The Eve Of Destruction?
Coming to you soon, the biggest changes in radio since, well, the last lot. The regulators say it will cut stations free from an S&M addiction to shackles and red tape
, which means your local radio service will have permission to send even more programmes from London, though local news, travel, etc will stay. Scores of radio presenters, producers, sales staff and others around the country will be surplus to requirements, and local accents on air will be rarer than size 8 pants on Kim Kardashian’s bum.
Do you care? So long as the music keeps coming, does it matter? And would you really mind if it’s some chirpy cockney chappie giving away the money prizes instead of your regular host with the flat vowels? London freebies are as good as anyone else’s, No?
With the embarrassment of riches that is DAB, and so many listeners now interacting with stations via the internet, the old rules no longer work. Radio groups are to be given more freedom to change music policy and cut costs using networked shows at the expense of local programming and DJs. The fear is investment outside of the capital will dry up and we’ll be subjected to nonstop chart music, with the over 40s heading for the lifeboats. Many think it’s a Titanic mistake.
Want localness? You’ll have to try the BBC. Or maybe your community radio station, a place run by volunteers who watch other community stations going bust every single week. They’re, unfairly, seen as the well intentioned hobby bobbies of the radio force, and they’ll need your support.
Although these changes are only at the discussion stage, few doubt a revolution is coming. Watch the number of local presenter heroes playing Wham Rap, with its celebration of the dole queue. Not so much a musical choice as an acclimatisation exercise.
Over the past few weeks we’ve, sadly, seen various presenters lose their jobs (unconnected with this new, proposed, landscape.) Presenters know that we don’t save lives, rarely alter people’s outlooks, and we’re aware that we’re not indispensible to the well being of the public. We’re part of a whole and, on a good day, we cheer folk up, stop them getting stuck in traffic, inform and maybe surprise them and, if we’re lucky, we are seen as friends. We all have a great time, together, along the way.
It takes some sense of self importance to publically complain about losing your job. The first time I heard anyone doing that live was in the Radio One days of Dave Lee Travis. He famously shut himself in the studio and vented at his employers for having the temerity to want to usher him out the, now locked, door. I remember sitting in my mum’s kitchen, feeling uncomfortable but not knowing why. Now I realise he had breached that invisible line that says, simply, don’t use the medium to make it all about yourself.
So, my mind wandered back as I’ve been reading about several changes at radio stations around the country. It happens and it’s hardly a headline. PERSON IS ASKED TO MOVE JOBS. But, with honourable exceptions, these presenters have moaned to their listeners on air, or followers on social media, that it’s unfair. They all say, in different words, that they’ve taken their shows from the doldrums to record levels , the implication being “I am different.”
But nothing lasts forever. No one is indispensible. Ask their agents when it comes to the annual roster clear out.
When I did the Drive show at a commercial station in London we were all given three months notice of redundancy and asked to “carry on as usual.” No one moaned on air over the entire twelve weeks. We all knew that we were lucky to have a job at all, that the public won’t throw themselves off buildings because their DJ is gone, and that once you’ve cleared your desk it’s a case of The King Is Dead, Long Live The King.
The guy who made us redundant didn’t speak to us for the full three months but, each day, we saw a procession of famous folk, many of them our friends, arriving to be interviewed by him upstairs. The local Costa would have done admirably for these chats, but the man had no respect for the feelings of his soon to be unemployed colleagues. And his sidekick stayed in Manchester, well out of the way too. No one received a note, or even a grumbled thank you, though we had tremendous support from our Programme Director who was also being made redundant. Did my colleagues publically complain? Nope. Not one person. Not once.
I feel for everyone who loses their job. Been there. Seen the movie. Bought the promotional T shirt. People get a contract and then others take them over when it’s not renewed. It’s how we all got those jobs in the first place. No one dies, the world still turns, and we move on elsewhere.
So if we all end up sacked let’s not play Wham Rap. Let’s choose Deacon Blue’s Dignity instead.