Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Made in Birmingham

Lots of people are very proud of the city they were either born in or live in. Cities have heritage... they have an identity... and have a story to tell. People are quite tribal by nature, and like to associate themselves with a particular clan or group, and are rightly proud of their roots. Cities also tend to have things that they are famous for. For Liverpool, the city I was born in and grew up in, it’s ‘football’ and The Beatles. Not bad.

Becoming part of the ‘fabric of a city’ is something which can only be built up over time. With any luck, a local radio station can also be a part of that fabric... that DNA of a place that makes it so unique, and hopefully a great location to live and work in.

Trading on the heritage of a city and what makes it special, is a theme that Birmingham station ‘BRMB’ in the UK has done with its “Made in Birmingham” positioning and campaign. BRMB launched in February 1974, so I think it’s qualifies as old enough to trade off being a part of the fabric of Birmingham!

They’ve just produced a nice piece of marketing which places the station alongside other famous Birmingham ‘products’ and places the city as ‘the place where great things begin’.

It’s fun, very local, and at a time when much of the UK’s local radio is in an undergoing major heart surgery and slowly being dismantled piece by piece, it’s good to see a station and brand that’s proud to be local.

In a media world where global mega-brands are born, grow up in a matter of years, and sometimes disappear as quickly, it’s reassuringly comforting when a familiar name is around for a little while, hopefully giving the same quality as it did all those years ago. It’s hard for radio brand to trade off its heritage yet convince new listeners “it’s not the old fashioned station your mum used to listen to, but a modern version of it!”

But I think BRMB are managing it. ‘Made in Birmingham’ connects with local listeners, and surely that’s what it’s all about.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Passion 1 - Mediocrity 0

Passion is a wonderful thing. Combine the passion felt for a football team... add a person from a infamously passionate country, and then broadcast it on a medium the excells at being able to convey that passion to it's audience... radio. What do you get?

The Spanish radio commentary of when Iniesta slotted home the winning goal in the World Cup 2010 against Holland.

A passionate radio moment!


Passion in radio is good.

Baby You Can Drive My Car...

Outside Broadcasts on Breakfast / Morning Shows can sometimes be a bit hit and miss. But what about doing it from the hosts house?

Well - if you have a great reason, and a garage full of the most valuable cars in the world that you're going to let listeners drive, and the resources of the BBC... to make it all work... then why not?

Here's a great summary of the 'Drive and Dine 2010' Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2, live from Chris Evans house in the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

5 Years On...

It’s 5 years ago today that terrorists attacked London.

I remember that day really well... getting on the Bakerloo Underground line at around 8am, passing through Edgware Road, to hop over to Piccadilly Circus and then the short walk up to Leicester Square, where I was working at Capital FM as Programme Director. It was a beautiful day and London was on a high after just being awarded the 2012 Olympics the day before.

I was in the radio station around 8:30am and was preparing for the day ahead. I wondered over to the newsroom just before 9am, where the news editor at the time, Matthew Schofield, was looking a little concerned. He’d just had reports in of smoke being seen coming from an underground station. At first it was thought to be an electrical fault, with a related fire, but as the minutes slowly ticked by, the true horror of that day slowly started to unfold.

As the nature of what was happening became apparent, the whole team at the station swung into action with a kind of reflex that is shown at times of crisis by true radio professionals. Reporters dispatched themselves across London, taking considerable risks, as no-one was aware of the extent of the threat at that stage. Were there more bombs to come? No one knew.

Within minutes we had correspondents live at various different points across the capital feeding eye witness information and describing minute by minute, what was happening. Then the listeners kicked in with their stories... and they were a massive help in piecing together what was a jumble of facts and rumour at that stage. Every available team member was answering phones, recording, editing, putting calls through to the studio. It was an amazing sight. The whole programming staff felt the gravity of the situation, knew this was unchartered water, but at the same time instinctively knew what to do. It was incredible to be a part of.

Here’s an extract from the day, quite early on in the morning, with one eye-witness describing the scene of the explosion on the bus;


And at 10:30am, Capital FM went ‘all speech’ and simulcast with other London stations Xfm, Choice FM and Capital Gold, as the need to provide Londoners with the best possible information regarding a very fast-changing situation became the over-riding concern.

From then on until 8pm, there was nothing but news. No music, no ads, no interruptions, just a constant flow of information as the facts started to emerge. It was the only thing to do, and throughout the day we even got reports of the emergency services on the ground, not knowing the full extent of the attack, sitting in their vehicles tuned into Capital for the very latest. That day, it felt we had a really important role to play, and the sense of responsibility became very tangible. It’s a very different feeling to playing pop records, I can assure you.

For days following the terrorist attacks, we received a huge amount of emails and calls praising the coverage. That’s a very humbling experience when you realise you’ve done something that has helped people enormously at a time of real panic across a city, and something you don’t get every day if you work in a commercial radio station.

I remember one email in particular. It was from a woman who was working in the centre of London. She’d been using the Underground only minutes before the attacks and this had really shook her up. For hours, she couldn’t reach her boyfriend who was also working in the centre of London, because the mobile phone system went into meltdown.

She stayed glued to the radio all morning to hear what was going on. Eventually they made contact and he was OK, and had made his was back out of the centre of London and headed home. As all the transport was down for the rest of the day, there was an enormous exodus of people on foot heading out of the West End in the afternoon , crossing the bridges, looking for a way back home.

This particular women said she had to walk for several miles, but fortunately she had a portable radio with her and plugged her headphones in to keep listening to Capital on the long walk back. She still felt frightened, shocked and very confused as to why this had happened, but in her email thanking us for the coverage, she paid a lovely compliment. She said that walking home listening to Capital was like “walking home with a friend”.

So 5 years on, not only do I pause to remember the 52 innocent people who lost their lives in the attacks, but I also remember with great pride the hard work done by a really dedicated team of radio professionals at Capital FM who kept London informed at a time when information was the thing listeners strived for most.

I felt the true power of radio that day.

The Programming team on July 7th 2005 consisted of...

News Editor: Matthew Schofield
Content Directors: Sheena Mason, Annie O’ Neill and myself
Producers: Nathan Freeman, Stephen MacKay, Becky Rogers, Jamie Scott, Richard Spencer, Rich Steel & Jo Stoller
Presenters: Richard Bacon, Neil Bentley, James Cannon, Gareth Roberts and Matthew Schofield
Reporters: Hugh Broom, Paddy Bunce, Tracey Spurrier and Margherita Taylor
Journalists: Olly Barratt, James Keates, Andre Morgan, Debbie Ramsay and Tony Shepherd