Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Radio anorak musings and the success of Mark Forrest

Following on from this excellent post from Christopher England which puts the point across that radio anoraks are out of touch with what the average listener and the modern marketplace.

I believe you have three types of anorak.

1. The Offshore anorak - They want stations to return to a free spirited format where presenters can play what they like (although in reality, the ships played what the record companies paid them to play as the BBC couldn't). You're likely to hear these chaps programme online stations for them and their friends to listen to, complete with jingles from the era.

2. The ILR anorak - Brought up on full service commercial radio, from where you'd have a mix of daytime pop and prattle, followed by specialist music and/or a late night phone-in.  A format which commercial radio wouldn't be able to find viable.

3. The vengeful anorak - Like the ILR anorak, but with an agenda of spinning that the major groups who bought the beloved ILR stations who then brought them into the modern era, including using networking with other stations across the country.  Some may be former employees who refused to adapt or change.

I've based my anorak musings based on what I believe is to be common sense, however I was surprised as much as my fellow anoraks about the success of the Mark Forrest networked evening show on BBC Local Radio in England and the Channel Islands.

The format suggests that it's a brand extension to the daytime output of BBC local radio, looking back in retrospect of the day's output topically with a specialist music feature and interactive elements.

Forrest's show goes against the grain of BBC local radio by the sheer fact that it's networked across such a wide area with differing audience tastes, yet BBC LR (with the exception of London) targets the same audience (50+) which has enabled them to provide a generic format that fits most if not all of those stations.

As Christopher England mentions in his blog, Forrest has managed to gain listeners on BBC LR in the South and South East formerly presented by Roger Day, a well respected presenter of both offshore and mainstream radio.   Day had a broad format with hours dedicated to specialist music and other non news features.

Maybe where the Forrest show gets it right is that the show keeps up the light hearted topical nature of the daytime shows which then slips into the late regional shows where the format is more whimsical which suits the LR audience more than an hour of folk music on a weekday evening?

I think it's right for anoraks to ask questions about changes to programming and station output as in the case of the Mark Forrest show which came about as part of the Delivering Quality First cuts to the BBC, but should also realise that they need to take the chip off their shoulder when it comes to the reforms to the industry.  Stations were as John Myers mentioned during his report to Ofcom were in serious trouble which led to the reforms to networking in commercial radio    Without them, licences would have been handed in and we'd have less choice than today.

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