Unknown

BESWICK IS BACK…

Allan Beswick – at his peak – was one the best late night phone-in presenters in the UK. Top gun, the main man, the best fun and Red Rose Radio was his home.

He was so good, so famous and so brilliantly entertaining that he led the charge for talk based programmes on music based radio stations. People would often drive for miles to get within signal distance just to enjoy it. (No internet back then)

Combative, entertaining, intelligent and funny, everyone in the area knew his name, everyone tuned in, often with audience figures far higher than breakfast. Amazingly, he was only put on late nights to get him out of the way, he was soon so popular they dare not let him leave.

However, that was then – this is now!

While I’m delighted he’s back on BBC Manchester and Lancashire from next year, I’m also concerned and for a couple of reasons:

I recall asking BBC Merseyside why Billy and Wally had never re-created the brilliant Sunday show ‘Hold your plumbs’. The answer they gave me was spot on. They believed that the show was so loved in the minds of their listeners that to try and recreate it would never – and could never – reach the same love as before. I thought that was a very smart approach.

Secondly, Beswick has matured since those early days and furthermore, this is BBC Local Radio. I can’t for the life of me believe Allan will want to – and neither will The BBC allow it – try to re-create the past. Those times have gone, instead we need a new approach.

There is a big gap in the market for this show and while callers will be important, it is Allan’s attitude to life that will be the key. Yes it will be different and modern but if they attempt to broadcast one of those typical BBC phone-ins – as we’ve all come to know and love – then this show is doomed from the start.

Allan has to be allowed to take callers on without fear of being hauled over the coals for saying something out of place. If those in power are not prepared to support him and do that publicly, then they should say so now. In return, Allan has to be smarter, which I know he is.

What an opportunity: How many times have we gone on about radio having no talent, no creativity and no risk. Yes risk, because great things happen when you take risks. This show has to be different because it cannot be vanilla. Everyone hates vanilla!

I applaud BBC Manchester and Lancashire for going for it.

Complaints are never to be feared, they are to be embraced because it means people are listening.

With BBC Manchester currently having just 9% reach, more listeners and more listening is exactly what is required.

Read More

The Academy Factor

“We are developing something new and exciting”

A sentence that can strike fear into the hearts of so many.

It basically means change is coming and very often, redundancies. This appears to be where we are at with The Radio Academy.

I’m a past Chairman and Chief Executive of the organisation, indeed I was even Chair of the Awards themselves for three years so I know a bit about how it all works.

In 2010, I was CEO for just 12 months. It is fair to say I didn’t really enjoy it – a job that often required skills similar to that of Kofi Annan – but at least I’ve got some great stories for a new book!

I took it on because it allowed me to give something back to the industry I love. Yes, the pay was low and the list was long but I loved what it stood for and how it shouted about the brilliance of radio. It brought the industry together under a united flag of co-operation.

I wanted to highlight the future so I came up with the idea of 30 under 30 to recognise the ‘best of the best’ without favour to where they worked or who they worked for. Equally, The Academy celebrates longevity and lifetime contributions through Fellowships and ‘Gold Awards’. I’ve seen people cry when receiving these accolades. Then there is the Hall of Fame itself, a vault of history and pride that is perhaps the emotional home of radio in this country.

To not have a Radio Academy is unthinkable. What would it say about the industry if we can’t fund one? Worst still, what would it say about those who would let it go? I suspect they would never be forgiven.

All organisations change however and there is nothing to fear in that, but sometimes the rumour mill can go into overdrive. It may help if I give you some background while stating this is a personal view, certainly not that of the organisation itself.

In 2009, The Academy brought the Sony Awards in-house. The thinking back then was to take advantage of potentially larger profits.

Aligned to this, they adopted a triangle of focus.

* The Festival
* The Sony Radio Academy Awards.
* The charitable aims. Events, courses, masterclasses and such like.

This plan worked, everyone bought into the vision and reserves were boosted with further investment made in masterclasses etc.

In 2013, Sony pulled their sponsorship This changed everything: Nevertheless, Trustees overwhelmingly agreed to continue with the awards for a year using their cash reserves and in the hope that a major sponsor could be found for 2015 and beyond.

The Radio Festival lost money this year. While it may very well have been a creative success, sadly, it turned out to be an attendance failure. Both things happened in the same year so cash reserves were substantially reduced and Trustees had to look to the future.

Trustees have legal responsibilities. They have to ensure the organisation can deliver what it sets out to do while remaining a viable concern. This is normal practice and confidence about the on-going level of support from the industry itself would have been sought and indeed vital – after all, so much of what it does relies on their co-operation.

Before giving that support, (I understand) there was a call to review where the organisation was going, especially at a time when so many – including The BBC – have created their own centres of learning. Do we need another Academy, why is this one unique? Do we need an awards ceremony and if so, in what form and how well would it be supported?

In the absence of a major sponsor, the Festival perhaps having run its course as a stand-alone event and questions about the model itself, the only sensible action was to pause for thought. There is no shame in doing so, the damage comes from going forward recklessly. In the meantime, decisions were required regarding commitments to the Grosvenor Hotel for next year and the signing of a new office lease.

I suspect change was coming regardless and having a central location with four full time members of staff is not something that could be sustained in any future model.

The RA is more than a single strand of activities and celebrating success via an awards event is just one part, but an important one.

You can compare yourself against others in your same group or even on the same side of the street if you like, but it is when you go up against your peers across the whole of the UK, that awards really matter. To know they are judged independently and are unblemished by any political hand, is to know they are worth winning. Otherwise, what’s the point?

To see the grave disappointment on the faces of those who don’t win, only highlights their true value to those who do.

In the meantime, we should always remember that ownership is temporary. The people in charge today are only the guardians until the next generation take over. As such, there is a duty to hand the baton on with all the good things intact and believe me, The Radio Academy is absolutely a good thing!

I have total faith in The Trustees so let’s give them time to work it all out.

What I do know is that it will come through this review a much fitter, leaner, focused and re-energised entity and when it does, everyone should applaud those who made it possible.

Read More

GILLARDS – AND THE AWARD GOES TO…?

You won’t find anyone more supportive of Industry awards than myself. As a former Chair of The Sony Radio Academy Awards, The Arqiva Awards and indeed a past judge or chair of many others – including BBC Local Radio (Gillards), I know how difficult it can be and indeed, how much care goes into picking the winners.

It is always a subjective process, popularity rarely comes into it. Instead, you seek creativity and high levels of journalism or just want to applaud the wonderful craft of those who do everyday jobs on the air.

This is why I was so delighted to see Gold awards for Rony Robinson and Toby Foster at BBC Sheffield. Two top class broadcasters. The award for promo of the year to BBC Linconshire was also spot on, it was not just the best in the BBC, but the best full stop.

Judges can only go on the entry, there is no way they can hear all the stations in real time, so the submission is everything and because of that, from the outside looking in, one or two decisions may look a little strange. That does not mean they are incorrect, it is just like the Oscars where minor box office hits can sometimes take home all the glory.

This may explain how BBC WM came to win ‘Station of the Year’. I have no idea but on the face of it, many in local radio land will view this as an interesting decision. Clearly, whoever put their entry together is a genius.

In this one category of all, I’ve always thought a glance at how the station is performing in terms of audience figures is kind of good practice. It won’t be the deciding factor but if connecting with the audience you serve – both factually in terms of numbers and creatively through the output you deliver – does not merit consideration, then what is the award all about?

Whatever people might think, BBC WM should use this as a springboard for their future success. Currently, 95% of the local population don’t tune in, that needs to change.

Congratulations to the staff. I know a number who work there and they are as professional, talented, ambitious and hardworking as anyone else, but in the words of one of them who sent me a text me this morning:

Thrilled by our win John, if not slightly embarrassed. Quite!

Read More

B1l9MQwIAAEPW5u

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

I love radio but just like everyone else, my time is limited. Family life, Social media, technology – they all grab my attention. I still listen of course, but not as much as I once did.

Overall, I find myself listening less to commercial radio for one very good reason:

They play far too many adverts

There was once a reasonable number, but it’s not uncommon now to hear 15 minutes an hour, one notable boss of a large group believes a staggering 18 minutes is acceptable, another station runs 22 minutes.

This route to commercial suicide is driven by share-deals and an out of date business model.

It’s not the fault of the programmer either. Instead, the blame lies at the door of those who buy and sell national advertising. The media agencies are too powerful, the radio groups are too weak.

This is how it works:

National client wants a media buying agency.

Agency pitches for the business promising to get the best rate in the world – even though they may never be able to deliver it!

To win the account, they hand back a huge slice of their 15% commission. Client loves this. Agency looks to radio for the difference.

Advertising agency calls big radio group and arranges a share deal. This is where they guarantee to give them a percentage of ALL their radio advertising in return for a big juicy cash bonus. They give more, they want more, they pay less.

Big radio group knows this to be a double-edged sword. Good because they get a share of the total spend, bad because this only works if audience levels hold up. If they don’t, more ads will be required to meet the deal. They head to church, light a candle and say a prayer.

This is why presenters ‘hook and tease’ so much. There is little point in having lots of listeners if they don’t listen for very long!

Meanwhile, over at the advertising agency, they’ve done the same share deal elsewhere. Perhaps as much as 90 to 95% of their total radio spend is now pre-allocated for the year ahead. If you’re in the club, you win. If not, you have little chance of getting anything near what your station or idea deserves.

The industry congratulates itself, everyone loves radio. This may be true but it’s also because they love the price. No one mentions ‘the price’, it’s the ‘Elephant in the Room’. Instead, all the talk is about volume.

The price of radio airtime today is pretty much the same as it was 20 years ago. In fact, it’s gone down in real terms. You try buying a new car at the same price you paid back in 1995 and see what happens. They laugh you out of the showroom but in radio land, we welcome you with open arms and even give you a bonus!

Is it any wonder people are filling their boots?

Commercial radio is the best, cheapest and most effective medium in the UK – and we can’t get what it’s worth

Everyone is walking over pounds to pick up pennies.

Big group (one with a unique offering) tries to get the price up. Agency listens, nods, smiles and then sends them home without a penny more. There’s no way they’re going to endorse putting the price up, they’re the Ninjas, the Top Guns at getting really low, low prices. Even ‘auditors’ agree, who are part of the problem by the way.

The only way to get a better price is to plough the different pots available for on-line, websites and promotions etc. They’re not part of the so called ‘share-deal’ so offer a better rate for sexy digital stuff, but it won’t save their bacon – not yet!

Meanwhile, the latest Rajar arrives. Hours are worse than ever; listener patience is running out. Big radio group now has to play more adverts for no more money. The view from outside the industry is that commercial radio appears to be in a race to the bottom.

Radio programmer works out that when he adds together all the adverts, sponsor credits, newslink, promotions, competitions, jingles, traffic+travel and more, they’re asking listeners to digest more than 50 commercial messages in a single hour. Somehow, they have to inject content into this.

Programmer knocks at the Sales Directors door demanding action. He’s ran out of ideas. What can he do? At one point the breakfast team that morning said nothing for eleven minutes and they are the stars hired to deliver, err…. content.

Sales Director cares but waves programmer away, he’s got a target to hit

Station focus group reveals adverts are not universally disliked by listeners, they want to know who’s got a sale on, but there’s a fine line between ‘just enough’ and ‘too many’. People want entertainment, information and great content, ideally with music they like from presenters they love. Advert FM is not delivering what they promised.

Programmer takes a phone call from the boss. Its a bollocking. Get those hours sorted or else. He counters that there is little room for the craft of radio so can we do something about all those ads he asks?

No!

Programmer edits the songs to give the impression they’re playing a lot more music.

It doesn’t work, hours are still in the toilet.

Commercial Radio starts blaming the BBC. It’s always their fault.

Meanwhile, big radio groups slashes more costs and introduces more networking, a press statement proclaims: ‘this is what local people want’ .

No one believes them anymore, but courage to do something about it went out of the window a long, long time ago…. This business model is bust!

The year is now 2025

Rajar is published – it’s still a diary!

Average hours are now down to an all time low of 4.2. People are shocked, a few remember the great days when it was over 6.

The boss speaks up; Cheer up everyone – 4.2 is the new 7

Everyone chuckles – then the telephone rings.

It’s the big agency with the big deals.

They’ve decided that radio no longer works. They’re pulling everything with immediate effect.

A trainee sales executive on her first day in the job bravely asks a daft question: If we had a product that worked and everyone wanted it, why didn’t we put the price up and play fewer ads?

Over at the local cemetery, a miserable old radio guru turns in his grave!

Read More

Jazz FM Logo SMALL NEG

Jazz fm – blowing their own trumpet at last

There are not many times in life when I admit to cocking it up but changing Jazz FM London into Smooth radio was one such occasion. I dished the brand, the station and the marketing when it was the right station for the right market. Even today, Smooth radio in the smoke is nowhere near the audience figures for Jazz fm set over a decade ago.

However, removing Jazz from the North West and replacing it with the Smooth brand was a masterstroke.

Making mistakes is all part of life, not everything goes to plan. The trick is to learn and move on.

Indeed, there’s a section in my book where I recall the joys of owning Jazz FM. I urge you to read it because there are some wonderful tales to tell.

One relates to when we were in trouble with the regulator.

They complained that we didn’t play enough ‘jazz’. I complained that they didn’t know what the F*** they were talking about. Most people agreed with that.

However, a row followed where they asked me to describe what jazz music was.

Flippantly, I said it was “anything with a trumpet”.

It was clearly a mad thing to say but being mad is often an advantage. In fact, we were all mad back then and that particular discussion has gone down in folklore.

Another wonderful occasion worth highlighting was when I was asked at the GMG board why I was ruining jazz fm by playing those god awful radio commercials.

I couldn’t stop smiling as the chairman moaned about an advert that was destroying his favourite ‘dinner jazz’ programme. it was embarrassing he claimed.

The advert began with the words… “do you have an erection problem”. This was not something that made for a cosy listen he said.

I countered of course that we couldn’t ban a commercial just because he didn’t like it. Furthermore, this was a ‘health advert’ and some people see this as valuable information. I did stop short of asking him if he wanted the number!

The problem with jazz fm – as with most stations of this kind – is that they seek a profitable sanctuary, but rarely find it. The station survived in the 90s by relying on things like Hed Kandi, jazz events and CD sales. It was the genius of the then owner, Richard Wheatley.

Over the years, Jazz FM has gone through a wave of creative survival techniques. It was on DAB 1, then it came off. It raised a lot of cash, it spent a lot of cash, it has always failed to make a return for investors – with the one exception of when it was sold to GMG. However, the passion for the brand is high and always has been.

I thought the station was doomed a year or so back but that didn’t take into account the people who run it and those who love it.

Focusing on niche, not trying to be everything to everyone, knowing their audience and the community they serve, is what they do. The station delivers focused and credible content while providing an experience that few can match. Above all, they do exactly what it says on the tin!

This love of Jazz booms out of the speakers. Richard Wheatley and his team are better at running this kind of business than most others.

Their rise in RAJAR is impressive, but it is the focus on what they produce that deserves far more credit. The national press are far too popular facing when this is the kind of thing that deserves their attention. Many of the things they do, we are doing right now at Team Rock.

The question before them was this: Is a national DAB service worth paying the extra money for? Clearly not in this instance.

Their regeneration and current success is admirable and should be widely applauded.

If only the agencies knew what they had.

If only the people who buy radio airtime were not locked into share deals.

If only agencies had more cash to spend on niche brands so they can work smarter for their clients.

Well done Jazz FM.

I salute you – and with my very own trumpet!

PS. Radio Today interview with Jazz FM here

Footnote. Slightly updated at 1800hrs to include their latest logo.

Read More

Robbie Williams is NOT Entertaining you. He’s a dick!

In 1987, I was working for Border Television and I’d just announced internally that my lovely wife Linda was pregnant. I get a call from the creative team upstairs.

Hey John, do you fancy allowing us to record your wife on the ‘birth journey’ as they called it, including the actual day of giving birth. It’s for a documentary we’re thinking of making?

I laughed.

Firstly, there are only some things in my personal life that I have a say in. Allowing cameras to follow Linda as she became Mrs Bump with pictures of her legs apart for the nation to enjoy, was not one of them.

Would you ask her? No, there is no need I said. I know the answer.

She may surprise you?. There is no surprise believe me. The answer will be a flat no with some major expletives alongside that. Furthermore, I don’t want it either.

Well John, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

I will have to live with it I said.

It would have made no difference to the decision by the way, but this was 1987. In those days, cameras were much larger than today. The TV centre was heavily unionised meaning far more people around including sound, lighting, production, directing and much more. The very thought of it makes me laugh out loud even today.

Today, I wake up to the news that Robbie Williams has not only been sending videos and pictures of the birth of his son to the world, he also sang HIS OWN songs to her!

The pictures show his delight, but nearly all show her pain. There is not a single one where she looks happy and if life has taught me anything, it is that he will pay for this – big time!

Some of the national red tops are saying it was brilliant. Of course they will. It’s the press.

Is Robbie Williams so desperate for PR that he feels he has to do this stunt?

Surely, some things are private. Some things are between you and the person you love.

Is he just taking her mind off the pain? Did he just want to ‘Entertain you’. Not likely. It’s all about him rather than her, nothing more than an attention seeking buffoon.

Honestly, if I had done this to Linda, I would be found somewhere close by with my dick cut off and my balls rammed down my throat…

PS.Just seen that his wife was also doing a video and singing along… they are both mad!

Read More

Unknown

Is a media degree worth £27,000?

Some people believe a media degree to be an ‘easy ride’ through student life.

I’m not so sure. In my experience, most industry-accredited courses demand high levels of student activity these days, especially around placements, internships, contributions to productions and publications etc. Hardly a walk in the park then! Media is not a generic subject either. All the degrees are quite specific: Broadcast Journalist, Digital Film Production, Media Production (TV & Radio) and more.

Nevertheless, there is a question of relevance. Is it worth spending £27,000 on a degree when you may be able to learn more at the coalface?

Certainly, if I were entering the halls of education today, I would want to know a lot more about who was doing the teaching and their level of experience. Do they have good contacts, are they inspiring, what’s the standard of outside lecturers like? Is the curriculum up to date?

The concern from the outside world is that those who do the teaching are out of kilter with the modern world.

I explored this theory on twitter. Like everything else, there is good and bad. That said. I was bombarded with woeful tales that might make any student ponder on the choice they’ve made. If true, it’s quite a damning indictment, so I spent the morning making a few calls.

Ben Cooper, controller of BBC Radio 1 suggests ‘on-air miles’ is much more important that A-levels or a degree. Their internship programme rarely asks for a CV, instead they seek evidence of a real desire to work within the industry. A video blog, podcast or a mix tape for example. Theory is of little interest here, personality, talent and passion are much more in demand.

R1 want communicators who are comfortable within a studio environment.

This is a key point.

It is why student radio stations are good places to be. There are few better than Spark FM in Sunderland and all of them offer experience in building confidence.

Over at ITV, a senior executive tells me that they are only after digitally savvy communicators.

Stuart Feather, a senior media executive in Scotland tweeted:

“Anyone who teaches and has been away from the front line for more than five years, knows next to nothing”.

A producer at The BBC emailed:

”far too many media students come unprepared for the modern workplace”.

Journalism courses remain highly valued. Future employers demand good writing skills and a solid understanding of the law.

Bauer, Global, BBC and UTV respectively have set up their own teaching academies. Many are working with Universities to ensure courses are relevant. Those that do benefit all round. However, this is far from a universal approach.

So is a media degree worthwhile?

I bend to the yes vote but not entirely.

Yes, because many employers still operate a policy of ONLY hiring graduates. This means ambitious young people choose the university route as a stepping stone to employment. They want to be seen to be keen and going through the right doors at the right age. It annoys me that in 2014, ‘playing the game’ is still something you have to do.

On the other hand, a degree is no guarantee of a job. The vast majority don’t even look to see if you have one, but student life can be transformational, why miss out on that?

It is not for everyone. My own son, Scott Myers, dropped out of University after the first year because what they were teaching him was years behind what he was actually learning on the job, at the then Galaxy radio in Leeds. It was absolutely the right choice.

The issue is the curriculum.

There will always be those who want to study the theory of media as a genuine intellectual and academic subject – studying the why of broadcasting as well as the how etc – but they are in the minority. To succeed, you need real experience at some point and there has to be much greater emphasis placed on outcomes rather than process.

Some organisations do this better than others. They are well noted.

How do employers pick their employees from the vast numbers wanting a job?

Easy. They hire the people they like – so like-ability is really, really important.

They want someone with an opinion who can project their thoughts.

They look for people skills and a terrific attitude. They also seek a creative and confident swagger. That applies to nearly every company by the way, not just in media.

Above all, the jobs go to the best communicators with the best ideas who can generate the best content – often to a tight deadline. Can you do that?

If you can, you’ve got it made – no matter what!

Read More

PROMO HELL IS ALIVE AND WELL

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some very fine people over the years. A few were my mentors. Some of the time they would teach, most of the time I would just watch and learn.

“Give an item what it’s worth”

‘respect the ears of the listener’

“never abuse listeners by producing crap they don’t want or need to know”

“We are in the entertainment and information business, everything we do has to deliver on that”

All great comments from past masters.

News bulletins are interesting areas. David Lloyd has a good blog about them right now.

I’d often tell the team not to worry about duration for example and to focus more on the content. An hour clock may have a formal 3 or 5 minute slot scheduled within it, but it wasn’t rigid – well not until networking came in!

If it was a really big news day – especially locally – a minute or so longer was never an issue. After all, this is where we won as a station. The same was true in reverse of course, if it was a slow day, it was fine to be under. We could always play another record.

In all my years, I’ve never once had a complaint about too much local news or too much music.

Station promos are also interesting. Sadly, far too many have become boring, unimaginative and uncreative pieces of audio that the listener will ever have to endure. In my view, they are an advertisement of why NOT to listen. Breakfast show promos are the worst of the lot. I asked the question on Twitter:

Ear time is the new gold, abuse it and you are dead meat. Promos therefore have to reward me in some way. Tell, sell or entertain, make me ‘want’ to tune in. Above all, answer the basic question: Why should I care?

I would often point people towards the film industry for wonderful examples of how to do this sort of stuff well. Very often, the promo (trailer) is better than the movie itself. That’s because they take the art of promos seriously, spending an enormous amount of time hiring dedicated, creative and brilliant staff who are totally focused on making you care enough to buy a ticket. A call to action.

In radio, we seem to think of promos as hard work, often relegated to the last job of the day where you are desperate to find something to use. Very often, the bed is fixed, the tag is essential, the least creative person gets the job and the end result is, pure crap! It is much better not to do one at all than to waste my ear time with such dross.

Things that make these promos worse are:

* People forget about the sizzle.
* A fixed time slot. No freedom on duration through networking or multi-transmitters.
* Producer believe every promo must have a new audio clip – even though it’s not as
good as the last clip.
* A screaming woman winning a prize but no story of how.
* The promo fails to sell any benefits to the listener.
* No time to do it properly. Not enough skills around.
* No one writes a script anymore and thinks about what it is they are asking this
promo to achieve.
* Edit, edit and edit again is now a long lost skill.
* The promo fails the ‘so what” test?
* The sponsor demands it because the team has sold it.

BBC Local Radio promos are just as bad. Very few of them have any sizzle whatsoever and their production technique can be confusing at times. The best are usually their sports promos showcasing information, content and a call to action.

Radio is more than just breakfast in any case so why promote just that?

The next time you record a promo ask yourself this:

What is it for? What do you want it to do? Does it deliver entertainment or information? Will it enhance the listening experience? What is the benefit to the listener? Above all, who cares?

If you can’t answer these points, don’t bother. No one will ever ring your boss to complain you failed to deliver a crap promo!

PS. See this blog from Chris Stevens about how to position promos.

Read More

Paddy McGuinness show on Bauer network

Regular readers will recall that I was the first to applaud Bauer Radio for hiring Paddy McGuinness. I like him but there is a big difference between performing in front of a live crowd, or on television, to the skills required on the radio.

I missed it last week so I got up early to listen today (yes 10am on a Sunday is early) and what I heard surprised me. Firstly, the news ended and it went straight into the music. There was no indication of the show whatsoever, no intro, no positioning statement, nothing. I sat there wondering if this was the Paddy show or not? Secondly, it would seem no one is coaching him, his opening words to the nation for example must be warmer in tone, more personal and easier on the ear. Why is this important you ask?

Look at it like this. Your son has invited a friend to stay at home. Imagine if this person refuses to say hello or offer any kind of warm greeting whatsoever as he walked through the door. The impression would not be a good one, especially if you later discovered they were a little brash too!

Listeners often have patience, but are quick to reject anyone who barges in like some kind of demented fool, especially if they are a little ‘shouty’ and weren’t invited in the first place. Reputations count for nothing which is why I advise anyone starting off in radio, particularly those who are making the transition from one medium to another, to see this as ground zero. Their success is directly linked to how quickly they can learn a very different set of skills.

For example, there is no need to shout. The mic picks up everything, especially nervousness. TV may have pictures, but radio is a movie, shown in glorious colour with a finely tuned soundtrack. This is why it’s the greatest medium in the world. Words, tone, inflection and story telling are the basic tools of the trade.

You have to earn the trust of the listener and this takes time. You get it by walking softly at first, perhaps injecting some short entertaining content and a little personality, all this is designed to raise a smile rather than a full blown belly laugh. When we trust you more, you can do more and we have months together to achieve that goal.

I lost count of the times Paddy said ‘welcome back’ after each break, which is something the shows producer must surely have noticed. Why was this not addressed?

I said in my previous blog that this show had to be live with an experienced producer on hand. I am not sure this was evident today. If it were, it was mute at best. First of all, there is no point being live if you don’t make ‘live’ work for you in some way. A time check is not the answer!

The speech segments have a pre-record feel about them and have been edited with nothing sharper than a rusty old blade. Getting into a segment is a radio skill all on its own. There were some clever moments which showed potential but some of it was questionable, especially for a Sunday morning audience.

I have never met Paddy, I have no idea what he’s like but whoever is in control needs to take control – and fast. Yes, it is early days but this show will fail without great production. If that happens, it won’t be Paddy’s fault, it will lay at the door of Bauer.

There is no point in having a show like this if you don’t have your very best production people on it. Who’s doing the coaching, who’s reviewing the clocks? What is the content criteria? Is Paddy listening and is he keen to learn? This stuff is important. This is Bauer’s big idea. A lot of good, local and keen presenters lost their slot on a weekend to bring this show to air, so it has to work.

Paddy is a personality, he’s funny with great potential. How content is delivered is the big issue. I didn’t hear all of it this morning but I heard enough to know the problems are not difficult to solve. Every week you focus on just one issue. The following week you focus on one more. 6 months later, you have a show to be proud of.

Production, topicality, content and mic technique should be the areas of concern right now.

If I were Paddy – I would be considering a showbiz strop if this continues much longer!

Read More

hirsty-631x420

Stephanie Hirst

As I was walked down Farringdon Road in London in the mid 90s, my mobile rang. It was our HR Director and she asked me where I was and if we could talk about an employee called Trevor. Why do we need to do that I asked? He wants to change his name. What’s that got to do with me? Well, he wants to change it from Trevor to Sarah. What? Yes, he’s leaving today for 2 weeks holiday and when he returns, he wants to be known by his new name.

As this was GMG Plc, which houses The Guardian, it was pleasing – although not totally surprising – to discover they had a policy for this kind of event. It was far from comprehensive but it was useful. Certainly, it was a first for me!

It was a major decision from Trevor, indeed a very brave one and as his employer we had a duty of care, both to him and to the rest of the team where he worked. There were lots of questions; one in particular came from a member of staff who demanded clarification on the toilet situation. She did not want ‘this man’ using the female toilets and the men were no longer keen on ‘this women’ using theirs either. To be fair to Trevor, he was both helpful and content to answer any questions, either privately or within a staff meeting. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then, Trevor is now Sarah and, as far as I’m aware, in a much happier place.

The news that my good friend Simon Hirst is going through the same situation and is, from this day forward, to be known as ‘Stephanie’ is perhaps less shocking than it was back then, but it will still be a surprise to many.

Simon decided to reveal his future plans on the Stephen Nolan programme on BBC 5LIVE last night; a great move as radio is such a personal medium and Stephen is perhaps one of the best in this kind of situation.

Let me tell you why.

Stephen is a top broadcaster who knows how to build an interview and is a careful listener, probing but not annoying and he enquires with sensitivity. He’s also got a knack of asking the right follow on question and never seems to be in a rush. More than anything, he’s at ease with allowing ‘dead air’ to float above the noise, instinctively knowing that this very action allows words to breath and in turn, the content has greater impact. The reaction was remarkable.

I cannot, for a single moment, understand what it must be like to be living a lie for so long or how I could find the bravery to come out so publicly. For this alone he deserves our respect, especially when there must have been deep concern and a raw nervousness about how his listeners and friends might react.

Simon is no longer on the air because the very act of transcending from a man to a woman is both mentally and physically exhausting, however to lose the microphone, a job you’ve loved all of your life, is tough for anyone to accept. I hope it’s not for long.

So, from today Simon is to be known as Stephanie. Good for her. She is still the same person, still has the talent in abundance and nothing has changed. Indeed, for many who heard the interview, there will only be greater admiration, pride and applause for the courage and honesty that has been shown. In any case, true friends never judge.

We all dream about living the life we want. Stephanie has done that, perhaps to the envy of us all.

Those that know Hirsty really well will be laughing today. It is so bloody typical of her to pick a new name that comes with three syllables – they always make for better jingles…!

Listen to the interview here

Read More