Friday, August 23, 2013

Beautiful yes, but not a VOICE for radio...

On Thursday the BBC’s Tony Hall decreed that, 'by the end of 2014, the corporation is aiming for 50 per cent of local stations to have a woman presenting the high-profile Breakfast shows – either in a solo capacity or as part of a team.'

Just before that (Free) radio ‘guru’ David Lloyd asked in a well thought-out blog “Is there anyone out there?” Crucially, this usually chirpy, informed blogger asked, “am I alone in despairing, largely, of a generation?”

My answer to David is ‘No’ !

And to Tony Hall, I say
Please NO!”

Tony, I am not against women on the radio. Over my 20 ‘ILR years’ I personally took-on quality female presenters.++  But I have to state there are some hours of the day where a female voice works.... and others where it does NOT. It’s been a ‘law of radio’ for decades, and to unnaturally adjust the ‘gender misbalance' (as Sound Women* call it) this way, would be politically correct, but a grave mistake.

As David Lloyd discussed in his blog, ‘there are some great radio courses’, but I doubt greatly if there are 20 or 30 female presenters on them this year who would be of sufficient quality to hold down presenting breakfast shows in 12 months time!!

Let me explain. This (hastily written) blog actually developed from a half-written one that I was cogitating over before I saw David Lloyd’s question.

'Am I alone in despairing, largely, of a generation?'

My answer: “No David definitely not alone, because radio had indeed ‘lost’ a whole generation!

HOW and WHY?

I am talking about the ‘dj’ (sorry BBC folk, presenters).

Let’s look at WHO the dj’s were that we enjoyed on radio in the ‘golden years’ of the 60s to 80s, where, when there were NO 'Media Studies' courses, many of today’s dj’s learned their craft... just by being inspired.

The earlier ones learned their craft from (for example): Tony Blackburn, Johnny Walker, Keith Skues, Roger Day, Simon Dee, Kenny Everitt, John Peel, Dave Cash, Tony Windsor, Dave Dennis.....

The slightly younger ones from : Noel Edmonds, Alan Freeman, David Hamilton, Terry Wogan, Emperor Rosko, Simon Bates, Steve Wright (or locally) Les Ross, Dale Winton, Roger Scott, Gavin McCoy etc,.

So the ‘passing’ of radio techniques, ‘wisdom’, was not done on a ‘Media Studies’ course, but by the individual being inspired by what they HEARD coming out of the radio, and copying facets of several presenters to create ‘their’ own, personal ‘dj persona’.

Now let’s look at WHO the dj’s of today (or potential dj’s) have had to lisen to and learn THEIR craft from, in the 90s and 'noughties':

Zoe Ball, Sara Cox, Chris Moyles, Chris Evans, Jo Whiley, Scott Mills, Ken Bruce, Sarah Kennedy, Simon Mayo, Jonathan Ross, James Whale, Chris Tarrant (I really cannot name many truly influential ILR dj’s from this period as it was the era of ‘liner cards’, and endless segues) More recently we have, Scott Mills, Vanessa Feltz, Elaine Page, Richard Madely, Claudia Winkelman and Christian O’Connell

I think it’s quite clear what the KEY differencea are

  • the influx of female on-air staff
  • or (male or female) staff who are NOT actually dj’s, but ‘personalities’

Many have no native presentation skills; the true art of the (music loving) dj has been lost.  Only this week we had Alex Jones a 'tv personality' on BBC Radio 2; beautiful yes, a face for television, but not a voice for radio...

So to get on BBC Radio 2, an aspiring radio presenter would be best advised get work on television?! 

To get a job in ‘local’ commercial radio’... well... there are not really many, as you are competing with a large number of trained, talented but recently redundant people looking for work.

So, the point of my original Blog was:

“Is it any wonder young people are no longer inspired to want to work in radio?"

But now, knowing that Tony Hall and the BBC are pushing for 50% female staff on breakfast, I have to say it is political correctness gone mad. I am sure some pressure groups will take great offence at my stance, but as John Ryan, director of 2ZY points out** in his Blog: 

'Where are all the new women presenters going to come from? It’s not since Viva! 963 that twenty great female presenters were needed in one fell swoop. But the radio road in 2013 is littered with older, ex-commercial, or former BBC Local/network women who left the business for whatever reason in the last 20 years. It will take time for the new generation of female talent to percolate into the territory of BBC LR from universities.'

My conclusion?

I think Tony Hall has (surprisingly) already stumbled (in the name of political correctness) in his new role....

Tony, 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!

Len Groat

ps: You might also want to check the old ratings of Zoe Ball and Sara Cox on Radio 1 Breakfast!

pps: Numero Uno 'radio guru' John Myers has now Tweeted:

"Ahh Tony. You were doing so well and then this tosh. You hire the best for the job not the best woman or men."

ppps: Young radio guru David Lloyd, has now blogged (calmly) on this:

++  Krissi Carpenter, Erica Hughes, Jenni Costello. I also worked with Anne-Marie Minhall as a young presenter for our ‘Careline’, and then dj on GEM-AM, a team of 'mums' for the (then innovative) ‘Toddler & Playgroup spot’, and even Chris Burns. Before that at Metro I worked with Maggie Mash and Ann Dover.

*Sound Women produced this very questionable piece of 'research': and seem to 'have the ear' of the BBC


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