I’ve been driving a lot around the UK recently to various family events and a couple of weddings. And one thing has become clear. I need to get a DAB radio in the car this Christmas. Partly for the need to be able to get FunKids. Partly to be able to hear BBC 6Music. But mostly to be able to hear Absolute Radio in listenable quality.
A couple of things have struck me during these journeys. Firstly – the rollout of Heart hasn’t ruined local music radio. It’s eminently more listenable than many of the previous offerings found on the drive across country. Wall to wall classic hits, hardly any talk – “does what it says on the tin”. It’s not my choice – in fact hearing the same songs every day in a slightly different order would drive me insane- but you can tell it will probably work well for them in the short to medium term.
Secondly, it’s become really obvious that the BBC doesn’t really cater for my listening needs fully. In fact, if I had the previously mentioned in car DAB, then I’d probably have a hefty dose of Absolute Radio on the menu.
Out of habit, my first choice station is BBC Radio 1. I like Chris Moyles (in small doses) and think Scott Mills does a really good job. And the odd times I catch people like Zane Lowe, I’m hooked – mainly by his energy and by his enthusiasm. I caught most of the chart show and the first part of Switch last Sunday night – and it made me wish I was 15 again – just the sort of show Radio 1 should be doing.
Radio 2 is rarely a listening choice. I occasionally catch a bit of Jonathan Ross at the weekend, but rarely get the chance to hear Chris Evans. And once the children are in bed – it’s usually stuff on the house, work or TV that grabs my attention.
And whilst I feel BBC 6music should be up there for me – I probably hear more of it’s output via the Adam and Joe podcast.
And that’s why this week’s Radio 2 news has excited me (though not my friend Steve – younger than me but far more musically diverse in taste – who is a staunch TOG). There will now be a real reason for me to listen at breakfast and possibly later in the day. Many people, such as Matt Deegan, Adam Bowie, Nik Goodman and James Cridland have written in detail about what these changes may mean and the opportunities and/or threats they will make for Commercial Radio. For a show and station like Radio 2 that is so dominating the audience figures – a change such as this could be catastrophic – particularly if they lose their core listeners. But it also presents an opportunity for everyone else
For me, I hope Evans brings something new to the mornings. Terry Wogan is genuinely one if the best speech broadcasters. It’s just his style doesn’t suit our frenetic routine in the morning. Now, I’m not expecting Chris Evans to replicate his old Radio 1 show again. But he’s shown in the afternoons that he can be entertaining, play great music and (more importantly) interact with every listener whatever their age. If he can do that – with maybe a little more pace in the morning- then so much the better. The rest of the daytime lineup isn’t so much my thing – though Jeremy Vine works well. What interests me is the talk of Simon Mayo coming over to do drivetime. My friend Steve thinks that if this happens, the BBC will have to issue everyoneone with free Valium. I however would welcome him – particularly if it created a show which were part music, part current affairs and had some if the classics 5live elements such as Mark Kermode as well.
I briefly mentioned Absolute Radio earlier. I wouldn’t discount them, though from all of this. Commercial radio keeps bemoaning the fact that it’s hard to compete and there’s no room for creativity. The fact they now have signed Dave Gorman to add to Frank Skinner in their weekend lineup shows that there are some operators who are slowly gathering their weapons to start taking on the BBC in the battle for my listening hours.