Tuesday, May 18, 2004

NIGHT-TIME RADIO ONE WITH... WHO?: So, it turns out the promise of Elijah Wood doing the Peel show - fallen upon with much fervour - was all spun from a joke he told Jo Whiley. Now, that's a disappointment, as in an age where Brad Pitt presents Radio 2 shows, it wasn't so very far fetched. And maybe it might just happen, with Andy Parfitt set to overhaul the nighttime schedules on the station.

Now, night-time is one of the few areas where Radio One has consistently excelled - partly because in the brief period where Peel was off doing weekend afternoons, Radcliffe was ruling the roost, and its at the edges that the network has been most consistently challenging - Kid Jensen, Janice Long, the Ranking Miss P, Lamacq. Obviously, it's got it wrong sometimes, although Nicky Campbell was at his least irritating when he was doing his time heading towards midnight with a session from the Emmylou Harris and an interview with the shadow minister for tourism. Just recently, its main line-up of Zane Lowe followed by Peel, with weekend evenings filled up with dance and stuff, has been sounding far healthier than the rest of the network. But, of course, Radio One is needing to shift its figures upwards, and an easy way to do that is to make the "specialist" slots a little less specialist. Not, of course, that that's what they're doing:

"All of those shows appeal to particular musical communities, I'm really pleased that they have credibility within these specific communities, but I think the job of Radio 1 - given that we are a national broadcaster - is that we can't just preach to the converted," said Mr Parfitt. "What I'm talking about is trying to arrange the universe of Radio 1 specialists in such a way that it matches people's lifestyles and moods. Frankly, there will always be some compromises because there are a limited number of slots and everyone would like more time."

What does that exactly mean - "arrange the universe of Radio 1 specialists in such a way that it matches people's lifestyles?" What timeslot would you put Peel in to match a "lifestyle", exactly?

"We are not here to dilute what any of the specialists do and make them more accessible. Our commitment to delivering at the cutting edge for all of these genres is absolute."

Hmmm. Well, that remains to be seen. What's interesting is that Zane Lowe is to be given twice as much time as he currently gets - we suppose this might mean the end of the Monday evening anomaly, where Lamacq still does Monday night - and could just mean that Lowe starts earlier. On the other hand, it could mean Peel being shunted back beyond midnight. We're going to avoid saying the new schedule's rubbish before we see it, but it certainly has the makings of being rubbish. Parfitt doesn't seem to understand the ecology of Radio One, which even Bierling managed to grasp - night-time has never been about "preaching to the converted", but more of a gentle progression - so, when I got home from school, Steve Wright would be finishing up, then Peter Powell would turn up, playing more freshly released stuff; he'd hand over to Janice Long for a spot of less-threatening indie stuff, before Peel would come on and pummell you with Sonic Youth - every day's schedule had feel of a 'learning curve' to it, gently shading from Smash Hits to The Wire through a spot of NME stuff. Lamacq used to say he took care to make sure that he started his version of the Evening Session with something that wouldn't scare away daytime listeners, holding that in reserve for later. It was a nautrally "inclusive" system. Any restructure that loses that would be a big worry for people who care about the growth of new bands in the UK, although not as much as it would have been a few years back when Radio One was the only breeding zoo in the game.


Anonymous said...

Aaron again,

What you say about a learning curve is absolute spot on - Simon for controller. If Parfitt had any balls at all, he'd be going out with a bang, recognising that Radio 1 will never have big audiences again (and it's no-one's fault), and making the daytime's a hell of a lot more challenging. The least he can do is leave the bits of the schedule that don't have the stench of his failure hanging around alone.

ALthough - when I first read the article, I was very cross - then I thought, well.. it doens't matter, I'll just keep listening to 6 music and www.kcrw.com

Incidentally - have you ever considered that 6Music might be a sinister trojan horse designed to allow Radio 1 to turn into the national public service version of Kiss100? Just a though.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

I fear I'd be a lousy controller; I'd bring Adrian Juste back purely to see what would happen.

You're quite right, of course - Radio One is never going to get enormous audiences ever again, and that's a good thing - it means that, for the first time, we've actually got choice in what we listen to, thanks to digital and web radio (mainly) - after all, 1Xtra and 6 and the Asian Network have come from nowhere to have about a million listeners (depending on how firm the Rajar figures are) - they've got to be coming from somewhere.

6 could be seen as a trojan horse - it's actually surprisingly analogous to BBC Four; it's alright for a new channel to come and mop up some of the responsibilities of an established channel providing everyone has the ability to receive it, and providing that the established channel uses the space so freed to do something equally valuable, although for another audience. If everyone had the same access to 6 as they do to Radio 1, I'd be less worried if, say, they shifted Peel to it. Kershaw on Radio 3. But while that's not the case, Radio One's dance heads will have to share with the guitaroids.

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