“RADIO is evolving”. Yesterday, as I penned a few introductory paragraphs explaining the radio degree for a new undergraduate prospectus, I found myself writing those words. It took me some time to get any further. I took a trip down Memory Lane, musing about the changes I’d witnessed in radio since I was first involved just over 14 years ago.
Radio has always been an exciting, instant medium. Even in 1998, when we recorded on reel-to-reel, marked the tape with a chinagraph pencil and cut it with a razor, the turnaround was incredibly fast and the possibilities of getting a story on air within minutes of it breaking were much higher than on television or newspapers.
I’m always amused at the expression on the faces of the students I speak to when I explain the archaic recording and editing process. They look aghast.
At a time when all you need is a smart phone to record decent quality sound, the reaction is unsurprising. Since we first uttered the words “multiplatform”, audio has never been the same.
The second part of my sentence for the prospectus read: “and now is an exciting time to be involved”. And it is.
During my time at the BBC, I went to a meeting where one of the managers talked about “visualising radio”. It seemed a bizarre concept at the time. Not any more.
This week the BBC launched iPlayer Radio: “a new home for BBC Radio across PC, mobile and tablet”. At the launch, the man with surely the longest title at the BBC, Mark Friend, (Controller, Multiplatform and Interactive, BBC Audio and Music), said the radio evolution was continuing.
“BBC iPlayer Radio is the platform on which we will develop radio stations as fully multimedia brands so that as well as listen, audiences will be able to watch, share and engage with BBC radio.”
Interesting to note that beyond the BBC, Global launched two television channels today. Mirroring the move of rivals Bauer Media which launched Heat TV earlier this year, it went live with Heart TV and Capital TV.
Global is effectively offering two music channels. Their playlists reflect the demographic of their two primary radio brands. The videos are interspersed with adverts.
Whether there’s an appetite among consumers for more channels playing music videos, remains to be seen. Capital will doubtless use their channel to broadcast interviews, offer back-stage access to viewers at live events etc. The need for enhanced content, interactivity and an awareness of the power of branding is more important than ever.
Mark Friend again: “Our next steps will be to make live radio more interactive, make it easier for people to enjoy the BBC’s vast audio archive and strengthen radio’s position as the number one place for discovering music in the UK.”
How long before we’re talking revolution, not evolution I wonder?