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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.

East Leeds FM was offering Community Conversations - exploring the diverse communities now living in Seacroft, including those who arrived as refugees; an important narrative with the Mediterranean refugee crisis in the news:
Bradford's BCB 106.6FM was broadcasting live from City Park with an OB celebrating Armed Forces Day, a speech programme with huge relevance at a time whe the future of Britain's military is under review.

Of course, BCB is "only" a community station - but they've been going 25 years and they've won the Radio Academy's Yorkshire Station of the Year accolade two years running, so they're doing something right.

Commercial radio was also offering alternative speech, with Harrogate's Stray Extra on DAB in their case today from the Harrogate Festival but in the past, as I've pointed out on Twitter,  they've done an hour on "common problems with your log-burning stove" which should be right up the street (sorry, mews) of the Archers' Army.
Let me say it again. That's commercial radio. Relevant, local speech, offering choice for listeners and opportunities for local advertisers. They're not a charity. It's part of radio's future.

There's a battle going on for a particular mass music market, with Apple's global radio station about to go head-to-head with -er- Global's radio stations here in the UK, and with the radio industry conglomerates elsewhere in the world.

Ben Cooper's BBC Radio 1 is trying desperately to evolve into an online pics'n'clicks product at the same time as the internet robots are marching in the opposite direction, desperately trying to mimic the attributes of radio. I wouldn't want to predict the outcome of that one yet, and in any case it will be the subject of a future post.

Radio is much more than the mass music market. Stations (coming back to my Saturday in June, in Yorkshire) like Yorkshire Coast Radio achieve phenomenal RAJAR figures by doing what radio can do best - combining music, news and relevant, entertaining presenters who know and share the lives and concerns of their audience.

Radio ain't dead yet, and won't be as long as we remember that.



2 comments:

  1. A timely and well observed post Richard. And your mention of that last station prompts recent memories of our holidays to Dorset and also to the Yorks Coast, as only being 'officially started', when were able to tune into UKRD's Wessex FM and YCR. They really are wonderful 'soundtracks' for their communities and respective areas.

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  2. "Radio is much more than the mass music market."

    And to that I say "Amen"

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