What’s missing in radio is technical ability

I’m reliving my childhood at the moment, listening to BFBS on a Saturday afternoon while playing with my favourite toy, I’ll admit the toy has changed – it’s now my MacBook rather than my Lego, but I’m struck by how little has actually changed: this is still a radio station playing a really wide selection of music: not pandering to the chart or stuck so deep in the Labrini girl past that it sounds the same every day.

BFBS was really the first radio station I properly listened to; I learnt about timing, talking up to vocals and trimming jingles, the technical stuff I practiced over and over in my bedroom. But more importantly than that I learnt a key aspect of good radio – personality matters. ‘That was – This is’ radio dominates the dial these days, the only place you don’t hear it generally is tiny indies and the BBC, my issue with this is that there’s now no stepping stone from the indies to the mainstream, and the BBC are slowing replacing radio talent with celebrity and thinking that it’s the same thing.

Radio is a technical medium: the very best in the business have always been technically superb – whether it’s Kenny Everett, Noel Edmonds, Chris Tarrant, Bruno Brookes or Tommy Vance – all of them have one thing in common, they were superb producers who knew their kit, who understood timing and who could blend entertainment with technical interest in both the studio production and the music itself.

Radio should make you smile, it shouldn’t just be about cramming in a liner card read before thumping out another set of adverts. Automation is often blamed for this, but the computer playing the music isn’t the cause – it’s laziness and a dogma like format that’s created slaves to the playlist. You can’t listen to commercial radio now without hearing songs cut short, vocals crashed and links rushed; the talent these days is fading away – and once it’s gone so will the ability to learn from it. So stand up for your local radio stations, get involved and don’t put up with generic gobs on sticks who don’t entertain you and don’t care about the importance of being technically good.

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