Moyles…is back!

chris-moyles-radio x

I tuned in this morning expecting not to like it, but I did.

Radio in the UK has been missing someone like him and it was annoyingly refreshing to have him back, even if it was very ‘in’ at times (the digs about Radio 1 and his old boss, the comments about Richard Park and Stephen Miron, the CEO of Global Radio etc). Radio is certainly better for his return and DAB especially.

He’s grown up a little but in other ways, not a lot.

The banter about the news from Global news was amusing and his comments about adverts getting in the way of creativity is something most listeners can relate too. The content was OK for the first day especially when the first day is not that important, but this was all about getting on and getting it over with. The team as a whole is also good.

I was surprised by the The TV commercial. Global are the kings when it comes to producing fantastic TV adverts to promote their radio stations, but this time, they produced one of their worst. OK, it is all subjective and I know many people love it, but the creative suggests that what we are getting is the old style Moyles when I kind of like the new one. Perhaps it was the right way to drive trial, they could be right.

Nevertheless, credit where it is due.

Moyles is a refreshing listen and I genuinely liked the show, he got some good stuff out of his guest but for this to succeed and live up to the hype, he has to stop being the poor mans Howard Stern (even the imaging gives a nod to that) and instead kill us with fantastic content that people want to share and talk about. This week, he will settle down, get into a rhythm and Parky (The PD) will be offering some guidance, that’s for sure!

He does makes it sound easy though and for listeners, that relates to it being enjoyable. He breaks the rules and gives the impression it is all being thrown together, which is far from the truth. Those tuned in want something edgy but as this show progresses, they will also demand something unique. We didn’t get that today but it was a tighter Moyles, he played more music and there was a need to talk about the past before marching forward with the new.

Best of all, personality is back!

Scores on the doors for the first show: 7/10.

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Can you stand in ?


It’s great being the regular jock on a radio station but what happens when you are asked to dep’ on a show. What are the rules? What should you know and be prepared for?

I spent many of my early years filling in for presenters on all kinds of programmes and there is a knack to getting these slots. You quickly learn what works and what doesn’t. Here is my list of do’s and do nots but feel free to add some of your own.

1. Remember you are standing-in, not taking over.

2. The audience understands that their favourite regular jocks will take holidays. While they might expect to hear different voices coming out of their radio, they don’t expect to hear a totally different radio station.

3. Good jocks respect the person they are replacing so be happy to deliver regular features if required but do so in a way that doesn’t irritate the audience. Put your own style on it but keep to the format. Furthermore, know that being instantly forgettable once the main jock returns is a good thing.

4. Always double check with the PD that it’s OK to add some of your ‘amazing’ personality into the show. They may indeed want that but the fastest way to annoy the person who hired you is to surprise them with content they didn’t expect.

5. Remember, you are being asked to ‘hold the fort’. Do it well and you may be asked to do it often. What the PD doesn’t need is someone he has to keep apologising for.

6. When the boss wants someone to fill-in, they are mostly after a solution to a short term problem. Be professional, do your job!

7. Always be early, always listen to the output, always research the area you are broadcasting within. If you can’t listen live, listen back to the show you are asked to cover. Know the show, know the features, know the audience. Never just turn up!

8. Never, ever be tempted to forward, respond or promote any tweet, email or comment on social media from anyone who might suggest you are better than the presenter you are filling in for. Keep that to yourself!

9. Always be positive about the station and the area you serve alongside the music, the staff, fellow jocks, the environment and especially, the boss!

10. Love what you do and show it. Never moan, talk with a smile, say hello to everyone you meet and be likeable. Talent always rises to the top and will eventually get noticed so enjoy the thrill of being on the air.

Oh and one more…

Always thank the boss for the work…and keep in their face and memory if you want some more. Be seen around the station, call in for a coffee, get noticed, be a solution.

Remember my motto: Always say yes!

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Moyles and Generation X


So three guys in their 40s (Vaughan is 49) are spearheading a new station for a new generation, formerly known as XFM.

While I’m not sure about the name Radio X, the news is really all about the return of radio leg-end Chris Moyles. Some might suggest he’s only back because all other options have fizzled out, but kinder and more considerate souls believe this to be a positive for radio and commercial radio in particular. I agree.

Moyles is a proven winner, Vaughan is a great broadcaster and Kay, well he’s a name at least.


Much will be made about the competition between him and Radio 1. It’s a fight he won’t win and a fight Global won’t want because being compared to Radio 1 all of the time will only highlight how wide the gap between the two really is. They are also close to 6music.

A significant rise in audience for Radio X might be great for Global but appear tiny against their competitor who’s on on both FM and DAB. Radio X is mostly just DAB.

While I applaud the initiative, I wonder if the return of Moyles is in fact two years too late. Yes, he will generate press and excite the anorak nation but I’m not sure this will mean a lot to the audience at large. Will they care enough to turn that dial? I hope so, but it’s not a given.

Three years is a long, long time to be away from the ears of listeners. People have moved on, radio has moved on and the new kind of audio star doesn’t even require a radio platform at all to succeed these days.

People forget easily.

The other issue is that Moyles is well known for being a bit of a dick. He was hardly Mr Popular at the BBC. Sometimes that works for you but mostly it doesn’t. For Chris to become popular again he will need to learn a little humility (as in Chris Evans). Perhaps he’s already done that as I hear good things of late and he certainly looks great.

Global will support him and the station with significant airtime but it won’t match the budget he’s had in the past when he was the self proclaimed saviour of Radio 1 and there will be very little cross-promotion, if any.

Radio is interesting again

Nevertheless, you have to hand it to Global. They are investing in radio and for that alone, I admire them. They are driven by a self belief that comes with a passion for winning.

As I’ve said many times before, winning is addictive.

They care about nothing else and on this point alone you can bet that Richard Park will be on Moyle’s case every single day – and rightly so.

Anyone who has ever run a station will know that if the breakfast show sucks, the station never gets going. Furthermore, Global have now gone public that personality matters on Radio X. Thank goodness for that.

What the jocks do between the songs is the real X here.

I suspect OFCOM might be busy but on this they just need to be brave and have a budget for fines. Vanilla has been the norm for too long and it has to change. Let us applaud big decisions like this and support them.

So congratulations Global for launching a station with personality and engaging people like Moyles again.

Just how talented he is and how much the nation really cares about him…we are about to find out!

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A Breastfeeding Dyke!


Alex Dyke is a local radio phone-in host. He’s a personality of sorts, perhaps not in the same league as a Jeremy Vine, but nevertheless, that is his job. His style is well known to his audience and certainly to management.

He has an opinion.

His mission is to drive callers and get people talking. There are many ways to achieve that goal, but his preferred method is to walk the line of acceptable boundaries (something I guess his manager has been happy to accept to date) and at times, he will fall over. When that happens, a good boss will simply dust him down, provide more training and continue to offer support.

This furore over the way in which Alex went about the discussion on breast feeding mirrored his established style and approach. There is nothing new here. In taking such a bonkers approach to the subject matter he is regarded as being immature, ignorant and perhaps even foolish. Few would disagree with that.

Nevertheless, something doesn’t stack up. Are we really being asked to believe that his producer and station Editor were totally unaware of what stance he was going to take before going to air? If that really is the case, where were they when this discussion started to gather complaints. How come – if what he said was so unacceptable – management didn’t jump in and ask him to edit, apologise or tone down his approach to callers. If he is guilty of a crime then the producer and Editor are also in the dock with him.

I agree that his choice of words and phraseology could have been more intelligent. His viewpoint took him into a cul-de-sac that few experienced presenters would have found themselves, but this is a training issue. It is hardly a reason for a suspension. Unless of course, there is another motive here!

What this really shows is the flakiness of local management. This says to everyone who works for BBC Solent that if mistakes happen, if things go a little awry, if you are foolish for whatever reason, don’t expect much help from your boss. Instead, you could argue that they are already sharpening knives ready to thrust into your back.

A shameful way to act.

Managers manage, that is what they are supposed to do. They DO NOT panic and give in to a mob demanding a public execution. You never EVER heard Alex Ferguson blame his players for a poor performance, but at this station, they appear not only to apportion blame, they also bring out the firing squad at the same time.

What the manager should have done is simply say that we all know that Alex has strong views. The station does not always agree with those and they don’t on this occasion, but they do and always will do, stand behind his right to say what he believes is his point of view. However, they will speak to him about the tone used to get his message over etc. Perhaps this is the result of an outdated useless HR system at work.

I have said it many times before, Listeners don’t have the right NOT to be offended. Radio has to be bigger than that, managers have to be stronger than that. Yes, of course it is right to be respectful but you also need to be challenging.

The greatest leaders are those who show leadership at times when leadership is required. That means protecting, encouraging and leading your team. It means standing behind them publicly and bollocking them privately. It does not mean firing them in the full glare of the media while dissolving yourself of all responsibility.

For the record, I think Alex Dyke’s programme lacked oversight and intelligence and it was a dumb approach to take but suspending him is madness. It is weak management.

If BBC local radio really believes the way to deal with issues like this is to immediately suspend the person involved then all we will get is safe, boring, predictable and completely worthless output. Presenters will broadcast through fear, becoming robots rather than take a chance at being entertaining.

We need more colour in the output of radio, more opinions, more variety and more personality. Not everyone will like it and yes, some might find that offensive. We should face that head on.

There is nothing wrong with complaints. The trouble comes from those who have little experience in how to deal with them.

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Commercial radio on the up…..


Despite all those who wish radio was like all our yesterdays, the latest data suggests Commercial radio is on the up again and I’m inclined to agree.

The brands have now settled in, both Global and Bauer are doing well and speech stations in particular are showing positive growth.

Capital is back in the game, Smooth NW is the biggest commercial station outside of London, Heart is the UK’s biggest commercial brand and Kiss just marches forward with Kisstory, a winner in itself. LBC reaching nearly 1.5m listeners nationally, is a milestone for celebration.

It’s a little strange that Absolute 80s seems to be bigger than Absolute Radio, especially as the latter is a station that’s home to a lot of personality and engagement. I wonder if this suggests that personality is on the wane and that brand led music formats are on the rise? I hope not, but you could certainly make the argument.

Locally, UKRD demonstrates the power of localness and knowing your respective community. It is also a nod to those allowing managers to manage.

In the world of digital, there is a lot of good news. While the BBC may run the top three performing digital stations (6 Music, R4 Extra and 5Live Sports Extra) Bauer is the UK’s biggest digital operator and their adopted strategy of some time back looks to be working.

There are some challenges of course, KEY103 in particular looks like it needs a great deal of thought. Times have changed in Manchester but this is something that can be fixed.

A couple of others really stand out to me. I know they have little competition but Manx Radio in particular has a massive 63% reach these days, but it is their 4 week reach of 82% that is truly eye watering. Can you imagine the joy of working in sales at this station.

Sir, look outside your window. 8 out of 10 people walking past listen to our station. The only reason they are not coming in to buy something from you today, is because we have not invited them to do so. Shall we put that right?

The same can be said of Island FM. Their listeners love it so much they tune in for 15 hours and 36 minutes a week attracting an amazing 44.4% of all radio listening in their area. If the old adage is true that no-one listens to crap for long, they are clearly doing well.

Two points worth making. Digital radio in cars is still too damn complicated to work, if you ask me. Secondly, while the industry is riding high, it has got to get better value for the audience it delivers. Fewer ads at a higher price delivering a greater impact must continue to be the goal.

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Football commentary, so yesterday!


The news that another commercial radio group in the UK is to ditch live football is no surprise. Orion is simply following Bauer, Global and many others who have concluded that live commentary has had its day. Certainly, within the local commercial arena it no longer makes any sense. The world has moved on.

The first reason is value

The price of delivering live commentary just goes up while the revenue goes down. Rights, commentators, co-commentators, technical stuff, travel and accommodation make it a costly affair.

The second is revenue and timing

When I launched Century Radio in the North West with exclusive Manchester United coverage, TV games were mostly restricted to 4pm on a Sunday and a Monday night football show. All the others were still played at 3pm on a Saturday with RAJAR continuing to show a healthy number tuning in. Today, there is no ‘penis on the page’ effect coming from a surge of listening as the games are practically on every day and at every time of the day. RAJAR just can’t measure it and stations just can’t sell it at the right value.

The third reason is the changing media landscape

Gone are the days when listeners depended on their local stations for commentary or news about their favourite clubs. I can watch NUFC play each and every time through a variety of media outlets, some legal, some not and if not at home, I know a few pubs where the game will be screened. If it’s a big game, the excellent TalkSPORT or 5Live will have it on. Social media wins.

The fourth reason is the greed of the clubs themselves

Football clubs have long used local radio stations as their free PR machine, plugging games, tickets and more without paying the station a penny. That was fine when it was a two way street. Listeners tuned in because we had the information but now that they can get it instantly and from numerous sources, the need to turn to local radio for their fix is no longer compelling.

Tuning in to a local radio station for live commentary is so yesterday

Furthermore, clubs are control freaks. Many ban reporters if they don’t like what they’re saying and put announcements out on their own website well ahead of any trusted local media.

Greed is driving this along with a need to control the message. The money they get from their TV rights (Premier league clubs in particular) has made them drunk with stupidity about the real worth of their radio rights. Even those lower down the league often expect fools gold. Most people who run the commercial end of football clubs (not all) are commercially inept.

The CEO of Middlesbrough FC once complained to me that our radio commentary was the reason thousands of people no longer turned up to his ground anymore. I replied that this had nothing to do with our radio coverage whatsoever and more to do with the fact that they were, in that particular season, crap!

I recall telling David Holdsworth, who looks after BBC Local Radio, that he should dictate to his managers that no local station should pay more than £25K for football commentary rights. They don’t want it exclusive so why pay an exclusive price, I argued.

Knowing that practically all local commercial radio stations have walked away from live coverage, BBC local cannot continue to pay more than a token gesture, if they pay anything at all. Of course they should cover their local sides – and be keen to do so – but they now have the local market all to themselves.

They should ensure they benefit from that.

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WOW. Radio 1 Ibiza proms

Its not often I sit and watch something rather special happening before me.

Last night, I did just that. The Radio 1 Ibiza Prom was not just a magnificent fusion of talent, skill and excellence, but I doubt anyone other than the BBC could have pulled it off. Certainly, not on all platforms and with that range of talent.

The corporation is an expensive beast and yes, there are times when it conflicts far too much with the commercial sector, but when they create experiences like this, when the Arts, music and culture come together, it reminds us of why the BBC is important.

In fact, it made me proud to be British. It made me feel good to know that the world doesn’t have what we have.

The event itself is just one of six Proms curated in collaboration with six BBC national radio stations – 6music, Radio 1, Radio 1Extra, Radio 2 and Radio 4. Yes, even Radio 4 is getting in on the act.

So criticise all you like, but remember to vent that anger in the right direction and not at the staff and the people who simply go into work each day to do what they do best.

Hey, even the corporations harshest critic was moved to wax lyrically about it all.

Make no mistake, this was a great event. It generated talkability and brought together the best in the business who delivered a unique experience for the public to enjoy and remember.

You could argue of course that this is what the BBC should be doing more of – and that thought may have some traction – but regardless of whether you are in the target market or not, you have to stand up and applaud the fact that it exists at all and it is all ours.

It’s all gone Pete Tong? Well yes, but not without the brilliant Ella Eyre, John Newman and Jules Buckley and The Heritage Orchestra

Watch it again here

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What! You want me to talk?


Liverpool 2015.

Bauer’s application to put City 2 on FM and downgrade the Talk station to AM makes good commercial sense. That does not make it right.

The talk station they launched in 2006 has been nothing short of a disaster from day one and they’ve been trying to change it to something else ever since. If this latest move is approved, it will be the fourth format and the third change in just nine years.

The drive for change comes from competition.

Global’s Smooth Radio (formerly Jazz fm) is a giant in the North West, raking in cash and listeners galore. It’s the Apple of radio up there. This, and their recent acquisition of Juice FM (soon to be Capital FM) turns the screw even more against Bauer.

It’s easy to see therefore why they’d want to move City 2 to FM as it will offer more protection commercially. The fight is about music radio.

If any further evidence is needed, Bauer have just announced that they are to drop live football coverage from next season, something they have carried since 1974. This will not win them any new fans especially in a city where sport matters!

For the record, I like the Bauer 2 network. It’s my second favourite station right now but changing platforms is of little benefit to the Liverpool listener. It is already on DAB, a growing popular platform and something that Bauer claims to be the future.

This is nothing more than a way of commercially making sure they have all their guns focused on protecting revenue. It has absolutely nothing to do with extending listener choice.

Can you imagine the outcry if Global suggested dropping LBC to AM across London just so they could put Heart Extra on FM? It would never be allowed and it should not be allowed here.

Having said all that, if I were Bauer and faced with losing my Liverpool crown, I would probably try the same thing.

As I said in my blog last weekend

Anyone who thinks commercial radio will fill the gap in a diminished BBC is either drunk or deluded.

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Thoughts on my BBC


There is no doubt that the budget for BBC Radio 1 and 2, (£39m and £46m respectively) is an eye watering number especially to all those working within commercial radio. As I highlighted within my BBC Report a couple of years ago, how and why it costs this much is difficult to discover, it’s a bit like wading through thick fog wearing sunglasses.

The controllers have about a third of the published budget under their direct control (still a good number) with the rest being re-charges for things like news, engineering, copyright and housing etc. Normal practice in business perhaps, but the level of recharge is higher than the true cost in real terms. I have no idea why.

No one told them to do it this way, they just do.

In 2009, I pointed out that at least 60% of commercial radio was going bust. To survive, it required a new plan, one that included a change to the law, new formats and more networking. Part of the argument was that they needed to make more money in order to compete more effectively against the BBC. They got what they wanted and today the vast majority of stations are on the right side of profitability.

The two biggest groups, Bauer and Global, are banking more than £50m in gross annual profits between them. Yet, outside of the brilliant LBC and TalkSPORT, many would struggle to hear any of that cash being invested back into the important bit – the bit between the songs.

Instead, the industry has focused its efforts on providing low cost popular music services rather than investing in rich and more expensive content that may have challenged the BBC’s dominance more effectively.

In my view, this has resulted in commercial radio becoming a poorer, blander and more predictable listen than at any time over its 40 odd year history. Even the much trumpeted D1 is music or brand extension driven. D2 promises to be different.

Commercial Radio

None of this is intended to decry what they do, quite the reverse. It is a hugely successful and fills an important role, one that attracts millions of listeners. Local content is still delivered offered differently to the way it once was. Nothing stands still forever.

Certainly, there is little sign of market failure and so they are right to ignore those pompous fools who suggest there is. The regulator has few complaints.

It has to be said though that the current direction of commercial radio only highlights the very distinctiveness of the BBC. Knowing what we know, anyone who thinks commercial radio will fill the gap in a diminished BBC is either drunk or deluded.


£115m is spent on a 40 station network yet their overall audience is plummeting. David Holdsworth, the boss of local radio, is charging forward with a new vision and some of it has merit. Good for him. Personality is back. News – while still important – will no longer be the dominant force and the music they schedule is going to be looked at.

While I applaud the initiative, I always worry when the same people who got you into trouble appear to be the same people now charged with getting you out of it.

One other point worth highlighting is marketing.

You can’t change what you do and keep it a secret. They will need to spend real money on inviting people back to sample the new sound of local radio and where they will get that in these times, outside of cross promotion, is anyones guess.

The BBC are not without fault

Nothing in life is perfect. There will be changes and the things we value the most are often the things that give us the most sleepless nights.

From a personal perspective, I’ve always found that those who see the price of everything and the value of nothing, are very dangerous people indeed.

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Radio Centre – Sound, Commercial, Sense


Every CEO loves a new logo and Siobham Kenny at the Radio Centre appears to be no exception. I don’t mind that as she outlines a solid reason for change although I always worry if an industry body such as this should go to all the bother and expense of it all.

A new energy

The most important aspect of the Radio Centre surrounds its vision and what it stands for. I sense a new energy within the glass building in New Oxford Street, which also houses the Radio Academy, RAJAR, Digital Radio UK etc. I’ve always had a soft spot for everyone in the house, they care about radio and while I may sometimes disagree with a particular stance on occasion, that does not diminish its importance to the sector as a whole.

The new slogan: Sound, Commercial, Sense is a good one.

An industry body is not measured by snappy slogans though, the only thing that matters is what it does for its members and associated parts. The Radio Centre is a force for good. It is committed to showing the industry in a positive light. Their conference and awards of this week did just that. Equally, they are also there to lead the radio debate, drive change and create the framework for the future of the UK radio industry.

Still work to do.

As they’ve outlined this week, far too much faff still exists with regard to things like T&C’s in ads, radio advertising needs to be valued much higher up in the chain and we need to make more noise about the great content we deliver as an industry (yes, there is still a lot) not to mention all the positive things we do within respective communities up and down the land.

The Radio Centre is working on all of this alongside keeping an eye on the BBC, a particular thorn in their side. They also have to continually remind those who worry about the demise of local radio that their fears are unfounded. It is NOT all regionalised or nationalised, as some might suggest; far from it.

Most of all, the Radio Centre must have significant political clout.

This comes from togetherness. It is ironic therefore that while many at the conference talked about ‘trust’ and ‘value’, those words are not guiding the Radio Centre’s own board, who still won’t allow or should I say – find a way – for UTV and UKRD to return to the table. There may be faults on both sides but right now, such is the divide, these two important groups won’t even enter the commercial radio awards. How can that be right for this great industry of ours?

I like Siobhan, she’s a smart cookie and under her guidance, the Radio Centre has gone from good to impressive. It could so easily be outstanding, if only they could come together as one.

Whoever resolves this will be the one showing true leadership.

One voice, one vision, one message.

This is what makes Sound Commercial Sense to me!

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