Featured Post

We Need a Campaign for Real News

The Watney's Party Seven was an icon of my adolescence. In the long, hot summer of 1976 just about every weekend meant an 18th birthday ...

03 September 2016

On Demand? It's Not The Same

I've struggled for a while to articulate why podcasts, or indeed any type of on-demand audio including listen-again recordings of radio output, are fundamentally different from live radio.

I meet uncomprehending stares from the download-everything generation, then get the kind of nods and smiles that mean I'm being indulged.

Don't get me wrong, I think catchup services are brilliant and I'm convinced podcasts (despite the awful name) offer the best potential for radio to reach new audiences in future. But they're not the same as live radio, happening now and being shared by a disparate audience .. in real time. It's a concept the brains behind BBC Five Live understood when they named the station.

Then, just this week, an example presented itself. An example involving one of radio's finest practitioners.

23 August 2016

Don't Confuse Style and Substance

There's been a lot of discussion this month about changing practices in newsrooms.

It's mainly a newspaper thing. Both Trinity Mirror and Johnson Press have been getting a lot of stick from award-winning journalists, and disgruntled former employees, alleging that "clickbait culture" is becoming so prevalent that easy-reading listicles on soft topics are pushing more difficult issues out, unless they are likely to generate more than a thousand views per article.

There are issues in the argument that also apply in radio, and more generally online; the culture wars are back in full swing.

09 August 2016

Nine Out Of Ten


The figures are in. Again. The beast won't lie down. Radio, that most unglamorous of media, is consumed by 9 out of 10 people in Britain every week. Nine out of ten. Ninety percent. We need to shout that number loud and long at every opportunity. It astounds each new class of students I face.

Astonishingly, given the proliferation of shiny new distractions, that figure has hardly budged in decades. Big events like the Olympics, or a general election, can even nudge it up a point or two. Calmer news agendas might see it subside to 89, but there's no doubt radio remains an established part of our lives for an overwhelming majority of the population.

Commentary on the latest figures has been pretty upbeat, with Folder Media's Matt Deegan even suggesting we're in a new "golden age" for radio (lots of detailed analysis on that link too). That might be putting it a bit strong, but I think there's definite room for optimism.

02 August 2016

The Truth About the MSM

Journalists have always had their critics. Back in the days of typewriters and carbon paper complaints would arrive in the post, often scrawled in green ink on lined Basildon Bond writing paper.

Complaints are usually from people unhappy about what has been published; or, just as often, about what has not been used. Editors have to make rapid decisions, and a big part of that gatekeeper role is to keep out free advertising and, vitally, the sort of unmoderated, opinion-heavy "press releases" turned out endlessly by those with a cause - whether that cause be political, religious, or just an obsession.

Recently I'm concerned to see a new kind of conspiracy theorist emerge online; the keyboard warrior who blames what they call "the MSM", or "mainstream media", for all the world's ills. It's a lazy slander of many hardworking journalists.

06 July 2016

The Binary World of Antisocial Media

I love my wife and children. I love radio. I love chocolate HobNobs. I love teaching my students.

Each of the above statements is true. Each carries a nuanced meaning. "Love" means something different in each context, as is readily understood in human communication. There are varied meanings, and many more than fifty shades of grey.

Now replace "love" with "like". Go online, to what is cynically called social media. The nuances vanish. I have a binary option; I can "like" something, and instantly tell Google or Facebook HQ to deliver more of the similar to me in their endless, automated infinet battle to keep my eyeballs locked. Or I can ignore it, thereby ensuring I see "less like this" in future.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. Babies, cute pets, mundane food and inspirational quotes. It would be so utterly trivial if it wasn't so important. I'm now seriously worried for the future of understanding, in a binary world which is becoming dangerously polarised.

15 June 2016

Getting Personal

This isn't one of my normal opinion pieces; rather it's a personal statement, given that I've come to a crossroads in life and have to make some important decisions.

What I know is that, after 23 years building a career training people for jobs in radio news, I'm backing out of full time university teaching. From September I'll be on a part-time contract, and I'm not sure yet what I'm doing with the rest of my time.

This post is to explain why I'm making the change.