Oct 102011

James Walshe Radio Lab Lecture

I never thought that I’d see more than sixty students sit through more than two hours of a lecture without becoming restless. But tonight, James Walshe, Radio Programmer at Kerrang! achieved what I thought was impossible. James came to the Queens Building to talk to Radio Production and Media Production students at De Montfort University about working for a commercial music station, the role of a programming producer, and the things that people have to do to get work in the radio industry.

James gave us a series of very powerful observations about managing and producing radio content, about running shows and working with presenters, about developing distinctive and creative ideas, about using radio as a friend and a companion, and about treating radio as a theatre of ideas.

I liked the way that James started off. First the bad news – radio is boring! By which he meant that most of what we listen to on the wireless has been devised and developed by people who learnt their trade in the days of tape, and who are barely literate when it comes to using a computers. James was emphatic that it pays to be technically literate these days when working in a radio station. So the good news that James followed with was clear, because the technology that underpins radio has changed so much, we now have much more of a chance to do something about how radio works. As the technology of radio changes, according to James, the chances that new people with new ideas can come into the radio industry are increasing.

James spoke powerfully about how radio stations like Kerrang! are integrating multimedia websites, mobile apps and social media into their programming. James said that it’s difficult to know where the contemporary radio station ends and the online experience begins. James was very confident at making a prediction that the future of radio is mobile – i.e. tied in with the mobile phone, and that soon we will be consuming large parts of our audio content – be it music, talk, news, whatever, – on the move via our mobile phones. James suggested that we will move seamlessly from broadcast to webcast content, while at the time making interactive decisions that the radio stations can data-mine and use in order to provide a more dedicated service.

I asked James what he thought of students getting involved with our community radio station, DemonFM, and he had a simple message. The more experience that anyone can get producing content and working on a radio station, whatever type and for whatever reason, will give them a distinct advantage that will help them when they are applying for work in the radio industry. James’s overall message was that nothing can be achieved if presenters and content producers are not prepared to come up with new ideas and to think more creatively about how they can engage listeners with compelling content.

It was a very memorable talk. Full of great stories and given with loads of heart. Watch out for the next Radio Lab Professional Lecture. If they are anything like this they will be engrossing.

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