The Radio Festival: Attack or Adapt? (a rant of sorts)

(Contains ‘colourful’ language)


I try my best not to use my radio blog as a soapbox as such. But there are times when you just have to lose your rag in writing, when the opinions of those
who should know better start causing unnecessary irritation.

And in this case, it’s the opinions of many long-standing radio figures no-longer on air on “terrestrial radio” who in response to the recent announcement
of this year’s programme for the Radio Festival in Salford next month, are upset that this year’s event doesn’t contain anything in tribute to the 50th anniversary
of the pirate Radio Caroline.

Cue a stream of unnecessary social media comments whingeing about the current state of radio, and phrases such as “The GWR Generation”, “homogenisation”
“they know no better”, oh for goodness sake.

I will admit that on seeing the lineup myself, I was a little non-plussed, and that I don’t think the events on offer are as exciting as the 2013 festival.

But I may be pleasantly surprised on arrival and whatever happens, the Radio Festival
is a great opportunity to network and catch up with familiar faces as well as meeting new ones.

I am undeniably a radio anorak myself, with an obsessive interest in jingles,
old radio schedules, and have a crazy ability as the human equivalent of LinkedIn, by being able to recount the career progression of almost every delegate in attendance.

But in the last few years or so, I have learnt to open my mind and realise that the exciting high-energy lazer-induced, close-harmony jingles style of radio
that I grew up with just isn’t going to return.

Apart from on Radio 2’s Pick Of The Pops or on one of the many “vanity radio stations” on the internet regurgitating past radio formats, with the aim of
recreating “Radio Like It Used To Be”.

Yes, patronising, condescending, content-shy, and utterly inane broadcasting, run by the same veteran presenters who bemoan the current state of radio in the UK.

Anyway that’s far from the point.

The comment that angered me the most was one, the author of which will remain anonymous, but touches on the old chestnut of “‘members’ of the (so-called)
academy who spent only 2 years or less actually on-air!

What the fuck does being on-air have to do with anything?!

Many present day figures in radio who I look up to have little to no on-air experience at all, yet excel behind the microphone as either producers or technical developers
and in some cases actually have an eye for what radio could be in the future,
as opposed to reminiscing about when “things were better in our day” when if you look at the bigger picture, they probably weren’t that great in the world outside
of the radio studio.

I’m pleased that the Radio Academy continues to acknowledge off-air contributions as well as those on air, and sorry to name drop, but one example that immediately springs to mind is Somethin’ Else MD Steve Ackerman, who was one of the few inducted into the Radio Academy Hall Of Fame at last year’s festival.

Ackerman once a presenter at Reading’s 2-Ten FM, decided that maybe a life in front of microphone wasn’t for him, and now oversees a company producing some of the best radio programmes airing every week on all BBC Radio stations.

I’ve yet to break into professional radio myself on a long-term basis. But I am aware that in order to do so, I need an eye (and more importantly an ear, or two) for present day radio, and long may the Radio Festival continue to question where the greatest entertainment medium in the world ventures next.

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About Robin Blamires

I live in Canterbury and really enjoy radio and audio producing. I currently present a show at community station CSR FM called "Blam Jam" where I play a wide selection of soul, jazz and electronica music, and elsewhere in the station I help out with producing the station sound, creating on-air idents and sweepers. I would love to bring my skills into professional radio and continue to learn more.
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