One FM: singularly unsensational
Wednesday 25 March 1998
Bannister's former deputy has one hell of a job on his plate.
No, this is not going to be another piece on the failure of Zoe Ball and Kevin Greening at breakfast (though weekend early bird Chris Moyles took over their slot very capably recently and does a much better job). Or the rumour that Simon Mayo is about to be axed and replaced by Mary Ann Hobbs (whose over-reliance on the introductory "I'm delighted to be able to tell you that I've been joined by..." is grating already. God knows how she'd handle major guests or an emergency). My concern is about One FM's so-called music policy.
While laudable in its aim of promoting new talent and focusing on younger acts, the way this is implemented across daytime, late-night and week- end shows is nothing short of shocking. Also taking the BBC licence-fee payer - most of us - for a ride.
Under the guise of Radio One's Most Wanted, huge swathes of the schedule (Dave Pearce's afternoon slot, Charlie Jordan's overnight stint, Lisa L'Anson's Sunday lunchtime shameful excuse for a show) consist of nothing but what French DJs call pousse-disques (records played back to back for no reason whatsoever).
These tracks (Pulp's "Hardcore", Space's "The Ballad Of Tom Jones", Bernard Butler's "Not Alone" to take three examples from week's A-list) already appear on other shows and sound very tiresome piled up record-changer/juke- box style. Having listeners phone in for their favourite's inclusion does not justify this flawed policy. Even worse is the curse of the recurrent oldie. Already the bane of Gold and commercial stations listeners (which may partly explain Radio 2's increasing figures), a computer selects specific tracks to "brand" the station. But there's a catch. The original selection is always too narrow and, given Radio One's current brief, a recipe for disaster if handled sloppily. Especially when you have weekend shows such as Mark Goodier's Most Played, Greatest Hits and Dave Pearce's Dance Anthems (another nine hours you don't need to listen to if you want "new" music).
Tune into the BBC station at most times and, unless it is a specialist show, the odds are you will soon hear "Reverend Black Grape" by Black Grape, "Australia" by The Manic Street Preachers, "What Do You Want From Me" by Monaco or U2's "Discotheque". A few months ago, "Peaches" by The Presidents Of The USA (by then already well past their sell-by date) seemed to be more of a station ID than the news jingle. Phone calls to staff and complaints to the information office have unearthed excuses like: "They've been told but nobody's bothered to update the computer."
This is simply not good enough. Call me sad, but I listen to a lot of radio in the UK (mostly BBC across all networks) and abroad (twiddling the dial all the time). In Britain, people still use Radio One as a background to their working day. They should not be submitted to sloppy management and production practices. There is not much to quibble about the late Eighties/early Nineties policy provided it is implemented properly. At the moment, it is patently not so. If you must use a computer, put the
right data in (like half-a-dozen records for each artist, instead of one or two). If you must use recurrent oldies, include a programme which prevents its reappearance the same day, the next day, in the same show the same week.
And while you're at it, Mr Parfitt, tell presenters to stop taking the mickey out of records on the playlist (don't include them in the first place), signpost your quality specialist shows (Andy Kershaw, John Peel, Pete Tong, Blue Jam with comedy terrorist Chris Morris already buried at 1am on Friday) better with more trailers across daytime. Don't be afraid to cross-trail programmes on other BBC networks (fans of Mary Ann Hobbs' Breezeblock would probably love Mixing It on Radio 3, Ocean Colour Scene admirers might gain some perspective from the Sixties shows on Radio 2). Or else people will think that Radio One is chicken, afraid that its listeners might desert it for other BBC networks. And the whole brouhaha about selling it off to the
private sector will start again!
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