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Terry's Thoughts

About the blog

All opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Those opinions are based on professional radio experiences and knowledge gained over 35 years in the local radio industry in Ireland and UK.

Prepare To Be Spontaneous

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, September 01, 2019 17:06:14

Community radio is a sector of the radio industry that needs to be reminded of some of the basics of broadcasting. Why is this? Well it is simple really; some of the presenters I listen to have entered the industry at community radio level and don’t have much in the way of previous broadcasting experience at all. Put simply, they do not have the experience, knowledge or broadcasting common sense innate in those who have spent a lifetime learning their trade in other radio environments. Environments that were much less tolerant of the kind of ‘on air’ behaviour I hear on community stations nowadays. A prime example is the programme crossover…!

A crossover is loosely described as a link between shows where the presenter of the show ending has a so-called chat with the presenter of the show coming up. I suppose the most famous of these was the crossover between Terry Wogan and Pete Murray on Radio 2 and in later years, between Terry Wogan and Jimmy Young. Some of those crossovers became legendary and listeners looked forward to what might be said. While it is easy to think that most of the very clever and often funny remarks made by each presenter were flippant, funny, or spontaneous, it is certain that both presenters fully prepared what they were going to say… in advance! It was the preparation and skill of presenters like Wogan, Young and in more recent times, Ken Bruce that made these crossovers sound flippant, funny or spontaneous when, in actual fact they were well prepared beforehand.

The Programme crossover is a complicated feature of the output of any station. I see it used too much on community radio for all the wrong reasons and believe me; it can go very wrong very quickly. When they do happen they are just the fruit of self-indulgent presenters who have no idea of what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve. I have not and will never allow crossovers between shows unless they have a very good reason to be used at all. Local Radio presenters in the past have tried the programme crossover and most of the time they have failed miserably. Nowadays, decent knowledgeable presenters know that the programme crossover is fraught with danger and is best left alone. Those who use the crossover these days are just showing how inexperienced they are as presenters.

Complete idiots.

Presenters tend to be competitive and like to think their show is better than the next one. Ego plays a big part in what they do. The opportunity to display how great they think they are is sometimes too good to miss. Here’s the type of spontaneity I don’t like. Mr Ego Presenter suddenly decides he’ll have ‘chat’ with the next guy and asks the usual question ‘…and what have you got on your show today…’ he replies ‘oh the usual stuff’. These presenters sound like complete idiots because what started out as a ‘chat’ quickly turns into a ‘on air’ slagging match. It is no surprise that Steve Coogan uses the programme ‘crossover’ as a source of good comedy for his alter ego.

I can tell you that you don’t need to go any further than your local small town station to hear the real life Alan Partridges using ‘the crossover’ to insult or upset the presenter coming after him. Not only that but I know of one presenter in a station I know very well who continually uses ‘sexual innuendo’ on a Saturday morning (family listening time) as part of his ‘chat’ to put down the presenter following him. I am trying to find words that properly describe the embarrassment I feel when I listen to him doing this. I could use cringe worthy, mortified or squirm. Somehow those words aren’t enough.

Sad

The sad thing is that I am listening to someone who has no perception of what good radio is…! I am listening to someone who has little or no experience of how radio (community or otherwise) should sound in 2013…! I am listening to someone who has spent his broadcasting life picking up bad habits…! I am listening to someone who bases his entire show on old ideas interpreted incorrectly…!

In a word ‘Smashie’



Principles of Local Broadcasting

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, September 01, 2019 16:49:54

Why is it that those who manage community radio stations seem to have no idea about what makes a good local station? Why is this? Well it’s because these managers simply refuse to listen. These are the very same managers who claim to know their area well and use that so-called knowledge to justify absolutely ridiculous decisions they make on a day-to-day basis. I suggest they seem to refuse to accept the basic principles of local broadcasting and I suspect the real truth lies in the fact that they don’t know the basic principles of local broadcasting at all.

Vested Interest

What makes a great local radio station? What should you be doing to get people listening to you? These are just some of the questions community radio managers seem to avoid. Yes, I did say avoid. They speak of ‘what the community wants’ all the time and frankly is all ‘hot air’. I speak to local radio managers regularly and some do understand the concept of local radio, many clearly do not. There are those who believe they know how to broadcast locally yet try to copy those who know nothing of local radio at all.

It’s not a complicated concept

There are a number of tools you use to attract an audience and the simple fact is that the music you play is extremely important in the battle to convince people to listen to you. I hear stations all the time where the music management is so poor that the results simply act as a millstone threatening the entire success of the station.

In many local radio stations the music content is at least 50% and for many more it is more like 75%. Yet the music output of local radio is major function of the station that isn’t managed at all. This is stupid, very stupid. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the local commercial station is wrong by repeating the same songs all the time (Their listeners only listen for 20 minutes or so, and in those 20 minutes they hear the ‘better music variety’ message about 4 times too and guess what, they start to believe it). Don’t do the opposite of what they do to compete because you think what they do is wrong. That is another stupid decision.

Big commercial music stations like Heart and Capital are not dependent on a very small area to earn their living, you do! They have music experts and schedulers everywhere backed up by big Marketing Departments, all working to increase revenue at the minimum cost possible, you don’t. They only compete nationally and music policies are aimed at achieving a big national audience. Your 50,000 song playlist helps them. Yes, you and your music policy are helping them build their listener base in your area. Why would you allow them to do that?

It is vital that you manage your music, its 75% of your output, but you do not have to compete directly with the big boys. If they only play a few songs you don’t have to play thousands just to be different. Don’t ever forget that ‘more music variety’ is simply a marketing ploy and playing everything and anything on your station to combat that is exactly what they want you to do. If you do that be aware that you are helping them, yes you have to manage your music output and to do that you need to know who your target audience is (see heading ‘vested interest’)

It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it

The other area that needs to be addressed if you want to gain some credibility with your audience is your provision of local news and information. Local radio is not simply about providing local information it is about how you deliver news and local information in a credible and intelligent manner. I heard my local radio station provide a list of gigs that, on one occasion went on for 21 minutes. He lost me in the first 40 seconds but I tuned back in assuming he had moved on but no… he was still going!

How you deliver local information is extremely important and is the key to your success. Remember I said ‘how you deliver’ is the key. Reading out ‘three in a row’ lists of local information, car boot sales, local charity appeals for volunteers and so on is boring to the listener and the result is nothing gets through to the listener at all. I am a big believer in looking at the important reasons why a local event might be taking place and placing that information in front of the listener in a credible and intelligent way. Some truly local radio stations, in Ireland particularly have realised a long time ago that telling people why listeners should support a particular event and then providing some local details about the event itself works much better than just telling listeners what on and when. So I suggest that promoting local events individually and including why events are taking place is a much more intelligent and sophisticated way of presenting something that otherwise would be lost in a long list of other ‘stuff’ broadcast at the same time.

Community versus Local

Most radio stations managers have made the huge mistake of interpreting a working title used by OFCOM to distinguish that type of broadcast licence i.e. Community Radio and incorporated the word community into the name of the station. There is nothing to say you have to use the word community in your station name and I strongly advise against it. In radio terms it means small, mediocre and amateur and if that is the way you want to be seen then, by all means go ahead and use the word community in your title. I notice too that there is some correlation visible
between those who choose not to use the C word in their title and the quality of the station output. I suspect that those who understand the concept seem to understand the other finer points of running a small local station successfully too.

So if you have a community radio licence and run a truly local radio station remember that you need to know how to build a local audience because you only broadcast to a very small geographic area. I suggest some simple steps; manage your music well and make your station sound bigger that it is. Deliver local news and information in a way that makes it sound credible and intelligent. Perhaps then you can start to truly see how local radio can beat the big music stations… by understanding who your listeners are and getting your music, local news and information right for that particular audience.

Oh by the way, get rid of the C word from your station name!