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.