This paper is a collaboration for Radio Studies -
UK radio policies are an important piece of broadcast radio legislation. It outlines the philosophy of what radio stations should be and gives each station a chance to express its needs to target its particular audience. Policies also distinguish what is broadcast and administers the stations conditions which should be met within the broadcasting year. This report will explore a range of BBC Radio policies and detail OFCOM UK’S policy when applied to two particular stations. It will then look in detail at the accuracy of the policies and point out any modifications that could be introduced in future policies. Where relevant, key scholars who have contributed to theory within the medium of radio will be included to justify and give understanding to the discussions.
BBC Radio 1’s policy statement gives us an extensive overview of its target audience, key challenges facing them they aim to cover and its commitments to what is broadcast between the years stated. This part will briefly look at this policy and state these claims written in the ‘Radio 1 Programme Policy for 2010/2011’.
The Service Remit aims to appeal to a target audience of 15-29 year olds and also look to bring in ‘a broad range of young listeners’ through a mix of contemporary music such as pop, R’n’B and alternative music. Emerging types of new contemporary music such as Dubstep, Electro, Techno and House may also be included as well as new artists from the UK. Speech radio which will be relevant to young adults will be included with areas such as campaigns, news and documentaries being covered.
Andy Partiff, who is the controller at BBC Radio 1, also writes his vision for the service in 2010/2011. He gives a brief description of Radio 1’s history, its original aim and how he aims to keep it succeeding in 2010 and beyond. He aims for Radio 1 to be a ‘leading voice of young UK culture. Sunday evenings will be a key day in which a new ‘teen zone’ will be established providing young teens to ease into Radio 1. Using features such Newsbeat and The Chart Show it is specifically designed for young audiences which he claims ‘the rest of the market can not sustain’. He also expresses the need to improve the online and interactive experiences of Radio 1 as so to ‘keep pace with audience expectations’.
Radio 1 set Key Challenges which they aim to incorporate into their broadcasting over the course of the year stated. Their first challenge is to ensure a constant evolution to generate more young listeners to listen to Radio 1. This will be done by extending Sundays ‘teen zone’ (as mentioned in the above paragraph). New presenter Tom Deacon will be introduced to Sunday evenings and weekly daytime shows such as Fearne Cottons show will be developed further. Their second challenge is to give speech show ‘The Surgery’ an earlier timeslot and become more journalistic in its approach of relevant topical issues. Coverage of the General Election and UK unemployment will have larger news coverage as it is relevant to young audiences. New documentaries and campaigns will be introduced such as ‘The Art of Noise’ and volunteering initiatives involving travel and relationships.
The third challenge will be to improve interactive services as meet young peoples ‘changing habits’ such as broadband and mobile internet. They aim to capture more visual moments in radio such as Live Lounge sessions. The UK Chart will be improved after the launch of the new midweek chart update. Audience participation will continue to be blossom with features such as personalisation of the Radio 1 homepage. They also aim to publish segments of shows online and look to ‘syndicate material to third party sales’. Their final challenge is to equally serve audiences across the UK. This will include coverage of Radio 1’s Big Weekend in North Wales in which the station will work alongside BBC Cymru Wales to broadcast the event in Welsh. A range of live shows in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will have coverage on Radio 1 such as Rockness and Wakestock.
Other programming highlights included coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2010 and how their audience followed the event in the UK and Big Weekends 10th anniversary coverage which was celebrated with ‘ambitious interactive coverage’.
Radio 1 has also committed to the BBC certain conditions such as broadcasting 40% of music based in the UK in daytime hours (Mon-Fri 6am-7pm and Sat-Sun 8am-2pm) and 60 hours of specialist music in the week such as cutting edge music and certain genres. They commit 45% of music in the daytime to be new music released in physical form (excluding download release) and 10% use of eligible hours for independent producers. They aim to broadcast 40 new documentaries and at least to major social action campaigns. Finally, they will 200 hours of ‘original opt-outs’ for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reflect the nations, regions and communities in the UK.
For BBC Radio 2, the key challenges outlined distinguish how Radio 2 wishes to carry on being distinguished as a mixed music and speech station aimed for over 35s. The radio policy for 2010/2011 perceives the necessary steps the BBC needs to take in order to remain as a popular radio station for the mature listener.
BBC Radio 2 will predominantly focus on broadening its audience’s musical taste through an increased broadcasting of original music. Live music will continue to be a focal point for Radio 2 with more original live music being broadcasted. The BBC Electric Proms have become entirely associated with Radio 2 since 2010; which will reinforce the stations dedication to live music. Popular culture and tradition will continue to be displayed, with a showcase of British comedy heritage. Radio 2 in 2011 will be about continuing traditions and embracing the new; this will be seen with opportunities for new writers, artists and performers. Traditional live music will be broadcasted with indigenous musical styles such as brass and folk; this will appeal to the more traditionalist and mature listener. The vast size of Radio 2’s audience will be utilized to create a sense of British public value. Multigenerational listening will be a focus for Radio 2 in the coming year with more of a push to appeal to the over 50s as well as the middle aged audience.
The key challenges for Radio 2 in 2011 are to compensate the absence of Terry Wogan with Chris Evans and Simon Mayo in the drive-time slot. Without Terry Wogan the radio station faces challenges in maintaining his same following in the same drive-time slot that he DJ’d on. BBC Radio 2 will need to carefully oversee the tone, content and style of that slot. Another prominent challenge Radio 2 has proposed for 2011 is increasing the diversity of programs on offer. There will be a focus on content that focuses on cultural and social benefits during daytime broadcasting. In the evening Jeremy Vine’s show will include themes from various documentaries and a new comedy output will be broadcasted on Steven Wright’s show which will also be during the evening.
Multiple new comedy series on Radio 2 will encourage the targeted broader audience. This will be visible through the various styles and comedians available. Appearances from Ronnie Corbett, Michael McIntyre, Peter Sellers and Bob Monkhouse will maintain the comic variety that Radio 2 has been so distinguished with. Collaborations with BBC Comedy, BBC Scotland will be part of the production to pinpoint ‘Radio 2’s New Stand Up of the Year’. A two-part comedy showcase will also be presented by Craig Charles to correlate with black history month. This program will uncover the best of black British stand up.
Overall Radio 2 has promised to become a more culturally and socially diverse station with programs suited for any listener above the target age of 30. Radio 2 will keep with traditions by carrying on religious programs, documentaries and live music sets. Radio 2 will carry on focussing on programs that promote British heritage but also an increased insight into global events.
Regarding BBC Radio 4’s policy, it provides an insight into what the BBC is aiming to achieve and bring to its audience using this station. It highlights the main content of the station, what the schedule will be derived of and what the combination of these shows and scheduling will bring to its audience.
The service remit highlights the content and target audience of the station. Radio 4 is a primarily speech driven station with a commitment to providing a mixture of news, current affairs and a variety of radio shows ranging from drama, factual and comedy. The target audience of the station is those ‘seeking intelligent programs’ that cover a wide range of genres and, as ever with the BBC, maintain it’s overarching policy to inform, educate and entertain.
The main aims and objectives of the station are furthered highlighted by Radio 4’s controller, Mark Damazer. He gives a brief overview of the ‘uniquely eclectic schedule’ that contains a variety of factual programs, drama, comedy and debate. He also highlights the main news feature to be covered by the station for the time period 2010/11 which is the General Election. He aims to maintain the stations position as the ‘home of radio drama’ and ‘destination for the best comedy’. The inclusion of young, new writers and comedians shows Radio 4’s conscious decision to usher in the new breed of talented individuals that will help the station evolve and maintain pace with any rival radio station. This is even further mentioned when the controller emphasizes how the station will ‘evolve technologically as well as editorially’. Coverage of the Edinburgh festival and Glastonbury will also help discover emerging and up and coming acts in these fields of work.
In an attempt to address some of the targets in the above paragraph, Radio 4 has its own set of key challenges. The coverage of the general election is the main priority for the station and a wide variety of shows will attempt to provide varying views and opinions on what’s going on in the political sector. From programs providing a satirical and ‘sideways’ view on the election such as ‘The Heckler’ and ‘The Vote Now Show’ to a more factual, statistic based account of the voting process in ‘More Or Less’; Radio 4 is challenging itself to be the primary provider in news regarding the election. Another challenge they wish to accomplish is the ‘maintenance and growth of their interactive services’. They aim to achieve this by providing a website to run alongside its ‘History Of The World’ show, which will help the listener garner a better idea of the programs content by ‘showcasing all the objects in the series and making the programs available permanently as podcasts’. A further challenge the station is attempting to meet is a development of relations with BBC television. This hopes to be achieved with the co-commissioning of an ‘Eighties drama season and the Torchwood series‘.
Other programming highlights include a wide variety of new factual, drama and comedy shows aimed at a wide audience in attempt to satisfy the target audience’s needs. Programs such as ‘Democracy On Trial’ will help the listeners gather a better idea of the country as a democratic state, which ties into the general election that Radio 4 will be extensively covering. In an attempt to further widen the reach of the station, Radio 4 ‘will continue to produce dramatisations of the best modern children's literature’.
Radio 4 is committed to ‘sustaining citizenship and civil society’ by providing 2,500 hours of news and current affairs programs. In an attempt to provide stimulation creatively and culturally, there will be a combined 780 hours of original drama and comedy. Maintaining the BBC’s inform, educate, entertain mantra there will also be 200 hours of documentaries and 200 hours of religious programming.
Heart 100.7, strive to be fun, interesting, informative and entertaining. Although admit online that they don't always get it right. Each local commercial radio station in the UK has requirements in respect of its music and local content, such as news, speech levels etc. These requirements are set out in the station "Format", a document issued by Ofcom, the UK’s radio regulator. Heart Radio has a copy of this Public File, which contains details of the elements that Ofcom regulate, such as music, local news, etc. This approach is intended to give the listener a better understanding of the expected output from Heart and what they are doing for the local community.
Heart West Midlands note online that any complaints made are logged onto the system on submission with details being passed onto the relevant department. They aim to deal with complaints immediately and will respond to acknowledge receipt of the complaint as soon as it is received by the relevant department. If under any circumstances a solution to the complaint cannot be agreed, a further complaint can be made with OFCOM.
If listeners hear something they're not happy with, or feel that something isn't fair, they are advised to send Heart West Midlands their comments. There they will be considered by senior programme management and action is taken where appropriate through the presenters and producers involved with the specific broadcast. Overall complaint levels and recurring themes are discussed weekly at senior management meetings. With a commitment to respond where a substantive issue is raised.
Section 314 of the Communications Act 2003 defines 'local material' as material which is of particular interest to those living or working within (or within part of) the area or locality for which the service is provided or to particular communities living or working within that area or locality (or a part of it). It can be delivered in a number of ways (local news, local information, comment, outside broadcasts, what's-on, travel news, interviews, charity involvement, weather, airplay for local musicians, local arts and culture, sport coverage, phone-ins, listener interactivity etc.).The balance of the different elements of local material outlined is for each station to determine for itself. But, where a station is required to broadcast local material it should include at least some of these elements.
All radio is made for an audience, for the mass of listeners who, largely on their own, receive or consume the radio message (Chignell, 2009, p. 63). The technological and cultural environment is changing faster than ever, and the objective of this report is to explore and investigate the philosophy of UK radio policy and it’s realisation in a representative range of stations. Analysing the key challenges which are outlined within the programme policy, which include interactive services, ensuring the stations adapt to meet the changing habits of listeners; the growth of broadband which continues to fuel increased demand for visual content; the social media policy outlined by the corporation’s responsible; and ensuring that stations evolve to engage younger audiences, support a wide range of new music, broadcasting and cultural excellence. The Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980) who’s infamous aphorism "the medium is the message" (Levinson, P. 1999, p. 35) places emphasis on the impact that changes in the communication media have on individuals and their awareness of the world around them (Chignell, 2009, p. 79). Considering McLuhan’s writing and ideas, this report will explore the view that as radio stations evolve they fundamentally alter our perception of the world and how we interact.
British histories of radio have referred frequently to the relationship between radio and the experience of feeling a part of a wider group (Chignell, 2009, p. 82). To elaborate on this notion, radio scholars have studied Benedict Anderson’s work, where he suggested the ‘act of reading the national newspaper was a mass ceremony,’ crucial to the ‘imagined community’ concept. This echoes the radio experience where listeners tune in by the tens of thousands. Professor of English literature, Walter Ong, shared a major interest in exploring this transition and observed:
…the spoken word forms human beings into close-knit groups. When a speaker is addressing an audience the members of the audience normally become a unity, with themselves and with the speaker (Ong, 1982, p. 74).
Modern radio programming offers an evolution of this unity, with the audience given the opportunity to actively engage with presenters and programmes to generate original content. Providing more than just a desire to educate and inform, popular entertainment and the Key Challenges enhance the overall listening experience.
In an attempt to determine what the future holds for radio, first understanding the communication infrastructure should help to provide an indication of what to expect. All the UK's national radio stations and many local services will stop broadcasting on analogue by the end of 2015, according to ambitious switch-off targets unveiled by the government (Plunkett, 2009, [Internet]). The report dubbed Digital Britain is an action plan drawn up to embrace new media. New media is the term associated with the emergence of digital, networked information and communication technologies. There’s the novelty aspect with interpreting how new, new media is, but there’s no denying how important these frameworks and technologies have become in engaging the audience. Through the module, concepts such as ‘liveness’ and ‘co-presence’ have been frequently discussed, and the shared experience of radio listening has been enhanced significantly with new media.
In the past few years, the philosophy of UK radio policy has been slowly moving towards a more interactive experience for the audience. We have come to a time in which policies are incorporating ways to broaden the radio experience within the realms of social networking and the Internet. The idea of convergence has become the flagship route to expanding the readership of the medium of radio.
Presenters are able to engage with the audience more than ever through these interactive technologies, coupled with advances in mobile telephony that reinforce the listening experience as both individual and portable (Chignell, 2009, p. 64). Through a combination of these technologies, every listener has the ability to interact through various mediums of communication. Extending beyond the popular radio phone-in, listeners can express their approval through retweets, commenting on stories and using the widely adopted Like button which features across many popular new media sites. Interaction through new technologies provokes a desired ‘unpredictable and spontaneous quality,’ and with increasing numbers using new media, Chignell’s claim that ‘the quality of liveness is communicated largely through the medium of speech’ (Chignell, 2009, p. 89) could be brought into question. Even whilst typing, evidence of this popularity emerges via Radio 1, providing the background ambience, when the presenter interrupts the track fade out to direct listeners to both Twitter and Facebook. The insights from these services provide metrics around the available content, and details on the audience such as age, sex and class profile which are hugely important to the radio stations.
With social networking, radio has been given a chance to look to its presenters to help shows gain a new audience who may not have been reachable before. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the place for new and regular audience members to find out about their favourite presenters and also speak to them. An example of this is BBC Radio 5 Lives own Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo. They use their Twitter page (@wittertainment) to talk about upcoming shows and share photos of themselves with their guests. It also gives the audience a chance to post questions to the presenters live on air instead of the usual formats such as text and email. Allowing the audience to be part of the show through social networking gives them the chance to enhance the whole experience. Instead of waiting for a whole week to listen to their favourite show or presenter, they can follow what they do over the whole week and converse with them.
The internet is key to this convergence and has become more than just ‘pictures of DJ’s, interviews with performers or places for listener chats’ (Chignell, 2009 p.124). It has become the gateway for many new listeners to access their favourite shows either on-demand or from a live stream. A noticeable example of this is via the BBC Radio 1’s official channel on the video sharing website YouTube. Producers take excerpts from live shows, live performances, interviews and documentaries that were all previously broadcast live on radio. This is helping Radio 1 achieve their challenge of capturing more key moments visually and segmenting these on to video sharing websites such as YouTube. This form of convergence can also be applied to BBC Radio 2 who themselves have an official channel on YouTube.
Television also has a role to play in radio’s philosophy as they have slowly intertwined and have come to rely on each other. Specifically, the broadcasting of live music festivals has found its home on both television and radio. Over the years radio presenters have become the face of these events on both formats. An example of this is former Radio 1 presenter Jo Whiley. She is regularly allocated to presenting the Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds Festivals on television channel BBC Three and also replays her favourite bits of the Festival on her shows on Radio 1. It can be noted that the coverage of these festivals help Radio 1 achieve the challenge to ‘showcase the best of our specialist shows across the UK’ (BBC Radio 1 Policy).
It’s easy to get carried away with recent developments in technology, but as Chignell notes ‘economics of radio production have led to an increase in pre-recorded DJ speech on commercial radio stations’ (Chignell, 2009, p.89). With the growth of broadband and technological advances, pre-recorded links can easily be stored on software for later transmission to dupe the listener. Here are some of the dangers:
Practically, if used without regulatory control, at the extremes automation could enable a whole radio station to broadcast without any presenters or technical operators at all, or to appear to have the same presenter broadcasting 24 hours a day. While non-stop music sequences have always been an option, common sense would suggest that listeners might quickly rumble the presenter who appears to be permanently ‘on air’ and never sleep (Starkey, 2004, p. 100).
Ofcom; or Office of Communications, is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. Their statutory duty is the interests of citizens and consumers, promoting fair competition and protecting against harmful or offensive material (Wikipedia, 2011, [Internet]). Unfortunately Ofcom weren’t able to prevent Radio 1 DJs Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave broadcasting their radio show continuously for 52 hours. Although both DJs were allowed a five-minute break every hour, showers and the occasional brief power nap (Guardian, 2011 [Internet]). This reinforces the debate surrounding the ‘illusion of liveness’, because the show was broadcast continuously even though the presenters took breaks, showers and were permitted sleep allowance. Chignell explores the perception of liveness:
In a sense liveness is both an illusion, an artificially created sense of spontaneity and being here now, but also a reflection of the fact that the radio broadcaster exists in the same temporal world that we do. Not only the time of day but also the same point in the week and in the year (Chignell, 2009, p.89).
To conclude, it’s clear that everyone who’s involved in the creation of radio, needs to respect the expectations of the listener. From the key challenges it emerges that stations have identified areas to improve, ways to extend the listening experience and methods to reach a wider audience. Through mobile telephony, new media and Digital Britain there is the evolving technologies and a strategic vision, set out by the government to ensure that the country is a pioneer of the global digital economy. Engaging with the audience remains core to the radio ‘format’, young people are the most ‘lucrative and easy-to-please audience niche’ (Chignell, 2009, p. 64) and also the most likely to engage with the radio station through various mediums of communication. The established modes of address go beyond listening to the voice of the radio presenter; the perception of a one-sided conversation is dismissed through new media, television and celebrity. Aspects such as interactivity and convergence are just two ways in which this can be achieved. Radio has become more than just the on air experience but also an off air one. The philosophy of radio looks to the future and continues to keep up with the leading mediums which ensure that it has a long term future in the UK.
Co-presence is not an accidental by-product of radio, it is a defining characteristic and vital ingredient in the success of the medium and therefore one which is actively fostered (Chignell, 2009, p. 76).
Radio still faces many fresh challenges including, technological advances, MP3 players, infrastructure limitations, on-demand content, streaming services, the emergence of cloud computing technology. Emerging from this policy is the view that the radio ‘format’ continues to display incredible adaptability and is capable of evolving to stay relevant and able to accommodate new technologies and methods to engage with the listeners. Collaboration on radio policy has provided a renewed respect and appreciation for radio and the various elements that construct an engaging and intimate experience.
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