Most of the interest in the bids to run a second national DAB network has focused on Channel 4's efforts to get itself a slice of transmission pie. Even the MediaGuardian weekly podcast conceded the rival bid, from National Grid, sounded dull and workmanlike. You could see the sense in it: NG operate tall towers with electricity in them, so handing them the transmission network could make sense. More sense, possibly, than giving it Channel 4, with their television ways.
However, that dull, workmanlike bid has now transformed into something else: with Ofcom's approval, National Grid wireless has just been sucked up by the financial locusts of private equity. Macquarie have paid £2.5billion for the business; so if they win the bids, another chunk of the UK's communication infrastructure will pass into the hands of people who lack even the basic overview of shareholders. That's got to help the Channel 4 bid, surely?
Unless, of course, Ofcom is comprised of the sort of people impressed by cheap suits and the stink of too much money.
National Grid - back when they bidding and pretending they'd be part of an electricity and gas company instead of one owned by merchant bankers - told Ofcom that if they won, they'd be including some Channel 4's proposed radio stations in the deal. At this, Channel 4 reared up like Foghorn Leghorn and asked "Wha... I said what?"
Although it might have been better for NG to have asked them first, though, it seems unlikely that Channel 4 would refuse to join them if need be. They've done a lot of work on this radio thing.
Here, by the way, is the list of what Channel 4 is proposing if it and its consortium win the day:
It's a nice idea - we certainly don't find much to complain about with E4's music television service during the days, but we're not entirely sure the TV channel has demonstrated "an ability to grow new comedy talent" and why they think they'd have more luck on radio.
And stop talking about interactivity. Even Radio 3 lets its listeners text in; it's redundant to mention it (like saying "we will communicate with sounds") and to base your entire network on such a vague, all-encompassing idea (votes? user generated content? phone-ins about the binmen?) seems ill-advised.
We do love Channel 4 Radio's morning reports podcast, and could quite happily welcome a second intelligent speech station in the UK. We're a little puzzled as to what speech is left if you remove news, current affairs, comedy, drama, documentaries and debate - is this just a way of saying "we won't have any money to bid for sports rights?"
= "and now here's a new single from The Good, The Bad and The Queen."
In other words, they're hoping that it won't cost too much.
What about the partners, then? What do they promise?
The original Talk Radio format? Before it finally turned into TalkSport, that station changed its style and formats so many times, I don't believe there's a man alive who could tell you what it was originally like. It's not entirely clear why UTV would be rushing to re-establish a station that nearly went out of business and required a substantial makeover on a medium with a smaller potential audience, but we're sure they've thought it through. Let's just hope everyone's not busy interacting with E4 Radio, eh?
Since Closer seems to exist for no other reason than printing blurry shots of Victoria Beckham, we can't even begin to imagine what this means. Actually, we can: someone will nip in every morning, choose one of those "All Woman" compilation albums, stick it on, hit "replay" and head off for the day.
In other words: Radio Five Live with the sport and the news taken out of it. If this ever makes it to air, we give it six months before out-of-peak hours recreates the heady days of ITN Radio (i.e. the audio feed from the TV channel rebroadcast on the radio.)
Probably wise to stick with the music - Sunrise's name often seems to crop up in the complaints bulletin from Ofcom; although the complaints aren't always upheld, it does seem to be something of a lightning rod for grumbling.
It's yet to be convincingly explained to me why women need a different sort of radio to men - is it simply the unerwiring in bras causes interference so the programmes have to be broadcast differently? We can only assume the arbitrary age-range has been cooked up between Virgin and EMAP so that the two identical stations appear to be a range of services.
All embittered divorcee radio, all the time.
Not quite sure where this would leave CapitalDisney, the service on regional DAB - will it be left to shows presented by second-string cartoon characters (Minnie Mouse, Huey, Dewey and Louie, anything invented by Disney since 1978?) while Mickey and Donald rule the national airwaves? More to the point, couldn't they have found a British company to come up with a children's radio offering? Rupert and Noddy and Postman Pat rather than High School Musical and Goofy.
Still, parts of the Channel 4 offering are quite intriguing. We're sure Jon Snow won't mind the double shifts it all suggests.