Bi-Media - A Strategy for Radio?
Text of a lecture
given by Jenny Abramsky, News International Visiting Professor of Broadcast
Media 2002 at Green College, Oxford University.
This speech was third
in a series of four.
Please check against
I am going to paint a
bleak picture, but I have to admit its a rather one-sided one.
summer of 1996 producers in BBC Radio suddenly found that their comfortable
world had been turned upside down. No longer were they working for a
Radio Directorate, working for Radio Stations, overnight they had become
part of a new Division called Production. Every television and radio
producer in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol was affected.
was not only the producers who found themselves in a different world.
The teams running the radio networks now found themselves as part of
another new division. This was called Broadcast.
as a directorate, was just what its name said. The place where all the
producers of television and radio programmes were managed. But what
was Broadcast? The division consisted of all the Controllers and commissioning
teams of Television and Radio, plus everyone who worked in Local Radio,
Regional Television and the Nations, even if they were producers
at the top of the BBC was changed. The Managing Directors of Television
and Radio were replaced with Directors, who no longer sat at the top
table of the BBC - the Executive Committee - they were represented instead
by the Chief Executive of Broadcast.
upheaval on a grand scale. And the loser was Radio.
in my first lecture, that the BBC formally set one half of the business
against the other... that was certainly how it seemed for much of the
The money, and therefore the power, went to the Broadcast Division.
Producers in the new, vast Production Division were suddenly mere suppliers,
competing with the Independent sector for work within the BBC.
did this mean for Radio?
now found themselves in huge bi-media departments where the local management,
expert in the cost of television programmes - between £80,000
and some £500,000 per programme - could not see the point of putting
similar effort into gaining a commission for a radio programme only
costing £5,000 - the average cost of a radio commission.
new structures gave the radio networks no sense of obligation to nurture
Broadcast/Production split, as it became known, led to departments declaring
war on each other as they battled for commissions to survive. It did
not matter if another production team was damaged, so long as you got
the commission and therefore kept your job. It did not matter if the
subject was out of your speciality - so the Science Department could
put forward ideas that might previously have come from Religion, and
Religion could trample on the toes of Science.
seemed to realise that every department that gained an extra commission
did so at the expense of someone elses department and sometimes
someone elses job.
in some cases, a fight to the death.
Director of Radio in January 1999. I had heard stories of the impact
the new structures had made but, in the protected silo of News, had
been shielded from its affects. What I found shocked me.
are what their producers make them. They make the programmes the audience
listens to. But there was no sense of connection, of ownership.
a month I visited Manchester. Manchester had been the major centre of
Radio production outside London. Two previous Heads of Network Production
in the city had become Controllers of Radio 4, David Hatch and Michael
Green. Manchester had nurtured writers and drama producers. Manchester
had been the home of great programmes like A Word In Edgeways. It had
been a force in the history of BBC Radio.
I found in 1999 was far from that. Producers felt abandoned by the very
networks they served. There was no coherent Radio production department
left, only small teams fighting to stop each other winning commissions
and therefore undermining each other. They had lost their way and the
new structures had given no-one the responsibility to help them find
it again. I was told that the next day it would be announced that over
50% of the radio staff would be made redundant. There was no work for
them. A month in my new job I pleaded for a stay of execution, but this
round every production department and the story was the same. A sense
of disillusion, no-one from Broadcast Directorate talked to them. Producers
felt unvalued, some felt they were being treated with contempt.
all felt they were drowning in huge departments, where the managers,
however good, were overwhelmed with the problems of television and unable
to devote the time and energy necessary to understand and champion this
new medium for which they had been given responsibility.
new departments, with one exception, had Television Heads. All had to
deliver significant efficiency savings - after all that was the purpose
of the restructuring.
had to deliver profits - after all these were now competing businesses.
So, in Radio this meant long-standing Editors were made redundant as
programme teams were amalgamated and layers of production staff removed.
an unhappy time.
commissions only 10% of its output from Independents, compared with
25% in Television, so BBC Radio production staff should have felt confident
of their future, but they didnt. The uncertainty every six months,
as they battled for the handful of commissions available, led to safe
programming and abandonment of risk. Why risk a challenging idea which
might not be commissioned, if a formulaic one guaranteed success?
affected the music as well as the speech programming. It was a radio
structure unlike any in the world. The producers of Radio 1 programmes
worked to a bi-media Head of Music Entertainment, who could use their
profits to finance television programmes if he so wished. The Controller
of Radio 1 had no say in their development. The same was true of Radios
2 and 3. No other radio organisation in the world had all its producers
answerable to a separate management.
a station like Radio 4 became a nightmare for both producers and commissioners.
The desperation to get commissions made departments submit numerous
ideas for every available slot, rather than concentrate on developing
two or three quality ones. Each producer in the Drama department spent
an average of 14 weeks of the year working up proposals - 90% of which
were never commissioned.
I was going to paint a bleak picture. For some it really was that bleak.
for all. Others saw that the new systems brought benefits. Departments,
that long had felt excluded from Radio 4, won commissions for the first
time and the Nations, Scotland in particular, felt a more level playing
field had been established.
now had more opportunity to pitch to Controllers and in drama important
commissions were won. Controllers felt they had a better opportunity
to pick and choose the best programmes. They saw a chance to make the
networks more audience focused. No one had a right just to make the
programmes they wanted.
all good BBC stories there were winners and losers, but this time the
losers were the majority of the BBCs creative staff.
tell you another story. This one concerns BBC News. A few years ago
the then Secretary of State for Health made a statement about Viagra.
How did the BBC respond to Frank Dobsons announcement?
the day, 20 different parts of the daily news machine rang the BMA asking
to be faxed a copy of the BMAs drug fact sheet! Twenty calls for
the same thing. How mad you might think... this must have been in the
distant past, before the BBC had got its act together and merged its
Television and Radio newsgathering operations.
it wasnt. This story formed part of an assessment, in 1999, of
how bi-media was working in BBC News. Was it the right way forward?
Had it achieved the efficiency predicted when introduced in 1992?
funny word. What does it mean?
were to ask producers in the BBC today they would all give different
answers, but those answers would have one thing in common, a belief
that, and I quote, "bi-media was more output, less resources".
reporters and correspondents it came to mean "long hours, particularly
in the field".
producers it came to mean "we are second best, at the end of the
responses were invariably biased, but there was a kernel of truth behind
was a byword in John Birts BBC in the Nineties, when it was rolled
out, first to News, next to the Regions and onwards until, as I have
said, it embraced all BBC Production in 1996.
concept affected the whole of the BBC, and its legacy remains.
in 2002, much of its structures have been dismantled. Why? What have
we learnt? Was it all a waste of time?
In my first
two lectures, I tried to show how central News is to the remit of the
BBC, how central it is to Radio.
equally central to the News Division, delivering over 58% of its audience.
if Radio was so important, were systems imposed on the medium that left
its practitioners feeling sidelined and misunderstood?
I could give you a simple answer.
came to dominate thinking in News in the mid-Nineties as it faced increasing
competition both globally and domestically from CNN and from Sky News.
What did News gain? What was lost?
the idea that Radio and Television can be combined, that News
producers and reporters can be in the same team - was not new when the
BBC introduced it in the early Nineties.
was new, but if you go back to when Television started after the war,
News reporters worked for both media. They were in one department.
Television grew in importance, it needed more dedicated teams to provide
for its needs. So a separate Television team was established and although
links between the two services were never totally severed, Radio by
and large went its own way.
years that followed, Radio management invested considerable sums in
Radio News and Current Affairs, in correspondents around the world.
There were two correspondents in Moscow, two in Washington, one in New
York. There were correspondents in all the western capitals of Europe.
In the Eighties they expanded to Eastern Europe with Tim Sebastian in
Warsaw. There were correspondents in India, Mark Tully knighted in the
New Years Honours list, correspondents in South Africa and East
Africa. In the Eighties they added Peking and Tokyo. And of course throughout
this time there were correspondents in the Middle East and Jerusalem.
This was a formidable newsgathering machine.
Radio worked closely with World Service, whose extensive band of stringers
and producers ensured that Radio covered the Globe. They shared facilities
and people. BBC Radio was a significant global newsgathering force.
investment did not stop there. Over the years they had recruited a raft
of domestic specialist correspondents. The list included education,
health, social affairs, arts, community relations, defence, legal, science,
industrial, media, economic. There were correspondents in all the Nations
and in particular Northern Ireland. Radio recruited journalists like
Niall Dickson, now the BBCs social affairs editor. Specialists
like Joshua Rosenberg were able to provide much more than short reports
for News bulletins. They added depth to current affairs programmes and
some presented specialist programmes on Radio 4.
political correspondents worked for both Television and Radio when John
Birt joined the BBC in 1987.
a television service where there was only one correspondent on the mainland
of Europe in Moscow, and four correspondents abroad, mostly in
the USA. Of course the Radio correspondents routinely provided reports
for their television colleagues, but they lacked the skills of Television,
and filed only after they had finished their radio responsibilities.
was determined to improve televisions newsgathering capability
and authority. Radio's extensive network of foreign correspondents and
specialists at home could be used effectively across the BBC, on Television
as well as Radio.
debate began. Would combining our Radio and Television reporters and
correspondents be a better way for BBC News to face the world, and would
it ensure an improvement in quality on television?
were more acceptable to Television managers than to Radio ones, myself
included. We believed the two media had different needs, required different
skills and we feared that because Television is a more complex medium
technically, demands time, Radio would become a poor relation if it
was submerged into a bi-media department.
worried about the effect on reporters. One of the BBCs most respected
broadcasters, Charles Wheeler, warned that reporting standards would
So in Television
and Radio there were misgivings. But such siren voices were not heeded
and in 1992 reporters, correspondents and News planners were merged
into one department. At a stroke Television gained a formidable foreign
newsgathering capability. At a stroke all the BBC's domestic correspondents
now found themselves working in new environments.
correspondents swapped first. I remember Televisions Education
Correspondent at that time was Mike Baker, and he had not worked in
Radio for years. So bi-media brought some immediate benefits to Radio,
as good journalists returned to the medium.
next six months a number of specialists exchanged the delights of West
One for the wasteland of White City and vice versa.
Media Correspondent Nick Higham swapped with his Radio colleague Torin
Douglas. They both wrote about it.
Highams point of view working in radio offered "the luxury
of airtime." Radio programmes enabled him to cover stories not
at the top of the days agenda. He was allotted time to tell them.
he put it he was "freed from the tyranny of pictures." He
found it quite un-nerving.
Torin Douglas it was the tyranny of the pictures that concerned him.
Only occasionally did pictures take a back seat. He was glad to get
back to Radio - he could deliver more stories, had more opportunities.
He believed that "Radio allows correspondents to go into a story
believed "Radio News (couldnt ) match TV News for impact."
was all too prevalent in BBC News.
all News was brought together at Television Centre and bi-media was
imposed in earnest. Reporters and correspondents now worked across both
media as they had done in the Fifties.
could the concept go? There were people arguing that it could go a very
long way indeed. I remember one senior manager claiming that one team
could edit the Six OClock News on both Television and Radio! A
view not shared by any in Radio production and fortunately by few in
not only the reporters and correspondents who were affected by this
new approach to broadcast management. In the mid-Nineties News production
followed newsgathering and become bi-media, with programmes like Today,
and The World At One placed in the same department as Breakfast News
to Television Centre enabled Newsnight and The World Tonight to work
in the same open plan office, Breakfast News and Today in another.
believed, would foster collaboration and co-operation. Synergies would
emerge and the BBC would ensure that it spoke with one voice.
teams did not agree and neither did I. In my opinion Today has little
in common with Breakfast News.
all this do for the programmes, and more important what did it mean
for the listeners?
to answer that, I have to go back years.
I am going
to look at how BBC Radio has covered momentous events for its audiences,
and how it does this today.
In the first of these lectures, I looked briefly at the BBC in World
War Two but more at the programmes it was broadcasting than the way
it covered the conflict.
established the art of first hand, front line radio reporting, and established
the status of the broadcast reporter.
had gradually developed outside broadcasting during the Thirties. In
1935 it moved to disc-recording - on machines, which cut grooves on
aluminium discs that were instantly ready for playing.
they had converted a laundry van, fitting it with a small studio and
twin turntables for continuous recording. It weighed six tons. Roving
reporters, as I said last week, were called Mobile Topicality Assistants...
in deference to newspaper publishers.
The BBC became more agile in 1939, when saloon cars, rather than laundry
vans, were converted for broadcast use. These cars had room for only
one turntable and four minutes recording. But by now the output could
be fed back from any telephone line.
becoming mobile. From 1940 the BBC Regions were equipped with recording
cars or vans plus secret lists of transmitters and telephone lines in
the UK, so if London were occupied, the BBC would stay on the air.
did not make it easy for the Radio reporter. You needed considerable
technical as well as editorial skill. If you were Godfrey Talbot in
North Africa you probably had to type your piece before recording it,
so that the censor could see it, because if you recorded directly onto
disc, and the censor didnt like it, the disc would be wasted.
had recorded the disc, a despatch rider would take it to the Egyptian
State Broadcasting Studios in Cairo to beam it to London.
during the war, established its reputation for honesty and accuracy.
If the BBC was honest about disasters, such as the fall of Singapore,
it was more likely to be believed when the news was better.
win wars. Churchill knew that. As early as November 1939 he said of
German propaganda - "if words could kill we would be dead already".
do convey stories, events.
early days of the war there had been some reporting, but not much, from
North Africa and from bombing raids over Germany.
the difference was D-Day. But, even then, life for a reporter was far
device called the Midget had been developed in early 1944, just in time
for D-Day. It was spring-wound, and had two recording positions, one
for the reporter, one for battlefield noise. There was a clip-on mike.
12 double-sided 10-inch discs inside the lid... enough for 72 minutes
of recording. Hardly a midget, it weighed 42 pounds.
It was the machine on which most of the drama of 1944-5 was recorded.
And they were transmitted back to the UK via three-ton recording trucks.
correspondents, and for the millions who heard them, it was all about
there was at times unbearable and conveying the enormity of the horror
placed extraordinary responsibility on the shoulders of those covering
the war, as Richard Dimbleby all too often showed.
the sparse use of words convey, even today, the nightmare he had encountered.
this to do with bi-media?
war reporters set standards that reporters on Radio and Television have
tried to live up to ever since. They were great writers, chroniclers,
surveying the events that engulfed them, telling their audiences what
they saw in front of them.
This ability, to paint a picture in the listeners mind, is needed
as much today as it was 60 years ago. It has been needed many times
during the last 60 years.
famously accurate, and using simple words to convey true facts. There
is a skill in such reporting. It sounds so easy but it is not.
War was not a television war, although it took place at the beginning
of the Eighties. There was no live television capability
pictures took weeks to reach our screens.
a difficult campaign to report. Reporters faced tight censorship, had
Ministry of Defence minders and the MOD controlled the means of communication.
I was the
Editor of the Radio 4 programme The World At One at that time. One day
rumours circulated that there had been a serious setback, an attack
on a ship that had caused considerable loss of life. We waited for one
of the two broadcasting opportunities our reporters were allowed each
remember vividly Brian Hanrahan filing this despatch.
were so powerful, so evocative that when, weeks later, the pictures
arrived, they did not match the power of that original radio report.
said a number of times during these lectures that Radio paints pictures,
conveys images, gets inside your head, stimulating your imagination.
Hanrahan and Richard Dimbleby famously before him did just that. It
is a Radio skill essential for its success. And it takes time to acquire
reporting uses sound to convey the sense of place.
feel the water in this despatch from Robert Fox, as he clambered down
with the first British soldiers as they set foot on the Falkland Islands
at the start of the land battle.
give numerous examples over the years, of that blend of sound and word.
what has this got to do with bi-media? I must explain.
words, sound - Radio. For Radio to soar, it must have the skill to exploit
all three. The impact of the rigid bi-media years has left Radio, in
my opinion, lacking some of those skills.
there are still many more than capable of using the medium to its full
potential, as John Humphrys did on the Today programme the morning after
that kind of coverage is now all too rare.
the loss of one skill should not alone colour judgement. Should not
undermine the benefits that such a concept could bring.
was and is very attractive.
on paper, the cost savings in newsgathering and production would appear
to be obvious. Two (or in the case of online services three) broadcast
mediums working together, sharing resources and staff to deliver a top
quality end product.
Birt took charge of BBC News in 1987, he had been disturbed by the numerous
examples of the BBC sending several reporters to cover the same story.
It was damaging for the BBC. He hoped bi-media would ensure such things
never happened again. As the 1999 report about News and Viagra showed,
many journalists saw bi-media could have benefits for them. They could
develop a broad set of skills. Being able to move between Radio, Television
and online would mean new opportunities for career development and progression.
For many it did lead to that.
Unfortunately it led to other things as well.
News production department in 1997 took the concept too far when it
tried to introduce a new system of management. Editors were to be downgraded
and super editors responsible for groups of programming created.
internal battle ensued. As I have said often, the BBC is splendid at
tearing itself apart, and in public. The editors, producers and presenters
Mail on Sunday put it: "Last
weeks extraordinary events at the BBC... compare... to Mutiny
on the Bounty. Star named presenters like John Humphrys, James Naughtie
and Anna Ford found themselves cast in the unlikely role of Fletcher
Christian leading the lower ranks in revolt."
would have damaged both Radio and Television programmes and BBC News
swiftly reversed most of the proposal. The Editor of Today is as much
the editor today as he was yesterday.
News expanded with services like Radio Five Live, BBC World,
News 24 and World Service Two enormous demands were placed on
the journalists. And those demands could not always be met.
taking out duplication of programme resources, the different cultures
and ways of working between Radio and Television made them uncomfortable
correspondents and journalists like Charles Wheeler had predicted were
being realised as evidence grew of the staggering burden on some correspondents.
If they had to be constantly available for a "live" interview
about the story, when would they gather material and find out what the
story was? One correspondent worked out that taking all the television
and radio programmes he was expected to service over one hundred different
Radio this became more damaging, as Televisions perceived importance
grew and many staff, wrongly, began to look on Radio as the poor cousin.
It appeared at times to be at the end of the chain.
Media Correspondent, Torin Douglas, writing in The Times in December
2000 said: "Those who predicted that Radio would take second place
have sometimes been proved right. Despite the undoubted influence and
size of the BBCs radio audience, particularly at breakfast time,
Television had first pick of correspondents."
were being inadequately covered to meet these new demands. The audience
was the poorer.
journalism, I have shown, is wonderfully mobile. Radio can get in at
the heart of the action in a less intrusive fashion. But, to quote one
radio editor, "there were numerous occasions when correspondents
were too busy writing scripts for their TV pieces to be available."
to "be there", but on many occasions correspondents were in
the wrong location, away from the actual story, half a mile away, trapped
in a TV edit van editing the piece for Television.
and news networks, were forced to respond in different ways, often reinforcing
their production staff, thus undermining much of the original aims of
Radio there was a recurring problem of sound quality: TV would get brilliant
pictures and perfect sound, but the truck was radio-incompatible and
Radio was left with the phone or a poor-quality radio car.
wasnt only Radio that suffered. Television did as well.
talked about the importance of craft skills in Radio, but craft skills
are just as important for television. There were many bi-media correspondents
who had no TV craft skills, and couldn't construct packages or were
awkward on camera.
wished that reporters, out for Television, would carry a minidisc, there
were television colleagues who wished radio people had taken a DV camera!
had spread its tentacles wider than News and Production.
in the Regions had also embraced bi-media, as resources grew scarcer
and it seemed the only way forward. Like News and Production this led
to problems in Radio - this time Local Radio.
pace of bi-media was fastest at those Local Radio stations which shared
newsrooms with BBC Regional Television nine out of 39. They were
the big city stations, where competition was fiercest.
manager remembers some disastrous experiments with a "big rota".
What was a "big rota"? In Bristol, for example, staff were
deployed for both Television and Radio according to the ever-changing
demands of the day. At its worst, it led to a decline in radio package-making
skills, as hard pressed reporters focused on their television report
and left Radio to have to do a live two-way or to dub the (inadequate)
sound from the camera. Often they asked someone else (always more junior)
to prepare the package for drivetime radio programmes.
"co-operation" between Television and Radio on the same site
also led to a brain-drain, with the most talented reporters and producers
moving through much more quickly into pure television jobs than they
previously would have done. And the team spirit in Local Radio, essential
for its continuing health, was eroded.
drain was also repeated in News and in Production, as Television cherry
picked Radios talent.
is the negative side of an experiment. Radio apparently being sacrificed
some television producers made radio documentaries for the first time
and with a fresh eye produced memorable programmes. Roger Childs in
Religion, a former Everyman producer, left his television programme
to produce John McCarthys moving Bible Journey.
In the Regions, television reporters became more aware of Radio and
the introduction of specialist correspondents gave Local Radio access
to a depth of coverage they had not had before.
National Radio, particularly in the early years, gained reporters of
the calibre of Justin Webb, Bill Turnbull and Matthew Amroliwala, who
all came from Television to work on programmes like The World At One.
Without bi-media this would never have happened.
became a regular broadcaster on Radio again - a medium he had left years
like Bridget Kendall, demonstrated, day by day, that it was possible
to serve Radio and Television effectively.
the end of 1999 it was clear that, despite these successes, bi-media
was not delivering effectively for either medium - not for the majority
of their producers, not for their reporters and not for their programmes.
first to embrace bi-media, was the first to address its problems and
needed News programmes with clear identities and one way to establish
the flagship programmes was to give them their own set of correspondents.
needed to improve its continuous news services, BBC World and News 24.
A dedicated television management, focusing solely on the medium, was
So in January
2000 separate Television and Radio News Production departments were
again created in News. Its ironic that the same reasons that had led
to separation in the Fifties led to separation now - the needs of Television.
Greg Dyke became Director-General of the BBC. He dismantled the Broadcast
and Production Directorates and restored Radio and Television to the
BBCs top table. He also added production heads from Sport, Features,
Education and Drama.
that collaboration, not destructive internal competition, was needed
to make a creative organisation thrive. He saw that Television and Radio
had different needs, related differently to their audiences.
in Spring 2000, enabled Radio to embrace its music production departments
once again. Radio 1 producers now worked for the Radio 1 Controller,
the Radio 2 and 3 producers for theirs. No longer were production and
commissioning in opposition and each service could concentrate on delivering
the best for their audiences. Radio was becoming more joined up.
it was announced that the studio managers, Outside Broadcast engineers
and technical staff would rejoin Radio in April. All this will ensure
that Radio can concentrate on making the best programming, rather than
on complicated business practices that get in the way.
month Radio rebuilt the production base in the north with a £600k
investment in Radio production in Manchester.
relationships have changed. Radio Producers have guarantees of output,
so no longer need fear that loss of one commission will lead to loss
of employment. Now they can take risks, to be less safe and innovate
painted a very negative picture of bi-media. Is there any legacy worth
dwell on its strengths, on what it has given the BBC. What it has given
to Radio. What it can continue to give.
Radio, there have been some very positive legacies. Bi-media woke up
regional managers and editors to the benefit of cross promotion between
Radio and Television and now Online.
It also led to some of the most popular BBC television presenters, who
were/are big names in their parts of the country, returning to present
also delivered a better quality of specialist correspondent journalism
into BBC Local Radio, at a time when budgets had been stretched to damaging
whilst abandoning the excesses and the dogma of the Nineties, the BBC
has embraced the opportunity where it works.
- in writing in particular - the BBC has seen the sense of nurturing
and mentoring new writing talent for all its broadcast media, not just
like Northern Exposure, are developing new programme ideas for all the
different BBC platforms. This is a new approach to bi-media.
like Northern Exposure, are also helping repair the damage caused by
the contraction of the Northern Production Department in Manchester
in 1999. Today, if you live in Liverpool, you could win one of five
writers awards for a years mentoring and development across Radio,
TV, Film and Online. If you are in Newcastle you could be a radio writer
in residence or enter a comedy writing competition. If you live in Manchester
or Leeds there are writing schemes for you.
this kind of bi-media, projects like these would lack ambition and scale.
Offering masterclasses and mentors for writers across five cities in
the North is ambitious.
the opportunity for talent like Jon Culshaw and Jan Ravens of Dead Ringers
to work with Television, to develop new formats that exploit their skills
is an important part of public service broadcasting. Without this form
of bi-media, this would not happen.
News, there have been many occasions when Radio has benefited from its
access to the best reporters and correspondents in the BBC.
Television and Radio should share resources and now they do. I think
of John Simpson in Belgrade and most recently entering Kabul.
famously liberating Kabul for the BBC!
only works when it recognises that Television and Radio work differently
with their audiences and place different, but no less exacting, demands
on people in the field and on the production desks. When bi-media is
imposed dogmatically across a creative organisation then the concept
do I sum this up? What have we learnt?
and is some logic behind the bi-media idea, but it was inevitable its
blanket implementation meant that Radio was going to be the loser.
about painting pictures, Television is about shooting them. Pictures
can make it easier for Television, but those who argued for a blanket
imposition didnt realise Television and Radio were two different
in production made efficiency a more important priority than creativity.
Creative people, by their nature, will always be inefficient, but if
you harness that creativity with effective leadership, then you will
get some great programmes. And if you put creativity first then you
have to give teams the focussed leadership they deserve. Huge bi-media
departments undermined leadership, in particular in Radio and Local
has been or should be discarded.
in the BBC, rightly, remains centrally managed, but the dogma of the
Nineties has gone and most reporters and correspondents are able to
concentrate on their respective media, learning its skills, its strengths,
important things have gone.
Radio, bi-media, coming as it did after a relentless focus on more speech
for radio stations (which was too often interpreted as more news and
journalism), developed a phase in which the best creative radio skills
were less cherished and, in many places, lost.
roles were lost, producers who were creative entrepreneurs, exploiting
both talent, individuals and innovation.
has recognised this and are trying to find these individuals/leaders
again. Commissioning programming like The Century Speaks and Sense of
Place is a first step.
will take a long time to rebuild this critical creative element in Local
News the legacy of those great war correspondents is less prevalent,
in danger of being lost. The use of sound, the power of words. These
are skills not easily re-established.
So we have
recognised the short-comings. But all is not bleak. There are still
reporters able to describe events with power and impact. Gordon Swindlehurst
did just that for Radio Cumbria when he flew above the funeral pyres
during the Foot and Mouth epidemic.
what Radio must aspire to. Reporting like that must set standards for
others to follow and radio producers must demand more and exploit their
medium more. Blending sound and words, using writing to create images.
Without these skills Radio the medium, and its listeners will be the