Friday, 11 March 2011

A day of Bread and Butter

My office noticeboard is filled with pictures and bits to remind me why radio is so important.  There are photos of my time working with local journalists in Somalia, Burma, Russia and Ghana.  More about this work here.

There’s also this poem written by Roger McGough to mark the 40th anniversary of BBC Radio Merseyside.  
I am the voice that announces you are not alone
I speak your language, I am home grown
I am the gift of the gab, I am the quiet word
I am the night watch and the early bird
I am the cat's whisker, I am your favourite song
I invite you to dance and to sing along
I am on your wavelength, on your side of the street
I am with you in triumph and in defeat
I am Hillsborough, Heysel, the European Cup
The phantom caller who won't hang up
I am Bulger, I am Bigley, I am floods of tears
I am the Beatles, the Pope, the smiles and the cheers
I am the Phil, the Everyman, the Walker, the Tate
I am nineteen sixty-seven and two thousand and eight
I am the bijou apartment, the sheltered accommodation
The helping hand and the information
I am your voice, I am your ear to the ground
I am the Pool of Life and the Mersey Sound
I am the cut ribbon, the champagne popped
I am the close-down, the poem stopped.

There’s also this poster which I downloaded from Chris Moyles webpages. 
Chris’ breakfast show is the fifth most listened to in Humberside.  BBC Radio Humberside is the most listened to BBC station in the area.

An eclectic mix of material, I appreciate, but it keeps me going.  There are also pictures of my dad on The Weakest Link, but that’s another story.  

Looking at my ‘mood board’ this morning made me think about the Bread and Butter of BBC Local Radio.  There’s much chatter today about the idea (I won’t say ‘plan’ until I know it is a proposal on the table) of merging BBC local radio in England and 5Live output.  The shadow Culture Secretary, Ivan Lewis, is asking for a meeting with the BBC to find out what’s going on; the NUJ is predicting hundreds of job losses, and there are articles like this which spell out the thoughts of many.  

No one is denying the need to think radically about how the BBC landscape will look in years to come.  There is little room for sentimentality and nostalgia today.  Certainly that’s what David Holdsworth (Controller of BBC English Regions) is saying in The Guardian today.

But I would urge anyone who has the confidence to say they think this is a sensible suggestion to spend a week in a local radio station.  Then come back and tell me what you think.
Hopefully, you’ll realise more about the Bread and Butter of local radio in England.  
Tell me how this new radio-land could:

Provide coverage of:

    We have Frank Gillard to thank for the birth of BBC Local Radio in 1967 (co-incidentally the year I was born.  Maybe that’s why I’m so loyal to the concept).  The Independent published an obituary of Frank in 1998.  
    Of course, mention is made of local radio stations, ‘It was his dream to see them in every city, not as "amplified juke boxes" but offering modern radio-journalism geared to the interests of the local community.’

    Thursday, 10 March 2011

    A day of headscratching, 'serious consideration', and adding up

    It was a busy day in my world... just getting on with things at my desk... the usual - trying to get the inbox to zero. But then I came across this blogpost from Bill Rogers.  This is the essence of it:
    'Now someone is "floating" some sort of merger between the rump of BBC Local Radio in England, and 5Live.  5Live would abandon its medium wave frequencies of 909 and 693, but still be heard uninterrupted on DAB, cable and satellite.  Local radio stations would mount only breakfast and drive time shows on their FM transmitters, and carry 5Live at all other times - perhaps with some weekend sport opt-outs.'

    Now, I've been around the BBC Local Radio block a fair bit... for the best part of twenty years, actually.  And this has left me scratching my head at how anyone could seriously suggest this.  I'm no lover of nostalgia, nor someone craving for years gone by.  But I believe in the power of local radio.  It connects with its audiences, it knows its listeners, listeners know the station, the station's there in good times and bad.  I haven't worked in a local radio station where that hasn't been the case.  

    I know awards aren't everything (until you win one, of course).  But I decided to look back at the past 10 years of Sony Radio Award winners.  I got as far as last  year - 2010.  I'll go back further when I have time. TEN awards for BBC Local Radio, and another EIGHT shortlisted nominations.  

    That includes Gold and Silver in Station of the Year (300,000 - 1million listeners), Gold for Speech Personality of the Year, Gold for Community Programming, Silver and Bronze for Breaking News Coverage and Bronze for Breakfast Show. 

    I think of the sheer numbers of people committed to local radio and all it stands for, the people who produce stunning journalism every day (not just for awards), and those people who have local radio to thank for their springboard to network jobs.  I also think of the listeners.

    There are around 7 million listeners to local radio in England each week.  Around 2.5million of those consume no other BBC service, according to the BBC's Annual Report.  Oh, and local radio in England produces around a quarter of a million hours of output each year.  The BBC points out in its annual report, 'The vast majority of our radio hours are live – which enables us to keep our listeners updated on key developments and issues of the day.