Swallow Place: A Eulogy

I never really intended to talk much about work here on the blog. It would be uncomfortable if people looked at this as inside track of what my firms up to or my opinions on it. I dont intend to get sacked if any employers take umbrage to what I write.

However, I wanted to write a little piece on the move of Classic FM from its current home in Swallow Place down to the mighty Leicester Square. You see Im a radio person through and through. I find theres something magical about being in a studio and broadcasting to people. It doesnt really matter whether its five people on a campus or a million people at a national radio station.

Ive always helped out at Classic when theyre in need of someone to play out a show or man the phones. I think its something thats important to do. You can commission all the research you like, but you get a true felling for a station playing it out or speaking to its listeners.

So, here I am, tapping away on the computer in Studio 3 pressing some buttons whilst a million people listen along in their homes or cars. As media diverges I expect that that number 1 million wont be reached very often and I feel very proud to be able to be a part of something that reaches that volume.

Anyway, today is a bit odd, because as I look out from the studio theres a plethora of boxes, and packing, and labels as most of the stations been packed up for its journey down the road. Theres also loads of stray bottles of beer and wine, obviously better to drink it than bother anyone to have to move it…

Our Leicester Square offices have been a hive of activity for the past few weeks as the 2nd floor has been transformed into a veritable Classic FM World. Shiny new studios, freshly painted walls and new computers will greet the staff on Monday morning. Itll also mean nearly the end of the Oxford Circus offices. Its the place I turned up to in the first week of February 2001, nervous, and was walked round the building given my laptop and phone and told to get on with what it was that they wanted me to do.

As GWRs London office, but not head office, it housed Classic, us corporate bods, large interactive group and Opus, our national sales team. Someone once told me that when a big boss turned up after it had opened and saw this huge national sales team for the first time he was floored, and asked the question are all these people here to sell for us?.

Its a place where lots of friends have been made, arguments been had and great ideas created. Its also been a place where theres been lots of laughs with a genuinely nice bunch of people. Its also the home of Frank, easily the best security guard Ive ever known. Franks got loads of endearing characteristics, whether its a witty way with emails that make you laugh while telling you not to leave your bike in reception or an ability to seemingly remember the name of every person whos been to the building – staff or guests, greeting them by name when they return. Hes also got a picture of himself with anyone famous whos walked through the doors, something that hes always happy to share when youre waiting for a lift or a cab. What a brilliant treasure to remember his time with. As hes not someone whos making the move, he will be someone who I will miss.

So, farewell Classic FM House and the DCS dump buttons that have never worked, farewell CDs that arent where theyre supposed to be and farewell bloody IVT. On Sunday when the networks taken by Sam in Studio 2D itll leave the building without its main reasons for being created and thats a bit sad. Well, for a moment, anyway.

Having been a Leicester Square resident for sometime, the team will find its a great place to work, with loads of very different people in one building, and thats something thats very refreshing and makes you think about what you do in a different way, which I know Ive certainly got a lot from.

Anyway, Swallow Place is dead. Long live Leicester Square.

Media Junkie

I enjoy reading about the media industry, both in the trade press as well as articles in mainstream publications. Whilst I work in the radio industry I think its important to know whats happening in press, TV, online and other media sectors too. The worlds media is converging and its impossible for anything to exist in isolation. Which is why I find most of the media sections in the newspapers completely bewildering.

It isnt surprising that prints response to the multi-media world is somewhat anachronistic, all you have to do is look at how it deals with other sectors in its industry. A little challenge for you this week. Just take a look at the media sections of the dailies, any will do, and count up the percentage of stories (or column inches) that concern newspapers (or news media). Ill happily wager that most of them will happily rant on about their fellow hacks ad-nauseum for the majority of their section.

I think what it belies is a total misunderstanding of its audience and a self-obsession thats frankly embarrassing. Why would any great number of regular readers of any title have an obsessive interest in what goes on in the papers that they never get? In addition why are the comings and goings at The Spectator (circulation: 75,000) of interest to anyone other than media-commentators or politicians. It wouldnt be so bad if these acres of newsprint wasnt at the expense of other stories, but of course it is.

Now Im not saying that the press doesnt warrant any stories, but the sheer volume of them are embarrassing. If they want to write about their mates they should at least be honest about it and brand the sections Journalism or Newspapers, but pretending theyre media sections is just wrong.

MediaGuardian (print version on Monday) is probably the least worst offender as they know theyve got to encourage regular cross-industry readers to their website. Surely its not beyond the collective knowledge of the other editors that if they cover a broad selection of other stories theyre likely to bring in more new readers. Trying to drive circulation by printing a load of print stories is hardly going to be successful when all newspaper journalists get free copies of other papers in their offices.

Matt’s TV Round-Up

Is television dead? God no. In fact a couple of shows have tickled me this week, but as they’re multi-channel you might have missed them.

The first is E4’s Beauty and the Geek. It’s based on a US TV show, and the premise is that geeks and models learn about themselves (and maybe get a shag) through working together and understanding each other’s true inner beauty. Whilst this could be seen as horribly exploitative it is in fact quite touching. This week the girls had to ‘style’ the geeky guys. Now this being a specialist subject for most of them, they did an excellent job. One or two of the transformations were properly jaw-dropping and shows what a decent haircut and 500 in Selfridges can do for most people.

The programme also shows how we all generate our own barriers to put in the way of things that ideally we would like to change in our lives. When actually pushed to meet the change that we really want, you realise actually it wasn’t so hard after all, and the change to your life can be quite significant.

It also has brilliant and funny narration by the Peep Show’s David Mitchell. This seems to be the first example of both funny and sweet reality TV. You can catch it on E4 on Tuesdays at 10pm.

The other show that I really enjoyed was BBC Four’s Screen Wipe. This is based on Charlie Broker’s brilliant Guardian column – Screen Burn, which if you haven’t read, is a masterful review of the week’s television.

The TV show is similar to the print version, but as well as reviewing it also does a great job at explaining, something that you rarely see about the medium. In episode one, there was a great and funny analysis of TV budgets, using their own programme as an example (47k an episode, if you wanted to know). And though i’m sure it’s not its aim, this is probably the best programme on TV about the media. It’s also unique that it actually talks about things that are good on the box, rather than lazily criticising everything. Deep down the show likes television and that gives it far more licence to attack the dross.

It’s a shame that this is such a short run, only three episodes, as it could well become a regular fixture of my TV viewing. Though Charlie Brooker would probably kill me for saying it, the nearest thing to compare it to, would be to say that it’s a slightly nastier version of Harry Hill’s TV Burp (a show that’s also well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it). You can catch it on Thursdays at 10.30pm on BBC Four.

Oh, and in other news the brand new series of West Wing starts this Friday at 9pm on More 4. Now if I have to explain why you should watch this then you should go back and get the DVD box sets for the first six seasons.