Monday, 27 April 2009


I’ve just spent a very interesting week working at Classic FM in Leicester Square, which was a great experience as it’s probably my favourite radio station and often gets me through the night when work starts to pile up. To give you the background - it used to be part of GCap until this was bought out by Global Radio last year, and now it’s based at Global’s London offices amongst other stations XFM, Capital, Choice, LBC, Gold and Heart - which certainly makes for an interesting diversity of sounds as you wander through the building! I was working primarily in production, which involved a variety of tasks such as implementing show schedules, cutting audio and responding to listener enquiries. I also met Boris Johnson on the stairs.

I’ve worked at a variety of radio stations in the past including BBC Essex, LBC and Premier Christian Radio, but Classic FM was the first one I’ve worked for which is primarily focussed on music, not speech. The average listener profile of Classic is easy to tell by listening to the station by the adverts - mentions of Waitrose and RHS Garden Wisley, and a significant lack of Poundland. Much of Classic FM’s audience comes from the ABC1 socio-economic group, which could be seen as a Radio 4 audience, so it means Classic FM is the only radio station some advertisers have to reach a high-end market. With 5.7m listeners, it’s well worth buying some airtime.

I learnt that the unfortunate inclusion of “118 212 - Maureen, oooh she’s cheap” adverts after every morning bulletin is unavoidable due to an agreement with IRN (Independent Radio News) - now operated by Sky News - which mean you must carry IRN’s own adverts if you want to use their audio clips during bulletins and news wires service. Make sure you listen to Classic FM at around three minutes past the hour, just to hear the newsreader say in a posh accent: “It’s three minutes past eight” - then -“Oooh she’s cheap” - then posh accent again - “And the weather - patchy cloud in places...” Absolutely brilliant and always guaranteed a laugh.

Anyway, ‘back to the music’ and a little more about what I was doing there. Like many other radio stations, Classic FM’s music schedule operates through the programme RCS Selector, and I received much tuition from a very helpful music team in how to operate this system. I was soon able to schedule a few weeks of The Full Works show, find potential music clashes, and cut and process audio. Because I love classical music, this was really good fun and I very much enjoyed myself. I got to meet most of the main presenters, such as Jamie Crick, Mark Forrest, Anne-Marie Minhall and John Brunning, and was able to talk to them about the station, what they enjoy about working there, and how they started out.

The station is run by a small group of people considering the size of its audience, but they work well as a close-knit team, and it felt calm throughout the whole week - maybe helped by the fact they had Classic FM on the radio all the time! Just one final thing to tell you about - I was handling some listener enquiries, and one elderly woman wrote to say: ‘The youth of today listen to such tripe which is why I’ll stick with your station’. I replied: ‘You may be interested to hear that many students listen to Classic FM whilst working - so they’re not all bad.’

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James O’Brien v Frank Lampard was a battle I never thought we would ever hear on the airwaves. But in a move that probably made Lampard’s agent have kittens when she heard about it, the Chelsea midfielder responded directly to LBC after he was told by his tearful sister that O’Brien was accusing him of letting down his kids. This came after his ex-fiancee Elen Rives said he was living in his £8.5m home whilst she was in a small flat with their two children. Lampard phoned up to have a go at O’Brien for insinuating he was a bad parent, and it made for some fascinating audio [listen here:].

I can say more about this story than most, because I actually worked with O’Brien when I was on a placement at LBC last Easter, helping produce his show and taking calls. He has got lots of stick in the media over the weekend for his style of presenting, but having worked with him, I think he’s great at provoking debate and is a nice guy off air too. Kay Burley’s interview with O’Brien shortly after on Sky News did not treat him with enough respect, in my opinion, and I think his exchange with Lampard should be upheld as a piece of brilliant journalism. It’s not everyday that a major celebrity feels like he has to have his say to the extent of phoning-in to a radio show, so well done to Lampard for sticking up for himself - and well done to O’Brien for a brilliant show.

Monday, 20 April 2009


A few weeks ago I posted a Facebook status update saying I wanted to "protest against the G20 protestors - go home and stop wasting police time". Within 90 minutes there were 26 comments on my wall. Almost all of these were in support of my feelings, and the amount of posts convinced me that there are many people out there who don't like protestors very much. I don't think the police like protestors very much either. But while this is no excuse for unidentified police hitting innocent people, I think we're starting to victimise them.

The police have been grouped into one big mob by much of the media, and are being excused of unjustifiable tactics of 'kettling' and the like. But the majority of policeman were at the G20 protests with one aim - to try and keep the peace and protect the public. It seems that a few let their emotions get the better of them and strike down protestors unnecessarily, but that should not be a call for us to push for a radical overhaul of the policing system. If you compare the Metropolitan Police to the forces in other countries, we are very fortunate to be so well protected. High-profile policemen are resigning because they held a secret document the wrong way up (Bob Quick), and because a suspected terrorist was unfortunately shot dead (Ian Blair). This is not a cause for concern in relative terms! But it is correct that the IPCC should investigate how the G20 protests were controlled, and how the police can do a better job in the future. I just don't think we should be panicking...

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I've just started work experience at Classic FM this week, and I will be reporting more about that next week - but I had a great first day today! However I was on a different radio station at lunchtime, after BBC Essex called me as they wanted to interview me about the rising problems with student debt. You can listen on 0h44m30s at I was asked whether I thought university was still worth it and about the problems of graduating in a recession, so it makes for interesting listening! My basic response was that even though you graduate with mounds of debt, it's much better to do that and then make it up in the long term when you earn higher wages as a result of obtaining a top degree.

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In other news, The Guardian ran a story today about the lack of jobs in the media for graduates, but I think this could be a blessing in disguise. There are lots of nonsense courses at lesser universities out there for people who want to get into journalism or the media. However if there are fewer jobs in the future, then hopefully universities will stop running doss 'media studies' courses that offer little chance of a good job. By studing journalism practically at a top university, you are taught how to be a good journalist, and leave fully qualified and ready to go. By cutting out these 'lesser' degrees, we might ensure that only people who really want to get into journalism and the media go to the top universities and get the jobs everyone wants.

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I've just returned from a great holiday with the family in Barcelona, where we visited various sites such as Parc Guelle and Camp Nou, and also made the journey to local Catalan towns Tarragona and Sitges. Barcelona is such a vibrant and cultural city, and we've been out there four times in the last 10 years as we have relatives who live just outside in Corbera.

Anyway, enough about the holiday - "Mes que un club", as they say at Camp Nou. I thought Newcastle fans were mental about their football club, but in Catalunya it's even more crazy. Barcelona have currently got one of the most exciting players in the world, Lionel Messi. This guy is just so good that it seems his feet are constantly glued to the ball and no player has a chance to take it off him. He sums up what is beautiful about football, and I sincerely hope that Chelsea get humbled in the forthcoming Champions League semi-final by the skill of their opponents. Barça are what football was invented for.

Monday, 13 April 2009


It's not looking good for commercial radio. In the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2009, over two-thirds of nominations are for BBC stations, in a competition which traditionally recognises commercial talent. But it seems the BBC, which hold over 60% market share of listeners nationwide across a plethora of stations, have had a good year (once you take out the Brand/Ross/Sachs affair). But whilst it should be praised for producing quality programming and justifying licence fee payers' money, this will always be at the expense of commercial stations. They do need a strong competitor, but are clearly not doing enough good work themselves according to these award nominations. You could blame the credit crunch hitting advertising revenues and budgets, but radio is all about ideas and personalities - and that is what seems to be lacking. It's good for Absolute Radio that it is up for seven awards, but that's the only silver lining in an otherwise cloudy picture. Hopefully Classic FM will pick up some gongs too - as I'm there on work experience next week!

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I'm back home for Easter at the moment from the University of Sheffield and it's given me some time to think about the north and south. I write about the divide quite a lot on my blog, but it would be true to say I didn't even know it existed until I ventured into Yorkshire a few years ago! Most people in the north just don't seem to like southerners. To be honest, I don't mind northerners at all - and it's been an eye opening experience to meet so many of them. But I've always prefered the south. Maybe it's just because things are more expensive and the people don't talk to you, therefore you can feel richer without actually being rich down south - and you can get your newspaper read in peace on the train! I can't believe how many people start having a random chat with me on a bus or tram in Sheffield. I've been brought up in a London culture where it's more polite to ignore someone on the tube - in fact, that was probably the reason why the Metro newspaper was invented. So please just let me read! Sorry for being so rude - I do like a good Yorkshire pudding, so it's not all bad.

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You might notice I'm writing this blog on a Bank Holiday Monday before 6am - how is that for committment?! Well it's not as if I had anything better to do, but it is Easter and I wanted to remind both readers and myself of the importance of this festival. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, got it spot on yesterday when saying football matches should not be played on Easter Sunday - it's a day of even more importance for Christians than Christmas Day, and it's not as if we'd all sit down as a family on December 25th to watch Sky Sports live. But aside from sports scheduling, Easter is a good time to have a fresh/new start in life - even more so than New Year - as that is exactly what an egg symbolises, and what the power of the cross represents at this time of year.

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I have just finished watching the first series of Skins and must say it's one of the best dramas I've ever seen. To explain, it basically charts the life and interwinding relationships of a group of sixth-formers, by concentrating on a different character in each episode. It's incredibly well scripted and directed, as you really feel part of the action and storylines, so I would say it's highly recommend viewing. Channel 4 have produced a gem here - and it looks like the new series of The Inbetweeners, a similar drama of E4 with slightly more comedy and fun involved, will also be a success. I'm pleased to see the UK's 'alternative' and 'edgy' broadcaster producing some exceptionally good drama. Long may it continue!

Monday, 6 April 2009


I was rather surprised to receive a text last Friday morning from a friend saying: "Just spotted your picture on the uni home page - very nice". Instantly I rush to and find that yes, indeed, I am on the University of Sheffield homepage. How embarrassing. Regular readers of my blog may remember when I was doing a prospectus photoshoot last November (click here). Well, it was that picture [right] that made it online! I received dozens of texts and emails from friends, saying "have you seen it yet?", and it was quite exciting to have all the attention really. One of my work colleagues said that I looked like a Lord of the Rings gatekeeper. Thanks for that, Rob.

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My mother received a call last week from the Daily Telegraph asking if we wanted to subscribe for a period at a price of 60p off each issue. She told me that this is because everyone's reading newspapers online (Strike 1). I bought a copy of the Yorkshire Post a few weeks ago in between two lectures, and my friend asked me why I didn't just read their website for free and save 50p (Strike 2). I see the Daily Star is now often dedicating more front-page space to the fact that it's cheaper than The Sun and the News of the World, than its lead story (Strike 3).

There has been enough written about the decline of newspapers, especially local, so I don't want to go into that. But I just don't like reading news online. I love to sit down with a newspaper and flick through it, reading some articles and skimming others of less interest. There's no substitute for this online. Yes, you might be able to get your news quicker and that's certainly a good thing, but am I alone in enjoying the daily idea of sitting down and reading a newspaper? I hope not. Show your support for the printed newspaper!

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There was a fascinating article in The Independent today on an Financial Services Authority investigation into "a series of insider dealing scams" on the stock market recently (click here). The basics of it are that people with insider knowledge of imminent company mergers or takeovers are buying shares cheap, then watching the price rise as everyone else purchases them, and then selling them at a profit. This is clearly unethical trading as the insiders have an unfair advantage on everyone else. I put a lot of effort into my own investments in shares, so I don't like to see others making bigger profits just because they know the right people. But I suppose that's just tough luck for me.

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Alan Shearer is back at Newcastle United, which is something I'm very pleased about. But the big question is, can the former Number 9 revitalise a struggling side who have one just one game since Christmas, and help them avoid the drop into the Championship? I'm pretty confident that the 'Shearer bounce' effect will have a huge impact on the players and fans, as his presence in itself around the training ground and dressing room is enough to motivate the team. However it's looking increasingly likely that time is running out for the Toon Army, and that the Geordies should starting looking at directions to Peterborough and Blackpool, not Manchester or Liverpool anymore. It's very upsetting to see the demise of such a great club, but maybe going down would give them the chance to completely rebuild the team and come back stronger. It happened to West Ham United, and they are in a much better position now.

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Many thanks to all those currently viewing my blog. It's great fun writing it, and the fact I'm getting over 120 hits a week shows that you like it too, so I'm pleased! And if you're one of the readers from India, Cyprus or Canada, please let me know - it's good to hear that I'm getting international exposure, according to Google Analytics...