Monday, 31 March 2008

"Going... going... gone"; Global buys GCap

Congratulations to Global Radio. The ongoing speculation and deadline extensions led to the least anticipated announcement this evening that GCap Media is to be purchased by Global Radio for £375 Million. Not a bad price all things considered!

Now the questions will begin…
  • What does this mean for DAB in the UK?

  • Will Global reverse the decision to close stations like The Jazz and Planet Rock?

  • What about the sale of the Xfm’s outside London?

  • Will the new enlarged Global have to sell some stations to keep the regulators less worried about lack of competition in some markets?

  • How will Heart and Capital approach targeting the London market so they don’t cannibalise each other too much and maximise share?

  • Will all the stations be housed in one big super sized broadcast centre in Leicester Square… which isn’t really brimming with room as it is!

  • What implications will this have on staff and how many potential job losses will there be? (We can expect a radical restructure… in order to realise all those much talked about synergies!)

  • And the most important question of all… How will Fru Hazlitt be spending her reported £1 Million settlement for her several months work.

You’ve got to hand it to her. “Here’s my vision” she says. “Er…. No thanks” say the board. “That’ll be £1 Million quid then please” says Fru! Nice work if you can get it!!

No doubt there will be many column inches devoted to this during the next few weeks and months. As the stories come and go, I’ll try and pick out some of the more interesting programming implications of this commercial radio mega-deal and what the shape of things to come may look like.

Whilst Charles Allen may have a halo around him tonight and be heralded as the ‘saviour of UK commercial radio’ by putting its biggest group into private hands, let’s not forget this is the man who took ITV to one of it’s 'all time low' periods in terms of ratings, revenue and creativity. So, whilst Global is tonight living up to it’s bullish name… let’s see what things look like in 3, 6 and 12 months time.

But good luck Charles! We’re counting on you!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

"Call in to Win... or not!"

Picture the scene. I’m just stepping on to a plane and my phone rings. It’s my old colleague Bam Bam, who asked innocently enough “What are you doing tomorrow?” As it happened, I was free. “Great” he said, “You can join me on BBC London. I’m standing in for Danny Baker and you can join me on air!”

Before I’d had a chance to stow my bag (wheels first of course) in the overhead locker, I’d apparently agreed to get back on the radio again.

So 24 hours later, there I was on the other side of the desk from Bam in the lovely BBC London 94.9 studios about to do a 2 hour, predominantly talk show!! As it happened it was great fun and getting back on the air reminded me of why I love radio so much… but the reason why I’m telling you this is to highlight an incident that went on during the show.

A caller phoned in with a couple of tickets to a BBC London live show that Danny Baker was hosting at the Hackney Empire. He had a couple of spares and suggested we give them to the first caller. There then ensued a rather comedic on-air conversation as to whether this constituted a competition or not. (All competitions had been banned across the BBC after the ‘fakery’ rows that affected the media so badly in the last 12 months.)

The lovely producer came through on talk back and said it was fine. We discussed it for a few more moments… and then a more senior Editor appeared to have hot-footed from the programming offices and glided in majestically into the production studio, and had an animated conversation with the show producer. Presumably they were discussing whether giving away a couple of spare tickets TO A BBC LONDON EVENT (!!) was a competition or not and therefore, the most heinous of crimes possible to commit!

The answer was ‘Yes – it is a competition... Don’t you dare do it!”

I have now officially witnessed first hand the paranoia that still exists to do with contesting on the BBC, and layers of bureaucracy that have been developed to ensure they are run according to the letter…. or not at all, as was the case!

If you’re really bored, go to The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines subsection about Interactivity and Competitions and have a read. Wow. They really mean business. Which is why if you heard Jonathan Ross’s show this weekend, it makes it even funnier! Please Listen again on the BBC Radio Player to the link that is about 30 minutes in, where Jonathan and producer Andy discuss the fact that they are now officially the 4th programme allowed to do a contest again! Match of the Day, Ken Bruce and one other as yet unidentified show all piped them to the post. But the rigmarole they had to go through was comedy gold!! It included the fact they had to solicit for callers 1 hour in advance of the contest!! Blimey!

Jonathan provides, as usual, a degree of common sense over the whole thing and it’s a shame that he doesn’t dictate Editorial Policy. It would be far more entertaining and practical. It’s funny how a few bad decisions in the past, by a few individuals, have impacted on the whole of the BBC in such a big way.

So, 2 thoughts to come out of this;

1. If you’re planning on entering BBC competition in the near future when they all come back online… be prepared to be bored rigid by about 20 minutes of disclaimers / guidelines they’ll read out on air.
2. Don’t answer the phone and agree to something without much thought as you’re about to get on a plane!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

"I'd like to thank my Mum and Dad..."

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same…”

...I mumbled to myself as they started reading out the winners of the category that my station was nominated in at The Sony Radio Academy Awards in 2004. Fortunately, that night I had scheduled an appointment with ‘Triumph’ and promptly staggered the stage and accepted the Sony Gold award from Claudia Winkleman (no less!!) and delivered a fairly drunken, but still somewhat comprehensible acceptance speech. Watching yourself projected onto a 30 foot wide screen is enough to keep any speech pretty quick and I departed with a flourish stage left, walking through the crowded auditorium shaking hands with people I’d never met before, to spend enormous amounts of my company’s money on champagne and cigars. Bravo!

This year, my role in proceedings is somewhat different but no less daunting. I’m a judge for the Sony Radio Academy Awards… an honour indeed. So last week the assorted judges for my particular category got together for several hours of heated debate.

Now of course, I cannot divulge who they were, where we met, or what category we were judging was, or even what we had for lunch. I can tell you we had 2 pots of coffee and still mineral water, but it’s all very ‘hush-hush’ you know. Careless talk costs lives and all that…

However, what was so enjoyable about the whole process was the opportunity to listen to some fantastic bits of radio from across the UK, and from across a whole range of stations. Big and small, BBC and commercial, well funded and under resourced… or did I cover that in the last comparison? UK radio may be going through a complex time and the politics and business of it all is taking centre stage, but behind that there continues to be brilliant stations with brilliant broadcasters on them, lest we forget.

Anyhow, back to the judging process… and the “big box” of entries was whittled down to a top 10… which in turn was whittled down to a top 5… which in turn was whittled down to a top 3… which in turn were placed Bronze, Silver and Gold.

The decision will remain a closely guarded secret until Monday 12th May at The Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, where inevitably Paul Gambaccini plus obligatory guest will “ the envelope please”.

I know we have a worthy winner and I’m sure they will manage a much more coherent speech than I did several years ago. But one more word of advice from Mr Kipling...

“Don’t look too good, nor talk too wise”