Archive for April, 2010

Braindump 30/04/2010

Leaders Debates

Leaders Debates

For one reason or another I haven’t had much to blog about these last few weeks, or at any rate – nothing which was too long to fit on twitter.

A few quick bits that have passed through my mind though….

  • Radio Listening: I’ve been enjoying the excellent ‘Vote Now’ show on Radio 4. A fantastic satire on the election process and the British political system in general – I’ve been lucky enough to attend a couple of these at the recording stage, and they’re even more amusing up close. I’m also genuinely impressed by the production team on this show, who manage to turn the show around in about 4 hours from finishing the recording to airing the programme itself.
  • Leaders Debates: These are second only to ‘The Apprentice’ for programmes to follow along with on Twitter (really missing the apprentice so far this year by the way). The debates themselves have proven fantastic in engaging the public with the election – and whilst most of my contributions tend to be childish remarks on what is said by the leaders, I’ll be amazed if these (along with the ‘Hung Parliament’ situation) don’t lead to a record turnout at the polls.
  • … and on the above, why has no-one done a decent cut-up of these yet. I’d have hoped cassetteboy would have weighed in (although his One Show efforts are brilliant) – maybe I should have a go myself, what do you recon?
  • It was also good to see a relatively high brow interview on breakfast commercial radio this week when Absolute Radio interviewed Professor Brian Cox (who’s series on the Solar System I must watch more of) – I think Absolute got the  balance between educational end entertainment spot on with this (and I was a little bit late to work, because I had to hang on to catch the whole thing). I’ve been listening to absolute a lot since acquiring a DAB radio recently, and whilst it can be a bit blokey and football-focused for me (though what to expect with a world cup on) the experience has been far from unpleasant.
  • Other things I’ve learned this week: The radio-mic was invented in 1949, I discovered this after this humble gadget played a big part in this weeks news (dot.Rory being my source).
  • Music recommendations this week: Train – Hey, Soul Sister.
  • Oh, and a nice little toy from Farrington labs for those interested in Student Radio. Here’s the Student Radio Playlist for this week.

Hopefully I’ll find something to write a proper blog about something interesting soon, promise.

There’s Purdah on The Dancefloor…

… or at least on the radio!

So, on Tuesday the “one eyed scottish idiot” (Clarkson, 2009) called a general election – as this isn’t really news as most of the word knew the election would be on May 6th, I thought I’d talk about an interesting side effect of the election instead. Gordon also chose my birthday to make the announcement – meaning yet again that story was knocked off the front page!

Anyway, the month running up to the election is known as Purdah, and as well as being a period of no major decisions being made by parliament,  increased regulation on news reporting etc. in the media applies. A further side effect is that the COI (corporate office of mis-information) aren’t allowed to advertise, based on the logic that advertising government initiatives (apart from the election itself) is in part publicity for the sitting government, and thus an unfair advantage.

Now, unlike some – I don’t have a particular problem with COI advertising, despite it occasionally being annoying being told to turn off lights, recycle, do my shoelaces etc (actually I do need the latter) and I should also point out that my present employer, like a lot of the commercial radio industry benefits significantly from COI advertising – yet I do have a problem with a particular advert I’ve heard a lot on the radio these last few weeks.

The advert in question is a Home Office Ad encouraging people to report suspicious behavior to the police – it’s actually quite a clever advert from a script writing point of view, using odd words from the ‘talking heads’ in the ad to make up the overall message – my issue though is with the message itself which seems to be “look out for your neighbors, they might be terrorists”. Ok, so it’s possible that old Mrs Davies at Number 23 is putting together a dirty bomb – and Mr Watson from the corner shop might be plotting to overthrow the government, but both seem unlikely (well the latter possibly not as Mr Watson does have a vote conservative sign in his window – n.b. Mr Watson is  fictional).

My concern is that as soon as you start treating everyone around you with suspicion, you stop treating them like people. I’ve lived in my current block of flats for about 6 months, and have barely shared more than a few words with my neighbors, and I think if I were to try engaging them in more of a conversation than a ‘Hi’ when passing in the car park – they’d probably think I was a bit weird, and start actively avoiding me in future. Worrying isn’t it.

I’m not proud of this fact, but when I get on a tube I’m actually a little nervous if there’s more than a few young asians with tatty rucksacks in the carriage. This is actual insanity on my part as I know full well that in excess of 99.9999999% of people on tube trains are as harmless as I am (if not more harmless) – so why do I react oddly to someone my age, with dark-ish skin and a rucksack like mine. Mostly this is due to the press for making us suspicious of people around us in busy places, but it’s worrying that the government have now jumped on the bandwagon, and are trying to make us suspicious of those who live around us.

There was a time that neighbors all said hello to each other in the street, lent each other sugar and helped others out, that time was gone long before my 90’s upbringing – but we were always civil to those who lived around us, and through a number of fairly complex social connections pretty much everyone on our street was on first name terms (and despite this being Worcestershire, not everyone was whiter than casper) – now it seems we’re supposed to be popping around to Mr Plod if we see ‘er up the road talking to a tall dark stranger, or if that new family by the shop have a car with blacked out windows.

This is stupid, as there are probably innocent explanations for these things – and real terrorists aren’t stupid enough to leave the kind of obvious trail hinted at in the advert. If we actually got to know our neighbors (as I grant you I’ve failed to do) then we’re more likely to spot real signs if something actually suspicious is going on and will feel a lot safer in our homes than the government seem to want us to be.

Right, cheesy ending time – “That’s when good neighbors become good friends”, I’m off now to say hello to one of my neighbors and I don’t care if they think I’m a bit weird!

The Nice Guys of Radio

A Winning Quiz Team [or some of it]

A Winning Quiz Team (or some of it)

So, yesterday I got back from the Student Radio Conference in Nottingham – the event proved to be a really enjoyable weekend, with some fantastic sessions – aside from this I probably had the best time I’ve had at a conference since Southampton in 2006 (probably aided by the removal of the stress of organisation from more recent years).

I also had the opportunity to talk to some really interesting, funny and genuinely nice people (not to mention winning the annual pub quiz with Sarah Ghost, Matt Hurst, Martin Steers, Will Jackson & Paul Jackson (who aren’t related).

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that radio (particularly at a senior level) is a cut-throat business so it was really nice to be reminded that amongst the shouty bosses and demanding talent are some really nice guys. Whilst I’m sure the following is by no means a complete list of everyone from the industry I chatted to, and certainly does not deliberately exclude anyone – I thought I’d just mention a few names who’d reminded me of the fantastic industry radio is to work in – and also how much of a community the industry can feel like when it comes together.

  • David Lloyd – Orion Media.
  • Lloydie – Trent FM
  • Kevin Hughes – Capital (Who is also the best quizmaster a student radio conference has ever had – Leeds 2009)
  • Paul Jackson & Mike Cass – Global (Who stuck around for the SRA Quiz and the party which followed, chatting to students and getting involved, in a way senior types generally don’t)
  • Neil Sloan – BBC
  • Chris North – Wise Buddah
  • Mark Crossley – Absolute Radio
  • Tim Howlett – Heart 106.2

and finally Bruce Mitchell, Kiss’ Head of Digital – who we bumped into in the Chicken Shop on the way back from the club on the way back, and chatted to in the hotel bar for an hour or so after we got back, despite the fact he had a 6.30 train the following morning (hope you made it Bruce!).

I also talked to some fantastic students – who prove there’s still a huge passion for all areas of radio and some who’ve definitely got the talent and the confidence to go a long way in the industry.

Hopefully I’ll get myself along to next years conference in one capacity or anther – as I had a fantastic time this year, and it’d be great to do it all over again!

Here’s a little streetview of the conference venue if you happen to be interested…

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Mark Farrington

Mark Farrington
Broadcast Engineer working in UK Commercial Radio, former Student Radio person (and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Student Radio Association) - I also play with bits and pieces of web stuff, cycle, take photos, cook food and enjoy a good pint of real ale.