Student Radio Conference

A couple of weeks ago I went up to Leeds to go to the Student Radio Conference. I’ve been an on/off visitor to SRA conferences since graduating nearly ten years ago (gulp) and they’re always an interesting thing to take part in.

They’re also good opportunities to catch up with people. No, not the students… the other speakers! This year I was asked to chair the final session of the conference about how to win a student radio award. This was somewhat different to my normal job of rabbitting on about digital and new media, but I guess I was asked to do it as, alongside Helen and Chris, I look after the judging process for the awards.
Partly it was nice to do something outside of my comfort zone as I had to ‘present’ loads of information and interview/lead a discussion between Greg James and Hugh Stephens from Radio 1 and Duncan Wallace and Dan O’Connell from Galaxy. We also had lots of audio and video to play in, which gives any presentation a dangerous ‘will-it-won’t-it-work’ edge.

Overall I think it went very well, and we had some good questions from the students, even some we could answer.

Whilst I was on at the end, on the Wednesday, the conference started on the Monday. I was only planning on going up for my day, as it’s hard to justify three days out of the office, however when I saw the line-up of speakers, I made an exception. I genuinely think that the people they had speaking would give something like the Radio Festival a run for its money.

The first day included sessions with Ben Cooper, Deputy Controller of R1, an interview with Steve Lamaq and a great piece on multi-platform from James Cridland (which I just made it up for). The second day kicked off with a keynote by Ashley Tabor. I think this is pretty much the first time he’s spoken at a radio event and an amazing coup to get him there. He gave an impassioned view of where he saw the company going and wasn’t afraid to talk about things the audience wouldn’t like – eg networking. Though I think he managed to curtail the negative responses by announcing the Global Radio Academy at the same time! The one thing that I thought was a bit cheeky were his slides that ‘proved’ that the Heart rebrand was working. With some stations on six month RAJAR periods and the dates at which Q4 covered (ie all pre-launch) actually he basically proved that the last days of the One Network were most successful. However, I thought I best not ask any questions…

Second on was a session with another stellar line-up about compliance that included both Global Radio and Radio 2’s heads of compliance as well as Nick from Kerrang and David Burkin form Ofcom, ably chaired By GTN’s Will Jackson.

Whilst I nipped off to do some work on Tuesday afternoon, the students got to hear from more great people including John Hirst (Global Content and Podcasts), David Garrdio (Radio 1), Mike Smith (Head of OBs at talkSPORT), James Whale and Jonathan Richards (Head of News, Global Radio), Jimmy Endicott (Marketing Manager at XFM/Galalxy), Alex Jungius (Head of Imaging, Galaxy), Ben Newby (Head of Station Sound, R1), Matt Priest and Chris Martin (NME Radio) and Sam Potts (Columbia Records).

I think what’s great is that it shows some top class people willing to give up their time to help people learn about the industry and how to get on.

Have the BBC just given up on local radio websites?

Recently someone was talking to me about trying to get a job at a local BBC radio station and he mentioned that he felt their online offer was a bit poor. I’d agreed and said, as far as I understood, it wasn’t an area that’s particularly well resourced locally and he should probably steer clear of lots of web suggestions as programming’s appetite for good online is probably outweighed by what they can deliver. As I was typing that out in the message I thought how rubbish is it that that’s best advice I can give to someone really keen and enthusiastic.

Anyway, it made me have another look at the local sites and it seems some of them are mid-way through a refresh. BBC Bristol seems to be taking the new template. Chatting to someone in the TSA, the URL they apparently give out on air is This brings you to a Barley-esque page, which above the fold has nothing to do with the radio station. Below the fold there are two radio-ish options. You can click ‘TV and Radio’ (bottom left) where you can apparently “Find out more about BBC Bristol programmes” or there’s a ‘BBC Bristol’ link, which might be radio related as there are some radio frequencies underneath it, but it seems more a heading than a link. Oh, and the box is headed TV and Radio, but the content underneath it is radio followed by TV.  There’s also a ‘listen live’ and ‘listen again’ that go to iPlayer and a link to a BBC Programmes-powered schedule.

Oh, the links to iPlayer (live or on-demand) and the BBC Programmes schedule both give a different look and feel to each other as well as that of BBC Bristol. Just to keep it confusing.

So, if I click the TV & Radio link, illustrated by a pic of the Breakfast jock, I don’t got the TV & Radio section – I go to a page about presenters on BBC Bristol. If I click on the BBC Bristol headline I get a TV and Radio mini portal where the top three options, I kid you not, are:

1. BBC Radio Bristol presenters (i’ll skip over the confused sudden emergence of ‘Radio’ that useful word that seems to have been scrubbed everywhere else)

2. Thought for the Day (a daily feature at 7.40 – okay, it’s a breakfast benchmark of sorts, but is that the best thing on the show, or indeed the station?) because point number three is…

3. TV Switchover guidance (which links to an article from 8th December 2008)

On the right hand side there’s a nice graphic for ‘BBC Bristol’ (the radio station – I know this because there’s frequencies). If I click this I go to an alphabetical listing of the programmes on the iPlayer. Handy.

Underneath there’s that BBC Bristol link again, that takes you to, er, this page. Great.

If I go to the BBC Radio Bristol presenters page I get a biog that I guarantee will not be updated until they sack the presenter or refresh the site and then, I think for the first time, something useful. A list, for some, of what’s on the show and how to get in touch. All of this good stuff is below the fold and most users will ignore it when they see the biog that they’ve seen before.

I couldn’t find any other content connected to the radio station on their website. At all. And I looked.

With the danger of going all Daily Mail, am I the only one who finds it amazing that BBC Bristol, a radio station with 162,000 people listening for nearly 2million hours a week, doesn’t warrant a better radio station website than this?

I’m sure there’s loads of great things in BBC Bristol’s programmes and that they and the listeners experiences of them would be enhanced by some online content. Shoving it all on iPlayer does not, in any way, make up for there not being any web editorial. The station website, at the very least, should be curating this content and explaining how great it is and how people can then listen to it.

Either this site isn’t finished yet, in which case, it shouldn’t be online. Or, more likely, no one who’s ever worked at a radio station has had anything to do with it, whatsoever. If I was running BBC Bristol I think i’d refuse to give the website address on-air as I can’t imagine it meeting any listener’s expectations.