Loads of Money…
Some years ago, I had dinner with a man who had just become a millionaire. He was naturally delighted and showed me a picture of what a million pounds looks like in £20 notes. His chairman asked the bank to provide him with a picture of all that cash on a big table so that he would never forget what it looked like. It also reminded him of how hard he had worked to achieve it.
Therefore reading eRadio this morning from Radio Today, you have to admire the attitude of UK Public Radio. It might work, it might not and even though this is not a new idea, they would be wise to keep a picture in mind of how much the cost of this might run away with them. The Radio Academy likes new ideas and I am there to help if they wish, but it will be a tough road to make this idea work commercially, despite it being a good one. On-line is a reasonable first step but at some point it has to grow and that means costs will climb alongside it.
In the wider sense, UK Radio is littered with the dead bodies of those who tried and failed to make news based speech radio work, and I am not saying that is their plan by the way. But speech radio itself is just enormously difficult to do in this country. Believe me, I have done all the numbers, ran all the models and there is no chance in 100 of making this form of radio work commercially as a stand-alone business. The BBC is a huge animal in this regard. Funded by taxation with an enormous hold on audiences and loved by millions to boot, it makes life very difficult and especially so in this arena. On top of that, most people tend to think that whatever comes out of the speakers on a BBC station has a level of trust associated with it that others don’t have.
I like speech radio but some time ago, I pulled out of an OFCOM application for Manchester for that format. Even with the might of GMG behind me and being part of The Manchester Evening News, we simply could not get the numbers to work. Bauer Radio have learned that to their cost in Liverpool. What was once designed to be all speech is now a watered down version of its original concept. There is the corpse of the station in Edinburgh to recall. That licence was never re-advertised even though it was painful to listen to most of the time. You need a big budget, a bloody big FM transmitter, great talent on the air and a marketing campaign to die for. The only person who could achieve that is perhaps the Russian Chelsea owner. I understand he might be falling out of love with football and wants to explore something else.
LBC is good but they have most of what I have just said. Great talent, big FM transmitter, part of a big group and importantly, they are assisted by a monster of a sales operation. Ditto for TalkSPORT with a clear brand and a focussed approach to content but it is worth noting that it never worked as Talk Radio in that it never made a bean. It was also only on AM if you recall. Not even DAB back then. Personally, I think the Government should provide FREE national transmission to any commercial radio company that wants to run a competitor to the BBC for a 24 hour radio news and talk operation and they should continue to do so until it becomes profitable. Until that happens, there will never be one on the air. On that point, SKY News should be in audio form on the radio right now surely?.
Can I suggest that if anyone in the UK wants to run a 24 hour news operation without that support, talent, infrastructure, FM, sugar daddy or marketing budget, they call me immediately so I can jolt them back to life. I would insist that instead of having a nightmare, they simply give me a cool £1m in a brown bag and I will walk along Oxford Street throwing the money in the air. The stampede for the cash will be far greater and much more enjoyable than anything they could ever do on the air. The plus side is that even the troubled shareholders might get some weird satisfaction that at least part of their cash made people happy.