Wednesday, 19 September 2007

"Radio 1 - Established 1967"

Every now and again, a bit of programming comes along that makes you as a radio professional (well - professional most of the time!), appreciate the time and effort that has gone into the planning and production.

This month BBC Radio 1 celebrate 40 years of broadcasting, and it would practically against British law to ignore such a milestone in radio. So, the rather smart people at the BBC got together and worked out how they were going to celebrate this. The key challenge was for them to ensure that when they looked back over their shoulder, they didn't descend into a "retro mush-fest". Things were very different in the world of radio in 1997, let alone 1967 (when I of course wasn't born... but I've heard the tapes!)

"Radio 1... Established 1967" is the sub-brand that has been created to house all things referring to the last 40 years, and instantly they're onto a winner. The "Established - insert year here" idea has worked for lots of brands... jeans, whisky, trainers, pizza restaurants!! It has a certain cool about it, without reminding us of the Summer of Love and Sgt. Pepper every time we hear it.

The on-air idents really print well and the sense of heritage around the station cuts through, particularly with the use of the old jingles etc... More importantly, the sub-brand it gives the station permission to do lots of things that provide programming and musical surprises across the output.

There are a couple of gems. The 9pm 'Legends' show, where a music star picks some of their favourite songs from the last 40 years has already delivered some great radio... with Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl... and we've got loads more to go! Hearing Macca play Fred Astaire followed by The Sex Pistols was certainly extreme variety, but worked because of the "wrapping" around it.

The decision to revisit the "Golden Hour" - that classic 'guess the year' format, has meant Chris Moyles has been enjoying himself rather too much every morning, particularly when he gets to play Nik Kershaw and Duran Duran! And don't even start on all the old jingles he gets to play. He's having a the closest you can get to a "radio hard on" every morning!! But - hey... it sounds good, so why not!

And the 40 artists recording 40 cover versions from the last 40 years is brilliant. 'Toxic' done by Hard Fi, 'Teenage Dirtbag' done by Girls Aloud etc etc. I could go on!

What Radio 1 have done in creating their "Established 1967" series of programmes and features is a demonstration of a strong concept being planned really well in advance with great production values and great branding, plus the whole station getting behind it in a big way. (Of course having a budget of over £17 Million pounds a year means you can throw a decent amount of resource at it... so you'd hope the output was of high quality!! But let's not go there...)

The point is that any station can plan well in advance and create stand out programming given the right excuse. If your station is only 5 years old, you could celebrate that. If you want to create the most exciting Christmas schedule ever, you can do that. If you want the New Year to be all about live music, you can do that.

The key is planning.

Plan ahead as much as you can and see how far you can take your creativity.

But, at the risk of sounding sycophantic, well done Radio 1. A good bit of radio.

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