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Modern commercial radio is soulless

By Ian Beaumont
Posted 27 March 2016, 5.15am edt
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I've just been reading an opinion column at a site called Get into This, which seems to be a Liverpool site all about music in the city, and in this article, they are taking on the recent rebrand of Juice as Capital FM. If you want to read it, the article itself is here.

Now, I think the writer is being somewhat harsh when he calls it "generic, robotic, soulless pap", but I definitely think that modern commercial radio is generally, soulless. You don't get much of a sense of a soul from most modern commercial radio station.

And yes, I know these are businesses and they have to make a profit, and all the other excuses that we constantly hear from supporters of modern commercial radio, but does it have to feel so soulless most of the time? Does it have to feel so inhuman at times? Even some of the presenters feel like they've had personality transplants, and that doesn't help the soullessness that comes across so much of the time.

This is something that community radio suffers from a lot less. Those stations that are programmed by humans, rather than computers, really sound much more like they have a soul. Even those that are programmed by computer, often feel like they do have a bit of a soul, due to the fact that the presenters are not trying to be perfect, unlike their commercial counterparts.

Given the choice between soulless perfection, and a more human sound, I take the more human sound every time.

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Comments

1 year, 7 months ago

Radio isn't just one thing. There's loads of different options. I wouldn't want all stations to be high speech content and feature driven. I like choosing what I want to listen to at a specific time.

It's so lazy to say commercial radio is soulless.

What about Radio X with Moyles, Vaughan and John Kennedy? Absolute Radio with Christian, Geoff or Frank Skinner? Ricky, Melvin and Charlie on Kiss? talkSPORT, talkRADIO and LBC don't seem soulless! JK and Lucy and Stephen and Emma on Heart? Shows on specialist stations like Mi-Soul, Planet Rock, Kerrang, Matryoshka, Sunrise Radio or Polish Radio London? David Hamilton and David Jensen on The Wireless? James Barr on Heat? Matt Rudd on Absolute 80s?

1 year, 7 months ago

Both right. Matt is more right:) If one always drinks only exclusive wine, I don't know. One needs a potato time to time, some cheap tea, a cucumber, etc. - healthy diet! :D
Ian, which stations did you have in mind yourself?

1 year, 7 months ago

Well, to me, the stations I find most soulless are Heart (with the exception of a few very good presenters such as Victoria Leigh and James Dundon), Smooth, Most of the Absolute Radio stations (with the exception of Andy Bush, who I actually find quite funny), Mellow Magic (Love the music, but the presentation just feels generally weak and not that good), Capital, Kiss, LBC (how anybody can think there's any soul in right wing talk radio just baffles me, when the whole of right wing thinking seems to be soulless) and The Breeze (just feels like radio by the numbers or by the book, it has little life to it.)

There's a separate issue with regards to LBC, Talk Radio and Talk Sport, which is how generally boring and unengaging it seems to be, to my ears. Even BBC Local Radio general suffers from the same problem, 5 Live too. Outside of breaking news coverage, more talk radio seems to be just uninteresting.

I don't get to hear some of the other stations Matt mentioned, maybe because they're not in my area, so I would have to seek them out online, and to be honest online, I already have a pretty good selection of goto stations for various things.

Radio Plymouth doesn't feel soulless, Pirate FM doesn't feel soulless, NJoy Radio doesn't feel soulless, Magic doesn't feel soulless, Radio Exe doesn't feel soulless, SAM FM Bristol doesn't feel soulless. They at least feel like there's a heart and soul to those stations, something I can engage with, even if they are on automation at the time.

1 year, 7 months ago

Ian,

So in Post 1 you say:
"You don't get much of a sense of a soul from most modern commercial radio station."

and then in the last post...

"Radio Plymouth doesn't feel soulless, Pirate FM doesn't feel soulless, NJoy Radio doesn't feel soulless, Magic doesn't feel soulless, Radio Exe doesn't feel soulless, SAM FM Bristol doesn't feel soulless. They at least feel like there's a heart and soul to those stations, something I can engage with" and "...a few very good presenters such as Victoria Leigh and James Dundon"

So, commercial radio is soulless except for pretty much all of your local commercial radio stations, one of the biggest commercial radio stations in London and an almost entirely automated station in Bristol.

And to me, this is the issue really. Anorak posts generally boil down to "all radio is crap, except the stuff I like".

PRO1 year, 7 months ago

And to me, this is the issue really. Anorak posts generally boil down to "all radio is crap, except the stuff I like".

The golden rule is that if it's Global, despite producing some of the most creative commercial radio especially with Radio X and LBC, it's crap because of how big the organisation is.

We also have The Wireless Group taking some extraordinary risks by fully staffing DAB only radio stations of which one is an expensive to operate speech only station.

Twenty years ago, it was GWR that was getting bashed when they introduced networking and group wide playlists were accused of being 'soulless', now some anoraks wish the formats would return as they had local heritage brands and playlists that suited the local market.

1 year, 6 months ago

Matt Deegan;

And to me, this is the issue really. Anorak posts generally boil down to "all radio is crap, except the stuff I like".

Subjectively, that's the same for everyone.

Objectively, most commercial radio isn't badly produced, or musically programmed badly, but there is a difference between how the presentation comes across.

I look at it, as though commercial radio in general is already starting from a high point on the scale, and the main difference in people's subjective opinions of stations is what they view as important to them. Perfectly slick presentation isn't the most important thing for me, where as how relevant the content is to the audience, rates much higher on my list. Others put more import on slick presentation.

Martin Philip;

The golden rule is that if it's Global, despite producing some of the most creative commercial radio especially with Radio X and LBC, it's crap because of how big the organisation is.

I don't know about Radio X.

LBC on the other hand, isn't really that creative in terms of talk radio. It's mostly bog standard right wing talk, and frankly, I've heard better talk radio in the past, and can hear better talk radio anytime I want to.

And, musically, Global's properties are well programmed, there's no two ways about that, though I would say Gold stands out amongst the rest of them.

We also have The Wireless Group taking some extraordinary risks by fully staffing DAB only radio stations of which one is an expensive to operate speech only station.

It's risky, but nothing good ever came out of being safe. Most of the best DJs, presenters and shows of all time were incredibly risky. But Talk Radio is only separately staffed until 1am, and the overnight show is shared with Talk Sport.

Twenty years ago, it was GWR that was getting bashed when they introduced networking and group wide playlists were accused of being 'soulless', now some anoraks wish the formats would return as they had local heritage brands and playlists that suited the local market.

Maybe some out there do, but I'm not one of them. I don't want to see the old GWR style come back. I want to see actual local radio on local radio frequencies. A national 'Heart' wouldn't be a problem, but their style of semi-local and in some cases regional radio, just feels wrong on local radio frequencies.

This post was edited to remove aggressive language.

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian, you seem to lack any empathy whatsoever.

Is it possible that something you may not like, can still be good?

1 year, 6 months ago

I love how Talk Radio is being bashed for 'only' broadcasting unique new talk content between 6am and 1am...

Lazy.

1 year, 6 months ago

Matt Deegan;

Is it possible that something you may not like, can still be good?

Did I not just say that?

Michael Cook...

I love how Talk Radio is being bashed for 'only' broadcasting unique new talk content between 6am and 1am...

I'm not bashing them. I just stated that it's not separately programmed for the whole 24 hours, and frankly, I would have been surprised if it had.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

I love how Talk Radio is being bashed for 'only' broadcasting unique new talk content between 6am and 1am...

Disgraceful! Here's a company who's found a niche in the commercial speech market and they have the audacity to simulcast a shouty overnight sports show (which on weekdays has some general talk/sports crossover) rather than dead air.

1 year, 6 months ago

Martin Philip;

Disgraceful! Here's a company who's found a niche in the commercial speech market and they have the audacity to simulcast a shouty overnight sports show (which on weekdays has some general talk/sports crossover) rather than dead air.

  1. Where did I criticise them for not being 24 hours? Stating fact is not criticism, in and of itself.
  2. Where did I say that dead air would be preferable?
  3. Is there a lack of understanding going on here? What I wrote was a statement of fact. Nothing about whether they were right or wrong to do it.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

As ever, this thread has come down to discussions about fact or opinion. Let's not do that.

Where you praise someone for doing something, then add a "but..." sentence diluting that praise, that is clearly meant to convey an opinion that the "but..." stuff is a bad thing. Perception is reality. If you fail to communicate properly, others will get the wrong impression.

Ian, you are arguing with a successful, award-winning programmer who has successfully run a profitable radio station for some years. He runs a (presumably expensive) consulting firm for radio stations and has done extensive research into what audiences want. You would do really well to listen and learn from his free advice here, and treat him and others with respect.

On the more substantive point: audiences don't care what a frequency "was meant for". They only care what comes out of the speakers. In that regard, it's clear that the "soulless" radio that you despise has significant audience, irrespective of what the original intent of the 1970's introduction of local commercial radio may have initially have been. If you single-handedly have more programming experience than some of the UK's biggest companies, I'm glad for you.

Of your list, by the way, Sam FM in Bristol is mostly networked from hundreds of miles away, contradicting one of your self-made rules; the music choice for Pirate FM comes from hundreds of miles away too. I'm delighted you enjoy their output: but there's no need to denigrate the rest of the industry.

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian, this is the era of supermarket radio with loads of stations to choose from.

Yes - personal views may have it that there is a lot of dross on commercial radio output, but there are diamonds amongst the dross as well.

Unlike yester-year's commercial radio with ILR and three national stations, programme output quality, generally, was arguably better with fewer channels.

Unfortunately, more channels and deregulation can lead to some programme output quality hovering just above floor level. Even so, an adventurous search over channels availability can still lead to an element of surprise.

I don't know if you remember the grey years of the BBC monopoly on sound broadcasting and the draconian ''needle time'' restrictions of that period? Anyway, today's radio is still a lot brighter than that bygone era.

1 year, 6 months ago

James Cridland;

On the more substantive point: audiences don't care what a frequency "was meant for". They only care what comes out of the speakers.

You are perfectly correct, but it's not an audience issue, but a regulatory one, especially involving frequencies. I'd be quite happy to see all these 'network' stations in their own frequency block. What I don't want to see is network stations blocking out local ones. Whether 96-97.5 or 105-107 became the 'network' block, that would be fine. Just as long as there was space for a local station, to appear, whether commercial or community.

In that regard, it's clear that the "soulless" radio that you despise has significant audience...

Indeed it does, and on a personal level, I find that disappointing, because an iPod would probably suit them better. Non stop music, their own choices, on random shuffle, no news, no adverts, they'd love it. But instead, we have this soulless radio which I find just soul destroying to listen to.

Sam FM in Bristol is mostly networked from hundreds of miles away

Err, Bristol to Southampton is around 75 miles direct. That's hardly hundreds of miles away.

Being local does not equal having a soul. I listen online to stations in New York and Boston, and can feel like I'm actually part of the area even though I'm thousands of miles away. That quality, that allows stations like WCBS, WNYC, WGBH, WBEZ and many others to make you feel part of their area, even though you might be thousands of miles away, is something that is sadly lacking from a lot of UK commercial radio.

I'm delighted you enjoy their output: but there's no need to denigrate the rest of the industry.

I'm afraid the commercial radio industry in this country really needs to improve. The school report on it would read the 3 most damning words in the world, "Could do better". They have many different reasons for their choice, some of them very justifiable, and others less so, but you would hope that the bigger companies would be able to put on a better product. It doesn't always happen that way.

This post has been edited for personal insult and agressive language

1 year, 6 months ago

Willie Bone...

Ian, this is the era of supermarket radio with loads of stations to choose from.

That's a very good analogy actually.

Yes - personal views may have it that there is a lot of dross on commercial radio output, but there are diamonds amongst the dross as well.

I'm finding less and less diamonds amongst commercial radio these days. For every Richard Allinson or James Dundon, there's a whole load of Toby Anstis or Kate Garraway or a hundred nameless voices that do little except station promotion.

I'm finding more and more interesting programmes overseas, on stations like RTE Lyric FM, Q102, Classic Hits 4FM, Sunshine 106.8, and many many others. Podcasts of programmes like The California Report, WEBZ's Worldview, On The Media from WNYC, The World from WGBH, and many others are much more likely to grab my attention than 90-95% of current commercial radio.

I don't know if you remember the grey years of the BBC monopoly on sound broadcasting and the draconian ''needle time'' restrictions of that period? Anyway, today's radio is still a lot brighter than that bygone era.

I'm not sure what "grey years" you're on about. I'm guessing the early days of Radio 1 & 2, post the change from Light, Home & Third.

One of my earliest experiences in radio was at BBC Radio Cornwall in the early 90s, and even then, BBC Local Radio had very restrictive rules on what they could play musically. I can't remember the actual ratios, but I think they had to play more music from the BBC Radioplay albums, than from commercial releases.

Where I lived, we didn't get local commercial radio until Pirate FM arrived in 1992. Yes, you could pick up Plymouth Sound on 1152, but that could be hit and miss, dependent on atmospheric conditions, and 208 in the evenings was the only real commercial radio, until Atlantic 252 came along. And since BBC Radio Cornwall didn't arrive until 1983, my early years were mostly Radio 2 and Radio 4.

1 year, 6 months ago

I'm afraid the commercial radio industry in this country really needs to improve. The school report on it would read the 3 most damning words in the world, "Could do better."

How's that different to any other type of radio, Ian? Could your community radio show not get any better?

1 year, 6 months ago

Michael Cook:

How's that different to any other type of radio, Ian? Could your community radio show not get any better?

Oh good grief, my own show has lots of room for improvement, and I'm always tweaking it. Today's edition is gonna feature 2 guest co-hosts, something I've not done before, and I'm experimenting with a style that's not my usual. I'm always tweaking the show, every week.

The thing is, I don't expect community radio to be similar to commercial radio, or BBC radio. And yes, community radio often has a lot of room for improvement, but that's a process of collaboration between us all, not dictats from the station manager. Our station manager considers himself more of a gardener, putting in plants (programmes), and helping them grow.

1 year, 6 months ago

Most of my life I have lived in Yorkshire where the first commercial stations I was able to hear were firstly Radio Luxembourg (208 metres) and then Radio 270 off the Bridlington/Scarborough coast.

When a group of us in Harrogate wanted to start a local radio station in the town some of us became involved in lobbying Parliament prior to the passing of the 1990 Broadcasting Act that was needed to open up the airwaves beyond the first 19 commercial licences, that were city based, so that our town and the surrounding area could have its own commercial radio station.

Today Stray FM continues to be a successful local station that has presenters who know their local area and are involved with local events. The same applies to Yorkshire Coast Radio as the ethos is the same.

To me these local radio stations are not lacking any soul but are continuing to prove that there is an audience for this format of radio. Their RAJAR figures prove it despite having competition from the national branded 'local/regional' popular music stations that broadcast across their respective areas.

In addition if I wish to listen to any specialist music I can always listen to Jazz FM Stereo, which certainly does have 'soul' or Radio 3/Classic FM or Premier Praise with its music mix ranging from Kirk Franklin to Third Day.

So to me commercial radio does not lack soul but is providing a range of services that many people wish to hear.

1 year, 6 months ago

Wow. Well trodden ground though, especially from Ian.

I like Heart, I like Smooth and I like Magic. I also like Moyles on Radio X. I don't like stations that purport to have "more personality" but in reality they just talk more, that talking being incredibly self-indulgent. There's a lot of CR that does that. Like an hour of Bond themes in daytime. Sorry Ian, but I'd never hire you on any station of mine doing that! Or that time Radio Hafren did an hour of country music in drive time.

I don't like Sam FM or Jack FM. You can't say commercial radio is soulless then praise an automated jukebox. But I don't like em so I don't listen to em.

There is a massive choice out there Ian. If you don't like it switch off.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Just to add, Ian's beloved Pirate FM's parent company UKRD have finally embraced DAB with the likes of Escape to Cornwall, a soundscape format along with the 'Oldies' spin-offs which also broadcast in Sussex and North Yorkshire and new music station 'eagle3' in Surrey which has also given students the opportunity to broadcast as well.

I'd also add that what you may hate, there are thousands more which enjoy what commercial radio is putting out, whether it's the solid jockery on Heart, Smooth and Capital or the broader AC output that for example Radio Jackie or Time 107.5 are doing in London.

Luckily in London, we don't have CR where they allow presenters to be self indulgent, instead serving minority groups or specific genres. I'd debate that Rinse, Reprezent and Resonance are exactly what well formatted CR can be, while allowing presenters to show their personality without being being soulless or self-indulgent.

1 year, 6 months ago

As the breakfast presenter on a CR, I'd like to think I'm not self-indulgent. I'd be genuinely interested to see what Ian, and Art whilst we're at it, thought of it actually.

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian, I was referring to the grey years of the BBC monopoly on sound broadcasting from 1967 to 1973.

True Story: My first job as a teenager was working in premises at 149-153 High Street, Ayr (Scotland):-

Back in 1970, the radio at the back of the shop played the Jimmy Young show on BBC Radio 1 with BBC Radio 2 every morning. Near half of the programme playlist back then was in-studio live sessions of popular songs of the day with adult speech including the ''JY recipes''.
Popular at that time from faraway on the Essex coast was a pop pirate station called Radio NorthSea International (RNI).
Although RNI had FM and medium wave output which was subjected to an AM ''warbler jamming signal'' by the GPO, the station was too far out for daylight signal reception in south west Scotland.
RNI was different from most other pirates stations, RNI had an additional shortwave transmitter on board her ship which radiated on 6210 kHz in the (I think) 42 meter band.
A fellow teenager and I were in luck, an old radio sat dormant in a back garage of the premises, covered in dust. This old wireless included short wave bands on its tuner.
I climbed up on the garage roof with copper wire and attached the wire between the radio's aerial socket and an external pipe as a makeshift antenna. Then we switched on the radio in the garage and heard RNI's 'Carl Mitchell Show' playing an eleven minute version of 'I heard It Through The Grapevine', by 'Creedence Clearwater Revival'. WOW!
This programme was an alternative to older generation loving Jimmy Young recipe readouts with RNI including songs from American rock group 'Family', Jimmy Ruffin and many others back in year 1970. Story Ends.

BBC and commercial radio output in 2016 probably fullfills the need of most listeners! If I was a teenager today, I would not feel compulsed to climbing up on to a roof with copper wire to hear daytime rock or R&B music! The listening gaps are now all filled for most teenagers and auld codgers, alike!

1 year, 6 months ago

James Martin, I would be interested to hear your breakfast show.

The example you constantly reference was not produced because I wanted to produce it, but was produced in response to what I was reading on listener emails. Just because I may be a fan, doesn't mean I was just going to inflict my taste on people. I made a judgement based on listener response, and I got more listener response back afterwards. To my mind, that means I got people's attention, and they told me what they wanted, and I can't ask for fairer than that.

By contrast, on my most recent show, I had two guests, who acted as co-hosts for the first hour, and we had a serious conversation about a local community organisation needing to fundraise £35,000 to help pay for their recently expanded premises.

Now you might think dedicating the majority of the hour to the conversation might be overkill, but that's what I did, because there was multiple angles for this that needed to be covered, and make no mistake, I was interested in the story, both journalistically, and personally.

That's something that even BBC wouldn't do, would be spend that much time. We had some laughs along the way, but the point of the piece was quite serious and I really enjoyed being able to spend some serious time discussing something really close to the local community.

Do you think that indulgent?

Now, Martin's point about Resonance. I can't talk about Rinse or Reprezent because I haven't heard them. However, I have heard Resonance, and indeed, Source FM shared programmes with Resonance. Mac Dunlop produced Unspoken Words and My Day Off which have aired both on Source and Resonance.

Resonance are very similar to Soundart in Totnes, but both stations, in my view, do some stuff that is too niche in too large a quantity. Some of the stuff is brilliant, others not so much. I heard one show on Soundart that was all about female composers in video game soundtracks, at 2pm in the afternoon. Wrong show at the wrong time. I do wonder if some of these shows are people indulging their own likes, which you criticise me for.

There is definitely a place on the radio dial for what Soundart and Resonance do, but I do wonder if it would be better done on a national scale where it might get enough of an audience. Art radio on community radio seems like too small a scale.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

If I was a teenager today, I would not feel compulsed to climbing up on to a roof with copper wire to hear daytime rock or R&B music! The listening gaps are now all filled for most teenagers and auld codgers, alike!

The current group of teenagers have known nothing but the internet, this is a group who use Spotify, MP3 downloads, YouTube, podcasts etc to discover new music.

The 1990s was really the last decade where teenagers discovered new music, most of the country had John Peel or The Evening Session on Radio 1 while London and some cities across the UK had landbased dance or urban pirate radio stations which pumped out the latest underground tracks, some straight from a test press vinyl.

In 2016, you have radio stations playing familiar classics of various geners or manufactured or mainstream pop music, while some community stations such as Rinse play the upcoming dance/urban tracks, but if I was 14, would I really listen to a music radio station for music when I can download tracks and set up playlists at home and listen on my phone? This is something the industry will have to keep a look at. I think linear speech radio will always have a place, but I wonder what we'll have in 20-30 years time when people of my age will still like to hear 80s/90s music (and even before that!) on a linear platform?

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Resonance are very similar to Soundart in Totnes, but both stations, in my view, do some stuff that is too niche in too large a quantity. Some of the stuff is brilliant, others not so much. I heard one show on Soundart that was all about female composers in video game soundtracks, at 2pm in the afternoon. Wrong show at the wrong time. I do wonder if some of these shows are people indulging their own likes, which you criticise me for.

Resonance have an audience in London at least which makes their niche format viable and have regular donations which have kept the station on-air. The London Musicians Collective, the charity which operates Resonance have since expanded to a DAB spin-off station in Brighton, another area in the UK which appreciates the niche format. However I wouldn't expect Resonance to be viable in rural Cornwall.

Ironically, Resonance may be the only platform where Ian could possibly get away with playing Bond themes for an hour as an art form. This is the same station which used to have a sax player play tunes from a payphone.

I can't talk about Rinse or Reprezent because I haven't heard them.

Rinse and Reprezent are similar in that they provide a platform for London's young population. Reprezent's presenters are all between 13-25, ranging from presenters who present a show and then do other work as part of an after school project to students from south London's colleges and universities. There is also a speech element to some programmes.

Rinse on the other hand has credible DJ's who play tracks from the underground, older teenagers and young adults who present breakfast, drive and some other daytime shows and also trains disenfranchised youngsters in broadcasting or DJ'ing skills.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Ian said:

On my most recent show, I had two guests, who acted as co-hosts for the first hour, and we had a serious conversation about a local community organisation needing to fundraise £35,000 to help pay for their recently expanded premises. Now you might think dedicating the majority of the hour to the conversation might be overkill, but that's what I did, because there was multiple angles for this that needed to be covered, and make no mistake, I was interested in the story, both journalistically, and personally.

I'm sure you were interested, of that I've no doubt. But I wonder whether the vast majority of your audience were. Indulging yourself on a very long discussion just because you're interested isn't, it would seem to me, to be taking the majority of the audience's thoughts in mind.

For the first hour, I wonder whether the fact that you got entire newbies to co-host made better radio than if you'd continue to host the programme yourself with your experience? What did it bring to the listening experience when you had people with no experience haltingly stumbling through the mechanics of doing a radio programme?

That's something that even BBC wouldn't do, would be spend that much time.

There might be a reason for that.

Do you think that indulgent?

Yes. I think a radio station should be consistent and ensure that it doesn't broadcast great swathes of output that are only interesting to the presenter. You've taken great pains to point out how interested you were, but you've not actually considered the whole audience.

If you normally play music, people won't be expecting an hour of chat about an issue they may have no interest in: and will see this as a switch-off. If you normally broadcast an hour of speech at this time, then that's a little different.

Earlier, I said:

On the more substantive point: audiences don't care what a frequency "was meant for". They only care what comes out of the speakers.

...to which you replied

You are perfectly correct, but it's not an audience issue, but a regulatory one, especially involving frequencies. I'd be quite happy to see all these 'network' stations in their own frequency block

You've not understood the point. It isn't a regulatory issue. It's an issue of what the audience likes or dislikes. Audiences first.

Audiences clearly like polished music stations like Heart or Capital, irrespective of where they are programmed or broadcast from. The original plan behind those frequencies were planned many years ago in a different media and social landscape.

Audiences like those stations and tune in to them in their millions. Commercial radio is gaining ground from the BBC in RAJAR, and rightly so. To decry them as against the natural order of things, as not being locally relevant, makes absolutely no difference to that fact.

1 year, 6 months ago

James, then we have to agree to disagree, because we obviously have fundamentally different ideas about good radio of any kind.

To you, the current commercial radio output is as good as it gets. To me, it is well programmed musically, but content wise, it is mostly lacking, which means it cannot do things like podcasts. Absolute Radio is about the only major commercial music radio station, that does podcasts. LBC made, in my view, a dumb decision to ask people to pay extra to listen back to old shows.

We will never agree on this.

Willie Bone, I wasn't born until 1973 so that era is just outside my experience.

1 year, 6 months ago

if I was 14, would I really listen to a music radio station for music when I can download tracks and set up playlists at home and listen on my phone?

Well, actually... I think you'll find that the likes of Spotify complements Radio consumption. If it's killing anything it's physical media. People are not binary, they can consume more than 1 thing throughout the day.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

LBC made, in my view, a dumb decision to ask people to pay extra to listen back to old shows.

There were two things that David Lloyd introduced to LBC which still work today. One was putting Steve Allen on early breakfast with his showbiz bitchy persona format, the other was he introduced a podcast paywall for old shows.

The fact is that LBC listeners are willing to subscribe to listen to old shows. It worked for Chrysalis and Global aren't going to stop a revenue stream coming in.

Considering the expense of maintaining a speech radio station, £11.99 for six months which works out less than £2 per month is value for money for an archive of recent and archive shows. Some shows are free though, such as Iain Lee's.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Well, actually... I think you'll find that the likes of Spotify complements Radio consumption. If it's killing anything it's physical media. People are not binary, they can consume more than 1 thing throughout the day.

Well of course, but does that necessarily mean radio? I know it's on their phones either via a FM radio app or the stations themselves have heavily invested in apps. Yet this is the instant generation who want things now. I'm not disputing that kids listen to Radio 1 or Capital in the car with their parents or dip into radio on their smartphone, but I don't see radio as important for that age group as it was for us who'd avidly listen to the chart on a Sunday afternoon taping the chart.

As for physical media, it has made a tiny bit of a resurgence, vinyl is being sold in Sainsbury's and Tesco of all places, is still used in some DJ sets, although digital media is more dominant, while there's still a sense of holding an physical CD album is as valuable to a teenage fan of a band is more important if not equal to a download. This is why it's important that we're in a multi-platform era. Radio is a small part of that.

1 year, 6 months ago

Yeah, radio has never been great about making must listen content. Always been a dip in, dip out kinda medium.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Ian,

To you, the current commercial radio output is as good as it gets.

No, not to me. To the listeners. The people you appear to be forgetting about, whether it's an indulgent hour of Bond songs, or an indulgent hour of speech about a minor local issue.

I find Heart to be polished and professional. I don't listen to it, though. I prefer something more than background. But, I'm self-aware enough to note that not everyone's like me.

1 year, 6 months ago

James Martin said

"As the breakfast presenter on a CR, I'd like to think I'm not self-indulgent. I'd be genuinely interested to see what Ian, and Art whilst we're at it, thought of it actually."

So you want me to give up listening to Radio 5 (or Radio Scotland), which is part of my daily routine, to listen to your program. Why should I? Sell it to me. Give me reasons as to why I should listen. I hope its going to be a wee bit more than that-was-this-is-coming-up-don't-forget-station id and that you're a wee bit closer to say, Joe Kilday on Central FM for small-station entertainment value. You haven't even used this fine forum to tell me what radio station you're on. Pretend you're doing a trail.

1 year, 6 months ago

At the end of the day, it's RAJAR's that prove the point. From what I see in my part of the world, almost all of the larger commercial stations are slowly heading downwards (with one very notable exception which I will mention later), whilst other smaller and very local sounding stations are gradually heading upwards, despite some of them having suffered from the might that was Real Radio in previous years, which ensured that their audiences had dipped to very concerning lows.

That suggests, to me, that it's the smaller stations that have a little more speech content, a bit more personality for their presenters and certainly a bit more local content that is making the connection with listeners, whilst the other large stations, who are supposed to be doing absolutely everything that's oh-so-spot-on to what listeners want (according to some program research guru), are not working quite so well anymore.

Only Smooth Radio appears to be a runaway success. It's a specialist music service of a sort and one that makes me a wee bit smug because the music policy that I created for an RSL station back in 1997 is extremely close to that of Smooth Radio (which I modeled on The Bay in Lancaster at the time), so I guess I was right all along (again).

1 year, 6 months ago

Smooth has almost no speech content, Art, and networks for the maximum 17 hours a day. It has much better Rajars than its predecessor, Saga, which broadcast from Glasgow 24 hrs a day with lifestyle speech, studio guests and longer 'personality' links.

How does that prove your point about personality and speech content?

1 year, 6 months ago

To you, the current commercial radio output is as good as it gets. To me, it is well programmed musically, but content wise, it is mostly lacking, which means it cannot do things like podcasts.

What content from your own show would you put in a weekly podcast, Ian?

1 year, 6 months ago

James Cridland...

No, not to me. To the listeners. The people you appear to be forgetting about, whether it's an indulgent hour of Bond songs, or an indulgent hour of speech about a minor local issue.

Did you not read what I wrote about the Bond special?

The example you constantly reference was not produced because I wanted to produce it, but was produced in response to what I was reading on listener emails. Just because I may be a fan, doesn't mean I was just going to inflict my taste on people. I made a judgement based on listener response, and I got more listener response back afterwards.

This was a different judgement. This was a choice based on the fact that the story was about the local food bank and other community support community interest companies need the money for their recently expanded premises. The whole issue of food banks is a political hot potato in this country, but on this I avoided the political side of the issue, and just focused on the appeal, and what the organisation, a local church, provides in terms of community support. In other words, it was a story that had strong public service credentials.

Minor local story? I think not. In terms of our remit, our key commitments, it helps strengthen our work with other community agencies, and encouraging participation and listening from under-represented sectors of society. In other words, the listeners themselves, are why I did the story, and why I gave it so much time. It's called understanding the audience, and not only what they want, but also what they need.

But again, this is something we can't agree on because we seem to have very different ideas about programming, for any kind of station. You see "minor local story", I see "commitment to community journalism". There seems to be such a complete disconnect between your viewpoint and mine, that nothing I say will make any difference. I could explain the motivations as clearly as I have, and apparently, it seems it will not make a single difference.

You also seem to think that RAJARs are any kind of indication about popularity or quality of product. To me, RAJARs only tell you how many are listening, not how well they like what you're doing, and if the emails I got yesterday are any indication, the listeners really appreciated what I was doing yesterday. And if in the process, I got someone to seek help from the local food bank, or the community handyman service, or utilise one of the other community support services the local church provides, then the interview was useful. If through the interview the money gets fundraised, then I will be happy with my work.

1 year, 6 months ago

Michael Cook asked the question...

What content from your own show would you put in a weekly podcast, Ian?

It would include the interviews I do, which unfortunately aren't regular, but they would go in. I'd probably include some of my spoken stuff.

The problem though is the show is designed to be topical. Quite often, I will change my mind on whether or not to include some content based upon what is happening at the time the show airs. So the show isn't quite the same week to week, and that's just fine with me.

1 year, 6 months ago

So your own show doesn't even meet the standard by which you judge commercial radio?

1 year, 6 months ago

Michael Cook;

So your own show doesn't even meet the standard by which you judge commercial radio?

Because my show is not a commercial radio show. It's designed to be different to what is out there on the radio at that time, but keeping the basic things that people need at that time of day, such as weather and travel. It's a balancing act.

What do people expect at drive time? upbeat music, weather and travel information, and a show that is at least somewhat entertaining. I try to do that, but also give them something more than that as well. Something a little bit different to the commercial radio norm.

After all, we're not going to attract listeners away from Heart and Pirate, because they are so good at what they do, so we need to do something, that will bring people to us who do not want standard commercial radio. Providing an alternative, that still feels within the mainstream.

That's why it gets tweaked every week.

1 year, 6 months ago

Art... why do I need to tell you what station I am on? You REPEATEDLY complain about station names being IDed...

Anyway I'll indulge you. I'm on MKFM weekdays 6-10am. Our target audience is under 35s in MK who may have 10 years ago enjoyed Horizon FM and are disenfranchised by Heart. Musically I'd say it's Capital with more older tunes including 90s anthems. It's heavily music led but we have national news from Sky, local news, what's on information, sport and some great competitions. Yes, it's a very commercial sound but I don't see that as a bad thing in a market where Heart has a local commercial monopoly on FM.

It's got some really good guys at the top, ex-Horizon mostly, who understand the market and the gaps in that market. I'm biased but it's a great example of how CR can provide a service and still be a viable product, whilst giving advertisers added value over what Global can offer them.

1 year, 6 months ago

Indeed it does, and on a personal level, I find that disappointing, because an iPod would probably suit them better. Non stop music, their own choices, on random shuffle, no news, no adverts, they'd love it.

Err, we're talking soulless - not speechless, right?


Sam FM in Bristol is mostly networked from hundreds of miles away

Err, Bristol to Southampton is around 75 miles direct. That's hardly hundreds of miles away.

Glasgow is even less from Edinborough:)
I mean for Britain, 10mi must feel like several times farther - to a foreighner, like me, where in Russia nearest cities are NOT LESS than a couple'a hundred km away from each other:)
So consider it a figure of speech, "I will walk 5 hundred miles!..":)

Today Stray FM continues to be a successful local station that has presenters who know their local area and are involved with local events. The same applies to Yorkshire Coast Radio as the ethos is the same.

To me these local radio stations are not lacking any soul but are continuing to prove that there is an audience for this format of radio. Their RAJAR figures prove it despite having competition from the national branded 'local/regional' popular music stations that broadcast across their respective areas.

In addition if I wish to listen to any specialist music I can always listen to Jazz FM Stereo, which certainly does have 'soul' or Radio 3/Classic FM or Premier Praise with its music mix ranging from Kirk Franklin to Third Day.

So to me commercial radio does not lack soul but is providing a range of services that many people wish to hear.

J Peter, you juxtaposing different things. One might wish things that have no soul; dead/inanimate objects can be extremely popular, etc.

Well, I see people can't read such a long thread as this is in its entirety:) I spoke about it earlier: one might highly evaluate something exclusive etc., but in their everyday life they'll much more need simple things - onions, potatoes, etc.

1 year, 6 months ago

Michael Cook in his fine wisdom said:-

"
Smooth has almost no speech content, Art, and networks for the maximum 17 hours a day. It has much better Rajars than its predecessor, Saga, which broadcast from Glasgow 24 hrs a day with lifestyle speech, studio guests and longer 'personality' links. How does that prove your point about personality and speech content?
"

I can't. Which is why I used the words "with one very notable exception." I think you need to clean out your brain with cotton buds, sir. :-) I have a theory, though, as to why it works so well.

The first being the music policy, which I can say with a degree of confidence because I trod that ground almost twenty years ago for which I unwittingly created Scotland's first soft-AC station which proved to be popular (for its music) for the short time it was on air. Radio 2 later moved from an easy-listening to soft-AC format and saw its audiences rise. Magic followed suit in both London and in the North of England for a while.

Radio 2 later shifted from the soft-AC music format to being what it is today. Whilst Magic in London maintained the soft-AC format, its sisters in the North became classic hits, focussing on 60's and 70's. So, within a few years, the market was perfect for a new soft-AC station to come in. For the demographic that Smooth primarily appeals to, the music policy appears to be working very well indeed.

So I come onto my second theory as to why networking and low speech content is also working for that station and is providing a welcome alternative. The demographic is happy with it being like that, probably because there are other stations that do offer high speech content. In Scotland that happens to be the very high performing BBC Radio Scotland, which plays almost no music by day but also has an older demographic listening for much of the time.

However, when we look at the other big ILR stations in Central Scotland (which happen to be aiming for younger audiences), we can see that things aren't going quite so well for them. They are gradually moving downwards and it's not as if one station is stealing listeners from the other. A few years ago we could clearly see that Real Radio's huge rise was at the detriment of Clyde and Forth (and more especially the small-scale stations). In 2015/2016, Heart is not impacting on Clyde or Forth because they are all slowly heading downwards. Capital is wavering around the 19% mark, having made a small gain on what was Beat 106/Galaxy. It's the small-scale stations that are seeing a considerable recovery. Why?

Real Radio was speech heavy with personality presenters. The larger ILR's and more especially the smaller ILR's suffered, so Real was obviously making a good connection with its intended audience. We now see Heart being a musical wall with much less content and some of audience traffic appears to moving back to the small-scale stations. Does that correlate?

1 year, 6 months ago

James Martin said:-

"Anyway I'll indulge you. I'm on MKFM weekdays 6-10am. Our target audience is under 35s in MK who may have 10 years ago enjoyed Horizon FM and are disenfranchised by Heart. Musically I'd say it's Capital with more older tunes including 90s anthems. It's heavily music led but we have national news from Sky, local news, what's on information, sport and some great competitions. Yes, it's a very commercial sound but I don't see that as a bad thing in a market where Heart has a local commercial monopoly on FM."

I heard MKFM on DAB on a night I stayed there, whilst admiring the scenery and the town's fine architecture (if you like boxes), whilst also wondering where the grass is and why so many cyclists try to run pedestrians down.

I was impressed with the sound (slick, certainly) and also for its content at the time I listened. The presenter on air had something to say about Milton Keynes in almost every link.

It's always a benefit to community radio if you can have a good balance of ex-pro presenters and some people getting trained and being on air. We have a station in Irvine that has benefitted from ex-Westsound presenters.

You still haven't sold me on YOUR show, though. You're on breakfast - are you not supposed to be the big draw? Or are you doing the (commendable) thing of being the presenter that reprezents da hood with essential news and information for the town, interspersed with good uplifting music for that time.

1 year, 6 months ago

So, Art, what you're saying is that it's

a little more speech content, a bit more personality for their presenters and certainly a bit more local content that is making the connection with listeners

except when

networking and low speech content is also working for that station and is providing a welcome alternative.

I agree.

Different stations provide different things to different audiences (or the same audience at different times). There are many ways to do good radio. Sometimes it's content rich. Sometimes it's music intense.

Clever commercial stations will certainly look for gaps in their marketplace. And national brands and stations will not be as agile in every market as smaller ones. That doesn't mean that the national brand's strategy is wrong though. The big groups are selling big brands - their consistency and focus is their strength - and they're aiming to be profitable. Real Radio rated really well was hugelycostly to run. Did it make money?

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

Real Radio rated really well was hugelycostly to run. Did it make money?

I seem to recall that Real Radio Scotland gave away a lot of money during local shows which helped them gain share over Clyde/Forth.

1 year, 6 months ago

Michael Cook:-

"Different stations provide different things to different audiences (or the same audience at different times). There are many ways to do good radio. Sometimes it's content rich. Sometimes it's music intense."

Absolutely. I don't think I've ever said anything to the contrary at any time. I do use Heart Scotland as an example of how a station seems to be failing because of what it was prior to the change of name and format. This is a thread about "soulless radio," for which some people have wanted to make the point that "soulless radio" is perhaps what the people actually want to hear. Well, I'm pointing out that the RAJAR figures seem to prove that in the case of Scotland, it clearly isn't what people want to hear, especially when that licence and those frequencies lost half of its audience in a short period of time and the audiences of other stations is increasing.

Martin and Michael want to point out that this may be a good strategy, having cheap programming with little content to enhance profitability. That's fine, provided you have just enough listeners to keep advertisers wanting to advertise - but if your programming strategy is ensuring that you are shedding listeners at a phenomenal rate (and still no sign of it having reached the bottom yet), is that quite so wise?

Again, Heart Scotland's "soulless" approach (if you like) to programming seems to be ensuring that it's winning the race to the bottom (if that's what its intention is). Heart Scotland is now the poorest performing FM commercial radio station, not just in Central Scotland but in the whole of Scotland, according to RAJAR in terms of reach and share. It's rivals are not just a little bit ahead, they are miles ahead and the station itself is a whimper of the might that it was when it was Real Radio and it was doing some damage to the others.

So, is that what the listeners want? It may be Global's business desire (rather than a means of appealing to an audience) to provide a cheap format that is a profitable strategy ...... for just now ..... but I don't fancy the long term prospects very much, if you consider the possibility that the audience could get to be so low that no-one (at local level) wants to advertise and the station is just left with national advertisers to fill up the slots.

I still believe that Global may have to revise their programming strategy for their Scottish version of Heart and provide what the listeners want to hear. If their intended audience wants to hear more local programming with more personality (unlike Smooth's audience, it would seem), they may have to do it - or fade away to being that last horse running that few people bother about.

However, I still can't help but think that those Extra stations is part of Global's long term strategy of providing wallpaper radio at national level that is cheap to run and quite profitable, for which the local equivalents can be disposed of.

1 year, 6 months ago

Atlantic 252 had its presenters STFU and play the hits. It's still remembered with great affection here.

I'm of the opinion that personality is not simply "talking more." Witness Pat Sharp at his peak (and he was still great on Smooth recently when Global first "Parkified" it) - think of a link like using Twitter. Can you say what you want to say using less words?

1 year, 6 months ago

James Martin (Slightly off topic): Former Atlantic 252 DJ 'Dusty Rhodes' presented Tech Central on RTE Radio 1 Extra on Easter Day.
Its a smart show for digital gadget lovers in Ireland and elsewhere! The podcasted show is aired at 7:30am on Sunday mornings on RTE Radio 1 Extra and can be streamed from the Tech Central website, according to Mr Rhodes.

1 year, 6 months ago

I have been watching this debate with interest, but have avoided contributing thus far, mainly due to the fact that 'soulless' or otherwise is a purely subjective thing.

But, Art, what I would say is tha Heart Scotland isn't comparable to Real Scotland in its pomp. Real was a brilliant bespoke service with a hell of a lot of marketing. Heart is, at root, a national commercial station with local optouts. That is just what the product on offer is.

As a mostly UK national station with local optouts it has numbers consistant with being a mostly UK national station with local optouts. If you look at Heart's various RAJARS around the UK they vary considerably. But to me that is analogous to the fact that Labour and Conservative voting patterns vary considerably across the UK too. In both radio and politics it's about trying to maximize a UK-wide national offering and making the most of it that way, so it's only natural that 'things' like radio stations and political parties vary in popularity from region to region. Presumably the same thing applies to the BBC national stations too. There isn't anything to 'do' about it.

Re Smooth Glasgow.....yes, interesting exception to the rule. Why is it so sucessful here, given that it is also a mostly national music intensive station, is the question. My answer to that is.......Clyde 2!! Simply put, Clyde 2's historical high performance as an AM service compared to similar down south primed a ready-made market for Smooth 105.2 to poach audience from, offering them a similar type of service but on 105.2 FM instead of 1152 AM. And since Smooth 105.2 has at least some local programming for Glasgow whereas 1152 has none, the RAJAR numbers are perhaps not surprising (I add perhaps because my theory is based after the fact of the RAJARS rather than beforehand).

1 year, 6 months ago

Or maybe it's just the music on Smooth, rather than much to do with any lack of local programming. I say that because of my own experience on that subject.

With me being a music anorak, when I was younger I almost always made a bee-line for the CD collections of people whose houses I visited, just to have a nosey. When it came to people who were of the generation above me, I couldn't help but notice that for most of the time, their CD and album collections had something in common. Despite their age, their musical taste wasn't old. Instead, whilst some of their collections included songs and artists who they adored several decades previously, the albums and compilations that I saw consisted mostly of soft, melodic songs that most people knew, especially ballads and love songs.

So why was radio still going through an era of providing just golden oldies on medium wave and the week's chart in a different order on FM? In 1997 that was still happening to a large extent. When I saw the RAJAR's for The Bay (which was only 4 years old at that time) and heard what it did, I ensured that I programmed the music on the RSL station in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire (that had intentions of applying for the licence for Lanarkshire) to be a soft-AC station. It received a very positive response, even though some people within the station didn't support me (at first).

So, now we're in 2016 and Smooth Radio is filling that need for that demographic, a specialist service that (I know) reflects the musical tastes of people who are older than me. Global have got that one right.

Come back towards people of my age and younger and we have a variety of radio stations appealing to our musical tastes. certainly, when I speak to the few women who do listen to Heart Scotland, they say they listen (on occasions) because of the music BUT at other times they listen to their own music or listen to another radio station, usually Clyde 1/Forth 1 or Radio 2.

When it comes to content, the other stations have more than Heart Scotland. When it comes to music, those people also have other means of listening to vast collections of it on their devices or even a streaming service. Then we also have an issue of Heart Scotland not sounding particularly Scottish, despite its name, when its predecessor definitely was.

I know, from my travels and my daily routines that radios in shops, garages, hairdressers, barbers, doctors surgeries, dentists and so on that were rigidly tuned to Real for many years, even just for background noise, are no longer tuned to that frequency. The dial has been moved along to something else that is satisfying the needs of the people who want something in the background. So even as a musical wall with little content, Heart Scotland is not satisfying them - and that appears to be in sync with the RAJARs. That may be Global's strategy - but in the Central Scotland market, that's probably a very risky one and probably one that in the longer term might prove to be unsustainable.

1 year, 6 months ago

The problem, Art, is you are too aligned with what the license WAS, not what it now IS. Real was a locally focusesed version of a semi-national brand. Heart is a national brand delivered locally. To compare it to Real is dangerous.

If people are tuning to Radio 2 then it's not English accents that's putting them off, clearly (Ken Bruce notwithstanding) - your argument is "but it's a different sort of station." But Heart Scotland is not, not anymore.

You're forgetting Real was a station run by the Guardian. It's now run like if the Times or the Telegraph ran it. It's no longer a product of New Labour excess, it's a product of Conservative viability. Now, Scotland is, intrinsically, a socialist country. More pandas and all that. So am I surprised it's not picking up the same top line figures north of Hadrian's Wall? No, I'm not. But if Heart is more cost effective to run, brilliant.

1 year, 6 months ago

Yes James I entirely agree. Real Radio arrived at exactly the same time as Gordon Brown turned the New Labour spending taps on. It was for a time a happy coincidence.

Tax credits. Public spending......and all having a particularly high impact in places where the Real stations served, i.e. Scotland, North England, and Wales. GMG then came along and served this audience whose financial fortunes had taken a sharp upturn. Maybe some of those public sector jobs weren't the most demanding.......so maybe the types of jobs where you could have Real Radio on in the office in the first place. DFS and Arnold Clark would see you as now having money to spend. You might have kept an attentive ear on Real all day to win a car or a holiday or money. Because they were always giving away cars, holidays and money locally.

Now it's 2016 and it's different. You are far more likely to be in a private sector job governed by profit and loss. There's much more pressure on you at work. And your phone is going off all the time. Message alerts and all that. This is the new reality to which Global's slim sleek operations cater to, and so far as Heart is concerned, Scotland is just a northernmost outpost. It isn't 'key' in the way it was to Real.

1 year, 6 months ago

So James Martin decided to make an argument about radio based purely on political ideology.

You're forgetting Real was a station run by the Guardian. It's now run like if the Times or the Telegraph ran it. It's no longer a product of New Labour excess, it's a product of Conservative viability.

Honestly, I think you're overstating the change by a factor of 100 or 1000. The difference as I understand it is much simpler. Real Radio had a sense of service, but without being too concerned about making it profitably. Heart is the other end of the scale, over-concerned with the profitability, and has room for additional service commitments, especially in a nation like Scotland. The ideal is somewhere in between.

However, to attribute one to New Labour, and the other to the Tories is lazy. New Labour was Tory-lite, and the actual difference between New Labour policies and Tory policies could be measured not in miles, but in millimetres. GMG made a classic mistake, trying to do too much, too soon, and it ended up costing them.

1 year, 6 months ago

Better than dragging Fox News into yet another debate.

John has explained it. New Labour was heavy on public spending. You can't say that about the present lot.

As he's also pointed out, Real bought listeners with a lot of prizes. It might have got a lot of listeners but I doubt it made much money. GMG sold their entire radio division for little over twice the price they paid for Scot FM on its own. That's a huge loss on investment.

PRO1 year, 6 months ago

However, to attribute one to New Labour, and the other to the Tories is lazy. New Labour was Tory-lite, and the actual difference between New Labour policies and Tory policies could be measured not in miles, but in millimetres. GMG made a classic mistake, trying to do too much, too soon, and it ended up costing them.

Yet GMG like Labour spent money they didn't have which gave Real Radio an artificial share with the big money competitions and regional programming.

The comparison to New Labour may be true once GMG starting networking evenings and overnights from Salford. (Daytime networking started during the Real and Smooth era) However by that period, it was clear that GMG were ready to sell and made the Real network as streamlined as possible before Global acquired the company.

1 year, 6 months ago

The Real and Smooth era was just like the hold separate era of GCap though, they bought Phillipa Collins onto mid mornings and split up the One network. They were simply second guessing the new regime.

1 year, 6 months ago

Ian, I don't see it as a political ideology thing at all, more the prosaic reality that radio stations tend to reflect the realities of the times they broadcast in.

Real Radio catered (in Myers parlance) to bubbly housewives of 39 who had space in their lives for the station, whereas the Global brands give a quick 'grab and go' fix to people leading much more stressful lives these days.

1 year, 6 months ago

There's a far simpler explanation of the changes.

Real Radio was obliged to carry lots of speech. Heart isn't. Real Radio wasn't allowed to do lots of networking. Heart is.

This post was edited to remove aggressive language

1 year, 6 months ago

John Laurie;

Ian, I don't see it as a political ideology thing at all,

Neither do I John.

This post has been edited to remove personal insult

1 year, 6 months ago

This post has been removed for consisting solely of personal insult

1 year, 6 months ago

This post has been deleted since it consisted solely of personal insult

1 year, 6 months ago

Micheal Cook:-

_"There's a far simpler explanation of the changes. Real Radio was obliged to carry lots of speech. Heart isn't. Real Radio wasn't allowed to do lots of networking. Heart is. -"

A point of order Michael.

Shortly after Real Radio took over Scot FM, Ofcom agreed to have most of Real's speech commitments dropped.

Real Radio did do networking. At one point all Scottish programming was dropped in favour of networking from Manchester between 7PM and 6AM. The decision was quickly reversed when there was considerable revolt from the listeners - hence the reason why I am fairly confident that the very high levels of networking on Heart is not to the liking of the Central Scotland listenership and could be yet another reason that Heart Scotland is not following the pattern of its sister stations in England by increasing listeners shortly after its arrival.

1 year, 6 months ago

Real Radio was obliged to have less speech than Scot FM, but still a lot more than today. And, yes, Real networked in the evenings, but not during daytime.

1 year, 6 months ago

The Scot to Real tansistion is well documented in Myers' book. It was losing horrendous sums in early 2000s prices. You've got to be able to pay your way. That's why we have the BBC, no?

1 year, 6 months ago

So we've had two posts in response to mine that have not contributed much to the thread but I'll do my best to make something out of them.

Michael Cook:-

"Real Radio was obliged to have less speech than Scot FM, but still a lot more than today. And, yes, Real networked in the evenings, but not during daytime."

Erm.... yes, we all know that. I don't know what point you were trying to make but I will say that just because they are allowed to, they don't have to. Bauer are in the same position of being allowed to network. Indeed, even in Central Scotland, they did it for a wee while - but when they realised that certain programs that were networked from England were bombing with their listeners, the shows were replaced by Scottish output, even though those shows are still being heard across England. Beaur have also done the same in reverse for the '2' stations, with daytime shows from Scotland no longer being heard in England. I was in York for a couple of weeks last year and hearing so many Scottish presenters on English radio stations sounded quite out of place, so I'm not surprised at that decision.

James Martin:-

"The Scot to Real tansition is well documented in Myers' book. It was losing horrendous sums in early 2000s prices. You've got to be able to pay your way."

Erm.... aye. Of course. Again, we all knew that Scot FM was a financial and programming disaster that didn't get as many listeners as it hoped for. A few years of Real Radio saw the audience climb to phenomenal heights.

Radio stations have to pay their way, indeed, I have not said anything otherwise. I don't doubt that Heart's current model is ensuring that they are paying their bills but from what I see, it can only do so if the station has enough listeners to make advertisers want to advertise. The radio industry of Central Scotland has proven that many times, with four ILR stations closing due to there not being enough advertisers and revenue, which in part was due to the advertisers preferring to pay for slots on Clyde and Forth who had many times the size of audiences. Think about it, unless Heart bottoms out soon and remains at around the 14 or 15% mark, then in the West Of Scotland it will have a similar listener headcount to what QFM had. Even when those ILR's tried to be run as ultra-cheap operations (e.g. L107 under Mark Page's management) they still weren't drawing quite enough advertisers to pay their bills and it was simply due to lack of listeners and lack of interest.

1 year, 6 months ago

Heart Scotland has a reach of 15%. That's comparable to other regional-sized Heart stations like those in London and the North East (both 15%), Yorkshire (12%), the North West (11%) and the West Midlands (18%).

As such, Heart Scotland generates more listening hours than the Heart stations in East Anglia, Essex, Kent, North East, North Wales, Solent, South West, Sussex, Thames Valley and Yorkshire.

So my point, Art, is that with speech and networking obligations lifted (even if some listeners believe it has led to a 'soulless' station), this is a business model where 15% reach from a regional-sized licence is more than enough to build a hugely successful network.

1 year, 6 months ago

You've also got to accept that a lot of this comes down to personal taste. I wouldn't say that Heart is soulless, but I do think Lincs FM is, for example. That's looking at the station as a whole. Production values, quality of jocks, music selection, etc. Capital's not soulless either. The DJs don't say a massive amount but what they do say they say very well, and the production is top-drawer. I wouldn't call Smooth soulless - it's very neutral and vanilla, but that's what it was designed to do. It's not got flashy production, the DJs again say very little... but I liked Magic when Parky ran it. Clearly so did lots of other people because he took it to Number One. The figures in London suggest the "Parkification" of Smooth has been a good move.

Global will never get Art on board at Heart Scotland - but why would they want to? Is he commercially attractive to their clients? I would say not.

1 year, 6 months ago

Actually, this poses an interesting question. James Martin, what things about a station would make it 'soulless' in your mind?

1 year, 6 months ago

Headcounts.

Heart London = 1.8 MILLION listeners at 15% reach
Biggest rival is Kiss = 2.01 Million

Heart North-East = 348,000 at 15% reach (with split advertising)
Biggest rivals are Metro = 364,000 and TFM = 137,00 or a total of 501,000 (a difference of 153,000)

Heart Yorkshire = 389,00 at 12% reach
Biggest rivals are Pulse = 110,00, Radio Aire = 108,000, Hallam = 284,000 or a total of 502,000 (a difference of 113,000)

Heart North West = 606,000 at 11% reach
Biggest rivals are Rock FM = 220,00, Radio City = 354,000, Key 103 = 382,000 or a total of 956,000 (a difference of 350,000)

Heart West Midlands 689,000 at 18% reach
Biggest rivals are Free Shropshire = 94,000, Free Birmingham = 84,000, Free Coventry = 138,000 (Heart wins)

Heart Scotland = 427,00 at 15% reach (with split advertising)
Biggest rivals are Clyde 1 = 584,000, Forth 1 = 358,000 or a total of 942,000 ( a difference of 515,000)

So you can see the big differences between the regions and how much of a divide Heart Scotland has to try and bridge between itself and Clyde 1/Forth 1. A one percent drop on reach for Heart Scotland, with a corresponding increase for Clyde 1 and Forth 1 makes that already huge divide even bigger. At that point you have to ask what would be the most attractive options for advertisers. It may be a lean, fit operation that's paying its way just now but with Clyde 1 and Forth 1 being a marathon ahead of it (compared to the differences between heart and other stations in the regions of England), it really can't afford to drop its reach and share by much more.

1 year, 6 months ago

But advertisers don't just automatically buy from the market leader. They're looking at CPT, audience demographics, sales/promotion creativity, the station environment, inventory, cross-station packages etc. etc.

If Global can give them a good price for 400,000 listeners (and the hours they generate), job done for the advertiser. If selling 400,000 listeners is enough to make money from a station creating 7 hours of original content a day, job done for Global.

(I don't know how profitable Heart Scotland is, but I do know that Global sold Capital rather than Heart in Scotland to Communicorp.)

1 year, 6 months ago

"But advertisers don't just automatically buy from the market leader. They're looking at CPT, audience demographics, sales promotion creativity, the station environment, inventory, cross-station packages etc. etc."

Agreed - but with those kind of figures that I have shown, all of those incentives would become increasingly irrelevant if Heart Scotland continues its trend of sloping downwards (let's not forget that since it became Heart, it has seen drops in reach from 18 - 15% q-on-q and y-on-y).

Think about it, in an ideal world, 25-45 year old woman would exclusively tune into Heart and nobody else. However, the reality is that it is unlikely for that to happen and instead a considerable number of 25-45 year old women are tuned into Heart for little time (if at all) and are tuned into Clyde 1 and Forth 1 for more time. If both of those stations have nearly 1 Million listeners, compared to Heart's 400,000, then by laws of averages, there are (far) more 25-45 year old women tuned into those stations (and for more time) than Heart.

In other words, the bulk of Heart Scotland's supposed key demographic is not tuned into them, making them a less attractive proposition for advertisers.

1 year, 6 months ago

Yep, that makes them less attractive, but not un attractive if a) there's still a sizeable audience (and there is) and b) the Cost Per Thousand is competitive (and why wouldn't it be? Heart costs less to create and presumably has a more targeted audience profile, so less wastage. )

1 year, 6 months ago

Arthur, in the first place, even in your nightmare scenario of the numbers just falling and falling then if Heart Scotland ended up somehow making a loss then so what? It is, to say the least, not unknown for radio groups to sustain lossmaking stations in the hope of future gains. In the past those gains were selling stations on for profit regardless of losses (see Scot FM passim etc) but now the 'carrot' is further OFCOM regulatory relaxation.

The regulatory trend over the years (dating back from 1970's 'needle time' onwards) has been relaxation of various rules and there is less reason than ever to expect it to stop now. Global is already a perfectly profitable company and the medium to long term 'prize' will be fully national networks. The new DAB national services by Wireless Group signpost the way. Fully national stations from London, and if you want a decent radio career in 5-10 years time then you will just to move near London, just as was the case 40 years ago.

Local sales staff (if they bother with any) can work from home, virtual reality headsets are on sale in a few months anyway..............it's a rapidly changing landscape where change in Heart Scotland's RAJARs make no odds whatsoever in the grand scheme of things.

It seems more likely to me that Heart's numbers will stabilise at about 400 something k reach, 5-6% of the market. A decent result for a mostly national service in a highly competive demographic (Smooth and Capital only doing better because there is less competition for their slightly too young/too old audiences)

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