Sunday, 24 May 2009

Ross Recorded

There’s something quite sad about the decision that BBC Radio 2 have taken to ensure that Jonathan Ross’s Saturday morning show be pre-recorded. It shows how far the whole ‘compliance’ thing has gone.

It seems that the BBC think that one of the country’s most talented broadcasters can’t be trusted not to offend anyone on the radio, and therefore to avoid any potentially difficult situations, they’re going to record the show, and then some censorious figure within Radio 2 will edit out anything that may have the potential to offend... well... anyone really, I guess.

As we know, censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself and is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.

This super-sensitive and censorious approach has got to be bad for radio. Radio is best when it’s live and spontaneous and presenter has a sense of place and time, relating to the audience about the things that they are collectively experiencing at that moment. Pre-recording is always second best, and it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.

Of course, many listeners won’t know, and many won’t care... but the principle of the thing just feels wrong. I’m not against pre-recording music specials, or ‘best of’ shows or programmes going out over a holiday period. But a regular Saturday morning show from one the BBC’s most valued presenters being pre-recorded the day before, just in case he says something a bit controversial just feels that the ‘Nanny State’ mentality has seeped into the one organisations that I’d least expected to bow to this kind of thing.

It feels like this has the undertones of a very political decision. The BBC don’t want anything to cause a problem over the next 12 months that the tabloid press (mainly the Daily Mail!) will pick up on, (especially if it’s Jonathan potentially saying something stupid and risqué), as it would land them in a huge political storm with the probable next (Conservative) government who’ve already called for the BBC’s funding to be frozen. I can imagine the BBC hierarchy calling internally for a ‘safe’ period where controversy is avoided at all costs to avoid any ‘problems’ and safeguard the its own revenue situation. “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive...”

If you want to hear the most eloquent argument as to why compliance kills creativity, listen to former BBC Director of Radio, Matthew Bannister deliver a lecture at the Radio Festival in Glasgow in 2008. It’s called ‘Comply or Die’ and you’ll find it here. (Scroll about half way down to find it and listen to the audio. It’s well worth it)

So... what’s next. Moyles on Radio 1 pre-record his overnight in case he uses the word ‘gay’ inappropriately again? The Today Programme on Radio 4 reporting the news a day in delay, so it can check every line for potential Gilligan style problems?

The best radio, is live radio. I hope we can keep it that way for some time to come. The alternative seems a little too Orwellian for my liking...

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Everyone's A Winner

Well done to all the nominees for the ‘Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards 2009’ which were announced tonight. Here comes a 'full disclosure' moment... I am a judge for this year’s awards and part of the judging committee that pulled together the shortlist.

It's great to be reminded that UK commercial radio has some fantastic talent both in front of the mic and running things behind the scenes in stations of all shapes, sizes and formats. Some of the entries were absolutely brilliant. Being honest.... some were very average too... and of course 1 or 2 were really pretty bad! But that’s the same in any industry really.

Commercial radio at its best is creative, inventive, challenging, original, inspired, moving, hilarious, simple, complex, educated, but mainly... delightfully entertaining.

I look forward to the ceremony in London on June 5th. And my lips shall remain firmly sealed until then!!

Mona Winehouse... or Amy Lisa?

Nice bit of marketing that my research consultant friends at Brand Support drew my attention to. It's for their client station, Capital FM in Switzerland. The positioning statement reads “The Greatest Classics... The Best Current Hits”

Reinforces classics and currents in a nice visual mash-up I think...