Saturday, 18 November 2017

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday


As 'Miss Snobb and Class 3C'  chorused the coda on Wizzard’s ‘I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday’ for the first time in 1973, those littl'uns likely did not envisage their song would still be aired on radio stations around the World more than 40 years later. But it is.  Alongside Slade, Jona Lewie and festive offerings from the repertoires of Chris Rea and Maria Carey.

Some happy-go-lucky jocks cannot wait to get stuck into their festive songs; others yawn. Programmers too are divided.  Some sensibly evaluate the tastes and moods of their audiences alongside their formats and brand values; other grey suits just seize a rare opportunity to take out their frosty miserableness on their listeners.

The Value of Festive Music

We know Christmas is a time when a lot of people get very happy.  Being Britain, we also recognise that those who are not happy thoroughly enjoy moaning about it.

We know too that music, particularly Christmas songs, affects people emotionally.  EMR qualitative research concluded: "For three quarters of people, Christmas music has a very powerful impact, helping to surface strong emotions - it remind them of happy memories".

Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, disagrees - suggesting that festive tunes can impact on mental health. She agrees that music goes straight to our emotions and 'bypasses rationality', but fears that it simply brings on the worries of the duties and obligations to come. Linda suggests that shop assistants have to expend much energy in zoning out of the music which is being drip-fed to them.

John Lewis is predictably cheery.  Alongside the Coca Cola truck, the arrival of its TV ad has become a seasonal landmark. There's no doubting the emotions such campaigns stir, and no doubting the enthusiasm of viewers for exactly that feeling.  'On Brand', which works with some major UK brands and shopping centres, agrees with the power of Christmas music - and suggests that the retail Christmas begins on the 15th November and ends on Boxing Day. 

When thoughts of Christmas are evoked, listeners feel good – and feeling good is likely one of the reasons they came to you.  So much research over the years recognises that listeners value radio as it ‘cheers them up’. 'Mood' is an increasingly recurrent theme as an audience driver.

Impressive research from the RAB, the Radio Advertising Bureau, suggests people are happier when consuming radio, that when spending time with any other media.  And they are happier with radio than with no media, with happiness levels climbing 100% and energy levels up by 300%. 

So, what better music to play than a Christmas song?  The first chord whisks you back to your toddler times, Advocaat with grandma, or partying with friends.  And it reminds you of that that end-of-term feeling: the rare period in life when you can be off work and the emails are not mounting up as everyone else is off too. 

You might imagine Steve Penk, of 'Radio Dead' fame might be a cynic, but, on Radio Today, he said:

"The reason I have always played Christmas songs early on the radio, throughout my career, both as a presenter and station owner, is because I always remember as a child instantly feeling Christmassy when I heard Christmas songs being played on the radio, and this feeling has stuck with me since being a kid.

When to start?
Heart certainly goes with the Sleigh List fairly early and, judging by what I judge their brand values to be, that’s eminently sensible.  The AC Gem 106 in the East Midlands revels promptly in the warmth too.  From what I heard of some BBC local radio stations in years past, however, they did not rush out with the tinsel tunes until Santa was stuck in the chimney just a week before. 
Research consultant Roger Wimmer asserts: "If you plan to play Christmas music and you give a rat’s tail about what your audience thinks, then you had better ask them. The only way to know the answer is to ask your own listeners".

Let’s remember that people are talking about Christmas in every workplace by mid November.  The Christmas party emails have gone out, and you’ve likely started to choreograph your Christmas with grandma, the kids and your ex husband.  By the start of December, it’s got to be time to nod to what your own listeners are feeling.  For the rest of the year, most listeners do not notice the odd song you have chosen not to play, but they do notice if you are not ‘sounding Christmassy’, and they will tell you so.

In some online research about shopping habits and the like, conducted  by the then Orion Media in 2013, we asked around 600 listeners when they wanted Christmas songs.  Yes, it‘s a flawed question in the wrong research methodology for this topic, but we tried the best we could.  Something along the lines of ‘when do you want to start hearing Christmas songs on the radio to help you feel festive, yet not so early so you get fed up with them?’.

I expected listeners to seize the opportunity to be miserable on a dull September day.  They didn’t.  Witness the graph of listeners aged 15-54 below, assembled by Orion Media's then hard-working head of research, Sophie Hancock.  That 'start of December' lead seems pretty decisive.

The identify of the listener's  P1 station choice appears not to make an appreciable difference to their views.  The demos do show variances; with even more of the younger demos wanting their celebrations to begin before December.  Amongst those 45+, however, the decisiveness of the 'beginning of December' vote leaps ahead even further than amongst all adults.  In fact, if you leave it any later than a month before you reach for Chris Rea, three quarters of your 44+ audience are going to be disappointed. 

If your music format allows it, why would you not want to spin a few Christmas songs at the beginning of December, enough for your P2s and beyond to catch one or two?  It also allows you to give some of your regularly rotated songs a holiday.

At the time of updating this blog (Nov 17th 2017), some songs are already  creeping up the UK Spotify chart (Maria Carey and Wham). Youtube too sees the Carey kick right at the beginning of November.

Portland Radio Group suggests “It can never be too soon to deck the halls. And when it comes to Christmas music on the radio, it's never too early to begin the reindeer games”. EMR’s research in 2013 spoke to several hundred UK respondents aged aged 15-54. For 85% of people, they suggested, "Christmas without Christmas music wouldn't be as good".

My old friend, John Ryan, suggested that songs can burn quickly because every shop plays them. I know what you mean, John, but the tills of those retailers, year after year, probably give better indications about the success of a music policy than Rajar ever might.  Happy people spend money.   GaryStein, then at Key, cautioned sensibly “increase the Christmas music rotation slowly. We don’t go mad on the 1st of December.  When you go into a coffee shop on Christmas, you’ll get a special cup and maybe the ‘Ginger Bread Latte’but it’s just a variation”. True, there are format considerations. 

In the US, ‘Christmas Creep’ means some stations fight to be the first to play Christmas songs. Traditionally, it's the day after Thanksgiving - which places the start of the American festive season in late November. And let's remember it's still around 25 degrees in Arizona at that stage.

Others flip to all-Christmas formats, playing back-to-back Christmas music, with marked audience benefits in busy markets, a trend dating back to the mid '90s, but showing an upturn after the dark days of 9/11.  The audience figures there appear to bear out the format wisdom. 168 US stations went 'all Christmas' in 2015.

In a New York Times article,  Gary Fisher from Equity Communications pointed to the benefits of the format flips: “Christmas music is comfort-zone radio for a lot of people”, “Given everything that has happened in Atlantic City and in South Jersey, this music really is a link to better times. That’s why we feel it works for us early”.

The UK has joined in too in recent years. Some are fresh stations, others re-purpose existing subsidiary channels. In the UK, Smooth Radio was one of the first to present an all Christmas format on a new ancillary DAB channel in 2012. Since then, such brands as Free, the Wave (Swansea), Pulse and Signal have joined in too. In 2017, Magic Christmas arrives on DAB. There's also Heart Extra Christmas.  How many people will be asking Alexa or Google to play them a Christmas station - and which will they think of first?

Whilst Rajar cannot easily accommodate specific Christmas service ratings in the UK, their respective parents likely benefit from heightened brand might.

Witness the online offerings too. Not least SantaRadio, from the wonderful Guy Harris who  has carved out a well-deserved reputation in recent years for being the best 'radio santa', appearing on so many different stations, with an 'on-brand' Santa for each: cool or fruity; naughty or nice. On Santa Radio - hear the kids' content too - fed in via the app. Some really interesting thinking here - also proving how truly brilliant a well-run voice-tracked station can be.

Dublin's Christmas FM first went on air in 2008, joined by other parts of Ireland in ensuing years and diversifying into themed offshoots. The main quasi-national FM station doesn't carry ads on this temporary additional channel, supported by a hundred volunteers, but does include sponsorships; and has raised  an impressive 1.25m for charity to date, with Sightsavers being 2017's chosen cause. 

When  to stop? I'm a fan of Boxing Day; and blogger Hugh McIntryre points out that 4 out of 5 US stations flip formats back on that day.

Which songs to play?

PPL's most recent data suggests the top songs played in 2015 were as below (full 30 at foot of blog)

The Power of Love, Gabrielle Aplin 
2. Fairytale of New York, The Pogues
3. All I Want for Christmas, Mariah Carey
4. Last Christmas, Wham
5. Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid
6. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, Wizzard
7. Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea
8. Merry Christmas Everyone, Shakin’ Stevens
9. Merry Xmas Everybody, Slade
10. Step Into Christmas, Elton John

From overseas (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), iHeart Radio collated data from listeners in 2016 giving the thumbs up or down as songs played on-air. Thumbs up went to: Winter Wonderland; Sleigh Ride; Let it Snow;  All I want for Christmas is You; and It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas. Thumbs down went to: Happy Christmas War is Over; Do They Know It;'s Christmas; I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus; and the Christmas Song

Spotify's data scientists suggest seasonal trends in music consumption, with Winter dominated by "Spoken word recordings, "mellower" subgenres, and music associated with particular countries".

The top Spotify artists across the combined period of Winter 2014 and 2015 were as tabulated below.  Whilst the Beatles lead, owing to their songs being streamed for the first time in December 2015, it's easy to see many of the remainder have a festive flavour. 


  1. The Beatles*
  2. David Bowie
  3. Bing Crosby
  4. Yellow Claw
  5. Nat King Cole
  6. Mark Ronson
  7. Bushido
  8. Michael Bublé
  9. James Newton Howard
  10. ZAYN


Make of it all what you will.  But remember: unless you are Radio 4, people likely turn on your station to lift their mood.  And, if your format can stretch to it, stop being so miserable. Your listeners would agree. 



 


 Here's a Christmas gift for a radio-loving friend. 

My book Radio Moments tells of the last fifty years of radio - from the inside.  A  very personal account of growing up with radio, before becoming a tetchy jock  and then a hassled MD and programmer. The laughter and tears of an  unrepeatable era.









    Also 'How to Make Great Radio'. Techniques for today's presenters and         
    producers.  Great for newcomers - and food for thought if you've been doing it      
    years.









Top 10 most played Christmas songs in 2015 (PPL)


1) The Power of Love, Gabrielle Aplin
NEW
2) Fairytale of New York, The Pogues1
3) All I Want for Christmas, Mariah Carey2
4) Last Christmas, Wham3
5) Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid4
6) I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, Wizzard6
7) Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea5
8) Merry Christmas Everyone, Shakin’ Stevens8
9) Merry Xmas Everybody, Slade7
10) Step Into Christmas, Elton John9
11) Stay Another Day, East 1715
12) Happy Xmas (War Is Over), John Lennon11
13) Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney10
14) Stop The Cavalry, Jona Lewie    13
15) Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Dean Martin22
16) I Believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake17
17) Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses12
18) Thank God It’s Christmas, Queen20
19) 2000 Miles, The Pretenders14
20) It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, Andy WilliamsNEW
21) Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee16
22) Sleigh Ride, The Ronettes19
23) A Winter’s Tale, David Essex27
24) The Power of Love, Frankie Goes To Hollywood30
25) Lonely This Christmas, MUDNEW
26) A Spaceman Came Travelling, Chris De Burgh28
27) Christmas Lights, ColdplayNEW
28) Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, Mel & Kim38
29) Please Come Home for Christmas, Bon Jovi21
30) White Christmas, Bing Crosby26


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Who's Listening and How - the Latest

It's tempting to wrap up and send a copy of the latest MIDAS survey to every press columnist  for Christmas.  This jolly publication from the Rajar folk always offers some interesting data, which often contradict many of the assumptions from those innocents with the temerity to pen articles about our beloved medium.

In September, the intrepid researchers re-contacted just over two thousand of the long-suffering folk who'd already filled in a Rajar diary to dig deeper into their listening habits. We should thank Ipsos for their valiant efforts.

How is radio being consumed – and how are those methods of consumption trending?

Despite all the hullaballoo, live radio still commands an impressive share of ear-time for UK citizens. 75% of all the stuff on which we feast our ears - from online music streaming and podcasts to ‘listen again’, CDs or battered Agfa cassettes – is good old live radio. Everybody else’s share of that ear-cake is surprisingly about the same as two years ago, with only another 2 percentage points of live radio’s time being scattered across the many other options.  On-demand music streaming (OMS) accounts for 8% of adult ear-time now - and its consumption is daytime-led and male-driven.

The picture changes by demo, of course.  Although a very healthy 82% of 15-24s do seem equipped to turn on a live radio, they appear to get bored pretty quickly.  Only around half of  the ear-time of messy-haired 15-24s is taken up by live radio – compared to 77% for 35-54s. As can be seen, on-demand music streaming (OMS) is the single biggest villain eating the breakfast of those 15-24s.

The couple of standard Rajar radio audience graphs (below) indicate that live radio’s weekly reach generally amongst 15-24s has declined from 90% at the turn of the decade to 83% now, against a reassuringly stable 'all adult' figure. 

Weekly time spent listening amongst 15-24s across those years, however, has fallen a hefty 16% in that time down from  17 to 14.2 hours per week. 

We’re all spending a little less time with radio each week, though - falling in seven years by 11% for all adults, 12% for 35-54s and 4% for 65-74s. We've all got a lot more to do with our lives.

Back to MIDAS, podcasting only accounts for a small slice of all ear-time –  although taken together with listen again, it now accounts for 4%, much the same as last year. That’s certainly not shoddy for this thing with a funny name and it looks set to grow slowly - but it's not exactly disruptive. Podcast listening is younger than its 'listen again' sister - and more male. 

Live radio - and podcasts - both reach their maximum audiences between 8.00-8.15 am. On-demand music services see a high between 3:00-3:15 pm - and for 'listen again', the peak is between 10:15-10.30 pm. It's true though that 'listen again' rattles along fairly consistently through the day.

So – what do we listen to live radio on? Mostly on a radio-shaped radio.  There is little doubt, however, that AM/FM listening is gravitating to DAB. DAB has grown from 35% of listening in Autumn 2014 to 41% now – and FM down from 43% to 39%. 

If you draw a straight line graph based on the FM decline, which would be utterly foolish, FM dies out in the year 2036 - by which point Judi Dench will be 102. The UK was late to join the FM transmission party – but it’s lasted us over 60 years already, so let’s not moan. 

Maybe strangely, the amount of live radio consumption which is not on a radio set has stayed about the same (16% in 2017) across the last four years.

Around half of adults now have a radio app on their phone - about 8m more people than three years ago. Penetration amongst the demos are bouncing around – but overall amongst all adults the figure rises from 35% in 2014 to 49% in 2017. Perhaps as smart phones have become more affordable, the 15-24s have been catching up with their 25-34 balding brothers. Whatever 2018 brings in our changing and worrying World, we can relax knowing we’ll likely hear the news that many more Brits have a radio app on their phone than don’t.

We once paid non-listeners to listen to our station as part of a focus group exercise. One recalcitrant trotted back in the following week in a frayed crimson parka to say they couldn’t find us on their telly. Listeners expect you to be everywhere – and it’s an expensive business for our industry. AM/FM radios are unsurprisingly the most ubiquitous gadgets which people turn to - followed closely behind by DAB radios. 11.6% do use their TV for at least some of their listening. But to turn a stat on its head – just to make again the point that radio listening remains more traditional than folk think - 90% don’t listen to any live radio on their smart phones.  So – they may have a radio app on their phone – but they are not thumbing it too frequently.  Can we do more about that?

OK Google, we really should applaud smart speakers and buy everyone one for Christmas.  ‘Cos when it comes to using those, people are far more likely to ask Alexa to play a radio station than any other form of comparable audio entertainment (58% of device eartime). On i-pads and smart phones, folk are much more likely to get up to all sorts. 

Although it accounts for but a pint-sized proportion of radio listening time and by currently just 1.1% of adults - there is something hugely encouraging about the love affair between radio and smart speakers. The biggest - and most distinctive - radio brands will win - and current radio operators may or may not be running those. Analyst firm OVUM suggests 40% of homes will be 'smart' by 2021.

Radio remains a one to one medium. 51% of all adults suggest they listen to radio on their own, with 20% saying they listen with their partner.  Amongst the less -coupled 15-24s, there are a wider variety of possibilities -  just 43% listen alone, but 11% with families and 32% with colleagues

In-car listening is interesting. MIDAS suggests that whilst a majority of adults will choose to listen in on the move (57% reach), the share of listening attributed to those travellers is much less than columnists might expect, being outshone by the amount of time people listen whilst working or studying.  I often wonder whether we programmers take into account sufficiently when our light and heavy listeners are most likely to be with us.

Overall, MIDAS suggests, if you picture your listener serving an angry customer, reading a physics text book, driving to Ingoldmells, eating a microwave meal, scrubbing the grill pan or just chilling – then you’ve accounted for about 90% of all listening.  The column headings indicate, however, no-one has sex whilst listening to the radio. Most off-putting if it's your own voice-tracked show.

All data MIDAS, RAJAR/IpsosMori September 2017 unless otherwise stated.




Grab my book 'Radio Moments'50 years of radio - life on the inside. A personal and frighteningly candid reflection on life in radio now and then. The drama - the characters - the headaches - the victories.











Also 'How to Make Great Radio'. Techniques for today's presenters and producers.  Great for newcomers - and food for thought if you've been doing it years.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Open Letter to Tony Hall

Dear Tony,

I’m delighted you have spoken so powerfully on BBC local radio tonight on the anniversary of its birth.

I was disappointed that the BBC Plan and, indeed, Ofcom’s draft operating licence, barely mentioned the importance of the service, so I’m pleased that you have now paid due tribute to its importance, past and present.

I wish that there had been more discussion about this whole area in recent months. The consultation on your new operating licence from Ofcom should have been a logical trigger for that; but the regulator confessed to me that, in part, they’d messed up on that process. They failed to include a clear summary of their thinking, as their own process demands. The process was accordingly impenetrable.

Whilst you have achieved far greater things than I have, I gather you have never had the agony of trying to programme a successful radio station. Rightly, you have been been impressed by the value of challenging journalism, not least following the awful circumstances at Grenfell, but the need for sound local journalism is not the same thing as the targeting of your local radio stations.

A radio station cannot target everyone. Radio 1 would be less successful were it targeted at everyone, and so would Radio 2. It does not work. You will create a radio network which is expensively-producing valuable output, consumed by ever fewer people. What’s Monday’s breakfast show agenda? 

You announce that budgets are not being reduced. Frankly, Tony, this is appalling. In such demanding times, every media outlet in the country is making economies. As I have demonstrated with granular detail at the invitation of your executives, BBC local stations could be managed more efficiently on far less money with greater success. You are wasting licence fee payers’ cash. Whilst many people on local radio work their socks off producing great radio, just about every employee could point to many inefficiencies too, if invited. Local radio will always be expensive, and this short -term announcement simply places local radio irresponsibly in long term peril.

Yes - there is a case for solid investment in local journalism and an addressing of the ´democracy deficit´. Should that journalism necessarily be the sole job of radio and define its output, I suggest not.

You suggest moving from a 50+ target. The BBC appears to believe it is appropriate to require a Radio 1 to target young - but not for any one of your services necessarily to trouble with those of us over fifty - radio’s most avid consumers. Not only a puzzling decision, but irresponsible. Commercial radio cannot target 50+ given it is simply not economically viable . You have just announced that BBC radio should no longer charge itself with the interests of those over fifty. Can that be right?

Every single piece of research on which you have spent licence fee payers’ money in recent years has concluded BBC local radio’s real value: friendship. Companionship. Bright, lively company aimed at people like them. Recent flawed strategies have diminished their enjoyment and diminished audiences; and this is another such move.

Whilst I welcome giving more responsibility to local managers, as the original BBC local radio guidelines suggested, we need to know that each of those individuals understand their audiences well and can run a duly efficient operation.

Your latest proposals risk reducing audiences further at greater cost and alienating the network’s most ardent supporters.

Yours sincerely,


David Lloyd



Related blogs:
Please take care of the BBC - it is precious
What future for BBC local radio?
Are you wasting your time with social media?
Who´s listening and how?
What future for the radio news bulletin?


Grab my book 'Radio Moments'50 years of radio - life on the inside. A personal reflection on life in radio now and then. The drama - the characters - the headaches - the victories.

Also 'How to Make Great Radio'. Techniques for today's presenters and producers.  Great for newcomers - and food for thought if you've been doing it years.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

What Future for Local Radio?

Fifty years ago this week, local radio returned to the UK, with an armful of pioneering BBC local stations, thanks to the steely determination of the truly brilliant Frank Gillard and a cautious BBC and Government.

During several welcome appearances on numerous stations to discuss the anniversary, one question was repeatedly put to me. Will local radio survive the next fifty years?

After all, these jolly stations with their very proper BBC voices arrived tentatively at a time when there were but three TV channels, bath night was once a week and dog poo was white. Given all that appears to have changed, why on earth should we still think the aged idea of local radio should survive?

In those sixties days, I’d be sent to Coopers’ at the end of our road to fetch a quarter pound of smoked bacon, a KitKat and 20 Park Drive Tipped. Our family really valued that shop and it became a real part of our community, the little bell over the door dinging as we entered. I confess, however, that nowadays, the range, freshness and price from the new gleaming Tesco down the road from where I now live is leagues ahead. It’s now my new corner shop and I’m not unduly alarmed that its head office is in Welwyn Garden City.

Radio has evolved in much the same way. For it to have retained such impressive popularity against ever growing competition is no accident. There are now beautifully-programmed stations for every taste and, crucially, every mood. They are available round the clock and can be consumed with increasing ease.

Local radio of all kinds accounts for around a third of all listening currently, down from almost 40% ten years ago. And an appreciable proportion of that ´local radio´, arguably now comprises little local content. Great national brands have been created, and each ekes away at the audiences of others. If local radio is to survive in any market, it must simply remember why it is there - or change to doing something else - or close. 

When small, independent businesses thrive on the high street, it is because they know why they are there and what need they fulfil. They offer something special, distinctive and valued. They don’t try to be Tesco.

Let’s examine a few radio answers to the ‘why’ question for our beloved medium, and consider which might pass muster in the years to come.

Location. Simply asserting that local radio is a good thing because it’s based above the kebab shop on the high street is not hugely persuasive. The great Radio Merseyside voices would arguably sound the same from a pre-fab in Stevenage. The FCC, UK Radiocentre, Government (seemingly) and I agree on this. Some self-indulgent stations just play at being local - they may as well be based on the moon. Whether commercial or BBC, if you are only local by virtue of where you pay your business rates, you may as well close.

Serving the right area. It’s either local or it’s not. Citizens define the area which relates to them. Regional is most often a concept invented by media organisations. If you’re not local to your listeners, you may as well be national. The early BBC local radio planners even agonised about how local London could ever be - and whether to break it up into smaller neighbourhood stations, or even ones aimed at certain trades.

Spirit and character. A presenter who knows their area lends real value. On a format which allows that to really cut through, it brings real listener affinity - the presenter is, or has become, ‘one of us’ and loyalty has been established. Local ‘spirit’ matters more to some areas than others. More to smaller areas, and more to proud, distinct larger areas which might otherwise feel a little unloved.  Great stations belong.

Friendship and Heritage. We trust people with shared common values and beliefs - hence the smile of recognition when some random in the hotel bar tells you they hail from your town too. Presenters are your lifetime friend. They know this place where you grew up and experienced first love; they know the pub where you had my first drink; and the garage where you bought your first car. When they allude to it, it chimes with your life and reminds you of your deepest memories. Here’s one reason why the local thing chimes more with settled, older audiences.
Context and Reassurance. Listeners tell us they value local radio for bringing local news and information but, looking to the future, are other media increasingly better geared for dissemination of immediate hard data? Is the real ongoing and irreplaceable value of radio to reflect and analyse whatever the news brings? And an understanding friend who puts their arm around you when times are tough. Witness BBC Radio Manchester after the MEN Arena bomb, or City Talk the day after the Hillsborough verdict.

Interesting company. People choose radio’s conversation because they find it company, and they find that company interesting. Just because an item is local, however, does not render it automatically interesting. Things have to matter. As a listener, I need to care. Great local stations don’t carry content just because it’s local and fills a hole.

Championing. In the absence of local press, there’s been talk of a local democracy deficit. BBC local radio attaches importance to holding local decision makers to account, but could this be addressed just as well through investment in online news channels acting in the way press used to? Possibly - and the BBC local democracy reporter scheme, in some ways, takes this into account. Where radio excels is the more emotional business of championing an area. Local pride and involvement. Not holding people to account just because it makes today’s 8.00 a.m story, but trying to make life better round here forever. Mood is the single biggest reason for listeners to listen.

In summary, we must establish where local radio is an ongoing sensible prospect in each market; and, whether commercial or BBC, prepare to give up where it’s not. 

In the areas where it continues, it has to super-serve the people in its area. Not play at being a bigger station, but offer the sort of irreplaceable, distinctive visceral service where there is a demand for that service. Such a service must be wholly targeted at its most likely audience, and anchored by presenters and journalists who truly know what they’re doing, managed by managers who get it.

And, in fairness, that’s where it all wisely began in 1967.



Grab my book 'Radio Moments': 50 years of radio - life on the inside. A personal reflection on life in radio now and then. The drama - the characters - the headaches - the victories.

Also 'How to Make Great Radio'. Techniques for today's presenters and producers.  Great for newcomers - and food for thought if you've been doing it years.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

As 'Miss Snobb and Class 3C'  chorused the coda  on Wizzard’s ‘ I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday ’  for the first time...