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 music! With 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'.
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:
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) ....
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:
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'.
"Mannequins HAVE Killed the Radio Star"