Thursday, 6 November 2008

Commotion at Radio 2

Everyone I meet who knows I'm in some way associated with Radio 2 has something to say, or to ask, about the station's recent ... er ... turbulent times. (for our overseas viewers, or anyone who's somehow managed to miss out on this story, there's piles of stuff in the press about it, and the Media Guardian has a pretty decent summary here. )
I can think of a number of convincing reasons why I shouldn't wax too lyrical about all of this. It does expose a number of interesting problems and questions, though.
  • Is swearing and cruelty the common currency of young, thrusting, cutting-edge comedy?
  • If it is, does it have to be, or will there be something new along in due course?
  • How does cutting-edge comedy find its place on a popular mainstream broadcast channel without sometimes causing offence?
  • How does an organisation the size of the BBC run an effective system that prevents Really Bad Stuff from going to air, without also strangling creativity in a web of paperwork and rules & regulations?

I don't claim to know the answers!

One thing that really strikes me is the changing role of the Producer in radio. When I started in this game, 30 years ago, the Producer was the one sitting in the control room with the running order and the stopwatch. He or she was also listening to what came out of the loudspeakers. Today, on some shows, the Producer is in the studio with the "turn", joining in the fun and games, laughing at the jokes and playing an on-air role in the programme. I'm not levelling criticism at any individuals, but I do wonder if enough thought has been given to the difficulty of retaining objective oversight when the producer has become one of the acts in the circus.

Whatever, in all this, Radio 2 has lost the services of a Controller who knew the station forwards, backwards and sideways. It's very unsettling and we're all wondering what comes next.

Ho hum ...

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