So where will the next generation of radio presenters come from?
Back in 2010 when 32 radio stations across the UK. were closed and replaced with 15 regional services, I cared little for where the next generation of presenters would come from. It was a case if working out how/what was next, I was working at heart in Suffolk and heart Colchester in Essex, my market share beating that of both station’s.The afternoon presenters were emailed on June 21st whilst on air to say our shows would be networked by the end of the month, both stations would close. In the case of heart Suffolk, it was one of the first commercial stations to go on air outside London back in 1975. It started out as Radio Orwell, became SGRfm and then heart, it had been part of the area and people’s lives for thirty-five years. Being on air, reading you were out of a job was a lot to deal with but I like to think nobody listening would have noticed the panic in the mind.
The email explained that centres of excellence were the future and few of us had passed the mark of quality to attend. It was an easier spin than to say we are closing a number of successful stations to help us roll out a national brand and save costs. Few found work and those of us that did continue in radio wondered how our successors in the industry would ever find a way in. How would UK. radio evolve and was the future really just about TV bit part players moving into radio for a full-time gig?
Radio is full of doom merchants, when I started I remember thinking I hope I’m never like the “it was all so great back in the day.” brigade, I’m not and there is no need to wave the white flag just yet but if your son or daughter announce they want to be a radio presenter… where do you point them? I’m not a fan of what community radio I have heard, it seems very middle class and too safe for raw talent to spread their wings and again from what I have seen of it, lacking much focus.
I suspect that internet radio is the best platform to try out your talent and learn on the job and will offer you more of a chance in getting that paid job.
Commercial local radio whilst sometimes shooting itself in the foot still has a massive audience and collectively is far larger than many network services, it is often looked down at by some within the BBC. I found the best presenters I ever worked with at the BBC had a commercial radio background. The pay in commercial radio is often bad, and you may well be doing the job of two but for some new presenter talent, it offers a chance to prove yourself and move within the industry.
BBC local radio is great if you want to work in journalism, it is less friendly to talented presenters who simply want to engage an audience with conversation, also the presenters tend to leave less often and the ‘vacancies sign’ is dusty. BBC local radio has seen a decline in recent years in share of audience, I fear that some within the network fail to recall that the BBC is loved not for the news headlines but the decades of entertainment it has provided.It remains the best for industry standards and I am a better presenter for my time on BBC local radio. It’s just that some editors are rather dull journalists and think news is everything. Some get it and you need to track them down! Be prepared to deal with news junkies and their brush off.
With more people than ever now switching some form of radio service on in the UK. radio needs you!, It will be tough and often you may feel that people with less talent than you are ignoring your demo and emails, but there are still ways in, I was lucky and luck is not something that only resides in the past. The next generation of presenters may well be better than the current crop as they will have fought like never before to get behind the microphone.
Good Luck, it will be worth it.