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Archives for March 2011

Austin, I'm listening

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Jamillah Knowles | 13:38 UK time, Thursday, 31 March 2011

Adam Carr from 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and Jamillah Knowles from BBC Radio 5 live at SXSW.

Editor's note: Jamillah Knowles, host of 5 live's tech culture podcast Outriders went to Austin's sprawling music, arts and tech conference South by South West earlier this month. She was on the look out for radio in all its forms - SB.

Heading to the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas I knew I would be making radio, but I wondered if I would hear any while I was there. Terrestrial radio that is.

The most I heard was in the odd gas station along the way, the rest of the audio media I heard at the event was pre-recorded on presentations and videos. But that does not mean that radio was not on the agenda for SXSW Interactive and rather more naturally the music parts of the schedule.

There were panels and events designed to talk about radio and some of those became broadcasts. I was invited onto the Digital Planet program which was recorded as a panel discussion and then broadcast on BBC World Service. A little strange as a panel experience for the audience I am sure, but sounded pretty lively on the radio and later as the DP Podcast illustrates.

The South by South West conference website also has audio recordings of some of the other discussions that took place on the topic of radio, whether it was for music, college radio funding or web and radio matching.

The How to save College Radio session can be heard on their SXSW page. There are so many panels and discussions at SXSW so it is a delight to be able to return to events I missed and hear them. Even better that it feels like radio or a podcast.

College radio is not something I am too familiar with. I have been in a University studio at Coventry University while a surly DJ changed CDs for an hour, so I wonder if college radio is followed in the States with the same passion that accompanies college football.

Also online is the amusingly named panel Baby's got a Face for Radio. So do I, which is one of the many reasons why I prefer the medium, but there is also a world of visual representation that is now expected to accompany our radio lives. Radio listeners can have many digital expectations now including - listen back, meet the hosts, see images of program guests and also to find complimentary information for further exploration on topics that are sometimes only on air for a couple of minutes. This is a particularly nice description of new and established programs and their relationship with the web.

A SXSW t-shirt.

Radio K's excellent use of Tumblr, a well-known blogging tool, to build a beautiful page about their SXSW experience is wonderful. A nice bit of inspiration too for people looking to spruce up their online presence in relation to radio programming.

While the conference is happening, you can literally walk into people recording something and anything on the street with various and assorted devices from mobile phones to full television camera kits.

I noted a fellow on the street using the same make and model of microphone as me (Audio nerd much? Yes, thank you, I am.) and he happened to be a producer for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, a terrestrial station where hyper-local community stories are an important part of the output.

The producer, Adam Carr told me that the station is non-commercial and plays mostly music. Interestingly his recordings for them are pieces of short form audio that are dropped in between songs.

I asked him why he was making terrestrial broadcast radio when you can stream a new station over the internet and around the world,

In Milwaukee a lot of people drive to work, do their dishes listening to the radio. Until there is streaming in cars and everywhere else, there is still a large audience for terrestrial radio. We have a huge online presence that we put a lot of energy into and it's almost as though the radio and online components are separate and supportive.

We're only 4 years old and we believe in the power of the internet to help us do what we do better. We embrace online and the entire station is entwined with social media. With community story telling we need to communicate with the radio listening audience and it's easy to do online.

He recorded a short clip of me describing my experience at the conference and I returned the favour with matching kit and asked how the work he does now as a radio producer differs from his experience as a listener growing up -

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I know why I like making radio , but why is Adam drawn to a medium that some say is seeing cut backs? He told me, "We're using the same small and light microphones, in my back-pack I have an entire production studio. With wireless I can get my audio pieces where they need to be. I have a Macbook air with Protools on it, a mic in my bag that I can track on. It's such a small kit, that it's worth even interviewing me in the street - twenty years ago you would need a crew to do something like this. you can be so responsive and fast making audio pieces. The sky isn't even the limit anymore for story telling and it opens a whole new realm for radio."

I too was carrying a wireless netbook with editing software to file back reports. The kit certainly wasn't going to wear me out and being so portable, I have used this method around the world

Of course I was at SXSW for the Interactive part of the conference. Five days of geeking out. Around and beyond this the event covers film and music and as you might expect, music radio is an important part of the latter topic. There were many live recordings and inverviews with musicians at sxsw as well as radio accompanyment to bbqs and gatherings, even a new music panel with representatives from KCRW, WXRT, WERS, KMTT, and other broadcasters listening to new tracks and making up a jukebox jury. You can hear that panel here.

Writing this I am streaming Milwaukee radio through my laptop in London. I listen to 6 Music this way too when I am not near a digital radio. There's radio everywhere and I still interact with it in the same way as my big old stereo system radio with it's smooth and heavy dial and listing for Radio Caroline. Listening while doing other things, the soundtracks to my life. It's reassuring to know that people at cutting edge events like SXSW Interactive still have a passion to discuss, record and broadcast their passion for audio.

Jamillah Knowles makes a radio segment and podcast called Outriders for BBC Radio 5 Live

  • Listen to Outriders and sign up for the free weekly download on the 5 live web site.
  • You can find Jamillah's coverage of SXSW here as parts one and two.
  • There's plenty to listen to and watch on the SXSW web site.
  • The pictures show Jamillah with Adam Carr from 88Nine Radio Milwaukee at SXSW (Creative Commons: Tracy Lynn Apps - some rights reserved) and a SXSW t-shirt (Creative Commons: Jamillah Knowles - some rights reserved).

Radioplayer - all of UK radio in one place

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 10:23 UK time, Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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Listening to the radio online has a history. The first station in the world to stream radio across the Internet was North Carolina student radio station WXYC in late 1994.

BBC radio programmes have been available on the web for over fifteen years. A 1995 experiment by BBC Radio 3 also included what we've come to know as 'user-generated content' and webcams.

In March 1996, Virgin Radio in London became the first station in the world to be streamed online round-the-clock.

Later in 1996, BBC Radio 1 began streaming live radio regularly.

In 1999, Virgin (which you'll now know as Absolute Radio) scored another first with an 'interactive' online player that provided information about what was playing.

In 2002 the BBC Radio Player was launched and two years later the BBC became the first UK broadcaster to podcast programmes (with In Our Time, now past its 500th episode). It's safe to say that every other British radio station can now be heard online.

But for the whole of this history the UK radio industry has provided no single place to listen to all of your favourite stations - no equivalent to the transistor radio in your kitchen. You had to visit each web site in turn and accustom yourself to a different way of listening at each.

That is now officially history. Radioplayer is a partnership between the BBC and the UK commercial stations to provide a single, consistent interface to UK radio online. To begin with, 157 stations are in the Radioplayer and that will rise to 228 soon when radio stations owned by Bauer and UTV are added.

For BBC radio listeners, Radioplayer upgrades the existing BBC radio console by allowing you to search across all the stations involved and save presets of your favourite stations. We've made it easier to share favourite BBC programmes with your friends and see information about what is now playing.

Watch the video for further information and leave a comment here to let us know what you think of it.

Radioplayer is available on BBC online now. Tomorrow, we'll publish two more blog posts about it - one here on the Radio blog by Tim Davie, Director of Audio & Music at the BBC, and one on the BBC Internet blog by Dave Price, the manager responsible for building Radioplayer (Dave's post will have more technical detail).

Steve Bowbrick, blogs editor

Cinema began in Leeds - vote for the best West Yorkshire film

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Martin Kelner Martin Kelner | 16:05 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011

A publicity still from John Schlesinger's Billy Liar, starring Tom Courtenay, filmed in West Yorkshire and released in 1963.

West Yorkshire is arguably the home of cinema. Actually, not even arguably. Whatever claims the French or the Americans might make, Louis Le Prince, who made the first motion pictures the world had ever seen, did his groundbreaking work in Leeds in 1888, producing two short films, Roundhay Garden Scene and Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge.

The latter, three lovingly preserved seconds of which can still be seen here does exactly what the title suggests. It shows (horse drawn) vehicles going over the bridge, without the benefit of Dolby sound (or indeed any sound) or any special visual effects. 3D specs not needed.

Now, to celebrate Leeds's unique contribution to the most popular and successful art form ever, BBC Radio Leeds is hosting a celebration of film at Leeds's magnificent Hyde Park Picture House, which is a slice of movie history itself, dating back to 1914, and one of Britain's few surviving suburban cinemas.

On Tuesday April 19th, the film voted by listeners to BBC Radio Leeds's breakfast show as the most popular of all the films shot in West Yorkshire will be shown. Among special guests joining us on the night are stars from the BBC Four remake of the film Room At The Top, of which we will be showing a special clip. Katherine Hannah and I will provide popcorn on the night, and present the winning film, as decided by your votes.

The list of films in contention range from the 1959 version of Room At The Top to the 2009 film The Damned United, taking in Billy Liar (1963), The Railway Children (1970), A Private Function (1984) and LA Without A Map (1999). Far be it from me to influence the voting, but Billy Liar is not only my favourite film shot round here, but in my personal top ten of all time. Director John Schlesinger, who went on to big Hollywood productions like Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, caught the spirit of the times beautifully, Tom Courtenay was never better, and the film brought us incidental pleasures like Wilfred Pickles and Rodney Bewes in supporting roles.

But I am sure you have your personal favourite. Be part of it: listen in to our breakfast show (92.4/95.3 FM, weekdays, 6.30-9am, or on the iPlayer) or go to the BBC Radio leeds web site from today to find out how you can vote and join us in the cinema on the night.

Martin Kelner presents the Radio Leeds breakfast show with Katherine Hannah

  • The picture is a publicity still from John Shlesinger's Billy Liar, with Tom Courtenay.

Radio 1 - recovering from the longest show ever

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Ben Chapman | 13:50 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Chris Moyles and 'Comedy Dave' Vitty collect their Guinness world record for world's longest radio show.

We all know what it feels like to be tired right? I mean really tired. We love watching people go the extra mile for a good cause and 52 hours is a long time to be awake. 'BBC Radio 1's Longest Show Ever with Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave' hit the mark for many people, including me. Radio 1 listeners raised £2.6 million. Incredible. It was, dare I say it, an emotional moment as we came off air, as it had so clearly captured and motivated our listeners in a way that we were simply not expecting. We could see it, in volume, written large on a gigantic screen in the studio; a flow of Facebook comments, SMS texts, tweets and a donations total wrapped around the BT Tower. It showed us how radio and the internet can work together so well and how far we'd come in terms of using different platforms.

I have no doubt that Chris and Dave would have had plenty of support without the internet or the red button but we have been building around different themes for some time. Trying out different ideas: from social media to empowering our audience with U CRTL Katy (Perry), visualising aspects of our output without damaging the passive radio experience and opening up our relationship with DJs as a compliment to listeners' social media noise. This felt like the coming of age for a new way to interact with listeners.

We simplified our approach: regular updates to Facebook, clear communications about our Twitter hashtag, a flow of visual material to catch up on (people seem particularly keen on seeing Fearne in a swimsuit) and an all-important live video window on the challenge Chris and Dave were undertaking. We had every door open to our audience and they used them.

It meant that you could stick with Chris and Dave, whether you were listening or not, dip in and out, see the impact of donations on a train or at work. Chris and Dave could see you and your support rolling in before their eyes.

It's a pretty humbling experience really when you witness such a positive wave of reaction. It was made all the more strong as Chris and Dave felt permanently propped up by listeners - trending No 1 in the world on Twitter is a great feeling for someone trying to stay awake for 52 hours. So our thanks go to Radio 1 listeners - we are all in awe.

By the way, I have yawned 6 times in remembering the marathon for this blog post and I actually got some sleep last week!

Ben Chapman is Interactive Editor at BBC Radio 1

New digital programmes - and a new name for Radio 7

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Tim Davie Tim Davie | 12:00 UK time, Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Roy Plomley and Noel Coward on Desert Island Discs in 1963, for the 21st anniversary of the programme.

Today we announced a series of new programmes which will be appearing on our digital radio stations. Also, we confirmed that we are changing the name of BBC Radio 7 to BBC Radio 4 Extra in April. You can find all the details in the press release.

Some people have questioned why we are altering a much-loved service: is this just unnecessary management tinkering? Firstly, let me offer a few words of reassurance. Radio 4 Extra will not be fundamentally different to Radio 7. The vast majority of the programming will remain much-loved archive productions, and we will continue to focus on comedy, drama and entertainment rather than offering news or current affairs. The primary reason for change is not to sell digital radios but to ensure more Radio 4 listeners are aware that we offer more of what they love. We'll be offering a more direct link between Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra. For example, we have confirmed that The Now Show and The News Quiz will offer extended versions on Radio 4 Extra featuring some of the bits that we have had to edit out to fit the programmes into their 30-minute slot on Radio 4.

As you can see we do not intend to take away people's favourite programmes from Radio 4. Perhaps the best example of how we see Radio 4 Extra working, as well as how we can see the digital world as offering a better service to listeners, is our plan for Desert Island Discs. On top of the ongoing Radio 4 programme, we will offer extended programmes on Radio 4 Extra as well as old editions. Meanwhile online we'll launch an amazing archive of 500 programmes that listeners can explore and download.

I hope that even if you have not caught Radio 7 yet, you do take the chance to take a listen to Radio 4 Extra when it launches in April.

Tim Davie is Director of Audio & Music

  • The picture shows Roy Plomley and his guest Noel Coward on the occasion of the twenty-first anniversary of Desert Island Discs in 1963. Coward had been on the list of guests drawn up by Plomley when he devised the programme in 1941.

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