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A radio futurologist writing about what happens when radio and new platforms collide
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Sunday reading

Posted on Sunday, August 29th, 2010 at 8:00 am. #

Pretty Zurich

In the US, the Infinite Dial reports a rather fancy pause and rewind radio is now being promoted – in a new Buick car. (And you can do it with analogue FM). Watch the TV ad – that’s very cool.

Less cool is the NAB’s odd bullying behaviour to insist on FM chips into mobile phones. RadioInsights doesn’t think it’s doing radio any favours, while the Infinite Dial points out that there’s probably no need to bully the manufacturers anyway. The internet comic Penny Arcade has a predictable view which the NAB has reversed the radio industry into, in my opinion. Shame.

To to the UK, and the BBC’s Salford move turned to high farce this week, as the HR director of BBC Salford refuses to actually, er, move to Salford. That news comes on the heels of news that the man in charge of BBC Salford, Peter Salmon, is also refusing to make the leap. And the radio network that’s going there? 5 Live’s controller, Adrian van Klaveren, is also not going. Meanwhile, mandatory relocations are being forced on BBC staff: some with just 6 months notice. While all this is going on, people proudly proclaim on Twitter that they “love the BBC”, and according to Mark Thompson, some of those “I love the BBC” Twitter feeds trended in the top five in the whole world. Mark: first, it’s not a twitter feed, it’s a tweet (or a twitter message); and secondly, they’re saying they’re proud of the programmes. This is not, necessarily, an endorsement of BBC management.

Mark ‘Thommo’ Thompson’s speech at the Edinburgh International TV Festival also contained an astonishing claim: as he described that dry and lifeless view of public broadcasting which is prevalent in America and elsewhere and which holds that it must never ever include programmes which significant numbers of people might actually want to watch or listen to. He’s not seen the schedules of PBS (the ‘Public Broadcasting System’) – containing the dry and lifeless Antiques Roadshow, Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure, or BBC World News – and since he said ‘broadcasting’ and not ‘television’, one assumes that he’s similarly ignored NPR – a radio network that reaches around 12% of the US adult population each week (Radio 4 reaches 20%) with some rather marvellous programmes. Slagging off the competition is an odd thing to do.

Mind you, when The Guardian prints this kind of tosh, perhaps he deserves our support. And the BBC isn’t all bad, by any means: this week they released their MHEG+ toolkit for other broadcasters to use: exactly the type of “agree on technology, compete on content” behaviour which the BBC should be famous for; and the (government-funded) BBC World Service is recognised world over as a ‘remarkable bargain’.

Elsewhere, Jeff Jarvis points out the German hatred for Google Streetview might be rather irrational; and I spent a lovely day in Zurich on Thursday – above – speaking at the SwissRadioDay. I got a number of nice reviews – thank you.


Jem Stone
commenting at August 29th, 2010 at 9:57 am

Morning James
btw: Peter Salmon has now confirmed he is relocating to Salford: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1315309_critics_wont_wreck_the_salford_vision and the HR Director has actually left the BBC altogether so i suppose he’s no longer the HR Director or “refusing to go”

Wasn’t #ilovethebbc and their related both an endorsement of the programmes *and* the organisation itself (of which the management plays a part in that). Didn’t the outburst of support imply that users had connected the progs/content to challenges on the organisation/licence fee ? One of those trending moments (there’s been a few) was in response to awareness that the licence fee rightly or wrongly under threat. Although yes I also wish he’d said hashtag or tweet and got the grammar right.

I agree with you about the excellence of some of NPR’s programming and the innovation it has pursued online (in your blogposts/speeches etc) although aren’t comparisons with BBC Radio as a whole rather than Radio 4 fairer in terms of reach? And was he “slagging off” (wasn’t much of a slag off tbh) PBS and NPR or just challenging the perceived assumption about the (limited) role of public broadcasting in national debate, regardless of quality/programming some of which is of course provided by the BBC.

Yes. The World Service is a “remarkable bargain” :)

James Cridland
commenting at August 29th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Since I wrote the above article, it would appear that Salmon is moving to Manchester, but only after his childrens’ education at their particular school is finished. Shame that this isn’t available to the rank and file who can’t afford to run two houses on the go.

And no, I don’t believe that #ilovethebbc showed any love for the senior management. Certainly all the use of that hashtag that I saw was accompanied by “isn’t Sherlock great”, or “I love Just a Minute”, or “ah, the BBC Proms”. As a former employee, I’m proud of the BBC’s programmes, and (mainly) proud of what you see online. However – and perhaps I’m slightly more affected than most – I see little in BBC senior management’s decisions to be proud about.

(As an aside, the ‘captcha’ that I’ve been given for this comment says “bectiou”, which seems too close to BECTU for comfort!)

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