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Tuesday 18 February 2014, 12:00
Elise Cobain talks about her day working with young people from Hammersmith & Fulham as part of BBC Outreach & Corporate Responsibility’s ‘Programme Maker for a Day’ project. Over the past few years, a number of well-known BBC programmes have taken part, including Holby, Eastenders and Match of the Day. The collaboration with Radio 1 and 1Xtra sees young people visiting the BBC each month where they learn about the various roles and skills involved in producing the radio networks.
The one thing I always have to ask myself when I hold classes for young people is, ‘are they as excited as I am to be coming to the BBC?’ As a teenager, the prospect of visiting the Radio 1 and 1Xtra studios and meeting one of their production staff would have had me running about with a huge grin on my face. Not only because of my passion for music radio, but also because I always saw the BBC as the ultimate destination. In my school years it was all about what new tunes Zane Lowe was playing and where Dave Pearce would be DJing next. But in the digital age, young people’s radio consumption habits have changed and the way in which they consume radio content has evolved to a multiplatform experience.
I’m an Assistant Producer for Radio 1 and 1Xtra, currently working with the 1Xtra Breakfast Show. Every weekday morning I’m up at 5.15am, arriving to completely submerge myself in the world of the young urban music fan who’s on their way to work, school or just simply awake between 6-10am. But it doesn’t matter how much I engage with our listeners on social media, read what they read and watch what they watch, the one thing I’m missing out on is spending time in their social groups. In order to appeal to a younger audience you essentially have to be like them; using their language and having opinions and thoughts that resonate with their lifestyles. This is another reason I’m so excited to meet my group today - they always teach me something new and give a brutally honest and highly valued opinion on what we do as a network.
One of my colleagues Deena, (who is the Outreach Manager within my department), sent an email looking for people who were interested in getting involved in hosting a school visit. This was my opportunity to get stuck in with my target listenership, and hopefully give them a taste of what it’s like to work in radio at the BBC. I knew it was unlikely that the members of my group would be consuming music the way I used to, but I also knew they were studying media and I’ve yet to find a young person who doesn’t like music in one guise or another, so we would definitely have something in common to start with.
Arriving from a centre in West London, I met six Media AS students who were coming along for the ‘Programme Maker for a Day’ scheme - to see how Radio 1 and 1Xtra works and to create their own BBC branded piece of work. Deena, some other colleagues and I had planned a day of activities which included sitting in on a section of the 1Xtra Breakfast Show, meeting some of our presenters, having (nearly) free reign of one of our state-of-the-art studios to practice being a DJ, plus the opportunity to have a go at creating their own two-minute radio package (which you can hear in the audio clip at the bottom).
It seems increasingly common that a young person won’t habitually tune into a traditional radio when they wake up, or use it as their primary source of DJ endorsed new music. The advent of a multiplatform and largely diversifying radio, music and live events market, means that there’s a wealth of brands vying for 16-25 year olds’ attention. So I saw my job for the day not only to assist them using their English /Media skills in a mock professional environment but also to whet their appetite for the art of music radio and to showcase some of the great content that Radio 1 and 1Xtra create.
Many of my group had seen radio studios in the movies so initially they didn’t seem to be too bothered by entering one of the most advanced radio studios in the world, which we’re very lucky to have at London’s New Broadcasting House. But after inviting them to have a go at being presenters and producers they were soon delving into the delights of the 8th floor; practising using the microphones, playing songs out of digitized music systems and framing each other with our studio camera set-up. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a tech-savvy school student who has never used a VCS control pad or our touch-screen camera control system, can figure it out. The next generation of radio producers and operations staff already have an impressive aptitude to handle broadcast equipment.
The afternoon focussed on creating a short radio package designed to appeal to the 16-24 year old 1Xtra audience, on a topic of their choice. I gave the group 10 minutes to use whatever resources they could get their hands on to come up with some ideas we could look at. My first response as the host was to grab a wad of paper, plenty of post-it notes and a sea of pens and pass them out to my visitors so they could get writing. The surprise ingredient was actually the daily papers. They rummaged through the pages of red tops and broadsheets alike to find stories and thought about what they’d been talking about with friends at school that week, and we ended up with an impressive spread of opinion lead features and musically driven informative extracts for our radio package. I really couldn’t have asked for a more interested and motivated group of students. Having started the day with little appreciation of the station and no regular radio habits we had worked together to create an interesting and topical package looking at the Grammy Awards Ceremony and the upcoming Oscars. You can hear it in the clip below.
Saving the best till last I handed over the final part of the day to my college and Head of Visualisation for Radio 1 and 1Xtra, Joe Harland. Having left him with the vague brief: “Can you give the group a bit of an insight into the idea of visualised radio and answer any questions they may have,” I returned to find my team truly inspired and chatting vigorously about the idea of visualised radio, what they’ve missed from the Radio 1 and 1Xtra YouTube channel and brimming with ideas for things they might like to do in the future, a fantastic result.
I would have relished the chance to participate in something like this when I was a student, not only to add to my CV but to have a fun and insightful day out of my A-level timetable. For me, now, the opportunity to meet some of our younger audience members who are so ambitious and creative is inspirational, especially as I’m catering for that target audience. For any BBC colleagues reading this I really couldn’t recommend getting involved in ‘Programme Maker for a Day’ enough. Every comment and suggestion from our young visitors has been taken on-board and challenges us to do the next big thing here at Radio 1 and 1Xtra.
Elise Cobain is an Assistant Producer for Radio 1 and 1Xtra