Apr 272012
 

The final DMU #RadioLab Lecture for this session was given by Carina Tillson of Global Radio, who guided DMU radio students and volunteers for DemonFM through the minefield that is compliance and broadcast regulation in the UK. Effortlessly engaging and brimming with examples of why community radio stations need to take compliance seriously, Carina mapped-out the scope of regulation for radio broadcasters, from the application process to the complaints process, and often what happens when things slip between.

Carina is Head of Compliance at Global Radio, and as such is responsible for over 2500 hours of broadcast content each week – a mighty task by any standards. This content is split across national network stations, such as Capital, Heart, Classic FM and LBC. Carina’s philosophy is that everyone at a station is responsible for ensuring that the stations stays on the right side of the law and the broadcast code. It doesn’t matter which department you work in, radio is a team effort, and so everyone should be listening-out for issues that might damage the trust that a station has built with it’s audience.

In an increasingly competitive jobs market, Carina’s advice to the students and volunteers at DMU focussed on a couple of key points: be better at your job than everyone else; make the most of your opportunities; and look for ways that you can get an edge on the other candidates. According to Carina students and volunteers at DemonFM will never get a better chance to gain as much experience as they can while running a community radio station. The privilege of making shows that say something about you as a person is enormous, but there is a heavy burden of responsibility to make sure that you get it right and do it properly. Breaking the trust of the listener can have lots of consequences, so use it wisely, was Carina’s message.

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Broadcasting Codes of Practice

Carina was impressed that so many of our volunteers on DemonFM know their way around the broadcasting code, and where able at one point to recite it back! Ultimately, Carina argued, it is down to the individual presenter to take responsibility for their output, but the general rule can be summed up in four words – don’t be a dick!. If you want to avoid the Ofcom Sanctions Panel, then a station can take prudent steps to ensure that their content is free from the potential to cause offence and harm, and if it is not able to guarantee that content won’t cause offence that it at least is broadcast at a time when children won’t be listening.

It was refreshing to hear the rules for broadcasting explained with such passion and knowledge. Keeping trust with your listeners is not something to be taken lightly, but has to be nurtured and protected at all times. Carina gave us a clear account of our responsibilities then urged us to make the most of our creative freedom.

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Sound Women

Carina gave a massive plug for Sound Women, the newly established group that promotes the interest of women in the radio and audio industries. More information can be found at www.soundwomen.net.

Apr 212012
 

Over the last year students on the final year radio production course TECH3013 Advanced Radio Production, have been producing content for broadcast on DemonFM. We divided up in to three groups. Comedy Festival Podcasts, Cultural Quarter Podcasts and DemonFM Live Sessions. With each group expected to manage and develop content that will be broadcast on the station.

The aim of the module is to develop a capability and awareness of the production process for radio at an advanced level. By the end of the module learners should be able to demonstrate that they are able to produce a wide variety of different forms of audio content from a wide variety of situations and using different production techniques. All of which will be demonstrated in a production management report that explains how the content has been developed and managed. Lots of emphasis is placed on explaining the process and the decisions that are made, and giving practical advice to the reader so that they might produce similar types of programming themselves.

Some of the the wide variety of skills that learners have to develop as they work on their projects include: Time Management, Resource Management, Contacts Management, Calendar Management, Production Sessions, Deadlines.
Communication Management , Team Organisation, Role Differentiation.

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All of which have to be analysed on in the production management report, using visual and schematic analysis techniques. This is not a descriptive-reflective process, where learners tell their personal thoughts about the experience of producing content. Rather, the production report asks the learner to explain to what extent the decisions that they made helped or hindered the practical production of content for DemonFM. What worked and what didn’t work? What was successful and what was a failure? How were the groups organised, and did this make a difference to the content that was produced?

The great thing about this approach is that it is always one in which the learner has to discover for themselves how we move past purely experience – usually trial-and-error – to a more systematic project development approach. In evaluating the production reports I look for the use of evaluations techniques such as SWOT analysis, or Next Steps analysis. Nothing terribly sophisticated, but useful tools for the enhancement of any project none the less.

We have used some readily available tools to help with the organisation of the project, particularly Facebook Groups for communication and messaging, some dropbox systems for sharing media files, and Google Documents for collaborative file management. But there are over seventy students undertaking the module, and while these tools are great for small groups, they are less than suited to projects with larger numbers, especially when it’s only possible to dip in and out on limited occasions to contribute to discussions or monitor progress.

So, in order to take the development of this module and it’s associated projects to the next level, and help learners shape and manage this process with a little more coherence, I’m looking for a project management system that can form the backbone of a shared project development space. I’m after something that will allow a wide range of users to get hands-on experience using a range of project management tools that that will bring this process along in a more organised manner.

So far I’ve read through the Wikipedia entry for Project Management Tools, where there is a good table of comparison between different systems. The main features that are recommended in a web based system are:

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Project Management Functions

Added to this is the need to use an Open Source system that can be managed internally within the faculty and which can allow for students to be listed and managed in a collaborative and convenient environment.

So far Project.Net stands out as it can be hosted locally and is Open Source, but are there other systems out there that can be do a similar job, and which are not resource intensive to manage? I’m looking for any suggestions that can help me decide what systems I should look at and investigate further. If anyone has any links to any systems, or offers of systems development infrastructure, then please get in touch.

Mar 092012
 
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Dan Purves - DemonFM's News Co-ordinator Frontrunner

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6am Start for 8am Live Broadcast

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Simon Walsh Feeling Regal

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Aaron Horn with the elusive gang-sockets

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Setting-Up the OB Equipment

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Adam & Chris Linking to the DemonFM Studio

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Adam & Chris Linking to the DemonFM Studio

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Jon Jackson Talking-Back to the Studio

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Chris Longman

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Adam Jinkerson

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Roaming Mic - Out with the Performers

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Jess Tenby & Adam Jinkerson

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Lord Alli After his Interview

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Gareth Lapworth - Enough Said!

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Prof Andy Collop, ProVC/Dean Technology

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Queens Honour Guard Talk to DemonFM

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Caz Harby Producing

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Media Hub - Writing Links, Posting to Social Media

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Neil Kewn & Jess Tenby

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Prof Andy Downton - Nice Headgear

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Chris with Student Performers

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Chris Catches-Up with Student Performers

Jan 312012
 
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Global's Dave Walters Talks to DMU's David Watts

You can’t get anymore central to London than Leicester Square. Global Radio’s impressive headquarters runs its main networked operations from its recently refurbished block, right in the center of the capital, sandwiched between some of the biggest cinemas in London’s West End. I went to look around and talk to Dave Walters, head Technology and Broadcast Operations for the Global Group.

As the home of the Global groups radio operation, Leicester Square is the national hub for Capital, Classic FM, Choice, Heart, XFM, LBC. Each of these radio stations are nestled snugly together, while occupying a separate zone within the building. Each with a clear sense of individual identity, but each maintained separately in a building that has an overall sense of interchange and fluidity. Moving from one working zone and set of studios, to another was surprisingly easy. There are few barriers and few partition walls. The walls are painted white through the building, with a minimum of visual branding, some mood lighting in places, and with office furniture stripped back and minimal in the Swedish design style. While this is not a large building, and has many people working in it, it feels open and bright.

Dave explained that the big innovation that Global Radio are pushing through the company at the moment is their shift from Windows based PC, to MacBooks and tablets. Making use of more open and collaborative work spaces, production teams are as likely to meet and talk over a coffee in the roof-top atrium (with it’s very impressive London skyline vista), or in the break-out areas that pepper the studio and production room spaces.

With the consolidation of the radio industry in the last decade, many of the smaller local heritage radio stations that have been absorbed by successive waves of take-over have meant that Global has championed the network approach for it’s national operations. With the exception of Classic FM, all the other stations that Global runs are regional or local, and yet they have the feel of a cohesive network. With split operations and programming mainly run from the network centre, and some local input from the remaining satellite operations. This is not everyone’s idea of how radio is best delivered, but it is, according to Dave, a successful business model that is allowing Global to prosper in an increasingly competitive and fragmented media world.

When Dave stepped up to the job of running the Global operation he had many problems to deal with. Local studios that had very little investment for years. Seven different playout systems that meant that content couldn’t be managed efficiently and advertising value that couldn’t be maximised. This was combined with a whole set of different network and operational systems that meant that simple on-air functions, like delivering networked news, couldn’t easily be managed across different sites, because they each had a different time-source, which meant simultaneous programme elements couldn’t be linked automatically.

Dave’s chief job has been to bring all of this together and to ensure that production teams are aware that their national operation, despite being run mainly from London, still has a local feel, and still maintains it’s integration with the local network transmissions. Screens on the walls in each of the production suits identify the status of each broadcast service in each area. Are they running to time and are the broadcast signals at the right levels?

Moving into the Global news room, the most impressive level of integration is the ability of correspondents and reporters to link directly with the broadcast studios from their desks. Each workstation is fitted out with a microphone that ties directly to the main news studio. So there is no dropping in to soundproof booths or studios, as reporters can read their script directly from the Burli News Management system, and can ingest their report without moving away from their desk. The next stage of Global’s shift away from fixed workstations will be the news operation, with reporters linked by 3G or WiFi data networks out in the field.

I asked Dave what his thoughts are about how this removal of barriers between the production teams will impact on the output of the different networks? If XFM’s Danny Wallace is rubbing shoulders with Classic FM’s John Suchet in the coffee bar, what will this mean for the programmes that the listeners tune in to? According to Dave the future is about collaborative working and mixing with a lot of different people, so the creative space that this takes place in is as important as the brands that these different voices represent.

Finally, we talked about the skills that new producers and programme makers will need as they prepare for working in this high-pressure, dynamic environment. According to Dave, just as you have got used to a technology and learnt how you apply it, a new one comes along that changes the nature of what you do and the way that you do it. Being flexible and multi-skilled in a multimedia world is the challenge facing new producers. Being an engineer by training though, Dave still values the traditional competences. Soldering-up an XLR cable gets you credit still with Dave, because if the microphones don’t work, how can you do radio in the first place?

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Dave Explains Globals Web Cam System

Jan 272012
 

According to Steve Parkinson, MD for Bauer Radio in London, radio is best when it is about passion – either passion for the place that you live, or passion for the things that fill your life with. Steve was the latest professional guest lecturer for De Montfort Universities RadioLab lecture series. Speaking about his time in the commercial radio industry, Steve gave an overview of the commercial radio sector to students and volunteers who run DemonFM, and who want to break into the industry themselves.

Steve’s experience as a senior producer with EMAP, and now the MD of Bauer London, means that he is well placed to comment on the state of the commercial radio sector in the UK. Steve talked about the joys of developing radio services in an age where audiences expect to be able access the programmes they are passionate about on any platform and at any time – and usually for no charge.

Steve shared his thoughts about the approach to programming that Bauer Media take, with their stations Kiss, Magic, LBC, and a whole host of successful regional stations around the United Kingdom. Bauer haven’t gone down the same path as Global Radio and networking all of their output. Instead, Bauer, according to Steve, are committed to local programming through their locally branded heritage stations. Steve argues, that they would change these well known stations at their ‘peril’. So, radio stations like Key103 in Manchester and Radio City in Liverpool, continue to have a strong local following, with programming coming from those cities, and no national music play-listing shaping the sound of each station from the sales team in London.

According to Steve we are experiencing an unprecedented amount of change in the media industries, with substantial consolidation of the major commercial services. However, as Steve points out, at the same time there is an explosion in the diversity of the platforms that media services have to provide. There is no longer a guarantee that broadcast services can support a commercial operation through advertising alone, so media companies are rapidly looking to diversify and extend the contact and number of ways that they reach consumers. The push at the moment in commercial radio is in to non-traditional revenue streams, through social media, audio-visual platforms and more extended digital services.

Bauer station Kiss is sponsored by Blackberry because of their access to a youth market that has driven sales for a telecoms company that was otherwise thought of as a business tool. So stations become more reliant on sponsorship and partnership agreements, and are chasing the ‘transactional’ revenue streams that services like iTunes have successfully cornered. Where Bauer Radio is different from other commercial media operators, suggests Steve, is in the relationship with their proprietors. Bauer Media is wholly owned by the Bauer family, who promise to give a hands-off and more long-term approach to the development of their many international media holdings. According to Steve, as long as the radio stations are generating profits then they have a free hand to get on and manage them in the way that is right for them.

The advantage of being part of a larger media group also means that stations in the Bauer Media group can work with each other, in the same way that the BBC promotes it’s services across different platforms. The nineteen million consumers who access Bauer products each week gives the Bauer radio stations an advantage to cross promote across fifty-three magazines, forty-two radio stations, forty-eight online brands and seven digital stations.

Crafting and shaping the radio services that each of these platforms gives is based on a simple principle, either you are passionate about the place that you live, or you are passionate about the things that you enjoy in your life. So Bauer radio stations have a strong local identity, or alternatively, they have a strong brand identity – Q Radio, Kerrang! or Heat are tied in with popular magazines that have a more specialist appeal and readership, and so can focus on the more passionate aspects of popular culture that people take on board and share with their friends.

The mantra for all Bauer radio producers, according to Steve, is “hear it, see it, share it”. Kiss have only recently recruited a Social Media Manager to the station because audience interaction is becoming so integral to the extended relationship that a radio station has with it’s listeners, that a social media approach to programming has to be incorporated into the planning and development of all the stations shows. Each programme team now has to take what they do on-air and transform it to the stations website almost immediately. This means employing people who have video production skills, who can take photographs and use photoshop, who can do in-house sound design and station identity, who can post material across different social media platforms, who can organise and plan events, and who can work with the technology that makes all these things connect.

The skillset that is expected of people entering into the radio industry has changed in a short couple of years. According to Steve:

  • Don’t think radio, think audio.
  • Don’t think audio, think audio-visual.
  • When you think content, think audio-visual.
  • When you think audio-visual, think technology.

Steve went on to outline how the demands of multi-skilling that are required in the radio industry have reached new hights, with producers and programme teams expected to be both curious, resilient and relentless, while showing a solid attention to detail and a punctuality that meets the demands of live radio production. Steve finished off his talk by assuring students that there is a great future career to be had in radio, and that with the right open-minded approach a new generation of programme makers who are passionate about where they live and what they share can be part of it too.

Dec 082011
 

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