Radio Blog

Archives for April 2011

Where does your local BBC get its news?

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:25 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ed: On the About the BBC blog Tim Bishop, Head of Regional and Local Programmes at BBC East, has written about the relationship between BBC local radio and regional newspapers.

Newsagents' shops from Britain - by Steve Bowbrick

For many in the newspaper industry, and in particular the local press, the suspicion is that the BBC's Deep Throat is picking up a copy of the local paper.

It's a suggestion repeated fairly frequently and usually without much challenge. So what's the actual evidence?

Six months ago, the BBC and the Newspaper Society, the body that represents regional publishers, decided to work together to find out. The agreed method was simple. Monitor news in one area for a month then look at the stories that overlapped and trace them back to their source. Northamptonshire was chosen. It has two strong evening papers and a weekly run by Johnston Press. The BBC is not unusually well-resourced there.

Read the rest of Where does your local BBC get its news? on the About the BBC blog

March 2011 BBC iPlayer stats: "38 million requests for Radio programmes"

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:30 UK time, Monday, 18 April 2011

Middle School Mathematics
Archive picture of a maths lecturer from 1963

The performance pack for the BBC iPlayer covering March 2011 has been published today on the BBC Internet blog. Headlines from the Comms team include:

  • March 2011 saw a new record being set, with 38 million requests for Radio programmes, boosted significantly by World Cup Cricket 2011 coverage and Chris Moyles' Longest Show Ever for Comic Relief
  • Live streaming on BBC iPlayer was at the highest levels seen to date for both TV and radio - for TV making up 15% of all requests, and for radio, up to 75%

You can download a PDF of the BBC iPlayer stats for March 2011 from the BBC Internet blog.

Paul Murphy is the acting editor of the Radio blog

  • The image is from the BBC Archive. The caption reads: "Middle School Mathematics, 01/09/1963 © BBC picture shows - Dick Tahta, lecturer in Maths at Exeter University. Studio5, TVC"
  • Read the Next Web story: Radio Listening Via BBC iPlayer Hits Record High

What Makes an Interview Distinctive and Engaging?

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 12:55 UK time, Friday, 15 April 2011

Evan Davis, Scott Mills, Judy Finnigan and Razia Iqbal

Evan Davis, Scott Mills and Judy Finnigan were brought together as part of a staff training event at the BBC's Council Chamber in Broadcasting House by Razia Iqbal to discuss what makes a great interview. They shared their insights learnt from the hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews that they've conducted with the likes of rapper Jay-Z, politician Hillary Clinton and the anti-gay preacher Ugandan Pastor Solomon Male. [Who interviewed who is revealed below.]

The BBC College of Production will be posting a video of the event but in the meantime here are a few tips gleaned from the session:

"Sound authentic and be yourself" was Evan Davis's opening advice before he went on to say "Everything in my career has come down to two things: Blue Peter and Nationwide. With Blue Peter you can see that the presenters are genuinely interested in what people are saying."

Scott Mills said that his interviewing got better when he started relaxing and that often the hardest part of doing the interviews for his Radio 1 show wasn't the star but the huge entourage that they often brought with them. He related the story of being refused access to his own studio by one interviewee's security who asked him where he was going.

Judy Finnigan saw the interview as a conversation you might have at your kitchen table and that listening and responding to what people were saying was probably more important than having a long list of questions. For her nothing was more annoying that having a producer telling her what questions to ask in her ear mid-interview.

Paul Murphy is the acting editor of the blog

The launch of the 2011 BBC Proms

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 16:30 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

Photo of Proms Controller Roger Wright at the Royal Albert Hall

18:00 update. The About the BBC blog has just published a post rounding up discussion of the new Proms programme.

On the Radio 3 blog Roger Wright, the Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Director of BBC Proms, has blogged about this year's Prom's season:

It's the morning of the BBC Proms launch. I have a real sense of anticipation and excitement because, at last, it's possible to tell everyone about the 2011 plans.

I always feel rather unfriendly keeping the plans as secret as possible until now.
We need as much publicity as possible on launch day as we have hundreds of thousands of tickets to sell and therefore want to spread the word as widely as we can. Leaks beforehand would simply drip the news out and potentially undermine the launch day splash.

Of course, in these days of social networking, rumours spread very quickly - and some of them were really wide of the mark! The first Proms performance of Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony, however, has been one of the worst kept secrets in recent history!  It's been fun to read the message boards full of 'will they, won't they?' comments. So now it's clear - we will! I'm not, by the way, one of those who, in order to make the case for a neglected work, overstates its importance. I don't claim the Gothic as a masterpiece, any more than I do the Second Symphony of Arnold Bax (also receiving its Proms premiere this year),  but I do think they are important pieces, worth hearing in good performances and then letting audiences make up their own mind, rather than being influenced by second- or third-hand opinions.

Read the rest of Launching the 2011 BBC Proms... on the Radio 3 blog.

Paul Murphy is the acting editor of the Radio blog

Purveyor of the anti-pop

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Rowan Collinson Rowan Collinson | 17:37 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

Warpaint, recording a session for Radio 1 in March 2011

Editor's note: a brand new 6 Music show that's designed from the ground up to be interactive - it's even named after a hashtag. The nerve centre for NowPlaying @6Music is the show's blog - SB

I think it's taken a while for 6 Music to find its niche but now it has really found a sound. You wouldn't find bands like Warpaint or Beach House - who have both been really big acts for us in the past year - on the A-list of any other station. We're all about alternative spirit. It can be many things; it can be an artist's sound and/or their influences. A great recent example has been the Jamie XX and Gil Scott-Heron track 'I'll Take Care of You'. It's been on the 6 Music A-list and is a fantastic example of what the network does best - it's a new act collaborating with a heritage artist both in alternative music to create something new.

I've been producing shows here for four and a half years and I'm just about to launch a brand new show with Tom Robinson on Friday nights (7-9pm) called Now Playing @6Music, which is all about the digital conversation with music. Music has never been more digital. A music fan will listen to radio but also probably look at blogs like Drowned in Sound.

They might well use a third-party music service like Hype Machine or Spotify to either play music or aggregate their tastes in recommending music, and they probably get their music news from an online source rather than a copy of NME. So the idea of this new show is to take part in this online music conversation. We're going to create a space once a week where people can share and recommend tracks related to the week's music news, and find out what's happening in the world of digital music. The show will be a weekly iteration of the activity going on 24/7.

I try to go to a couple of gigs a week to see what's out there and make my own judgement on bands who music PRs have 'plugged' to me. For example, there's a group I went to see last week called Holy Ghost who a PR had pitched to do a 6 Mix - the other show I produce. They are quite hipster and signed to DFA - which is James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem's label. On paper they look pretty good - they're on a very cool label and their music has an electro vibe about it - but, as a producer, I needed to see if they've got more legs than just a single.

To do this, I saw them play live with Cut Copy, gauged their popularity on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and was ultimately really impressed, so commisioned them to do a mix. It's all about thinking if they're a career band and, if they're not a household name yet and I'm offered them early doors (which we are at 6 Music), it's always worth seeing them perform to get a stronger sense of their talents and where they're heading. I don't want to get really excited about someone, put them on a show or argue to put their record onto playlist and then see them live and they're rubbish. In my position I've always got to think about bands in a broader sense.

Rowan Collinson produces Now Playing @6Music.

A new series for Radio 2 - Sounds of the 20th Century

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Heather Davies Heather Davies | 17:42 UK time, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Royal Festival Hall

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As a producer for Trevor Dann's Company, a radio production company founded by the UK radio veteran of that name, I have the opportunity to work across an array of audio projects; however, I'm most excited about our new series, Sounds of the 20th Century. It's essentially an audio journey through five decades of music and events on BBC Radio 2 - every Thursday at 2200 for the next year.

One of the most challenging and unique things about the show is that - apart from Jeremy Vine giving a short intro at the start - there's no presenter. This means that each programme - dedicated to one year from 1951 to 2000 - doesn't feature anything that wasn't heard, seen or read at the time. It's just the music, the news, the radio, the TV and the movies as they were first experienced.

Our first task was to work out what happened each year. I trawled the internet, spent ages in my local library, and made use of the BBC's own mini research library (it's really small!) and other event diaries, to come up with the definitive list of what happened when... getting myself covered in lots of yellow highlighter in the process!

A massive spreadsheet of music and events followed, which I used to guide my search through the BBC TV and Radio Archive, the Newspaper Archive at the British Library, and the British Pathe and Movietone newsreel archives. Luckily for me, much of this is now available online, so I was able to search their collections without having to physically go to their preservation sites.

From all this research, we then selected the key stories that were really relevant in that year, balancing news and cultural events with clips from entertainment programmes and films. And at the heart of it all is the wonderful music of the time, sourced from the BBC's own music archive.

All these items were called in (electronically where possible) and then we sat listening very carefully. With no presenter, the clips really had to sell themselves in order to be considered for the final cut. They needed to explain what they were and deliver the great atmosphere we want to create for each programme. Much ended up on the cutting room floor.

Finally a running order was created, taking the listener on a journey that would contain the highs and lows, the clips that looked back and others that strove forwards. We took this into the studio and laid the tracks out, tweaked, considered, and tweaked some more. We're really proud of the final product.

We'll stay true to the music and plan to make a full and detailed running order available after each show (so you can work out what that clip was!).

Heather Davies is a Producer on Sounds of the 20th Century

  • Listen to part one of the Sounds of the 20th Century - 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain, the first hit single with multi-tracking (Les Paul's How High The Moon) and the first real rock 'n' roll record (Jackie Brentson's Rocket 88) - on BBC Radio 2 this Thursday at 2200.

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