Back in the mid-1990s when I was working at BBC Radio, they began pilots on DAB – digital audio broadcasting. The corporation wanted to get ahead of the game and it is fair to say I, and others, thought it a bit of a waste of time. It was fun, but I believe a lot of managers were worried that radio as we knew it – on AM, FM, MW, LW etc would die.
Fast forward to the mid-noughties when video became commonplace the death of radio was predicted once more.
And now in the 20teens we watch video on our smartphones, tablets and whenever we want on catch up. You would think radio wouldn’t get a look-in.
How amazing is it that radio is now more successful, more listened to than ever. Medium wave and FM are still there, and because the same catch-up technology brings us podcasts it means we do not miss our favourite shows, and we end up filling our commutes or long car journeys with radio shows we love. DAB radio is now the norm, with crystal clear sound, DJs or commentators we followed for years in the old days on medium wave sound completely different on digital radio, but there has definitely been a renaissance in radio.
Radio is still a forgotten ambition for many of my university students looking into getting a sports broadcasting career. I always tell them radio skills will prepare them well, even if they end up in television. I actually know that many of us from those days in BBC Radio sport would have stayed exclusively in radio if the hike in money in TV hadn’t tempted us away.
Radio is more intimate, you can show your personality more, work one-to-one with the listener. And while I also love TV, the art of writing and broadcasting that I teach students and professionals nowadays comes from my love of the old fashioned wireless. Days when I listened to the wrist radio I got for a birthday in the 70s, and tuned in to the Ashes cricket down under, Sunday evenings for the top 40 countdown and those then rare football commentaries on Radio 2 which gave me an excuse not to do my homework.
Those BBC bosses of the 90s knew what they were doing. It isn’t coincidence that two London commercial stations are launching soon. Predictions of the death of radio were so greatly exaggerated, and I couldn’t be happier.