Friday, 30 April 2010

"My name's Nik and I'm an addict..."

I have a confession to make. I think I’m an addict. Not to crack or ‘Meow Meow’. No... something far more addictive. It’s BBC Radio 5 Live.

Maybe it’s down to the UK General Election and the natural amount of news that is circulating as a result of that, or perhaps it was the recent volcanic ash cloud and the ability of radio to really convey the changing nature of the story minute by minute, but I’ve probably spent more time with 5 Live than any other station over the last few weeks.

For those of you not resident in the UK or not familiar with it, let me try and explain what it does.

• It’s a speech station
• It’s main areas are News and Sport
• It also covers entertainment and popular culture
• It’s not stuffy
• It’s very conversational
• It doesn’t always rely on the ‘phone in’ as its main tool
• It has a sense of humour
• It employs some of the best speech broadcasters in the UK
• It has appointment to listen programmes
• It’s broadcast on Medium Wave (!) which is how most listeners hear it, but never mentions this fact on air!
• It’s also available on DAB, online, and all the other platforms too...
• It’s bloody good! Sorry - did I already mention that?

I have a lot of conversations with stations at the moment about how the ‘speech content’ is more and more important as a weapon to a music station these days than ever before. So my appetite for speech stations has grown considerably over the last few years, so perhaps that explains the current love affair with 5 Live.

But I thought I would cheat a little bit on my new found love the other day when I travelling in the car, and tuned into London speech station LBC 97.3, where James Whale was doing the afternoon show live from Bristol where the 2nd Leaders Debate was happening that night. Nice move to put the show in town, but after about 5 minutes of a pretty good interview with William Hague, the show went rapidly downhill with some formulaic callers and then the mother of all technical cock ups where presenter could not hear callers, but callers were on air and then the engineering talk-back went loudly into the headphones, bleeding on air, putting off James even further, until eventually the talk back actually went live in air! (It gets funny from about 4:40pm onwards and it was last Thursday 22nd April if you have access to a London station logger!)

Now, the point of telling you this was not to put a downer on LBC. Nick Ferrari at Breakfast is a great broadcaster and knows his audience very well and really connects with them fantastically on a daily basis, as do many of their other presenters. The point was to point out how difficult really great speech radio is to do and then to heap large amounts of praise on 5 Live, saying that they get it right, day in, day out.

Now, before you cry foul, I know they have “jacuzzis of cash” and a huge team to make it work, but I’m delighted they do, and as a listener I enjoy every bit of it. From 5 Live Breakfast to Richard Bacon, from Danny Baker to Tony Livsey, and from Fighting Talk to Simon Mayo’s Movie Reviews. It’s all good.

It’s far too easy for us who work in the industry to be overly critical when listening to the radio and give opinions on how things could be done differently or done 'far better’... but sometimes we don’t take time out to give praise where praise is due. So I thought it would be nice to do that once in a while, and this is blatantly one of those occasions. (Maybe it's the sunshine or the bank holiday 'feelgood' vibe that has gone to my head!)

I’ve never worked for 5 Live, but I know a couple of people who do. I hope they’re having as much fun working at the station as I’m having listening to it currently.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

'Brown Underpants' Moment on BBC Radio 2

If you're looking for a good reason as to why you should always have cameras rolling when you have big name guests in your radio studio, this is it...

So... if you haven't got the kit already, go and get your engineer to worke out a tech solution to allow at least one 'locked off' camera in a single position, with an easy way of capturing audio and video from the guest. You never know what you might capture!

And it may just change the course of history!