The irony of it is not lost on me. Just a couple of weeks ago Helen and I went to a party for my good friend Paddy MacDee, to celebrate his forty years in the radio industry in the North East. The great and the good, and the not so good, of North East broadcasting were all there. Paddy has survived the madness that exists in the industry today, and has survived incompetent management, simply because he’s a great presenter.
But it comes at a time when the radio industry has suffered a major blow. Just the week before, a once popular station was closed down by the German company that owns it. TFM radio in Stockton has ceased to exist. Their staff has all been ‘let go’, their building in grubby Thornaby is for sale and the Teesside listening public now have to put up with Metro Radio instead. Sure they are playing split jingles and pretending it’s TFM, but it’s not.
Local radio is dead in the UK, largely. Most commercial stations now have some form of networking, i.e. shared programmes. Smooth Radio for instance have closed down all their local offices, it’s just one station now broadcasting to a number of areas of the country. It’s neither local, nor regional nor national. It’s just a bland radio station, devoid of local content and without anything special to make it stand out from the crowd. Heart is like that, so is Capital, why did they roll out the Capital name nationally? Unless you are listening to the London station the name of the station is just wrong and meaningless. Why would there be a station called Capital Radio in Gateshead? They did is so that they could tell advertisers that Capital Radio is now a national station. It’s not and never will be.
BBC Local radio is the truest form of local radio now, but even Paddy’s Show on BBC Newcastle, as it’s now called, is also shared with BBC Tees. That’s because Paddy’s show was the better of the two late night shows in the region and they rolled Paddy out across both stations. So some quality broadcasters remain on air and Paddy is one of the best.
Just as an aside and perhaps a good indication of some of the madness in the radio industry today; radio listenership is measured in a rather old fashioned way, by people ticking a diary when they listen. The way they know which station they are listening to is to hear the name of the station being mentioned on air. Snappy names like Radio One, Metro Radio, Radio City are best. For more than 30 years, BBC Radio Newcastle, not the shortest name it’s true, has been known and loved by its small audience. Why then would you want to change the name, make it longer and less clear? Which idiot decided to drop the word ‘Radio’ and then have to explain to the listener what it is? So the station went from being called ‘BBC Radio Newcastle’ to ‘BBC Newcastle, radio for the North East.’ Ludicrous! Completely stupid and so boring to hear that nonsensical phrase being repeated with monotonous regularity.
Anyway, I have finished with the radio industry, and it has finished with me.
If I had my time over again, I’d go to university and do a degree in Journalism. That would be the way to go. For many of the years I worked for the BBC I did a journalists job. When Jon Harle first asked me to present the evening news programme on BBC Radio Newcastle I asked why me, as I am not a journalist. He said that the journalist side of the job was common sense, that I could do that, but that first and foremost it had to be presented properly. That was nice of him to say and I went on to present speech programmes for many years after that, and enjoyed it all too. I liked being versatile, I like being on one station one day doing a speech programme, on another the following day playing music, and sometimes doing both in the same day.
But radio doesn’t need many people like me anymore, because there just isn’t that much of it left. Because I enjoyed my life in the industry, well most of it anyway, I’d do it again, but with a journalistic background. Jeremy Vine, who I blogged about recently, is the perfect example of someone who can do both well. If I was half as good as Jeremy Vine, and half the presenter that Paddy MacDee is, please excuse the obvious size-related joke there, then I’d be happy. But I’m not those things.
Onwards and upwards, I grow older, I’m not grumpy about it, I’m just saying goodbye. Who knows what the future brings.