From Monday 7 January at 7pm, talk and music radio presenter Mark Forrest presents a new programme broadcast across of the BBC's 39 local radio stations. In this post, Mark explains how the programme has come to life and some of the intricacies involved in making the programme.
I’ve presented a number of radio shows over the years for a variety of national and local stations but I can honestly say that I have never been involved in a programme that’s had as much tender loving care as this one.
From 7 January 2013 all 39 BBC local radio stations across England and the Channel Islands will come together five nights a week to share one programme between 7pm and 10pm. And I’ll be the presenter.
For me it really is a first. Unless you’re launching a brand new radio station then the show you’re joining will have pre-existed. Have a chat with the producer, chew over a few feature ideas and off you go. This new evening show is different. And we have to make a programme that will not only entertain but be as good as or better than the output we’ve replaced. That at least is what I’ve promised the editors of those local stations. My 39 new bosses.
The BBC chose a nascent indie, Wire Free Productions to make the show. As the BBC also chose me and gifted me to Wire Free, it’s just as well we got on when we gathered together in Leeds at the beginning of December.
Leeds? Yes we’re based at BBC Yorkshire, which is great for me as I live in the county. And for the three strong production team, two producers and one assistant producer who have been recruited locally by Wire Free to make the programme.
We’ve a very clear view of how it will sound. Sitting in our production office overlooking Leeds Central Bus Station we can see the running orders of all the local breakfast and mid morning shows. We can listen to them too. Whenever we see or hear an item that we think will spark interest outside its local area we clip it, edit it and it goes into that day’s paper pilot. Floods, prisons, housing, public art. All covered and debated on a single local radio station in one day but material that will clearly resonate and connect with many parts of the country.
Each day someone new comes to visit. First, the man who runs ENPS, the BBC’s computerised news scripting system. This session turns out to be hugely complicated and I decide that I’ll leave its hidden intricacies to the rest of the team. Then it’s the Radio editing software guru to explain how to edit and play out audio. Next, it's the music scheduler drops in to talk about music testing and who our audience is and what they like. He lets me choose the music for the non broadcast pilot we do that evening whilst making it clear that it will be his selection not mine we play when we go live (to make sure I play music that we know works with this audience). Then a local radio 'content trainer' who knows the intimate details of our 1.7 million listeners, their social profile and what will engage them. She even knows the special BBC way of answering the phone when the listeners call in.
Meanwhile a team of technical whizzes across the BBC prepares the local radio network to do something it has never done before. When I press one button in a studio in BBC Radio Leeds, 39 stations across the country will hear their own station ID’s and promos coming out of the speaker. This seems to be the most complicated bit of the whole production process and no one is terribly sure that it will work first time so we’re going to road test the system with two live pilots in the middle of the night.
That we launched the show on Facebook and Twitter (@markforrestshow) on the first day the team met speaks volumes about how we ourselves communicate but we’re a very inclusive show and there is huge excitement when our text (83111) phone number (0345 300 1858) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) arrive. Finally we feel like a real show. Roll on Jan 7th.
Mark's new show 'Mark Forrest' broadcasts daily at 7pm from 7 January across BBC Local Radio.