The Year in Radio: What Were Your Highlights?
This Christmas Day (Sunday 25th December) at 7pm, 5 live will be broadcasting a two-hour programme about the year in radio.
To some of you this will seem like an obvious thing to do, but some of you may be wondering why we're doing it at all - 5 live is the home of live news and live sport on BBC Radio - so where does a programme about radio fit in?
Well, 5 live's Service License states that its "programming should be designed to inform, entertain and involve." This means providing more than just the news and the sport, but looking at the wider cultural world to help bring context to recent events.
In the current schedule, there are regular slots where panellists discuss the latest newspaper headlines, magazines, TV programmes, books, comedy shows, and there's even a dedicated weekly film review show. Only very occasionally do any of these programmes look at radio. And if you flick around the dial, you'd struggle to find another network doing it either. Radio is lumped under the banner "Media" and seldom discussed, unless there is a breaking news story.
Why is this? Well, there's something to be said for not seeming too inward-looking. One of radio's great strengths is the direct and personal relationship we can have with our listeners - getting right to the heart of the issues that matter to them, being that trusted guide - if we spend too much time thinking about the nuts and bolts of "Radio", do we put listeners off?
Secondly, radio stations have in the past been quite protective of their listenership. They don't want to lose listeners to other networks, so when there have been obvious cross-over moments they've not always been highlighted.
However in the last couple of years things have really changed. We've seen the development of a new type of radio presenter who enjoys breaking down the barriers between themselves and the listener (Richard Bacon on 5 live, Shaun Keaveny on 6 Music, Gemma Cairney on 1Xtra, Alex Baker on Kerrang!) - using things like social media to connect with their audiences in new ways. Being a presenter has become a 24/7 job.
New technology means that radio listening is also different - this year we've seen the launch of on-demand radio via the Radio Player, a cross-industry initiative where you can access the online stream or previously broadcast programmes from most UK radio stations via a keyword search (such as "rock music") - making it as easy to find commercial station Planet Rock as it is to find the Rock Show on Radio 1. As listeners this enables us to be more choosy, and jump around between networks, programmes and even features. And it seems this is a good thing.
In 2011, Radio is in the strongest place it has ever been. More people are listening to the radio than ever before with 90.7% of UK population tuning in to the radio every week and total listening hours up 2% year on year (RAJAR Q3 2011). Technology and fresh talent will be playing a part in this, but 2011 has also been the year of some dramatic breaking news.
We started the year with seemingly endless snow, which made listening to your local radio station a must - which roads were open, were the buses running, had the school decided to shut? There were big stories internationally with the Egyptian revolution, earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi. Back at home, we had the Royal Wedding, the riots and the death of Amy Winehouse - all of these stories broken first on the radio.
But radio is also our trusted guide, the companion that makes the housework go a little quicker, or that drive to work a bit more fun. Radio is incredibly important to lots of us and as a result surely it makes sense to talk about it - where-else - but on the radio.
And so earlier this month BBC Radio 4's Jane Garvey and Key 103's Mike Toolan sat down in a radio studio (with producer Ben Green at the helm) to talk about the year in radio. We covered the big industry stories - the move to Salford, consolidation, Sound Women, local radio - and were joined by radio experts, critics and head honchos - but we also spoke to some big names about their highlights from the year in radio.
Here's BBC Radio 2 and 5 live presenter Simon Mayo with his radio highlights from 2011.
What was your radio highlight of the year?
Heather Davies is one of the Radio Academy's 30 Under 30 and also works on Sounds of the 20th Century for BBC Radio 2. Heather is @heatherrhian on Twitter.
Radio 2011 is on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday 25th December at 7pm and repeated on Monday 26th December at 5am. You'll be able to hear it online shortly afterwards and it will also be downloadable as a podcast.