19 August 2014

Defining Radio

OK, I'm going to have another go at an old chestnut. Is radio on the internet 'radio'?

On one level, it obviously is. The listener's experience is, or certainly should be, platform blind. I don't care how utilities are delivered to my home, so long as they arrive when I need them. BT once ran a witty commercial showing the scale of technical effort that went into maintaining a copper-wire connection to an unappreciative elderly customer in the Scottish highlands. Listeners treat radio as a utility.

I don't care if the product gets to me via AM, FM, DAB, 3G, IP or any other system the geeks can devise so long as I can hear it when I want to at the click of a switch.

But there's more to it than that.

07 August 2014

Experience or Exploitation?

Pay rates in commercial radio are under intense scrutiny at the moment.

Scourge of BBC management John Myers has turned his fire on the Bauer Media group, who have allegedly been putting wannabe jocks to air on national digital radio stations without paying them anything.

John's not mentioned news as yet - but as someone who's done his damnest to get journalism postgraduates into radio jobs with a measure of success over the past 20 years I thought it could be useful to add a few thoughts about what is, and what isn't, acceptable practice.

04 August 2014

Car Compulsory

I'm beginning to think we should make a driving licence an entry requrement for Journalism courses.

It goes without saying that mobility has always been an advantage for newshounds. Bus timetables are not designed around radio's requirements for earlies and lates. Fires and murders often occur in exasperatingly isolated locations not served by Network Rail.

What's different in 2014 is that it's difficult, if not impossible, to get a job, or even to get freelance work to build the portfolio tequired to apply for a job, without a driving licence in your pocket. And now, it seems, the keys to a car as well.

13 July 2014

Degrees of Separation

This is the time of year when I really get stuck in to the job of interviewing candidates for next year's Postgraduate Broadcast Journalism course at Leeds Trinity. With money tight for postgrad study they're thinner on the ground than they used to be.

My course, most unusually, starts in January - so anyone graduating this summer has six months to earn money, gain experience, find themselves or just vegetate whilst consuming the contents of their parents' fridge before starting a demanding programme in the new year.

The timing also means we turn people out on placement in October and November, a time when those who conform to the rigid academic year are in full-on delivery mode. That way we get the pick of the best newsroom placements for our lot to choose from. But that's another story.

I want to see diversity in applicants. Rather than just seeing those still recovering from the cost of hiring a gown for an hour in July I'm anxious to meet those who are changing career. Mature candidates, those who made the wrong choice at 21 or were steered away from broadcast journalism by the naysayers predicting the imminent death of radio (Again. That game started in 1953) or local papers (we achieved 100% employment on last year's Print course. The majority in -er- local papers).

I want to see more scientists. I want more applications from minority communities. And - heresy of heresies - I want to hear from those who aren't even graduates at all.

01 July 2014

Rebalancing Act

If the move of key parts of the BBC from London to Salford is to mean anything it must be to nurture for the long term a new centre for broadcasting talent outside London.

Today's changes to the Radio 5 Live schedule are part of that. Sad though it may be for the network to lose broadcasters of the ability and stature of Victoria Derbyshire and Richard Bacon, neither of them could be regarded as staunch advocates of the northern project.

For as long as the talent refused to buy in the niggling, whinging arguments about the vital concept of making the BBC relevant to the whole of England would chunter on - whilst the Daily Mail (and other enemies of the Corporation) could gleefully make mischief on a regular basis analysing Ms Derbyshire's travel expenses.

Today has, hopefully, brought an end to that bloodsport - at least so far as radio goes - from October.

Going South

I was delighted to be invited by Leeds hyperlocal news pioneer John Baron to address the Annual General Meeting of South Leeds Life last night.

It's always great to meet people who are passionate about making a difference in their community, and hyperlocal sites like South Leeds Life are now definitely an important part of the city's growing media scene .. as I said in the talk.

A full account of the session is on the group's website here.