11 May 2015

The Original Social Medium

Today we mark a sad anniversary. It's thirty years since the Bradford City fire disaster in which 56 fans lost their lives. They went to a football match to celebrate their team's promotion, and never came home.

The events of that day are etched in our national memory and, as so often, radio captured the raw emotion of the moment so much more powerfully than mundane pictures.

They also highlight something about radio that is too often forgotten in our industry today. Beyond the brands, and the promotions, and the personalities radio has a unique ability to bring people together and to communicate better than the echo chambers and troll-infested swamps of what we now call "social media".

This post explores some of those attributes.

04 March 2015

Regulators Have Teeth. So Bite.

I'm delighted that Australia's High Court has upheld a contested ruling that the radio station responsible for a stupid prank call to a hospital nurse in London in the middle of the night broke the law.

The judgement overturns an earlier decision which ruled the regulator had no power to sanction Sydney's 2Day FM over the harrassment of the nurse, who was bullied by two presenters who posed as members of the Royal family to trick her into transferring their hoax call to members of the medical team treating the Duchess of Cambridge for morning sickness in 2012.

The time has now come to punish the station appropriately.

15 February 2015

We've Forgotten Maureen

Two firsts for me, this week. I was invited to attend a Lord Mayor's Civic Reception in Bradford as a guest, not as a reporter, at an event to celebrate the 21st birthday of community radio pioneers BCB. I was also invited to appear as a pundit ("journalist and lecturer", no less) on Made in Leeds TV, the local service that launched in November.

Two different experiences - one common theme. I was reminded very strongly of why I was once so passionate about local radio, and how sad I am, in many ways, to see what it has become. Here's why.

04 January 2015

Spin Has Sprung (and it's only January)

We're barely into a new year and already the opening shots have been fired in what's shaping up to be a long, bitter and dirty General Election campaign. Repeated polls tell us no party has a clear majority.

With no front runner and all to play for, the campaign ground rules have shifted dramatically even since 2010. Every utterance, every poster launch, every Twitter gaffe is picked over, attacked and rebutted in minute detail. National newspapers, bar the occasional sensational scoop, are irrelevant in the minute-by-minute game, the tribal nature of their coverage appealing only to their faithful readership.

The 'national treasure' TV correspondents - Nick Robinson, Jon Snow,  Adam Boulton - lose their edge (and occasionally their cool) under the pressure of relentless 24 hour campaigning and are increasingly identified as part of the political establishment they are supposed to be scrutinising.

What this means is that local radio, TV and papers are going to be in the forefront of the 2015 contest.

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.