Conference Fun

I’ve had a busy few weeks so have been somewhat neglecting my blogging. Apologies reader.

At the moment i’m just on the train back from Bradford where i’ve been speaking at the National Media Museum’s MediaFest08 event. I’m a very occasional speaker at things like this, but it’s actually the 2nd such appointment in a matter of weeks.

The first was at the BBC’s Audio and Music Festival. It’s a great event, a sort of internal Radio Festival for the staff who work in the radio and music departments. By the looks of it they have  a mixture of sessions with a cross-section of internal and external people.  I was asked to appear  on the ‘You’re Breaking Up’ a session that looked at “how new technology is being used to interact with people and what boundaries need to be crossed to make sure the BBC’s output remains relevant and accessible to increasingly fragmented audiences.”

The panel consisted of the BBC’s Controller of Multiplatform and Interactive, Mark Friend, technology critic Bill Thompson and me. We were quizzed by the always brilliant Julian Worricker. I think a key part of my role was to give ‘commercial radio’s’ view of the BBC and their take on technology change. Whilst it’s very hard to give a definitive view, my broad opinion was that commercial radio’s got enough to worry about without trying to second guess the BBC and that it’s basically in such a bad place and that everyone at the BBC should feel lucky, relived and pleased where they are.

I also talked a little about the danger that the BBC can inadvertently crush smaller players as it bounds off to its next success. Whilst Bill made some excellent points that the BBC should be less hung up on control as it’s basically already been taken from them , my view was slightly different. I’m much less bothered about BBC content appearing on bittorent than I am about the BBC building themselves a system that ruthlessly promotes BBC content to the detriment of commercial operators who are locked out of an ad-free, high quality audio-visual portal. If iPlayer suggests other rock shows for licence fee payers to discover, why shouldn’t these be ones from XFM and Kerrang!?

There was a question from a producer asking whether all of this talk of platforms got in the way of doing the main thing –creating great content. My view is that content is King providing that there’s perfect information in the market (something that rarely happens). If you make some amazing content surely it needs to be accessible by the audience (i’m sure there’s an analogy about if a tree falls an no one is there does it make a noise).

One of the things i’m getting passionate with our clients about is ‘awareness’ for new stations. How do you create relationships with potential and new listeners and leverage this to grow audiences.  I think this is as relevant to BBC6Music as it is NME Radio or Planet Rock.

In the conference in Bradford I was speaking with Ofcom’s Head of English Region’s Damian Radcliffe where we merely had to cover the last 25 years of radio and the next 25 years too. Eeek. This different angle, however, promoted a different type of radio discussion to many of the existing conferences and perhaps there’s something in doing it that way for the more established events

The Media Museum has also just opened an exhibition of 50 years of Blue Peter, so I got to spend the evening before the conference with Biddy Baxter and the current and recent Editor of Blue Peter, something that was very interesting and a bit different.

In other conference news, if you like the stuff that I write about you’d really like the Radio Academy’s Radio at the Edge conference, next month. It’s got a great line up, is good value and i’m sure you’ll learn something. I’m also on the committee so you can look at my endorsement either way!