Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

More Radio Talk.

May 8th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to go back to Future Radio and spend a little more time at the station.  After communicating with Tom Buckham again to try and reschedule after missing our original day (due to volcano ash) I was invited to come into Jasmine’s Friday morning “Community Chest” program from 10am-12pm.  Jasmine described the program as a venue for lots of listener feedback and conversation through online messaging as well as a show, typically packed of in-studio guests.  Being the morning after the general election I was excited to sit in on a show with what I anticipated would be very full and debate/discussion based.  But, when I arrived at the station everyone on staff was disappointed to discover that the internet was down, meaning that Jasmine’s show would be missing a huge part.  Additionally on this particular Friday, there was only one scheduled guest (two members (father and son) of a Brazilian band who are playing at Norwich’s “Shake Up”, the Norwich Pride warm up event, scheduled for next weekend.  It was great to hear the two drummers play (very loudly) in studio, it really woke me up, and now I’m thinking of going down to check out the event to see the full band as well as the other acts.  I was also fascinated to learn more about the 2nd Annual Norwich Pride event happening July 31, 2010.  Along with discussing “Shake Up” there were two pre-recorded pieces about the Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

Later in the show a local police officer came in (rather unexpectedly) to discuss the efforts the police department are making to prevent racial crimes in the Larkman area, near the radio station.  A brief segment, but it, along with the other guests really opened my eyes up to all of the events and activities that happen in Norwich that I don’t even know about.  It made me regret not taking more advantage of the activities this past year, but also made me excited about attending upcoming activites, especially some of NNF, during my final weeks in Norwich.

At the end of Jasmine’s show, Eamonn Burgess, the host of the next program “The Sight of Music” (a station aimed at playing music in film and television) came in and allowed me to sit in on his show as well.  During Eamonn’s show another presenter at Future Radio was waiting for the results of the North Norfolk election to be announced, so he called in and there was a “breaking news” feature with the live results of the elections.

It was fun to sit in and talk on-air with both Jasmine and Eamonn. I don’t know how many of you have sat in on 4 hours straight of radio (without actually being the one on-air, controlling the music, buttons, fade, etc) but it’s not as exciting as it sounds (and it’s not the first time I’ve done it).  Sitting and talking to people who volunteer at the station and live in the Norwich area was great, and helpful for my paper, however I look forward to my next extended time at a radio station being back in the states working on promotional events (a little more up my alley).

Tags: Amanda

Radio Investigation Continues A Walk Down the Street

May 8th, 2010 · 1 Comment

It’s been a while between paper writing, traveling the world, and getting caught by a volcano….but I finally found time over spring break to sit down and reflect on my conversation on March 16 with Tom Buckham, manager at Future Radio. (and now almost a month later am finding time to actually post it in the blog)
After having spent some time interviewing and shadowing people at BBC Radio Norfolk I was ready to do a little comparison and to learn more about Future Radio, other than what I had read about on their website. So on Tuesday March 16th I used Google Maps to location the station and figure out which bus I would need to take.  After double-checking with my Norwich A-Z (and confirming with my housekeeper, Tina) I discovered that the station was only a 20-minute walk down Earlham Green.  I was off, and finally ready to learn more about the station, beyond the website.  Winding down neighborhood streets I finally stumbled upon Norfolk Community Center in the middle of Motum Road. Taken aback a little by the size of the complex (not big by any means, but certainly a decent size for the location) I wandered around and found the entrance to Future Radio.  Future Radio is a community radio station as a part of Future Projects, an organization aimed to bring art, education, and media to students aged 13-16.
Community radio stations are required to get a license through Ofcom before being established.  Currently Future Radio is preparing to have their broadcast expanded from just West Norwich to the East and Southeastern parts of the city as well.  This expansion is a result of being the first community radio station to reapply for, and be accepted for this expansion and license extension.  Because of this re-launch, as well as the other day-to-day responsibility of being manager, Tom Buckham and I only had about 30 minutes to talk, but his information about the station was invaluable.
We initially discussed the basics of the station not covered on the website, such as: where their funding comes from, how program topics were determined, and what influences the station and their programs.  I learned that roughly 165 station volunteers choose what they are going to broadcast on, based on personal interest, and the varied cultural make-up of Norwich.  One of the aims of Future Radio is to be able to offer all members of the community at least one hour or so of radio that they want to tune into.
This goal allows an interest in Future Radio to build, however being a station aimed at targeting the greater Norwich community, it is challenging because they are in a category where they are ‘competing’ with stations similar in goal that have a lot more funding and are more recognizable by name, like BBC Radio Norfolk.  Tom and I discussed BBC Radio Norfolk further and he said that for them it’s not comparing themselves as stations (I guess that was just my competitive American mentality, forcing a comparison), but it really is more about providing the best stations with the best programs they can for the Norwich community.  He mentioned that over the past 2-3 years as Future Radio has been building as a station; BBC Radio Norfolk has been extremely supportive and helpful.  Buckham also told me more about the relationship Future Radio has with the Norwich Community Council as well as the current relationship they have with the Norfolk Broads.
It was great to talk with Tom and to learn first-hand more about Future Radio (because reading about it for the past few months has not been the same). Next week [when this blog was written it was supposed to be next week…. volcano disrupted these plans.] I’m going back to the station to spend a shadow day like I did at BBC Radio Norfolk and I hope talking with more people and spending a longer period of time at the station will give me an even better idea of what Future Radio is really like.

Tags: Amanda

“BBC Radio Nofolk, this is Amanda”

February 20th, 2010 · 1 Comment

On Wednesday morning I got up bright and early to ensure that I would beat all of the rush hour traffic because I needed to be at the BBC station in the Forum by 9am. Departing the UEA campus a little before 8am I made it to Norwich City Centre in record time, I was getting off the bus around 8:15 (shocker there wasn’t any traffic in Norwich on a typical workday morning..) So I sat in Starbucks reading and enjoying a chai tea latte before my “workday” started.

I arrived at BBC and waited for David Webster, the producer of the afternoon radio programme who I would be shadowing, to arrive. Eventually Stephen Bumfrey, the presenter of the programme came down and got me settled in at the desk and introduced me to some of the other BBC staff members. Dave arrived a few minutes later and brought me on another brief tour of the staion, this time to show me two of the most important rooms (the kitchen and the toilets).

After talking with Dave and Stephen about my research, my interest in radio, and what the program they work on entails, Dave decided that it would be valuable for me to sit in on some of Nick Conrad’s programme because it deals directly with community/station interaction. Nick presents a topic and the public calls in to discuss it. For the majority of the show I sat in with the producers of the show who take the calls and decided which callers will be allowed to talk on air with Nick. It was interesting to hear some of the calls, and to hear both on and off air reactions to them. One thing that I noticed was that even when Nick was disagreeing with a caller his responses were not that out of place. Speaking with the assistant producer he informed me that unlike in the US, UK disc jockeys never fall into the shock-jock category. The Brits uphold their typically mild-mannered behavior even when producing radio intended to get a rise out of people.

While I was sitting with the producers Nick invited me into the studio to show me how all the ‘button pushing’ worked. The topics of discussion while I was sitting in on the show were: jurors in the UK, overweight pets, and pension changes; a variety of topics, but all were clearly of interest to the general public because the phone was off the hook the entire time I was there. There were also two guests in the studio to discuss some of the topics with Nick from a more professional level rather than the opinion based level that the majority of the program was on.

As the programme was coming to an end, I met back up with Dave and Stephen to discuss what was on schedule for their afternoon programme, before heading to the daily 11am meeting. At the meeting Dave and Stephen filled everyone else in on the schedule of the show and then left to get back to finalizing song playlists, etc. They left me with the news editors who talked about the important issues of the day locally/regionally that should be included in the afternoon broadcasts as well as for the following morning’s Breakfast Show. When the meeting was over I sat with Rita, one of the News Editors and talked about all aspects of radio, both in the US and in the UK, comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences to commercial radio, and the advantages and disadvantages to the different formats. Rita was also immensely helpful in suggesting other people whom I may be intrerested in talking with/interviewing.

After a brief break for lunch I moved into the stdio with Dave for Stephen’s show. The first hour of the show revolved around a contest called War of the Workforce, followed by interviews and other topics of entertainment. I spent the three hours of the programme answering calls from listeners, talking on-air about Reader’s Digest (and blimps..), and speaking with the guest on Wednesday’s show, 14-year-old Josh Worley. Josh started his own radio station South Norfolk Youth Action (SYNA Radio) about a year and a half ago and just recently won a local youth achievement award.

Overall another productive and informative day at BBC Radio Norfolk. All of the staffers are so friendly and helpful and told me I was welcome back for a shadow-day anytime, or for anything else I may need for my research. I still need to connect with someone at Future Radio, and I’m hoping I will be as lucky with talking with them as I have been working with BBC Radio Norfolk.

Hours: 7 hours

Total: 8 hours

Tags: Amanda

Local Radio: The investigation begins

February 2nd, 2010 · 3 Comments

Today I had the opportunity to visit BBC Norfolk at the Forum in Norwich city center and spoke with BBC Norfolk Radio’s editor David Clayton. Mr. Clayton walked me around the BBC and showed me the broadcast booths, and introduced me to a few of the people planning the topics for upcoming programs. He also brought me into the television studio where Look East is filmed for the regional television station. After my tour Mr. Clayton and I sat down and discussed the radio station itself.

David Clayton has been the editor at BBC Norfolk for the past eleven years. As editor he manages everything surrounding the station from program topics, to what goes on the website, to finding out where BBC Norfolk falls in terms of listeners compared to other stations (in fact he was quite nervous because the results for the past three months are being delivered by RAJAR tomorrow). RAJAR is hired by BBC and other commercial radio station to take a poll over the course of three months by a cross-section of people living in the area and they are asked to note what radio they are listening to and for how long they are listening and then RAJAR tallies it all up and submits the data to the radio stations. Mr. Clayton told me that as a station they look at three major figures, the first is the reach, which figures out how many people are listening to BBC Norfolk for at least ten consecutive minutes, the second figure is to see how long cumulatively a person listens to BBC Norfolk over the course of three months, and the final is the share, which is what percentage of all people listening to all the radio stations are listening to BBC Norfolk, and typically BBC Norfolk falls in the 20-30% range, which is relatively high for this area.

BBC Norfolk is not considered a regional radio station as I thought it was, but rather it is a local radio station. Mr. Clayton has encouraged me to speak with commercial radio in the community as a comparison to see the role that they play on the local community. He suggested that I try and speak with someone at Future Radio and also UEA’s Livewire radio station. BBC Norfolk plays an extremely important role in providing information for Norwich’s 40-50 and older demographic, but perhaps Future Radio provides more for a different demographic and I hope that I am able to find someone as helpful as David Clayton at these other organizations and to hear their point of view on the importance of local/community radio.

Additionally Mr. Clayton has offered to allow me to spend a day at the station sitting in on the broadcasts and just taking it all in so that I can fully see what BBC Norfolk offers, and I am definitely planning on taking him up on that offer. At the end of our conversation regarding BBC David Clayton told me it was my turn to get questions asked and so we discussed my experience with radio in the United States, my career goals, what I’m studying..all the normal questions. However this conversation was different; for once it wasn’t my flatmates asking me what I call the trunk of a car (although we did briefly discuss the ‘language barrier’), or one of my professors asking me about my courses back at Dickinson, it was a conversation between two people both of whom have an interest in radio discussing just that. We compared US radio to UK radio, we talked about common trends in rankings, we discussed our personal opinions about the pros and cons of talk radio compared to all music stations…we talked about something we both cared about, and we were both able to provide our own insights both from an age perspective and from a national perspective. It was a surprisingly refreshing conversation, something I didn’t realize I had been missing until now, and a conversation I hope to continue as this process continues.

My conversation today has my wheels spinning about the role of radio in society as well as other media outlets in comparison. I went into my meeting with a general idea as to where I was hoping this project was going to lead me, but I now feel that I need to take some time to reconsider the direction I plan on going with this topic. Hopefully observing BBC Norfolk for a day as well as future conversations will concentrate my idea more solidly.

Tags: Amanda