Saturday, March 01, 2003


The nice Simon Tyers has been in touch again, this time with the following observations on what they're planning for our radio services:

I live my life vicariously and without need to pander to the whim of anyone,
which is why I spent most of today reading the text of the Communications
Bill discussed in the Commons on Tuesday off the Hansard website, and
further to your thoughts on the radio discussion a few points need to be
made and/or clarified. All quotes are from said publication:

* The main thrust of the local radio discussion, stemming from the concerns of the Commercial Radio Companies Association and backed by the Tories, is of a clause about "the power of Ofcom to interfere in the day-to-day running of a local radio station to the extent that the station must employ local people, provide local training and development, and use premises within the area or locality". Ron Atkinson-styled spotter's badge to you, sir. When everyone has a Morning Crew and a Drivetime Cash Giveaway, not to mention a central playlist, arguing about where the bloke who lines up the adverts is from is a bit late, not to mention the idea the whole bill can be held up by someone deciding the opportunities for local employment aren't neccesary. Then John Greenway, the opposition spokesman promoting the cause against the above, gets completely confused, stating "they will not be successful in providing a local service unless they have local people on the ground", even though surely there's no difference in the two outlooks as you can't tell a station they can employ whoever they want wherever they want and then remind them they're supposed to be local looking. Later he sugars the pill : "Success is achieved by offering something different - the local service".
Well, yes if you're BBC local radio, but I've never heard anyone say "You know what I love about (insert commercial station name here) FM? They sound so localised!" Luckily, the pro-locality clause was passed. Worth mentioning that a couple of years ago there was a lot of talk in the sector about how commercial radio had essentially been shown up by the success of Mark and Lard, with various MFM types saying they'd just realised that the mid-afternoon DJs could actually project their own personality and off-kilter features with success, but what this actually seems to have led to is a networked package of piss-poor topical entertainment involving Jon Culshaw to be slotted in whenever the DJ feels like it.

* Greenway again : "Local bands feature prominently on local radio, more so on commercial radio than on the BBC as a matter of fact." Fuck off! On XFM, possibly so. Nowhere is it stated, actually, what 'local bands' actually refers to, so possibly they're referring to a French-style music quota of British bands, as later suggested, but even so. And also, being a Conservative, it's possible it's just his anti-BBC radar going off.

* When a Labour MP brings up Clear Channel, Greenway rules out the idea that tighter regulation is due to media ownership loosening as "there are real dangers in trying to predetermine what commercial radio stations may need". However, even Kim Howells later admitted that playlists are generally too bland and samey across the country and appears to be against radio monopoly, citing "nationwide playlists for local stations, the removal of local station managers in favour of national brand managers and extensive computer-driven automation of services." See, he's good for some things.

* Howells also provided my favourite line of the transcript - "I know fanatical members of the Cabinet, whom I could ring any time, night or day, when I worked with them, but never on a Sunday evening when they listened to "Poetry Now" on Radio 4. I never rang them at that time." Place your bets!

* The Tony Hadley interjection appears to have been mis-reported, even if he does start about how the Spands "found our audience through a vibrant live music scene and through national and local radio stations playing music which, like ours at the time, was outside the mainstream", as if Radio 1 never goes near guitar bands any more. He goes on to cite the ClearChannel experience and how "both musical diversity and local character will also suffer". Unfortunately the Tory spokesman - a different one - uses this to go off on a rant about the national BBC dumbing down even though they're discussing a clause relating to commercial radio, and even after John Robertson read out an opinion poll finding about disenchantment with local radio.

* Pete Wishart, SNP and an ex-Runrig member (Robertson : "a band whose compact discs I have in my house. I enjoyed his music, along with that of his fellow artists") gets involved with the less locality argument, while of all people Michael Fabricant tries to point out that Radio 1 is providing showcases for left-field music, only to be met by Robertson with "I shall have to take the hon. Gentleman's word for that. I have now reached the age at which the music broadcast by Radio 2 becomes more one's kind of music. Radio 1's slot on the dial is sadly ignored these days: I am obviously getting very old." Evidently this passes for a joke in the Commons. Later Simon Thomas (Plaid Cymru) namechecks Bethan Elfyn and the Thursday Session In Wales opt-out, which apparently he only listens to because it covers the local music scene.

* On a brighter note, it looks like DAB radio is going to get a push, both in terms of uptake and availability, which can only be good.

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