Friday, 14 March 2014

Media Training - The Media Landscape; Radio - Frequency Modulation

Dennis McCarthy
I first appeared on the radio in 1995, and my first live broadcast was with Dennis McCarthy who was a legend.

Dennis had the ability to stand in a street in Nottingham and say on-air, "I wonder who's house we're doing the programme from this morning" and 60% of the doors would be thrown open by eager listeners who wanted Dennis to come and sit in their best parlor and do a radio show.

Everyone listened to Dennis...

His avuncular style belied a prickly nature. He was bigger than the station he worked for; it was BBC Radio Dennis.

The first and longest conversation I had with Dennis went like this...

Dennis (in the studio some 1000 yards from where I was, in a bunker, under a car-park, looking at the traffic cameras) - Hello Travel, who's that?
Me - I'm John, Dennis.
Dennis - John? John? What happened to Annie, or Claire?
Me - They're not on today, it's my first day, sorry.
Dennis - Pick up after the sting.

For the next year, every weekday afternoon all he said to me was "Pick up after the sting". I may have said "afternoon Dennis, are you well?" or "How are you today Dennis?" all he ever said to me was...

"Pick up after the sting..."

When he said that to me for the last time I didn't know that one of my colleagues was wrestling control of the studio from him. He was seriously ill, and the decision had been taken to get him off air for medical attention. He was having none of it, and every time someone pressed the control button in the other studio to take his signal away from the transmitter, he pressed it in his studio.

He was determined to finish the show...

That night he went home, and died.

20,000 people turned out for his funeral.

The days of Dennis are long gone. In Nottingham you had the choice between national stations and 3 local stations; BBC Radio Nottingham, Radio Trent & GEM AM (later re-branded to be Trent FM & Classic Gold Gem) both of the latter were owned by the same company.

There was little choice and that made for massive loyalty.

In Nottingham, a city of 730,000, there are now... well, there are around 10 stations serving the city, others serving other parts of the county and then you have the nationals, DAB and the internet.

There has never been more choice in listening in the UK if you want to listen to music. If you want news and speech content then you're pretty much stuck with the BBC it's the only place you'll find documentary, discussions and opportunities to be interviewed.*

In the UK it's a speech monopoly we have choice but only in very particular ways... you may as well have Dennis back.


*there are a couple of important Metropolitan exceptions LBC TalkSport et al.

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