in a radio magazine going back to 1978 or 1979 (it was so long ago I only have a photocopy now). They underline that ‘blogging’ is nothing new. At the time this precise crisp article was ‘manna from radio heaven’ to us humble, early ILR dj’s, who, for a while, only ever booked a one week holiday in case the ‘swing’ presenter (this was before the days of ‘sitting-in’) was better than us!

I thought it would be good to post this on the last real radio workday before Christmas, after yet another often unhappy year in the creatively dehydrating British radio industry, now limited to the programming philosophies of just a few individuals, steered by the ‘research’ and ‘focus groups’, hidden inside over-large impersonal groups. An industry ironically littered with too many pseudo glossy award shows... for less and less staff.

One good thing; it’s re-assuring to know that the author of the words of wisdom is still with us, the venerable Gillian Reynolds. Her ‘radio pedigree’ goes all the way back to being a manager at Liverpool’s Radio City in the 1970s. 

Maybe some of those large groups would be wise to take Gillian on as a consultant?

I will certainly share more of her article soon, as the British radio industry seems to have forgotten much of what made it successful originally, and as we all know, any culture that loses touch with its roots.....

Things were not perfect in ILR in the 1970s, but I can guarantee it was more fun than it was in the 1990s, and I would recommend any potential broadcaster with individuality and creativity NOT to venture near it; go straight to the BBC... or an internet station.

Personally I’m having the ‘best time of my life’ right now, unpaid, on an internet station where a few crusty old ILR ‘individuals’ have grouped together on an internet radio service that is PURE radio ~ just music and personalities, no ads or corporate marketing, or research... and at the same time I am ALWAYS on holiday !

‘Radio Like It Used To Be’.

Len Groat

(The 1960’s Cafe ~ Monday to Friday on )

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