Tag Archives: radio

A Complaint to Maplin

I’ve not blogged much lately. It’s because in the last couple of months me and my girlfriend have moved house. And even though there’s nothing majorly wrong with the house we’ve moved into, there are more niggles than I’d expected.

When we moved in, there was no Internet (or phone line). We couldn’t just reconnect the cable broadband that was here already, because we were half way through a contract with another provider. So we had to wait while a whole new line was installed and our old service transferred, or else pay a nearly-£100 disconnection fee. There isn’t a room in the building where we could get a reliable radio (DAB or FM) reception, so after a lot of mucking about, we gave up and just listen online (once the Internet was back on).

And then there was the issue with TV. The previous people who lived here had cable TV in the living room. Because of that, there wasn’t a TV aerial point anywhere downstairs. But there was an aerial in the loft, connected to the upstairs rooms. Easy fix, no? Just run a longer cable downstairs, right? You’d think so, wouldn’t you. But with no Internet access, I was forced to use physical shops for my purchases. So here goes. This is the email I’ve just sent to Maplin, that I thought I’d share with you. Continue reading A Complaint to Maplin

DAB. What a load of rubbish it STILL is.

I’ve recently bought a new (to me – it’s over 10 years old) car, and I’m struggling to decide if I can be bothered to take out the radio that came in it, and install my old DAB one back in.

The stations I mostly listened to on DAB in my old car, were Nation Radio, Absolute Radio, and XFM. And a little bit of 6music. And sometimes Absolute Radio 90s (but the sound quality is rubbish compared to the other Absolute stations, and it’s off-air for half of Saturday when it becomes Absolute Radio Extra, and broadcasts sport).

However, sadly, MXR Severn Estuary is closing down in a few months on 29th July 2013. Continue reading DAB. What a load of rubbish it STILL is.

GlossFM Returns on FM

I wasn’t sure whether to do a radio show on GlossFM this time around. I’ve done every broadcast since 2007, it takes up a lot of my time (no, really!), and May is actually turning out to be a pretty busy month for me.

I was spurred on a little bit by the fact that there’s a listener who really doesn’t like me, and rather than give him the satisfaction of thinking that his complaining has resulted in me not doing a show (as he’s got the wrong end of the stick in the past, like that), I worked out a way around it. It’s a bit like the film Private Parts. The haters listen to Howard Stern for even longer than the people who like him. I wouldn’t want to disappoint our most devoted listeners.

My usual co-presenter Stephen Gardner really wanted to do a show, so he’s doing a solo show every Saturday 1-4pm throughout May, on which I occasionally pop up. One week I might be there, one week I might not. I’ll still be helping on the production of the show, but I might not be there for all the live stuff. You’ll hardly even notice I’m missing. Probably.

If you’ve never heard Stephen, he has an impressive voice that is popular with the ladies, and some people mistake for Australian. He sounds like he’s putting it on, but I’ve known him for 10 years, and he always talks like that – so if it’s not his real voice, I think the joke’s on him by this point.

GlossFM, which has been broadcasting online for ages, returned to FM this week. If you’re in the South Gloucestershire area, you can listen on 87.7FM. If you’re not, for this whole month, you can listen from anywhere in the world, at glossfm.org. When they stop broadcasting on FM, you can still listen online as they now broadcast all-year round (although the rest-of-year broadcast is UK-only).

So, that’s: Stephen Gardner – 1-4pm GMT – GlossFm – every Saturday (throughout May).

6music’s content isn’t the problem

If you believe the reports in the Guardian or the Times but which the BBC is refusing to comment either way on then it seems 6music is for the chop.

If you’ve never heard it, it’s a bit like Radio2 for the under 50s. Interesting presenters, music you don’t hear anywhere else, new bands, etc.
Due to that, sometimes I can’t listen to it because I think the music is shit, but at other times, it gives people like Adam and Joe a much needed home for their comedy, which might not fit quite so well anywhere else into the other BBC stations.

So why’s it being axed (allegedly)?
Nobody is listening to it.
Take a look at the official Rajar listening figures via MediaUK.
Listening hours for mid 2007 = exactly the same as mid 2009.

In the fourth quarter of 2008 (a high point for the station), the most-listened-to show was Adam and Joe, which had only 69,000 listeners.
At the same time, the Asian Network (also allegedly about to be culled) peaked at 29,000 listeners.
(Figures from The Guardian)
At the same time, Radio2’s peak was 3.07million.
3.07million people listening to Terry Wogan reading out boring listeners’ letters. I’ll never understand what Wogan’s appeal was.

So why is nobody listening to 6music?

I think the problem isn’t the content of 6music, but the fact that it is DAB digital-only.
DAB is a pain in the arse, and it’s expensive.

The main selling points for DAB (to the consumer) are:
1. No interference
2. More stations
3. Better quality sound, including stereo on all stations
4. Easier to tune

Frankly I’ll ignore #4 completely, because it’s so stupid. How hard is it to tune an FM radio? Most modern FM radio just auto scan til they find what you want. And then you save it if you like listening to that station. You know where it is. Hard to tune? No.

#1 is true. There is no interference really. There is obvious dead zones though.
I live in Bristol and there’s a section of the M32 on the way in, where I can pick up only 4-5 stations from the massive list I normally have.
In my old house, there was about three spots in the entire house where I could get a decent DAB signal (all the stations I’m expecting).

#2 is partially true. While there are more stations, a shocking number have gone bust. Much as I enjoy listening to JackFM (not available on DAB), I can’t help thinking that a station without presenters most of the day, won’t last very long.
I used to enjoy The Storm with it’s presenterless few-advert format on DAB, til it went bust.

Music – presenters + adverts = Spotify.
And Spotify has less adverts.

Most of the stations on DAB are copies of what you can get on FM. The number of purely DAB stations isn’t that high.

#3 is laughable.
The big selling point of DAB (over say AM) for listening to stations like Absolute is that it’s in crystal clear stereo sound, nationally.
So next time you hear an advert saying you can buy a Pure DAB radio for around £40, go and look for one.
You might find something like the Pure One Mini.

£40.
But hang on! There’s only one speaker.
The big selling point is that DAB is all stereo sound, but the radios aren’t capable of giving you that in stereo sound.
£40, and you don’t even get two speakers. Rubbish.

It’s even worse in a car.
Not everyone wants to sit in their kitchen all day. What if you’re a courier? How are you going to listen in your van?
When I bought my in-car DAB radio, I could only find about 2 car radios under £200, that featured DAB.

But what if you’re buying a new car? Well DAB isn’t even an option on your Ford Transit van.

So what. Big deal.
Not everyone is a courier.

Let’s try a car. The Renault Clio? Nope.

Maybe you’re loaded. Screw it. I’m going to buy a Porsche 911 Carrera S (start price £70,000)!
Nope. No option, when building my Porsche.

Never mind. I’m rich, and completely bonkers.
After buying my Porsche, I’ll nip out to Halfords and buy myself an in-car DAB, and pay someone else to fit it for me.

Arse.

Having found a random non-mainstream supplier for your in-car DAB, and bought something like this from JVC:

…then you’ll go to install it, and you’ll notice it gets worse.
While normal DAB radios you can buy for £40 seem to be able to play FM and DAB via the same aerial, in-car radios can’t.
Why not?
Who knows? Who cares?! Either way – it means you’ll need two aerials on your car.
Perhaps something like this that goes outside the car, and sticks (to anything metal). It’s attached by a long cable too, but as long as you’re driving a convertible or don’t mind spending all day with the window open (or drilling a hole through somewhere), it’s fine.

And it still doesn’t work in tunnels.

Why are we so hung up on ages?

While that might sound like the legal defence of a secondary school teacher caught with one of his pupils, it’s actually a wondering about the media I’ve had for a while.

Apparently, BBC Radio 2 is no longer serving it’s older listeners properly.
Although reported here by The Guardian, this has been discovered by a not-at-all biased organisation called “The Radio Centre”, the trade body of the commercial radio industry, which doesn’t seem to like something the publicly-funded BBC has done. Surprise, surprise.

The Radio Centre is bickering about what it considers proper “news”. As far as I’m concerned, while “newspaper reviews, a discussion about snoring, a Monopoly championship and discussions about teleshopping” definitely sway towards the “Sun spot” edge of news, they ARE still news. If you want high brow continuing debate about Afghanistan, you can tune into a higher-brow station such as Radio 4.

Traditionally, presenters that remain at Radio 1 for a very long time, then shift to Radio 2. It has been described more than once as a kind of retirement home for Radio 1 presenters.
Keeping that in mind, is it any wonder that Chris Evans, and Mark Radcliffe have ended up working there? They’re both fine broadcasters who were successful on Radio 1, so why not move to Radio 2 afterwards?
This isn’t a new idea. It’s what happened with Steve Wright years ago, and nobody is harking on about him bringing younger listeners to Radio 2 along with a dose of the factoids.

The Guardian article both agrees that the BBC isn’t filling it’s remit for different types of music, while berating them for hiring Mark Lamarr. This is the same Mark Lamarr, who was hired to present specialist music shows on Reggae, and alternative sixties music.
Ignoring his age, and the fact he was once on Shooting Stars (which was presumably only popular with young people?), he’s a well-known broadcaster hired to talk about a specialist subject. Why has his age got anything to do with it?

This is where the real problem lies. The obsession with age.
This isn’t the BBC’s fault, or the Radio Centre’s fault. It’s a bigger problem than that. Every media organisation is obsessed with the ages of viewers, readers or listeners.

At what point did someone decide that 16yr olds like one thing, and 46yr olds like another?
I’m 27, and according to Ofcom, Original 106.5 (an FM station in Bristol) is aimed at “35-59year olds”. My music taste hasn’t changed dramatically in the last few years, and I can tell you that it is much more to my taste, than say, Kiss 101 which is specifically targeted at the “under 30s”.
I occasionally even listen to Radio 4. It’s got some comedy on it, I’ve recently discovered.

Maybe it’s just me? Just me flouting the predetermined age-based entertainment formats?
Well no.
My girlfriend has been listening to Absolute Radio (and previous incarnation as Virgin) for years. Her gran is in her 80s but still reads The Guardian, with all it’s swear words and young writers.

Adam Fawcett (@fawcett94), somebody I follow on Twitter due to our shared interest in radio broadcasting, regularly tweets about his tv viewing habits. He’s 15 years old.
So what should a 15yr old be watching? MTV? BBC Three? E4 perhaps?
The majority of the time it appears to be Gold. Classic comedies from yesteryear.
Mad!

Clearly ages don’t link well to formats. TV critic Charlie Brooker, proved this during an episode of Screenwipe, about “Yoof Tv”, where he put together a young focus group. Here it is:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hR-A_ppO5o&hl=en&fs=1&]
Young people hate what they’re meant to like. Weird!
This is because, as Charlie puts it, “they’re not weird and they’re not young people – they’re just people”, and “they just want decent programmes”.

This is why Radio 2 is successful. It’s got presenters people like, it spends money where it’s needed (undoubtedly a lot on the popular presenters), and it’s got a big pot of gold to spend. It can tweak and alter program types, and styles and doesn’t seem to get told off.
If it wants to play latino music at breakfast, and soul music in drivetime, it seems to be able to.

Meanwhile, commercial radio stations continue complaining about the BBC’s more varied content.
Heart Bristol (previously GWR) were given a good telling off by Ofcom recently, for straying outside their agreed format. That is, they described themselves on the official station paperwork as being a “contemporary and chart music” station, and over the course of several days, played around 50% of songs “over 2 years old”. I can’t help thinking that seems ridiculous.
Ofcom are silly for holding them to it, and GWR/Heart are silly for going along with it in the first place.
While I’m sure the last 24 months have been the high-point of music history to-date, surely even people obsessed with the charts might like to hear Beyonce’s and Shakira’s songs from previous albums.
This might go some way to explain why some stations seem to play the same 20 songs all day, every day, in a different order.

If you ask me, they all need to look to the BBC’s example for inspiration, and maybe lobby Ofcom for less fixed rules, rather than berating them for attracting more listeners, while plugging on with the same 30mins-non-stop r’n’b with adverts in between, long after anyone cares who is number one in the top 40 this week.