Here's what Clive said on 24th March 2016. Today BBC Director General Tony Hall announced the BBC radio evening programme will be replaced with locally-made listening. Coincidence? We think not.
My interest in media began while I was at school and it still continues nearly a decade later (do you think anyone will buy that?) - I was fascinated with radio, particularly local radio and was very excited at the launch of our very own BRMB in 1974. I was about to be ten. Local radio was fresh, vibrant, exciting and it spoke as great radio should, directly to me. It didn’t matter if anyone else was listening or not. I got involved in hospital radio, first at BHBN where I learned to operate an ancient BBC broadcast desk, then on to Sandwell Hospital Radio where I learned to operate a modern desk, one with faders and everything. There were even cart machines for jingles.
My ever popular kids programme, which went out on Friday teatimes taught me something else too - that I wasn’t cut out for a career in radio presenting. The strain of being pleasant, upbeat and not swearing for over an hour would be too much to bear as a regular job. But the media bug has never left me.
In the intervening years, local radio in this region has had some absolute greats, with Les Ross presenting a stunning breakfast show, Ed Doolan captivating the midlands with his consumer programme to such an extent that he was even called upon to talk down a listener from a rooftop whilst live on air. The point is, local radio was local, new and people loved it. Whole communities were engaged. BRMB, now Free Radio - and don’t start me on that rebrand - managed to get a huge number of people walking around the outer circle bus route to raise money for charity, year in, year out. What is there now? Nothing.
I have to declare that I have friends who present radio programmes and they’re a bunch of talented, entertaining individuals whose creativity seems to be stifled by the constraints of programme homogenisation. Their programmes are good, but if they were allowed free reign, they could be brilliant. I expect that the reasons they’re not given a couple of hours to do what they like to entertain their audience is purely commercial, with statistics, charts and economic budgeting informing what the listeners hear.
Probably I should ask a radio person what their opinion is, but I’m sure I’d get a solid corporate response along the lines of: “There’s no call for larking about, listeners aren’t interested, they just want music and a bit of chat.”
Well I disagree. And I’m not just picking on the commercial stations, I’m picking on the BBC too. There’s usually a reason for my rant and let me tell you what triggered this one. On Sunday, I took part in the BBC WM takeover, where listeners have been involved in presenting programmes on the Birmingham based station all week. For me, their flagship programme is a treasure hunt, which happens on Sunday mornings, where listeners solve clues to send a presenter trekking to different locations around the region, in search of a person who’ll inevitably be involved in something interesting that day.
The programme is ridiculous, engaging, a very easy listen and laden with double entendres and stuff to make you laugh out loud. It’s what local radio is all about. People participate.
I was in the studio on Sunday morning, trying to help solve clues along with my partner Pet, who’s an avid fan and another three ‘normal’ listeners. And that’s what was so refreshing - these guys were really excited to be there. This radio station was really important to them. The programme was important and they were the sort of listener that I’d imagine most other programmes and stations are neglecting. So please Mr Producer, when you’re thinking about how to improve your RAJAR (it’s how radio listener numbers are calculated), please don’t forget that radio is the medium that can bring people together as a community and communities generally stick together. Will someone have a crack at getting the radio buzz back into Birmingham please? Promise to listen!
* Real Radio and Buzz radio were stations in the past, Buzz was particularly good, but those aren’t the ones we’re talking about.