27 June 2015

Reports of a Death Are Premature ...

Radio's dead. It's official .. there's been a notice in the Telegraph.

OK, maybe not dead but dying, according to Gillian Reynolds, on licence fee life support and Osborne's hand is on the switch. Oh hang on ... she's not talking about radio, she's talking about BBC Radio 4.

Which of course is radio if you're in London and you're writing a column for a posh broadsheet, allowing for a bit of Radio 3 when the Proms are on and maybe the frisson of a brief liaison with 6 Music if we're feeling frisky.

Don't get me wrong. I'd be sad if Radio 4 died, or became severely emaciated. It's one of those things that makes the country worth defending, and for which I'd certainly go to the barricades.

But radio is a lot more than Radio 4, which is local radio to London and the South East in the same way that Crossrail is an affordable little transport upgrade and the National Theatre has something on worth seeing now and then. I started looking around the dial, and at online listen again services, on just one Saturday in June here in Yorkshire.

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.