Friday, 9 November 2018

That Which We Call a Rose - By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet


The RAIN summit Europe - held in London this week - was enjoyable, not least because it gave me an excuse to go inside the British Museum, having turned down the infant school invitation in the seventies to see the Tutankhamun exhibition.

The session I was asked to moderate was on on-demand audio and the like, with a very capable international panel.

Walking to the venue, as the rain began to spit, I asked myself that question that bugs many.  Is this podcasting/audio on demand lark ‘radio’ – or not.  And at last, I made my mind up.

It is radio.  It is all radio.

Streaming music with no curation and playing music downloads is not. But all else is.  Whether it’s Radio 4’s Today Programme on demand; Capital live in the morning with the great Ant Payne; or 'Today in Focus' from the Guardian. It's just radio delivered through different means. 

In the session, we spoke of content and how it was delivered and monetised. I don’t think we used the foul word ‘podcast’ much or ever. I think I used the clumsy phrase 'on-demand audio' to set up the session.

How can the Radio 4 PM programme magically become not radio when I dare to listen to it at 11.00 pm? Or Jane Garvey evolve into something other than radio broadcaster when she happens to chatter for Fortunately... rather than for Woman’s Hour? And do I think any differently when I’m writing  around my #radiomoments weekly review 'podcast' than when I’m doing a cue for a live BBC programme? And when a 'podcast' is broadcast on radio – as is The Daily now from the New York Times or Fit and Fearless on 5 Live, what the hell is that?

In commercial terms, when we sell impacts, we are selling ears. Ears that care little how the audio content is delivered.  As an aside, 'on-demand' audio is creating fresh approaches to delivering audio commercial messages powerfully – and prompts, at last, some fresh thought for how we should do it on radio - but that’s a huge topic for another time.

In TV – you watch it live - or you watch it on demand - or you may store shows yourself and watch them later. It doesn’t have different names. You watch Bodyguard and you enjoy it - or you don’t. It’s a TV show. It matters not if it was made for TV or not – nor the genre – you watch it on the TV. And if you watch it on your tablet – you’re still watching TV. Yes, there is YouTube, Netflix and films, but, in general terms the TV umbrella is huge, and we haven't troubled to invent a new vidcast verb.

Are the styles different? Well, yes. 'Podcasts' can be more unwashed than radio - and more targeted. But radio formats and treatment differ too for different audiences. Production values are different - yet the best podcasters still think carefully about them, just as we do on radio.  The passionate experts in their field who do a lively weekly pod soon discover that it really flies when they just get on with it, rather than try to be Ant and Dec for ten minutes at the start.

It's all about just delivering curated audio conveniently. 

OK, I have a vested interest. There is some utterly fascinating stuff in the 'podcasting' world just now, and I’d like to throw radio’s cloak around it.  When people in the pub say they have heard something of interest, wouldn’t it be great  if they said they heard it ‘on radio’.

People love radio – it’s a trusted reliable brand – why invent another?

The BBC Sounds folk have done some good work on the new app – and we know the sound thinking behind it. They want people to explore the wealth of audio Auntie has from today and yesterday without being bothered about whether it was broadcast on 6 Music, Radio 3 or the Home Service. Or indeed whether it’s actually ever been transmitted at all. But what are we expecting people to say at the bus stop?  I heard Sounds? I heard it on Sounds?  If we had all applied the broad term 'radio' to everything – which we didn’t - we could have just called it something to do with BBC Radio.  There isn't a BBC Sights app.

This whole wonderful, rich audio world is simply a dirty great big beautiful radio. The best radio there's ever been.

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,       
Retain that dear perfection which he owes                  
Without that title.


*Photos from Radiocentre - and an excellent idea they are too
** Andi Durrant sort of agrees in part - and he knows what he's doing



I work with radio stations around the world in a range of areas. From programme strategy to research, key brand work and marketing strategy. From presenter training to compliance, consultation responses and licensing. Talk to me via www.davidlloydradio.com


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. Available in paperback or ebook.







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




Need a conference speaker? I'd love to work with you.

















Tuesday, 30 October 2018

How does Ofcom feel the BBC is doing?


The question of BBC regulation is always going to be a sticky one. As a respected, independent regulator, Ofcom is probably the best alternative, not least at a time the BBC is under siege on various matters. Indeed, to be able to cite an independent arbiter is likely better than a tin hat for the Corporation itself.

Ofcom must now 'hold the BBC to account on behalf of audiences by providing robust, fair and independent regulation'. Performance measures are duly set and Ofcom is required to publish a report each year.  Ofcom must report too on the BBC’s performance against the measures stipulated in the Operating Licence.

So – the trusty Trust has gone. That body which called a halt to the closure of 6 Music and BBC local radio networking has disappeared in a puff of smoke. The BBC does have a Board, though, which is charged with delivering on the Charter, but my experience of that is that if you write to complain to headmaster about the geography teacher, your letter will be given to the geography teacher to reply.

Overall, Ofcom concludes the BBC is generally delivering on its remit, but identifies four areas where it needs to go further - namely: transparency into its working practices; maintaining its commitment to original UK programmes; engaging young people; and continuing to improve how it represents and portrays the whole of UK society.

Given this is the first end of term report from the new teacher, let us examine what it says about BBC radio.  It’s not the easiest of tasks, given the report is legitimately multi-platform - as indeed are consumers these days - but given the operating licences do offer some specific demands of radio services. What conclusions are reached – and what of radio’s profile?

Radio merits an early mention – with the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 trumpeted as “the most listened-to radio programme in the UK”. Radio 4’s Today programme is praised too for its 7m audience. In fact, more people are satisfied with radio and online than TV.

Satisfaction

In spite of the silliness on Twitter, satisfaction with the BBC is generally high – and people say about it what you would expect. Listeners from a white background, those in AB socio-economic groups and older people (aged 65+) are more satisfied, and those aged 25-34 and people from minority ethnic backgrounds are less satisfied. 

Distinctive output is praised – and there is a suggestion that the BBC Asian network and Radio 4 have no "directly comparable provider". I’m not sure life is quite as simple as that.

77% of BBC radio listeners rate the BBC highly for its different types of radio station. In offering "something that other providers did not", two of the highest-rated stations are BBC 6 Music (88% rating it highly) and BBC Radio 4 (86%).135 Two-thirds of BBC Radio 1 listeners (66%) rated it highly for providing something that other providers do not. 

When asked how satisfied they were overall with BBC radio, 74% of listeners across BBC stations rated it highly, although listeners to Magic (81%) and Smooth (80%) rated these individual stations higher.

The threat to younger audiences is highlighted, as is the fact that “younger people are also more likely to listen to commercial, rather than BBC, radio stations”.  Indeed, national commercial radio services now reach 42% of 15-24 year-olds, up from 38% ten years ago, in contrast to other radio stations which have seen their young audiences decrease. “Significant steps” forward from the BBC are demanded by Ofcom in this area, including for radio. 

News

TV continues to be the most-used platform for news overall – with "the internet" now more widely used than radio or print newspapers.

BBC network radio reaches over a third of adults with its news and current affairs programmes  - with such programmes across Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 4 and 5 live listened to by 21 million adults, more than a third (36%) of all UK adults – a reach figure stable over time. Almost six in ten (57%) of BBC radio listeners listen to one or more of these news programmes.

The reach of both The Jeremy Vine Show and the Today programme have remained relatively stable over time, although Radio 1’s Newsbeat audience has decreased by 32% since 2010, greater than the decrease in the station’s reach (-19%). The weekly reach of the 5 live breakfast show also decreased between 2010 and 2018 (-18%), in line with the decrease to the station overall. A footnote confirms the Today programme did show a decrease in listeners in Q2 2018  (as, of course, did the Q3 result).

Ofcom pledges to review “news and current affairs output and how it can continue to be a trusted destination for audiences”. This is a critical issue, and I believe the BBC – and indeed Ofcom - can also do more here to explain how newsrooms work and make journalism more transparent.

Ofcom recognises the changing radio landscape and the move to digital – and salutes the growth of podcasting, whilst sensibly placing its scale in context. The new ‘BBC Sounds app’ will give “audiences easier access to (its) audio content”.

The Operating Licence

Ofcom concludes the BBC complied with its requirements and proudly says “we have increased the proportion of ‘new music’ that Radio 1 and Radio 2 must play during daytime”.

Radio 1 is said to have played a higher proportion of music by UK artists compared to comparable stations. On average, almost half of Radio 1’s daytime music output was from UK artists (49%), compared with 47% for Capital and 43% for Kiss.  On average, almost half of the music tracks Radio 2 played in daytime were by UK artists (48%). (37% for Heart and 48% for Magic).

Radio 1 and 1 Xtra achieved their required one hour a day of news and the frightening hurdle of “bulletins at regular times”. Radio 2 and 3 managed to have regular bulletins too, the latter managing to exceed its mandatory 17 hours a week of news and current affairs programming, with three in peak. Cheers, Jeremy.

Radio 4 did its Parliament dutifully; 5 Live did its election coverage;  6 Music delivered its six hours of news; BBC Asian Network did its compulsory 24 hours of news; Radio Cymru, Wales Ulster and Foyle achieved their news volume; and Radio Scotland exceeded its 50 hours – and offered the required regional and community opt outs.

As the tick list continued, Ofcom nodded that Radio Scotland, nan Gàidheal, Cymru, Wales, Ulster and Foyle had managed to “broadcast content and music of particular relevance” to their home country. That must have been a struggle.

Ofcom suggests that BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, of which news at specific times is required, is doing what it was doing under the Trust and is "considering future news provision”. If I were the chap with the handcuffs in court, I’d be unsure whether this was a guilty or not guilty verdict.

Radio 1 duly blasted out its 60 hours of specialist music.

When the operating licence was released, I was critical that it allowed BBC local radio to just about do what it liked – whether pared down and networked, as it nearly was, or expanded and targeted universally, as it now has been.

It’s no surprise therefore than BBC local radio has indeed managed the Herculean challenge of disseminating  “News and information of particular relevance to the area and communities it serves at intervals throughout the day”; and “content of particular relevance to the area and communities it serves”. It has exceeded the 95 hours of local programming required – giving 109.9 hours. Mind you, the licence means some content may be shared and still deemed local.

Overall, BBC radio listeners are more likely to be older, in an ABC1 socio-economic group and from a white background.

Across BBC radio, Ofcom suggests that factual content was broadcast mainly outside peak listening hours – but reminds us that there is no formal learning output required specifically on BBC radio.

Complaints

Not too many complaints about the BBC have been dealt with by Ofcom, although the figure does include over 1600 about bias.

The relatively small figure owes something to the ‘BBC First’ policy, where angry folk must exhaust the BBC complaints before they bother Ofcom.  

It still puzzles me that commercial radio is not afforded a similar approach, not least because commercial stations’ online public files mean complainants can readily access a real human being with a single click, as opposed to being caught up in the BBC’s complaints mangle where one loses the will to live. 15 clicks of the BBC complaints process are needed before you are permitted to vent your spleen – and that’s if you know your way round.  It surely would not be a challenge to have the word ‘complain’ on the home page and the home page of each BBC radio station.

The famous upheld Radio 4 complaint on climate change is detailed. The paranoid frequently cite this instance as evidence of the BBC’s falling standards. I cite this lonely missive as evidence the system is working.

As we know from the annual report, spend on BBC radio output declined by 13% in real terms from 2010/11 to 2017/18, when it stood at £480m. There was a more modest 0.5% year-on-year decline from 2016/17 in real terms.

How's it done overall?

So, taking the report as a whole, how well is BBC radio doing? And how has Ofcom fared in conducting this exercise?

Specific performance targets are few - and in several cases the levels required suggest this would always be an egg and spoon race for the BBC rather than hurdles. 

As an analysis of how well the BBC is meeting its Charter, it's maybe a decent piece of academic work.   As far as getting to the heart of what listeners really think about their radio stations, it perhaps does not uncover listeners' real worries and delights in the way we know diligent internal qualitative research does when inspired by canny programmers. Does it really assess how the Corporation is serving a listener in their semi in Newcastle, it feels maybe not.

Did the BBC need Ofcom to tell them that radio has a youth audience challenge? Probably not. Is there a risk that the leap to young audiences now demanded so publicly may be randomly applied to Corporation output with which listeners are currently very happy. Probably so.  

Does the report say what maybe should be said about the benefits of a more confident and visible public BBC leadership? I feel both listeners and employees would value that.

Maybe this is all to be expected when you ask a regulator to judge an apple pie contest. But it's still probably the best option there is - we just need to make sure that what is expected of the BBC is always well-defined.





I work with radio stations around the world in a range of areas. From programme strategy to research, key brand work and marketing strategy. From presenter training to compliance, consultation responses and licensing. Talk to me via www.davidlloydradio.com


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. Available in paperback or ebook.







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




Need a conference speaker? I'd love to work with you.
















Monday, 6 August 2018

Some Thoughts on Broadcast Journalists and Bias

Your taxi driver drives where you tell them to - not just where they fancy having a drive. That’s their job. A broadcast journalist does the job they are paid to do – whatever their personal views.

Happening to hold political views, or have a political history, does not disqualify a journalist. I’d be alarmed if bright, informed individuals had not formed a view or two in their life. Our democracy allows them the right to vote as they wish - and work where they like - just as you can.

Journalists like juicy stories. In their day-job, they worry not about whIch party has sinned, or which view is on the back foot. They just want a decent story.

Journalists are proud of what they do.  They try to get things right and fair.  And they are surrounded by other journalists who would be the first to point out if they’d misjudged. Newsrooms are groups of individuals with a range of views.

Journalists are usually determined individuals and if anyone dared to tell them what to write or say, they’d get short shrift.

The thought there is some organised conspiracy is madness. If you think everyone is forced an agenda, ask yourself how exactly do you feel that is implemented.

Ofcom and BBC guidelines demand ‘due accuracy and impartiality’. 'Due' is a key word. Due impartiality is not absolute impartiality - it is not balance. Some issues are utterly polarised; others are not. There is a difference between climate change, Brexit, and ‘is the sky blue?’. The alternative is utter balance on all matters - and how crazy would that be?

The World is a big place. Not every matter can be covered in a single bulletin. There has to be a selection, if you are ever going to have some time for a song or Eastenders. If you feel there’s been an omission, there’s likely a rational explanation, if you asked politely. And often it’s not a short one, given the range of factors.Sometimes they misjudge, and they admit it.

Balance is required to be achieved ‘over time’. And sometimes an instant response is not available in our 24 hour media world. If a story could be buried by someone failing to respond, then those on the back foot would choose simply never to respond.

If you have a concern, raise it objectively, politely and specifically. Think of those silly folk in your life  who argue with you and bring up a host of stale issues.   Don’t throw in everything  that’s concerned you ever. It demeans your case.

There is no such thing as ‘the mainstream media’, that is as mad as saying ‘the greengrocers’. There are loads of outlets. They don’t compare notes. Sometimes they even hate each other.


You cannot assert that a broadcaster has ignored a story without due checks. Each has several platforms - and many bulletins on many services - have you really checked? And listeners and viewers now sample more news sources than ever before.

Press and broadcast media are very different. Press titles may hold and express a perspective on matters of political and industrial controversy, broadcast media are regulated by specific statute.

Journalists are employed. They have bosses to answer to. Conditions of employment to honour. A regulator. When you comment, pause and ask yourself whether your own comments would pass muster were you subject to similar invigilation. Admit you are wrong sometimes, just as they have to.

Sometimes the law - rightly or wrongly - prevents the broadcast of what you feel is appropriate. 

Verification of what you believe to be blindingly obvious can take time. 

The journalists on Twitter I have seen have been unfailingly polite in the face of provocation. There is no need to be rude. How would you feel if others were as offensive to your partner or children? Journalists don’t come round your house - masked - swearing and shouting. If your goal is to persuade people to your view, you will win few new friends by just being silly. Your comments may make you feel clever to your inner circle, but they really don’t advance your case.

Yes, the staff of broadcasters - and regulators - may not represent the public at large. The nature of the career means that those who are brighter are better poised for a job. That’s probably a good sign. Is there room for more diversity? Yes. And I know of no broadcaster not trying to achieve that. Are all journalists born with a silver spoon from the same background? No. And you really annoy them when you assert a fallacy. Some agree with you on the fundamental issues.

If you have a problem, then there are internal channels of complaint and an independent regulator in Ofcom. In recent years, that have been a small number of upheld complaints. That suggests the system is working. Journalists are not infallible - in our wonderful live medium.

We have some of the best media in the world. Those who compare our offerings to those of other countries where alternative views are not tolerated do a great disservice to those in such countries. I suspect they would fight to the death to achieve the standards we have. Inappropriate interventions risk making it worse, not better.

You will hear views you disagree with. When you don't something's very wrong.

I am not a journalist - and represent no broadcaster. 






I work with radio stations around the world in a range of areas. From programme strategy to research, key brand work and marketing strategy. From presenter training to compliance, consultation responses and licensing. Talk to me via www.davidlloydradio.com


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. Available in paperback or ebook.







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




Need a conference speaker? I'd love to work with you.








Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Can Local TV Survive?


Ofcom tells us this week that local TV rollout is not to progress “in the light of the significant financial challenges that the local TV sector is facing”. For those who know anything about local advertising revenues that’s not a surprise.

It  was the idea of a smiling Jeremy Hunt in 2010, sat in his Culture Secretary chair. He described UK media as "chronically over-centralised”. He famously questioned why local television could work in Birmingham, Alabama but not Birmingham in the West Midlands.

Per chance, at that stage, I was working at the major heritage commercial radio station in Birmingham, England. We gave some cursory thought to whether local TV would be a useful strand to our business. We didn’t even get through all the biscuits at that meeting. Even when sharing resources and televising radio programmes, it would still be challenging.  And that was in England’s second city.

We were also treated to some bubbly presentations from alternative bidders for the Birmingham licence, who sought to work with us. Their programming aspirations were high. As were their revenue expectations. It seems to me they’d worked out what they wanted to spend and, miraculously, their revenues appeared to match. No-one had troubled to write to all local car dealers informing them they’d they needed to double their advertising budgets.

You cannot just double the amount of money in the local advertising economy just because you want to. And, of course, this was just at the stage when digital media was starting to eat giant-sized portions of our lunch.

As it transpired, the Birmingham channel was late to launch, suffered early issues and is now in the hands of one of the two companies which own many of the UK local channels.
Now, as Chairman of the channel in Notts, Notts TV, I am not embarrassed to say I was a cynic. The idea was flawed.

I believe that, in the UK at least, you simply cannot create decent local television on the likely budgets from local advertisers alone. And the channel audiences combined across the UK would likely not be sufficient to reap any useful national revenues.

In Nottingham, Notts TV is privileged to be supported by NTU. This ambitious league-topping University, which prides itself on giving its graduates real career prospects - encouraging entrepreneurship and outreach, gives us a range of support, some financial. Alongside our team of salaried media professionals, we make use of their students, not only of journalism, but also in, for example, history for the local history programme - and design for our sets. Any TV company draws upon all manner of skills, and when we boost our own resources by giving students hands-on experience of the real world, then they become the sort of graduates I’d hire tomorrow. They know what life in media is really like.

Some early funding was also provided by the BBC to all channels. The Corporation paid an agreed sum - in exchange, we supplied them with any useful content they requested. Whilst in some areas, I gather, usage was low, I was pleased that the BBC in the East Midlands made good use of an appreciable proportion of our content. Even beyond that agreement, relations have been excellent and further material has been purchased on an ad hoc basis.

It is not the BBC’s fault that its guaranteed funding has ceased, that was the design of Government’s plan. It is, however, puzzling that at a time when ‘fake news’, ‘media plurality’ and ‘local democracy’ are buzz-words and local press is ailing, the rug is pulled from our feet. We can survive without it, but even this modest amount would make a significant difference to our abilities. By modest, I mean the sort of figure I could save tomorrow from BBC budgets, without any damage.

Commercially, we’ve found our niche, principally helping local companies create quality video advertising ‘profiles’ and branded content which they can use on their social media and online, and we broadcast. These revenues complement the non-traditional funding. Sadly, we don’t get a sniff of the ‘community radio fund’. That’s reserved just for, well, radio.

Notwithstanding the challenges, I am hugely proud of what Notts TV has achieved in the last four years. It is now a small, confident operation generating content 24 hours a day. It is not perfect - but its award-winning achievements are impressive. ‘Championing Notts’ is its brand - and that’s what we do. From the fresh and energetic evening magazine, ‘Ey Up Notts’ to the weekly insight into local sport ‘Sportsweek’, the weekly ‘Notts On Stage’ programme and the history programme ‘Rediscovering Notts’.

It’s easy to be sniffy. Whilst the quality of our programming will never be Blue Planet  - it is certainly as good as - if not better than - some lower budget material from many broadcasters. I’d ask the sniffers to try doing better on our resources. I am simply astounded by some of what is achieved by a small team of creative hard-workers.


And, to those locally, who may feel that a particular valuable programming strand is absent, this is your channel - come to us with a suitable idea and a way of funding that content, and we’d be happy to work together.

Early audiences, when we had the luxury of Sky carriage which has sadly been a casualty of cost-savings, were impressive, placing us alongside local radio offerings in terms of weekly penetration. Now, on Freeview, Virgin and also streaming, response continues to be excellent.

As a Nottingham lad, I am proud that  - with the support of NTU and the vision and effort of our CEO, Confetti’s remarkable Craig Chettle - Nottingham has a TV channel of its own. I’ll do my best to see it continue to be something to be proud of.  The number of talented individuals who have already emerged from Notts TV on local and national TV and radio is impressive.

As for the other channels around the country, they will plough their own furrows. I believe only with very inventive solutions, as we have engineered, can local TV survive and flourish.  Jeremy should have thought of that.





I work with radio stations around the world in a range of areas. From programme strategy to research, key brand work and marketing strategy. From presenter training to compliance, consultation responses and licensing. Talk to me via www.davidlloydradio.com


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. Available in paperback or ebook.







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




Need a conference speaker? I'd love to work with you.









That Which We Call a Rose - By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

The RAIN summit  Europe - held in London this week - was enjoyable, not least because it gave me an excuse to go inside the British Mus...