02 December 2014

Radio Must Have Soul


The time for cringing is over. It's time those of us who love and understand radio to be heard, and above all to stop apologising for the fact radio isn't new, isn't particularly high tech and doesn't require expensive branded designer "i-Kit" to listen.

For too long radio in the UK has been in a state of paralysis.

It's been inward looking, obsessed with the internal issues of the industry, the biggest of these in the commercial sector being who owns what, whilst the BBC stares relentlessly at its own belly button. The industry's wasted a decade or more fretting about DAB to the point of paranoia. And, being simultaneously smitten with and fearful of social media, radio has developed a kind of digital schizophrenia.

Above all else, radio has lost its soul.

20 October 2014

Time to Scrap the Radio Bulletin?

I always enjoy David Lloyd's radio blog, so I was delighted this week when he turned his attention to something I'd like to think I know something about - radio news.

The gist of his piece, which you can read in full here, is that the news bulletin has outlived its usefulness.

In a era when news breaks on Twitter it's rare to actually hear something for the first time at the head of a bull. Today's sad announcement of the death of the actress Lynda Bellingham is a good example. Social media had it (via PA) a good ten minutes ahead of the 'flash' on my bedside radio. That's not untypical.

Bulletin order can appear arbitrary; listeners have differing priorities and (in many cases) very different priorities to journalists. Far from being a switch on point, David quotes research from Peter Neigel in Denmark that suggests the news fanfare can be a major switch off; it's the klaxon reminding listeners it's time to get on with their lives.

All interesting stuff, and food for thought for any thinking newsperson. It got me thinking.

12 October 2014

Pride in Radio

Last night my friend Hirsty did a remarkable, brave thing. 'He' walked in to Stephen Nolan's Five Live radio studio as Simon. She came out as Stephanie.


It was a powerful, compelling piece of radio and it was so appropriate that Hirsty chose to share a life changing moment in a live moment on the air. She's appeared so often more at ease, more comfortable, on the radio than off it. From today she should also be more comfortable in her own skin.

That's not, however, the reason for this piece. If I was surprised, yes, and captivated by the announcement I was overwhelmed by the reaction that followed.  The radio family spoke.

24 September 2014

Harmful Opportunity

Autumn's here again. The nights are getting longer. The trees are turning golden. And my inbox is filling up with wonderful 'opportunities' for journalism students to generate free copy for speculative startup websites.

Now I live in the real world, and I know how important work experience is to getting a job.

Getting graduates into jobs is, in fact, the only reason I do what I do. The joy of reading endless platitudes on the state of the news industry dutifully cut, pasted and Harvard referenced in the 'reflective reports' appended to otherwise straightforward practical assignments doesn't come into it. No really. It doesn't.

But I do get pigged off when I see students exploited, especially when the supposed 'opportunity' is actually harmful to their prospects of getting work later. Here's why.

01 September 2014

Made in Leeds. Make it Happen.

After much anticipation Leeds' own local TV service 'Made in Leeds' will launch .. soon.

It was due on air in November last year, a test card gave a tantalising flash early in 2014, then it all went a bit quiet. Now, with artfully-shot time lapse pics of city landmarks looping on Freeview Channel 8 it appears a launch is, well, imminent.

What's important now is that we give Made in Leeds a warm welcome. For better or worse it's ours, and it's here. What's absolutely certain is we'll never get another go if this fails, so Leeds needs to get behind the project.

The following was originally posted on the Leeds Culture Vulture website.

31 August 2014

Video: Austin Mitchell at Pennine House

Radio is evolving. Those who speak of a 'golden age' of commercial radio in the UK in the seventies and eighties are missing the point.

Yes, those times were great and I was so immensely privileged to be part of them. But the industry is moving on in different ways and I saw both the old and the new on a visit to Bradford yesterday

More importantly I saw plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future.