Do I Need a Rocket-Boost or a New Direction?

So over the Christmas break I have time to rethink some of the things that are important to my career, now that I’ve stepped back from being involved with the running of DemonFM. I’ve been given a chance to look at the things that are important to me and think about how I might use the expertise and passion I have for them to better effect, and in a way that supports the development of the new Leicester Media School. I thought I would try and tease out some ideas that I can move forward with by writing some irregular blogs. When you are in the minefield yourself it is almost impossible to see situations in the same way that others do. The moves and the choices that seem obvious to the people stood outside the minefield are less likely to come to one’s own mind when worrying about where you place your foot next and what the impact of that might be, often in terms of simple survival.

So what are the things that I am passionate about: Firstly, I think there is a great future for collaborative, participant driven community media. This is a growing sector in the UK and globally, where people gather together to produce media themselves and distribute it via social media channels and designated broadcast channels. The idea that teams of people can get together for no other reason than they are interested in something, is very different than the way that we have produced media in the past. Regardless of it being music, radio, TV, news, magazines, drama, interactive media, personal commentary, whatever. The capability of individuals and small groups to produce media content is only going to expand and develop. It’s also going to become much more ‘cross-cultural’, or ‘intra-community’ based, whereby individual associations of media producers form around an idea, which then coalesce as hyper-local communication networks based on their primary location and their taste. On occasions, though, these will break-out of that base and interacting with other media communities on a national or international basis.

So, the use of social media in-practice is challenging the status-quo of media business organisation. The days when media organisations are structured around rigid hierarchies in which employees are expected to abide by decisions made by remote senior executives, and who aren’t enabled to act independently, are drawing to a close. Social media gives us the tools to disperse decision making, to open the field to new players and traditionally under-represented groups, and to seek out innovation that looks at new ways of seeing the world. Crucially, however, there is a huge role to be played in education and training that underpins the operational values of these practices and communities. The ethical use of media and the forms of accountability to the constituency of users who define an audience/community, all have to be thought through and enacted. The need for media skills, training and development is more important than ever, not less. The proliferation of media production tools and the dispersal of them into ever-wider networks of potential producers is increasing at a staggering pace, and needs to be supported and managed.

I’m evermore passionate about radio, and I’m still a strong advocate for the traditional virtues of well produced radio feature and report. Radio can tell stories in ways that are rich and meaningful because they are stripped of their visual content, and the listener has to be able to engage with a story directly, intimately and immediately. Radio might be one of the legacy mediums, but it’s value and strength lies in it’s ability to bring people together. The listening experience is being enhanced by the use of social media and the supporting systems that allow audiences to share reactions and to offer participation. As the capability of our data networks grows, these services are likely to become much more interactive, much more personal, much more mobile, much more local, and at the same time, more global. There isn’t a better adage than ‘Act Locally, Think Globally’. How radio can reach-in to our local communities is being given increased recognition. How radio then reaches-out to connect those communities in a network of interconnected communities globally is the exciting part.

There is a lot more that I need to think about in redefining the work that I do and finding a new lens to present it to the world through. I really have to complete my PhD, and now that I have relinquished the responsibility of looking after DemonFM, I believe I can take a much more independent mind about these ideas. I’ve been holding back a lot of my thinking because I’ve been in the position where I have had to think through the potential issues associated with the development of the station and think about what happens if they explode. I now don’t have to think about the short-term or the long-term consequences of those decisions, they are in the hands of other people. My job is done with DemonFM, and I’ve taken it as far as I can given the circumstances. It’s now up to other people to move the station forward. I’m really fortunate, however, in that I have the support of my School to start to think what those new directions might be. Hopefully I can start to get out and about and talk to other like-minded people about what those future developments are going to be. Exciting times.

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