A Case for Radio: How can Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg get the most out of his new medium

So now we all know that Clegg owns a green onesie; it could have been worse. Here Independent Voices guides the Deputy PM away from radio's worst clangers.


This week saw a bold gamble from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg when he willingly appeared on LBC radio in what will be a regular, half-hour weekly phone-in. Presumably trying to replicate his “I agree with Nick” broadcasting high points of the general election, he managed to come away relatively unscathed (the headline was his ownership of a green onesie), but Independent Voices has some tips on how he should navigate the most perilous of radio pitfalls.

Don’t give air time to crazy homophobic pastors

This week US pastor John Hagee used his radio show to describe homosexual people as “two disturbed people playing house”, and used the Hagee Hotline – a kind of hellfire-and-brimstone Call Clegg - to read out relevant sections in the Bible in support of his arguments. As much as Hagee sounds like your run-of-the-mill bigot, he’s actually the president and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national ministry on 160 US TV stations and 50 radio stations. Now that is disturbing.

Choose your contributors carefully

Seventies teen obsession David Cassidy was branded “the worst guest in the history of the BBC” when he appeared on Radio Four’s Saturday Live in 2012.  According to co-contributor Jane Johnson he interrupted the news-reading, dominated the conversation and was churlish to the other guests. Listeners bombarded the station with texts telling them to “make him stop” and to “ask David Cassidy how long he can hold his breath”.

‘False confession’, ‘marital’ and ‘prank call’ should never be used in the same feature

A local American radio station ran a ‘false confessions’ competition in 2008, in which callers had to convince a family member of a lie live on air to win Kanye West tickets. When the disturbingly plausible wife convinced her husband that their son wasn’t his, he responded by admitting he’d been sleeping with her sister for a year…Cue fist-eating silence before uproar. The disc-jockeys couldn’t believe their luck but listeners were obviously witnessing a family break up.

Racial slurs = reputational scars

Radio Four courted contention this week when it was accused of allowing historian William Dalrymple to make “racist slurs” on its PM programme. A BBC Global India producer said Dalrymple’s comments linking a minority community in India with the on-going rape crisis were “derogatory” and “inflammatory”. Dalrymple apologised, but has claimed to be a victim of racial prejudice himself when an Indian magazine called him an “unwelcome colonial presence”.

Angry local councillors do not a good listen make

This week a local councillor was in trouble after unleashing a torrent of abuse at a fellow councillor on BBC Radio Cumbria. Cllr. Ian Stewart ranted live on air, calling Cllr. Ben Berry “an accident of birth” and twice telling him to “get a life”. Berry is reportedly making a complaint against the senior District and County Councillor for breach of the councillors’ code of conduct and said “he just went nuts. I couldn’t believe the things he came out with”.

The caller is always right

Nick Clegg would do well to learn from David, I mean Ed, Miliband. As well as callers getting his name wrong when he appeared on Radio Five Live in March, Ed Miliband was hung, drawn and quartered in exchanges made all the more excruciating because the callers seemed genuinely apologetic when they said he was “unelectable”, had no “gravitas”, was “clueless” and that he “couldn’t do the job”. Nice Mr. Miliband took it like a nice politician and recognised that an on-air showdown would have been the final nail in the coffin.

Beware a clash of the titans

When one BBC interviewing titan met another BBC interviewing titan, the results were prickly, to say the least. On what was effectively a light-hearted topic – fifty years of University Challenge – Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys squared up to each other like bull elephants fighting their last round. Today listeners squirmed and cringed as Paxman accused Humphrys of lack of research, Humphrys chided Paxman for not listening, Paxman mocked Humphrys for his poor questions and so on, until they concluded amicably and we realised that it was perhaps less a clash and more a tussle.

Stick to onesies and stay away from politics

As the old saying goes, never discuss money, religion or politics, especially not on air. Telegraph columnist Alan Cochrane stormed out of a radio debate on Radio Five Live last summer after Martin Hannan called him a “facist Tory git”. The two not-so-fellow-Scotsmen were passionately debating the Scottish referendum and Independence supporter Hannan had referred to unionist Cochrane’s claims that the country was undergoing a “Britfest” after the Olympics as a “pile of utter tosh”, before things soured further and Cochrane walked out.

Keeping swearing and groping to a minimum

The now departed ‘Saviour of Radio One’ Chris Moyles came dangerously close to losing his title after he (consensually) groped Spice Girl Mel B’s breasts and gave detailed a description of the experience while on air, and in 2006 he was slammed for using the “f” word and calling listeners “dirty whores”. If Clegg could avoid behaviour like this with his presenter Nick Ferrari, he should be fine.

Think ‘prudent politician’ not ‘shock jock’

Self-styled US ‘shock jock’ Howard Stern has caused a fair share of controversy. After the 1999 Columbine high school massacre he mused on his radio show about all the “good looking girls” that had escaped and said: “At least if you're going to kill yourself and kill the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex?” There is some retribution, though, as he’s been slowly pushed out of mainstream radio and on to satellite, where even there he’s not being paid properly. Humanity: 1, Howard Stern: 0.

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