This is what failure looks like folks….

It had to come but even I was surprised by how quickly Local TV screamed for help. I’ve said it before and I will do so again, local TV is the idea of a political madman, funded by people with too much money. It is vanity over sanity.

Many years ago, I was on the board of Channel M which was part of GMG, a billion pound media empire that walked into local TV just when ITV was running out. They threw millions at it but it failed because it was ahead of its time and had a poor signal. You can debate the strategy and you might even argue about the programming ethos but Mark Dodson, the original visionary for this station was on the right track. However, the biggest killer was revenue. He was up against a big ITV company in Granada who had the agencies by the balls with share deals vastly reducing any national money for a start up like this. To be fair, the agencies couldn’t understand the appeal of it anyway. Not many did and even fewer could find it on their TV screens. Despite many promises by the government to resolve the signal issues, they didn’t and, in the end, GMG pulled the plug. The public didn’t care because they weren’t demanding more local TV anyway, they were already marching towards digital la la land. That was then, this is now and believe me, asking for local TV to work in this decade is like asking for the return of Long Wave. The world has moved on, the boat has sailed.

Jeremy Hunt then raised his idiotic head and led the charge from a political stance. He had a dream based on something he witnessed in America. That dream is fast turning into a nightmare and those with an ounce of common sense knew it wouldn’t work. For the record, it was never going to be about how good the programmes might be or even about the quality of the people involved, it was all about how much revenue they could attract. Very little as it happens but that didn’t stop people applying for licences and guess what, despite a number already awarded by OFCOM, many have still not launched. Birmingham is way behind its launch date, the North East is looking dodgy and many others are on life support. People who promised finance are waking up and wondering if they were drunk when they offered cash. Funding therefore is not that easy to find anymore. You might as well stand on Tower Bridge and throw £10 notes in the air, at least that might be fun.

If there is anyone on planet earth who still believes local TV is a good idea, the problems of London Live should put an end to it once and for all. After just four miserable months on the air they are at the regulators door begging for mercy, pleading to have their local programming hours reduced, although they aspire to do more when they can. Ha! Local TV will not work because the business case just does not stack up. No one is tuning in, no one wants to buy it. I feel for the staff but the stupidity of those who applied should not be rewarded. Revenue will always be as rare as a Lib-Dem voter!

The regulator needs to do the right thing here and that is to smile nicely, walk to the door marked ‘for emergencies only’ take out the shotgun and put the desperate dog down. It will be seen in years to come as an act of great kindness. And to think that a huge amount of public money has gone into this and Jeremy Hunt is now heading up health….be afraid people, be very afraid.

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Are you sweating the small stuff…

If you’re involved in management or work within the sound of a radio station you will know that some things matter more than most. Presenters of course take up your time but so does the everyday stuff like promos, meetings, managing people, creative chats, news briefings and such like. Meetings are often a waste of time. I always ask the following questions: Why am I here, is a decision required and will my absence make any difference? If not, I tend not to go. Believe me, there is nothing worse than a meeting you don’t need to be at.

Another area of frustration are presenters who say things like….. (example) here is a bit of Abba. What bit? The start, the end, just the middle or what? It makes no sense! Then there are those who insist on telling me they’ll be back after the news or whatever. What, where are you going? Most presenters say this because their brain has slipped into auto-mode, something we are all guilty of at times. How often have we driven from A to B and can’t remember actually driving the journey?

Really good programmers sweat the small stuff. The kind of things most people may dismiss as irrelevant. If it goes on the air, it is ALWAYS important! One of those small but important things is the way a radio station goes into the news, often the hourly ID and something I’ve talked about before on a blog. It is an interesting subject because it’s so varied. BBC Radio 2 prefer to lead into their news with a reminder of how you can listen. On line, on digital, on FM etc. Free Radio prefer to highlight where you can listen with the phrase….in your home, on the move and where you work. This is perhaps more emotionally engaging. Others want to highlight where their news comes (as if we are interested) while some take the opportunity to remind you who is on the key breakfast show.

BBC Essex run ‘Essex and proud, this is BBC Essex. An interesting idea provided those listening believe Essex is an area to be proud about! Heart FM in Bristol go for on FM, online, on your mobile and on digital radio, this is Heart… However, before it was networked and rebranded, it used to say: …from the world’s best city, complete news and information, Bristol’s GWR FM. Which is more engaging do you think? I understand BBC Stoke used to say… BBC Stoke, news with personality. Wow, what exactly is personality?

The question is whether or not you want to use this hourly junction to be promotional, emotional or a statement of fact. What do you want listeners to embed in their brains when they hear it? Is it a reminder of how to tune in or is it a reminder of radio’s mobility. I think people know how to tune in, they already are, but telling them they have other options can be useful. Running a huge station promotional sweeper at the top of the hour requires careful thought however. It can often hijack the news bulletin and only really works if you are doing something rather special. Not that many are, listeners are never as excited as you expect them to be.

News alerts are also interesting. Does your station tweet when something big is happening in the local news arena? SKY annoy the hell out of me by alerting me to stuff (with audio) that is hardly breaking news. It is getting to the point where I think they are abusing their alert system.

The news intro is very, very important. This is the one thing that listeners will hear more than most so what is it you want them to remember? If in any doubt whatsoever, keep it simple, but I often lean towards using it to promote something else on the station at the same time. If you want to promote where to find you, where to take you and where the news is coming from then so be it, but I often wonder if it’s a lost opportunity. There is no right or wrong answer by the way, just different styles but you have to be sure it delivers the right message.

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Local Radio Live…

Have a look at the picture above which was tweeted by BBC Bristol and featured on eRadio this morning with the caption, ‘lots of people watching in the rain’. Is this what BBC Bristol call a great picture of a great event?

This happens too often. I was recently walking through my local shopping centre and a station (one that really should know better) was doing what they call a ‘live OB’ of sorts. All they had was a table, nothing visually impressive at all with the exception of a few pop up banners and a presenter with a couple of promotional staff wandering around handing out leaflets and such like. What they did have in terms of outside equipment looked like it needed replaced but I stood and watched as people walked by. No crowds, no interest, nothing, it was embarrassing. There was no show of any kind, nothing to keep people interested yet here they were in all their glory. I shook my head and wondered why they were doing this. An outside event, no matter what, is projecting an image of who you are. Stations go to great lengths to sound good on the air but when they step outside, they often throw it all away. You simply can’t afford to get these things wrong today. You look cheap, you are cheap, you are not the kind of station I want to be associated with. These are the thoughts that are often going through the minds of those who watch you in action.

In between so called live links back to the station, there was nothing going on whatsoever. Once or twice, the presenter shouted something on a mic. No one cared, no one listened. There was nothing to listen too, he was just an idiot with a loud toy. The days are long gone when you can turn up and just expect something to happen. We live in a world where everything must be pre planned; this is your audience for goodness sake and if you are going to be outside, then you need to impress with some kind of performance or at least project yourself in the most positive manner possible. You have to be constantly on your game. Certainly, tweeting a picture that doesn’t show you at your best is to be avoided.

This OB lark has been a pet hate of mine for some time. Either you have the budget to do this right such as (Capital, Heart, Free Radio, Absolute, TeamRock etc) and have a plan of what you are doing when you are there or I would urge you not to do it at all. And this goes for BBC Local Radio too. I have witnessed them presenting a live show from some location or other while wondering why the hell they are there when they can do this just as well in a studio. There is no point going outside if it reduces the value of what you do on the air. Most presenters I know hate doing live events anyway. 20 years ago, I could present a show from Blackpool and a couple of thousand people might turn up, today one man and a dog with a copy of Exchange and Mart in his pocket might go along. Life today is very different and while some do indeed present themselves very well, others, as often seen in eRadio, need a lot more thought. The worst are those who have agreed to do something for a client and have dropped their trousers and standards for a few quid. It may be a revenue earner but sadly the station often loses more than they gain. A listener cannot unsee what they’ve seen! And while I am at it, can I vent my anger at the stuff local stations give out in the name of promotional gifts. Most people don’t want it, don’t need it or even value it. You don’t need lots of things, you just the right things.

When deciding to go outside or not you have to ask yourself lots of questions. Why are we there? What is the reason? Are we at an event or are WE the event? How are we going to do it? Is it because we want to or because we need to? Is there a good budget? Do we have a plan? How are we going to look? Are we going to entertain anyone? What is our image? Are we on a stage or in a corner? Is this for a client or to make some money?…. If someone came along and saw what we were doing, would they be impressed? You are promoting your brand, something you have invested greatly in. Are you sure you want to do this? PS. You don’t have to be a big station to look impressive either. The smallest can do it just as well with some clever ideas.

The bottom line is this: Radio stations should only venture out of their studios with the greatest of caution. Do it right or don’t do it at all. No one has ever rang a radio station to complain that you were not at an event, but thousands have often walked away disappointed when you did!

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Live from the Global newsroom….

I don’t usually wonder about mundane stuff but the recent move by Global Radio to have all their stations begin each respective news bulletin with the phrase…. ‘From Global’s newsroom’ has me scratching my head. It’s baffling and I’m not sure what it’s trying to achieve.

Are we supposed to take the news more seriously because it comes from what appears to be a worldwide news organisation? It isn’t and it won’t and we don’t care anyway. The regulator and indeed the industry itself has done a fine job over the past 40 years or so in making sure the news provided by radio in this country is generally trusted. Every piece of research I have seen backs this up. Is this new policy therefore designed to subconsciously underline to politicians and regulators who might tune in that Global have a large news operation? I doubt it, those that matter, already know. It might be that they are simply putting down a marker that they are serious about news. Global could provide the national and indeed local news for every commercial station in the UK if they wanted to pitch for it, but who would do that? Who would want that?

The name ‘Global’ means nothing to listeners, it’s an important holding company for more than just their radio interests of course and you often see the logo at their music events and such like, but if listeners have made the decision to tune in to LBC, Heart, Capital etc, why confuse them by giving them another name to think about? That said, I’ve walked this path before them. When I launched Real Radio Yorkshire, we experimented going into the news by highlighting that we were part of The Guardian Media Group. We thought this gave us credibility because it is such a well respected news brand but it soon became clear that no one cared a jot and furthermore The Guardian itself were not best pleased either. Commercial radio and The Guardian…. Good god!

ID’ing what you do or using it to promote yourself is not new. In the USA, it used to be (and probably still is) a legal obligation to name the station at least once an hour and this was delivered through what they called a legal ID at the top of each hour. Most US music stations don’t carry any news so it just involved a longish jingle and the station call letters etc. In the UK, we adopted this to launch into our own news bulletins with some gusto. Some are more creative than others of that there is little doubt.

This new approach from Global is confusing because we are constantly told to speak less, focus on words, cut the crap, etc. The finest writers and the best programmers all work hard to ensure that words are not wasted. A jock is fired for waffling. Life is busy, time is crucial so what we say must be direct and to the point. How many PD’s have been telling presenters this very week to focus on their links, make every word count, get the information out within 20 seconds on a ramp etc. Yes of course tell us it comes from your own newsroom if it’s credible and makes you feel better, underlining the positive is always good, adding in stuff we don’t need to know is not.

So why do it at all? I have no idea. It can’t be for the listener. They don’t care. It can’t be for the politicians, they already know. It can’t be for advertisers because they can’t buy it so it must be a strategy to achieve something down the line, otherwise it is nothing more than misplaced vanity and Global are much smarter than that.

In the meantime, this has been John Myers, reporting Live from the Global home of Myers Media… Admit it, you think much more of me now don’t you?

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Does D2 mean DAB is successful?

Does the recent advertisement of D2 suggest that DAB is successful? After all, D1 is full (granted with stations mostly broadcasting in mono) so D2 will provide more choice and perhaps even greater digital quality, although let’s not open that particular box right now!

Digital Radio UK and others have done an excellent job in getting the message out and making sure that car manufacturers in particular are installing DAB as standard, but it has taken a lot of time and effort to get to this point. Everything always takes longer than expected but the timing of this advertisement feels about right. There are a lot of signs that things are progressing although we are kidding ourselves if we think we’ve cracked it.

For example, the regulator has no idea if there is enough demand for all the slots D2 will provide although they will certainly have had credible approaches from those who have said they will be willing to apply. They must have more than one good applicant that’s for sure although that is no indication of success in itself. There are many stations that were given licenses but quickly bit the dust. Look at the debacle of Local TV, many applied and more than one will be returned, of that there is little doubt. To be fair this is not the fault of the regulator, this is firmly at the door of that idiotic fool Jeremy Hunt. Nevertheless, the chosen winner of D2 will be enormously important for a number of reasons. In my digital Britain report of 2009 for Lord Carter, I made the argument that no holder of a radio license should ever be allowed to own a multiplex. It was my view then and it remains so today. There are simply far too many conflicting interests driving the price of entry up for everyone else. In any case, I can’t see FM being switched off within my lifetime. There is still a place for it within the overall landscape because as a transmission network, it works.

Therefore while a ‘beauty parade’ may be the law, the reality might involve a slightly uglier choice. A list of wonderful services will not beat someone with the right infrastructure, the right experience and an ocean of cash to support losses which could last for up to a decade. And then there is the sticky problem of the coverage area being less than D1 and the actual service providers themselves. How many are lining up to fork out circa £1m a year for decent transmission costs and if so, how long can they maintain this significant obligation? DAB+ might offer some solutions to this – and that might be a possibility – but I doubt it. The cost of the build out still has to be met. It is a business first and foremost so if some fall away, you will need deep pockets to keep it all going until you have found new providers. We all know that stand alone DAB services are rarely profitable.

D2 is a risk but it is also progress. It is a very positive message for DAB overall, driven by demand and as such there will be no shortage of applicants, all promising a rainbow of services research will indicate listeners want. In the coldness of the regulators boardroom however, the discussion will be much more focused: Which applicant has the least amount of risk attached and won’t embarrass the regulator or the industry? Which is the safest choice? To have another Channel 4 would be a complete disaster so it all points to the big boys getting the nod and rightly so if you ask me. Mind you, nothing is certain, OFCOM do make some strange decisions. If they do so this time, the regulators own credibility will be in the frame and Ed Richards is much too smart for that surely?

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It’s all going to cock up North

For the past few years Bob Shennan has had to defend his all male strategy in day-time Radio 2. The figures are his greatest defence of course but he knows that when a slot becomes available, he will be under enormous pressure to put a female into the daytime line up. I can only imagine therefore how delighted he must have been when Jonathan Wall released his new schedule for BBC 5 Live today. I had a vision of Bob skipping into work knowing that the pressure was off and someone else was going to be in the firing line.

You have to hand it to Jonathan Wall, this is a new controller with a new vision and he’s doing it his way. The man has balls and it appears he likes his main presenters that way too. We all know there is a problem in having a network as big as BBC 5 Live coming from Salford as this can reduce the available talent pool somewhat but this is a national station and a great one at that. People will walk over hot coals to be on this station. Replacing top quality presenters is never easy but it’s a key part of the job of a controller. You have to know who you want, when they’re available, in what price range and understand their desire to work for your station. When the time comes you pounce, balancing the new schedule with people who can deliver variety, skill, talent, entertainment, journalistic flair and a great deal more to boot. This has clearly just happened with 5Live, yet even the most casual of observers might be forgiven for thinking that the new schedule looks a little unbalanced.

First of all, this is The BBC. There are always going to be some politics to contend with and none bigger than the leader and his vision. Last year, Lord Hall announced to the world that he wanted to hear more women on the air – NOT less! He challenged BBC Local Radio in particular but it was not exclusive, he meant everywhere. So much so, he’s signed off funding and budgets to ensure women are found, trained, helped, encouraged and installed into key presenter positions (Breakfast for example). He wanted this new vision to be rolled out wherever possible. All laudable stuff.

So how does this new 5 Live schedule sit with him right now? One can only assume that he wasn’t consulted because if he was and he signed all this off, then he has underlined the belief by many that his demand for more women on the air was nothing more than tokenism at best.

Of course, Jonathan quite rightly reels off a team of great female presenters prickled across the schedule and very good they are too but only one is flying solo. I suspect the media won’t let that go by without significant comment and debate and this very action will hound JW for some time. Nevertheless, if that is what he believes is best for the station then that is his choice. That said, I am really struggling to accept that within the whole of UK radio, there is not a single female who could have made the jump to head up a show in her own right and without the aid of a male safety net. Perhaps they looked everywhere and concluded that none came up to the mark. If that’s the case, it is really quite sad.

Despite all this, BBC 5 Live needed a kick up the backside and a new zest of life so we should applaud Jonathan’s directness and bold approach. There is nothing wrong with the men he’s chosen by the way, the debate is much more complicated than that. I for one hope he succeeds but I suspect the issue of female solo presenters is not going to go away.

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Are Radio Anoraks killing radio?

Last week, a meeting of like minded people turned up in Portsmouth to discuss…….. Jingles. I like Jingles so so I logged on to their live web stream and there they were, about 10 men and a dog in a back room of a pub and seemingly loving it. The great Chris Stevens, ex GMG and a well respected Jingle guru in his own right was playing and explaining some of the cuts that BBC Local Radio had rejected. How could they?

Anoraks are everywhere and in every industry. They are nothing more than a bunch of people with a fascination for something they love. Train-spotters are perhaps the best example. They line up along a platform with a camera but would anyone suggest they are holding back the development of the railways? I doubt it, although I am sure they prefer steam to electric.

Radio attracts its fair share of anoraks and indeed a number of them write blogs. I’m just one of them but a number of others are truly excellent and insightful. David Lloyds website is often filled with romantic thoughts and personal memories from years gone by, but does that make him an anorak? Are these people bad for radio overall? Some people think they are and Jim Hawkins, a presenter on BBC Radio Shropshire, is one such person. He said on Linkedin:

“It’s the anoraks that have held radio back for years. The cult of the (always male) DJ, the trainspotter obsessions, the deification of anyone who played records on a boat fifty years ago, and the elevation of certain techniques or production elements to totems of excellence … all of these are the fault of anoraks who ended up working in radio. Now, we 21st-century broadcasters are trying to throw off these antiquated shackles to create radio that means something. If people want to collect presenter cards or stickers or even jingles, fair enough. But the industry should ditch the anoraks – and sink the pirates – as soon and as thoroughly as possible.”

Anyone else agree with Jim here?

I don’t. It is true that some people think anything that was not from decades ago is useless and progression of any sort is the act of the devil, but so what? To claim they hold back the industry back is slightly mad. Radio enthusiasts and people who care deeply about what we do are part of our history and thank goodness we work within a medium that generates so much passion. Occasionally, I like to be in their company, mostly because I’m one myself. I suspect most people are if they’re honest. For the record though, I much prefer to be called ‘experienced’. In any case, I never wear an anorak and where did that term come from anyway?

While you ponder on that, let me tell you about this great JAM jingle package from 1993……

Picture courtesy of radio today!

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I love @LBC….most of the time!

I’ve fallen in love with LBC. The move to national status on DAB has allowed me to enjoy their output while walking the dog in beautiful Northumberland. It wasn’t always this good but timing, talent and platform growth along with a great new schedule is starting to pay off. It’s now firmly fixed in my car as the station of choice.

The key to the stations success is the mixture of personalities across the schedule and a freedom to tackle the big subjects head on. They go for the big stories of course but pleasingly, each presenter has a particular take on life. None is more entertaining than Steve Allen. After spending a week up and about between 4 and 6am, I cannot enthuse about him enough after finding myself sitting in the car at 5.30am just to hear a bit more. It’s not exactly what he says, which is wonderful and expressive in itself, but the way he says it. This is personality radio at its best.

I started to wonder if he should be on at a better time of the day but then I realised he is on the perfect slot. Any other would reduce the value of what he does, which is slowly waking up the nation with a piss take, sideways look at life and people. As it says on the website, no one is safe from this mans tongue. He simply doesn’t care and because of that people will always care deeply about him. He is a rose in a field of automated radio manure and the BBC should invite him onto Question time. Ratings would go through the roof.

I’ve spoken a lot about Ferrari, who I feel is the best talk / speech based presenter in the UK right now. He has humour which deflates even the most pompous of public mouths and a real pro to boot. A man fighting for his listeners and he comes with a voice that booms out of the speakers. I sometimes have to turn the base down when he’s on. It’s disappointing that he didn’t win a Radio Academy Gold award this past year in his own right, but that’s not his fault!

There is so much to enjoy on this station. James O’Brien in particular is a gem with a wonderful grip of the English language, very Wogan’ish in this respect as he takes you on a journey of discovery. He appears open minded but seems very capable of destroying idiots in much the same way that I attack a good meat pie. His most prized asset is his ability to listen first and speak second, he allows silence to be a natural friend, a very valuable tool that so many others could learn from. He gives the impression that he genuinely wants to find the answer, while presenting in an atmosphere of self belief and smug satisfaction that he knows best. These kind of presenters always generate callers because they often become a challenge to listeners, we want to take them on, even though we know we won’t win.

Like all good love affairs, some things could be better. The adverts for one thing drive me nuts. Why the hell are they running local ads on a national service? This is so easy to fix by putting UK ads on their national feed and local ads on their FM. I do want to hear about a London indian restaurant in Newcastle and I could strangle Mr and Mrs Galliard homes. I couldn’t give a toss about their development and why have they seemingly bought every slot on the station? I noted the same advert on 8 consecutive ad breaks. Will someone, somewhere, please write them a new commercial before all this great work to win a national audience hits the buffers.

I can’t help thinking how good BBC Local radio could be if they injected some of LBC ethos into their output. It is not just the people on air but the way they tackle content. Unstuffy, to the heart of the issue and not afraid to upset anyone. Global have a winner here, but it needs more general promotion outside of the Clegg and Boris debates. They have a massive opportunity right now and should grab it before others wake up to the threat. Promotion of this station should be through personality and content, not via political names that appeal mostly to Londoners, as good as that is.

So you can have a go at the owners for the lack of personality within the Smooth or Heart brands as much as you like but with LBC they more than make up for it.

Anything I don’t like? Yes, Nick Abbot. I have never got his crazy act whatsoever but that probably says a whole lot more about me than it does about him. Sorry Nick! In any case, personality radio means people will like and dislike different people. I am sure some readers will disagree with me quite a lot.

Next month, a review of the weekend schedule.

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BBC Radio…. the drive for change!

Interesting times within BBC Radio. Job cuts, back office mergers and more streamlining is on the way and while some will always find fault with that, the truth is, you can do just as well with fewer people if they are all going in the same direction. Many of the things they are doing now come from the recommendations I made within my own report into the networks way back in 2011, the most controversial point being the discovery of some 52 people to run Newsbeat. Even now, I get criticised for having raised it despite the fact that having 52 in one area was just absurd. People creep has been a popular sport within the corporation but when you don’t have to balance income with advertising, you can always convince yourself that more people are required. Overall, while some people will lose out, and that is always sad, it is the right decision. Merging, protecting what is good and streamlining things is just good business. However, there is more to do.

Interestingly, the reorganisation at BBC Radio will only affect staffing and structures across Radios 1, 2, 3, 4, 1Xtra, 6 Music, 4 Extra and the Asian Network in a division which contained around 1,300 people in 2012 and, under the new plans, will employ approximately 1,100 in 2017. Nothing is said about 5Live though which of course comes under a different BBC division and is therefore excluded. I have said this before, what is the point of splitting radio up like a cherished apple pie between different bosses? They all love radio, they all want a slice and that’s a big part of the issue right there. Lord Hall needs to bang heads together and put all radio, national and local under one roof. It wouldn’t happen anywhere else. Only then will you be able to get the most savings from one technology, one ethos, one decision process and best of all, a strategy that protects each network. It will also protect jobs and keep people focused. Why can we all see that and Lord Hall can’t?

For a case in point let’s just review my later report into BBC Local Radio. In that, I urged a more cost efficient management structure and proposed that Managing Editors should look after more than just one station. It was an unnecessary high cost if you ask me and it would mean that 50% of them would have to go. They listened, nodded, laughed and promptly ignored me. It was asking turkeys to vote for Christmas after all. They proposed a different idea. They preferred to cut the Deputy Editor roles. OK, I get that and it was a good alternative with some merit I thought.

How many of those roles have disappeared then? Don’t count on your fingers as you might be in danger of giving a V salute when you work it out. There is no point in announcing cuts if they are never carried out.

I congratulate BBC Radio but jobs could have been saved if they had the courage to look elsewhere for savings, even though they are trying to protect the output while managing change. Helen should start digging at central recharges that are applied to each network from the internal BBC robots. The numbers are huge and account for something like 60-70% of the total. No one seems to be doing anything about that side of cake but I suspect there is more chance of England winning the world cup than any success there!

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ITV Sport are as good as a kick in the balls

In 1984 a chap called Eric Hadwin interviewed me for a job as a Continuity Announcer at Border Television. I had called him up every week for six months and eventually he said yes. I was on Red Rose Radio at the time earning £25 a show but this was a job in my hometown of Carlisle. Better still, the pay was £57.50 a shift plus a clothes allowance of £6.10p per day. While the shift was 10 hours long, the actual work was about 12 minutes a day.

When I got the job it was clear to me that this was going to be fun. Border, like every TV station at the time, aired their programmes from long spools of tape (there was certainly no digital technology then) and by its very nature, it used to break down quite a lot. The job of the Continuity Announcer was not to be good when things were going well, but to be really good when things went badly wrong and believe me, it often did. You always had to sit in front of the camera with your suit on ready to go on air at a moments notice. When the tape split, you could be live within 20 seconds and for anything up to ten minutes at at time. Border loved radio people on the air because we could do this kind of stuff with our eyes shut. I always prepared well ahead, creating a mental list of things in my head to talk about and I always, repeat always, expected the worst to happen. At the start of every shift I would ensure I could fill in any gaps whatsoever. Talking for long periods of time, creating something about nothing but sounding informative or interesting, is what we did in the 80s and early 90s. It was a skill all of it’s own.

It was somewhat bemusing and interesting therefore to watch ITV last night when the football game came crashing to a halt in Miami. It was clear they had no plan B whatsoever. Adrian Chiles and his three presenters suddenly had 30 to 40 minutes to fill and the more you watched them try, the more entertaining it became. Not a single person had planned for this scenario whatsoever which left you wondering where all the professionalism had gone. Mike Neville at Tyne Tees TV was known across the land as the king of the breakdowns. In fact many people used to prey for it to happen as his patter was very often better than the programme itself. Noel Edmonds once secretly staged and recorded one after the local news and Mike had to fill in on his own. When Edmonds appeared with his Gotcha, Mike very nearly wrapped it around his neck, but nevertheless, he did it and best of all, he did it in style. There was certainly none of this in evidence last night. I sat there watching with my head in my hands.

The Sky Golf channel had long ago learned how to deal with these kind of problems. They always have stuff ready to go, things that are sliced into 20, 40 or 1 hour segments that presenters and directors can flick to within a moments notice, in fact it is now done with such ease and professionalism that you hardly even notice. It is at times like this that reputations are won and lost.

Why ITV did not have the top 20 world cup goals to go to, or a day behind the scenes with the squad or even a 30-minute film of a past England world cup game is beyond me. At worst, go to a bloody cartoon! Instead what they did was allow the presenters to hang themselves in the sauna of Miami and all in front of a bewildered nation. This should have been the presenters’ finest hour, instead it turned out to be their worst nightmare. They were unprepared and most of all, unprofessional. If I was Adrian, I would be kicking the director and producers all around Florida because they, in the end, are to blame. That said, Chiles is supposed to be their main anchor, their main man, and the one who earns the big bucks so surely he has to do better and be better at this kind of thing. Panic is first seen in the eyes and this was clearly evident when he asked Ian Wright to speak more slowly as they had lots of time to fill. Yes it was supposed to be a joke, but it has instead become TV gold.

A quick note here to journalists in radio these days. Far too many come into a studio to read their news via a screen. One day – and it has already happened on many occasions – the screen will go dead and they will look a dick, simply because they failed to print off their script. The sign of an amateur right there!

I think it was Sir Trevor McDonald who once said; “Presenters are not paid for when things are going right, they are paid for when things go badly wrong, it is only then that the best really earn their money”

You can hire for passion, knowledge and looks if you like, but someone has to know what the hell they are doing. There is no substitute for professionalism. Most of all, ITV Sport need to get their act together. Their reputation for broadcasting football is already dented because there are just too many occasions when they let us down, especially on the really big events. In the end, this game was so bad that the break was more entertaining but that should not stop any of us asking where Des Lynam and people of his ilk are these days.

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