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.