Rookies take the reins at Radio 1

Radio 1's four interns chat to Greg James on air Radio 1's interns - Alice, Moses, Kae and Pete - are let loose on air

What's it like to perform in the Live Lounge, pick tunes for the playlist, be backstage at the Brits or serve the tea in New Broadcasting House's eighth floor penthouse?

Radio 1 and 1Xtra audiences have been finding out this February as the stations open up to listeners like never before.

Dubbed Access All Areas, the initiative - in its third year but extended from a week to a month this time round - is part of the mission to be 'open and authentic', says Piers Bradford, Radio 1/1Xtra commissioning editor.

'Radio 1 has always been like the older sibling to listeners,' he continues. 'Well, we're opening the bedroom door to let the younger sibling look around. It seems like a cool thing to do.'

But if headcams and Twitter are wedging the door open for most listeners, four young people have been chosen to experience life at the radio stations first hand.

Radio 1 interns with Greg James The interns prepare to interview The Wanted on Greg James' show

Aged between 18-21, the four were chosen from nearly 900 applicants for paid, eight week placements.

First steps

'We've talked to the audience so often about what young people want,' says Bradford. 'We know they are worried about the future and that they don't know how to take the first step towards a career. We thought we should start off by practising what we preach.'

Called Take It On, the scheme sought to judge applicants on their creativity, rather than on their qualifications or employment record. They were asked to submit two pieces of content they'd created themselves, whether a blog, video, app or podcast, and to sell themselves in 500 words.

Thirty six candidates made it through to the interview stage in January where they were tasked with creating features for Nick Grimshaw's show and to speak to friends about happiness before summarising the themes.

'It was about listening to their peers and trying to draw insight,' explains Bradford. 'We wanted to see who got that process.'

He describes the four who made it through as 'superstars'. They include a stand-up comedian, a viral video maestro, a broadcasting student and a woman who's been working four jobs to fund a radio production course.

Start Quote

They are young and incredibly passionate about radio. They had to be prepared to be honest - I've challenged them to challenge us”

End Quote Piers Bradford Commissioning Editor, R1 & 1Xtra

'They are young and incredibly passionate about radio,' says Bradford. 'They had to be prepared to be honest - I've challenged them to challenge us.'

No jobs

Their internships will not lead to jobs - 'it would have been misleading and disingenuous to give them that glimmer of hope' - but will lead to their own show.

The rookie broadcasters ('who will be mentored to within an inch of their lives') will conceive and produce a two hour simulcast for Radio 1 and 1Xtra on February 27.

'If you're asking your interns to be the eyes and ears of the listeners, then let them have total ownership,' reasons Bradford.

A pilot scheme, Bradford expects the internships to run four times a year, probably with two interns at a time. The cost will be split between Radio 1 and Marketing and Audiences, which has set each of the four trailblazers a research project.

It's a two-way street, says Bradford. 'The BBC hasn't been able to advertise externally much lately - we haven't been able to bring in new young people. With Take It On, the interns get an amazing opportunity, but at the same time they help us by providing continual insight into our young audience.'

As the interns find their way around the stations, the audience at home has also been getting familiar with the New Broadcasting House studios.

Aled Jones with headcam Aled Jones shows the view from the R1 penthouse

Headcams have been put on staff, DJs, Live Lounge performer Tyler James, even the guy who takes the tea trolley around the eighth floor, with the feed streamed live online.

Smile for the headcam

'It threw up some great moments,' says Bradford. 'When [producer] Aled Jones walked in on a big planning meeting wearing a headcam, the tone very definitely changed. And slightly less detail was given away about our Big Weekend headliners.'

At other times, the BBC networks have been taking to Facebook and Twitter to share thinking, boost access or answer questions.

Radio 1 tweeted live from its playlist meeting - that most secretive of gatherings where the likes of Robbie Williams are deemed over the hill and Nicole Scherzinger dismissed as irrelevant.

Start Quote

It's the most mysterious meeting in British music and we were aiming to demystify it”

End Quote Piers Bradford

'It's the most mysterious meeting in British music,' admits Bradford, 'and we were aiming to demystify it. We had a fantastic reaction from the audience.'

Some programmes will offer listeners a backstage pass - like Greg James's show which will be broadcast live from behind the scenes at the Brit Awards on Wednesday - while others will let the cameras into the studio for the first time.

Newsbeat's Harlem Shake

The first fully visualised version of Newbeat went out last week, with the team marking the occasion by recreating internet phenomenon, the Harlem Shake.

Visualised radio is set to reach its zenith on Friday when a host of top dance DJs hit the decks in a 12 hour dance marathon - all streamed live on the Radio 1 website.

'They are incredibly gifted at what they do,' says Bradford. 'It's much more than DJs playing records.'

Cryptically, he points to some 'amazing surprises' planned for the marathon, which starts at 7pm, 'including one involving a legendary DJ and the Newsnight studio'.

He believes that visualisation has become part of the audience expectation and is here to stay. 'They want what they want on their terms, whether that's the platform or the time of day. The precedent has been set; people expect to be able to watch Live Lounge as well as listen to it. You can't just slam that door shut.'

Looks like the younger sibling has crossed the threshold.

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