Friday, September 14, 2007

Radio One More Time: Current Affairs

Radio One's news means only one thing, of course: Newsbeat. Except for the brief period when Newsbeat in the evening had given way to News 89, or News 90, depending on what the year was - a whole thirty minutes of mainly news which, we suspect, had been launched in response to Capital Radio's much-missed The Way It Is, only abandoned when Five Live was launched to cater for the I-like-news-but-I'm-not-obsessed-with-news audience. Perhaps the key Newsbeat - the most Newsbeaty Newsbeat of them all - was the lunchtime edition which covered both the attempted coup by military-obsessed hardliners in Moscow and the launch of Take That's first single. Who knew that both would be organising their comebacks at the same time?

We've never been sure, but we've always suspected that the existence of Radio One's semi-unique news on the thirties would have been down to sharing a news team with Radio 2 in the early days and an easy way of letting one presenter be on two networks without needing to be in two places at the same time. Of course, the two minute, half-past news bulletin never used to part of the Newsbeat 'brand', only changing during the Banister-era. "It's not Newsbeat" protested Danny Baker, "it's just the news".

The station has always seen a current affairs offering as being essential to its position, sometimes going a little extreme in its determination to keep world affairs in amongst the pop. Mike Smith's tenure at the Breakfast Show saw headlines bursting out every twenty minutes, but without a 'crew', Smith himself was expected to do the newsreading for all but the standard news slot. You don't know the meaning of "clunking change of gears" until you've heard a man trying to get from "has the victim of the IRA bomb made it through the night" to "has Bon Jovi made it three weeks at number one". When Simon Mayo settled in to the Breakfast chair, he was gifted a team to try and make this work more easily - Rod Mckenzie, who then did the news and is now in charge of Newsbeat, and Sybil Ruscoe, who was travel and weather, and went on to open the BBC Bar in Manchester Oxford Road. Ruscoe was the first female breakfast regular, although, of course, she was only allowed to do the lady-slanted "don't forget your sou'wester and make sure the kids get to school on time" bits.

Simon Bates, clearly, wanted to be thought of as Radio One's key anchor, which meant that if something interesting happened, he'd be jumping into a radio car to bring the news. We do wonder if anyone actually asked him to drive to Berlin when the wall was coming down, but he did, popping up to report for the breakfast show. Bates was away from the rest of the world media, but bravely insisted that this was because Radio One's Golden Hour was right, and CNN, BBC News, ITN and the German Media were wrong: "If you're watching TV, you're missing the story. They're at the Brandenburg Gate, that's not where the real Germans are, that's where the TV cameras are, that's where people go when they want to get on TV. We're where the real Gemrans are." And Simon Bates, of course.

[Part of Radio One More Time]