@johnco online

the internet home of John Collins

January 17, 2017
by johnco
Comments Off on Doing The DAB

Doing The DAB

I’m taking part in this event next month, asking lots of pertinent question of the great and the good after the lovely Stuart Barrie gets the evening going. Ay questions you want me to ask?


Glasgow’s dynamic and thriving digital radio scene will be celebrated at a special free digital radio event in conjunction with Radio Academy: Doing the DAB. The event will take place on Thursday 23 February from 6.30pm at 29 Private Members’ Club in central Glasgow and features leading BBC and commercial radio broadcasters.


  • Hear about the nearly-70 digital stations on air in Glasgow, and about the 30 stations launched in the last 18 months
  • Hear about the Scotland digital pop-up stations, BBC Radio Scotland Music Extra and Scottish Sun Christmas Radio
  • Hear about the launch of the latest radio station in Glasgow, Rock Radio


Doing the DAB is open to everyone but places are limited. Attendees should reserve their place by emailing rosie.kendrick@digitalradiouk.com.


The event will be hosted by Stuart Barrie, Chair of Radio Academy Scotland and East Scotland Regional Content Director of Bauer Media.

Speakers include:

  • Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director, Bauer City Network;  
  • John Collins, Presenter, Bauer City 2;
  • Adam Findlay, Group Managing Director, New Wave Media; 
  • Piers Collins, Strategic Development, Legal & Business Affairs, Wireless Group;
  • Spencer Pryor, Director, Brave Broadcasting, who has pioneered the Glasgow mini-mux which now carries 11 stations;
  • Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK;
  • and Ciaran O’Toole who was recently awarded the Glasgow/West Central Scotland licence for Rock Radio. A leading speaker from BBC Radio Scotland will also feature in the final event line up.


This event, is produced in partnership with Radio Today.


Reserve your place by emailing rosie.kendrick@digitalradiouk.com.

January 11, 2017
by johnco
1 Comment

Hello again, world!

About a year ago at the end of 2015 my blog went off line. It turns out it was hacked via the comments section of the site and was being used by bad guys to send spam.

My ISP and I closed down the site and then took steps to reinstate it. The back office part of that is done so it’s time to put the old posts back over time and get back to occasionally blogging again. I’ll definitely be posting again as the year wears on. Thoughts, opinions and information about the country show I present for Bauer’s City 2 network.

I’m in the process of restoring the old posts – words first then media later.

I doubt I’ll ever enable comments again, but I hope you enjoy what I write.


December 14, 2014
by johnco
Comments Off on While Air Traffic Wasn’t, LBC Was Soaring

While Air Traffic Wasn’t, LBC Was Soaring

I was driving home on Friday afternoon, listening to Julia Hartley Brewer on LBC. It was a fairly ordinary phone in about (I think) immigration or a similar topic that gets the phones lighting up at an otherwise slow time.
And then JHB said two words that made me instantly retune to BBC Five Live. There was a problem in the airspace above London. Air Traffic Control had closed it while they addressed a problem. This was “Breaking News”.
I retuned to the BBC’s News and Sports station. With access to the biggest resources in the world They would be all over the story.
Instead we got film reviews, news heads, a sports bulletin, a quick mention about issues at Heathrow and then more film reviews.
LBC was reporting the issues calmly and authoritatively. The existing format was mostly binned and both JHB and later Iain Dale did an excellent job of identifying the facts on the ground and in the air and reporting them.
The coverage was speedy, on point and super-served this listener.
I don’t know what Five Live did after 4pm. In the golden 15 minutes LBC had reacted and reported. They clearly appreciated the size of the story and it’s interest to the great majority of listeners who care about news.
That’s the point when there’s a big story breaking. If you dither you’re left to do ‘more considered’ coverage and reflect on what’s happened. But I posit that listeners who don’t have access to rolling TV news want timely updates. Radio is hopeless at detail most of the time so a reporter in the studio laying out the story is all it needs in the first place. Listeners’ expectations have moved on and without even a hint of dumbing-down, James Rea’s team at LBC have understood that reacting quickly and well to these events makes their opposition look flat footed and old fashioned.
With much smaller resources LBC once again trounced its BBC rival. Others have blogged about how the station has been one of 2014’s winners, notably around phone ins with political leaders but also with some remarkable items on James O’Brien’s midday show.
Meanwhile Five Live has become lost. A station with a constantly shifting line up and one that sounds like it doesn’t know what it’s for any more.
This is terrible for radio. Britain needs a strong BBC offer to keep commercial radio on its mettle. BBC Five Live is a vital part of that offer. Many of my closest friends are staffers at the Beeb and they defend their employer as they should. But i know that they want to get in about stories and not be held up by logistics or formats. I wish they got their way more often.
When a story was breaking in London that had national implications, LBC once again demonstrated that when it matters they’re becoming the station to turn to when news breaks.

December 11, 2014
by johnco
Comments Off on While The Radio Academy Circles The Drain

While The Radio Academy Circles The Drain

I think I’ve calmed down a bit since last night when I followed the Radio Academy’s AGM on twitter and then read a few blogs. Two things stuck with me.
Firstly the fact that while the need for change is acknowledged, nobody senior seemed willing to offer suggestions as a way of getting the ball rolling. For a meeting filled with some of the industry’s biggest brains that disappointed.
Secondly, the suggestion that those who were upset by the shuttering of the biggest activities and their eventual move to London were somehow akin to those who condemn every modernising change the industry changes because they want to hark back to a ‘golden age’.
I’ve long been critical of aspects of the Academy’s work but have remained on the Scottish Branch Committee for many years. That’s because I believe [passionately that there has to be a place where we come together as a broader industry. It’s great to see BBC folks and IR lifers meeting, chatting and discovering that they face many of the same challenges every single day.
At an event I helped organise for Creative Loop and Bauer’s Media Academy last week it was a delight to see BBC staffers posting selfies at Radio Clyde. It’s exciting to see the pride and passion that broadcasters have in their environments and their teams and the fun they have visiting others.
Then there was the annual Scottish Branch Christmas Quiz last Monday night. I loved that for two reasons.
Professionals from the indies, BBC, Bauer & Global all took part and enjoyed a fun night alongside students and their lecturers from across Scotland.
The other reason is my team won.
To most in the industry up here, where the Radio Festival took place was irrelevant. That’s was one of the reasons we worked so hard to get the two-day Creative Loop Student Media Festival off the ground and to ensure that we booked big names to have big thoughts.
I’m wondering whether in Scotland we take that event and grow it a little to include sessions designed for people who already work in the industry, maybe even rolling in a couple of awards and so on. Let’s face it, the Scottish performance in the UK awards hasn’t exactly been awe inspiring of late and it would be wise to recognise and develop our best talent.
With Bauer, Global, Creative Loop, BBC Scotland and others already active in this space a Scottish RA has the ability to bring industry-wide support to events and initiatives – almost a seal of approval. That doesn’t take much money – just effort and a will to succeed.
Similarly other regions and nations could be federalised and encouraged to come up with a programme that works for their area. Pull together the broadcasters, podcasters, teachers and more who make radio the diverse and challenging industry it is today.
If the London guys don’t want to travel to Salford, that’s fine. Let’s see them run fantastic events in the home counties and share them nationally.
Whatever the RA becomes it has to be about it’s members.
Not the big broadcasters and smaller patrons, but the wee guys who stump up their annual dues, often from their own pocket.
If the RA stays close to the membership and concentrates on super serving its needs, it’ll have made a start.

November 23, 2014
by johnco
Comments Off on Live & Local v. Real & Relevant

Live & Local v. Real & Relevant

Years ago, in a meeting with Ross MacFadyen at the RNIB’s wonderful Insight Radio in Glasgow I heard a phrase for the first time.
“Yes we’re a community station, but what we serve is a community of interest”.
He was making the point that while the station broadcast in Glasgow on a low-power FM Community Radio license, the key was the national audience on various digital platforms who could access their programmes. The community of interest? Blind and partially sighted people.
Listening to the latest Radiostuff podcast as I walked the dogs this morning, that phrase came to mind moments before interviewee James Cridland used it. James is a wise man: he said radio is much less about here and now – it’s much more about what I want to hear, now.
There’s a disaffected school of former radio presenters that want to go back to “radio like it used to be” citing a time when Americans were already experimenting with automation as if it was some kind of Golden Age. Indeed many of the US powerhouse stations of the time (like 77WABC and WLS) were effectively automated from the jocks point of view with the tech-op running the desk and playing in the tightly playlist music.
They insist, as James says, that “live and local” should be the mantra. They’re only partly right.
If you’re a local station surrounded by regional and national mega-brands then you absolutely should be local. I’d argue that where at all possible you should be live. That’s because there’s unlikely to be a music position you can stake out and anyway, your competitors wouldn’t want to be sullied by that small stuff. Own your patch. Attend every event and always use local names, words and rivalries.
But as James and host Larry Gifford point out, that’s what relevant is all about.
Your content may be on AM, FM, Digital or a file, but it will only succeed if it’s relevant to your community of interest. To me that’s media, politics and travel – to others it’s maybe sport, food, cars or astronomy.
The new platforms actually get us back to one of the first principles of good radio.
It needs to understand its audience and be genuinely compelling. As long as programmers strive to make programmers strive to programme beyond the lowest common denominator and deliver content that’s real and relevant the medium will continue to thrive.

October 27, 2014
by johnco
Comments Off on Radio Hero: Jimmy Mack

Radio Hero: Jimmy Mack

Ten years since his passing, I’ve realised that the more I worked with Jimmy Mack, the more I admired him.

I first met him in the mid 80s but had already listened for years to his show on BBC Radio Scotland. Always afflicted by odd scheduling, they started him at 8.45. That (crazy) 15 minutes was one of the finest things on the station – Cliff Hanley and Christine Kinnear joined him for a preview of the day and what can best be described as banter. Better at being Jimmy Young than JY could ever be, Jimmy M deftly negotiated the talk elements and demonstrated first-rate music skills.

That shouldn’t be surprising as 20 years early a younger Jimmy was honing those skills on a different station with (almost) the same name aboard the MV Comet. Anchored in assorted points around Scotland the station was always held in high regard by it’s thousands of listeners. This wasn’t really a surprise as it’s line-up was a roll call of current and future greats. From there Jimmy went on to have some ‘normal’ jobs, start a family and then make the move to the BBC in the early 1970s. It was only a matter of time before he turned up at Queen Margaret Drive during one of the station’s classic periods alongside Tom Ferrie, Colin Bell, Ken Bruce and others.

The superb thing about his act was the level of preparation. He was every bit as comfortable with a ‘consumer’s friend’ interview or handling callers live on air. He also had a special knack of making scripts and live pieces sound exactly as natural as each other. This leant almost everything he did with an air of relaxed authority absent from many of his contemporaries.

Towards the end 0f the 1990s there was a changing of the guard at Radio Scotland and a feeling that the station needed to reinvent itself in keeping with the times. Presenters moved around, including Tom Ferrie starting a long tenure at Westsound. But Jimmy’s move was characteristically yet another reinvention. He left the BBC and its enormous production teams with vast phalanxes of audio staff for Clydebank.

With Clyde ‘splitting the airwaves’ into the hot AC Clyde 1 and significantly mellower Clyde 2, the afternoon drive shift was a natural home. The years of working with BBC eccentrics meant that the maddest Clyde could get was grist to his mill. I like to think that his experiences built to this moment when he had much more creative control over his act.

Why’s he a hero to me?

He loved radio and music but never lost sight of the people that he worked with along the way, always finding time to chat and encourage along the way. He was meticulously prepared for his shows and had a skill I never adequately mastered – back timing. His daughter Barbara, now a senior producer at the BBC, once told me that back timing was the mark of a radio professional. One of the ways you could tell where somebody learned their trade was how their hours ended. I think that’s why I remember him every time I hear Del Amitri’s ‘Roll To Me’.

Another thing that reminds me of Jimmy is a small but perfect thumbing of his nose at station management. His finely honed shows at Clyde, with their CCDs, LPs and paper scripts were always delivered to and from the studio in – a BBC ‘Programme Box’.

April 21, 2014
by johnco
Comments Off on Why Old Fashioned Thinking Might Let Spotify Win

Why Old Fashioned Thinking Might Let Spotify Win

Everywhere I go to talk to music programmers the talk turns to the threats and opportunities of online. Rarely, if ever, do any of them engage me in chat about music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and the upcoming iTunes Radio.

I always ask how big the threat is from the music playlists listeners have compiled, presented in high quality & uninterrupted in the car or on headphones. “Not a threat”, they intone. “Our presenters bring compelling content to every link – the playlists can’t do that”.

Now to a point that’s right. But last week I listened to the excellent ‘Get It On’ on Radio Scotland build a show around the tapes and CDs listeners loved in their first cars. I didn’t hear any mention of the DJs and radio stations I listened to. With the arrival of smartphones in cars it’s even more likely that listeners will listen to digital ‘mixtapes’ of their favourite music.

Many music stations major on sweeps of 2 or 3, with speedy DJ links. The longer links generally go into commercial breaks and are given over to promotional messages or ‘throwing forward’. Not a lot of personality in most cases.

Now one thing the streaming services don’t do is segue properly. The noble art of playing songs back-to-back in a way that they blend and compliment each other is one of the great skills of the good music presenter that computers simply can’t emulate unaided.

Meanwhile, almost all radio stations insist on playing short station IDs between every song. The official reason given for this clutter is that it reminds the listener who they’re tuned to just in case they get asked by RAJAR, especially in crowded markets.


Most listeners have FM or digital receivers that display station name, track title and much more as part of the DAB or RDS information streams.

Adding in this unnecessary clutter replaces the silence between tracks with something that jumps in and distracts from the music experience. It also prevents the listener from enjoying carefully crafted segues by presenters who care about their music – the very thing that the streaming services don’t offer.

It’s just another example of clutter getting in the way of great content that should be unique to radio.

And in this case clutter that represents the thinking of 10 years ago.

January 21, 2014
by johnco
Comments Off on Bonus Audio

Bonus Audio

TTShortly before Christmas I started moving to get the Scottish Media Podcast under way and went as far as recording an interview for it.

As often happens with my diary, real life took control of my diary, notably the addition of a radio show to do every weekend. All I’m saying is that it takes a lot of prep to sound as unprepared as I do!

The podcast will return as soon as I meet up with the key players so expect an announcement soon.

However I don’t want to sit on the interview any longer as it’s a fun bit with a good friend who has just published her first book.

Theresa Talbot’s “This Is What I Look Like” is a great read and she’s a really entertaining listen.

December 31, 2013
by johnco
Comments Off on 40 Things about Radio Clyde

40 Things about Radio Clyde

Radio Clyde turned 40 at 1030pm on Hogmanay 2013.

I was 10 when it launched and vividly remember tuning in to the test transmissions on 261 metres on my wee transistor radio in Grangemouth. Then the station went to air and it somehow sounded much more local than I could ever imagined, even though it came from the impossibly glamorous city of Glasgow.

I’ve listened almost daily ever since and thought I’d come up with a list of 40 ‘instant memories’. They’re not exactly in any order – just the way they came to mind.

  • Did Alex Dickson really read all those books he read?
  • Super Scoreboard trouncing Scot – when Scot had commentary
  • Dave Marshall’s sig tune
  • Mark Goodier going on holiday and never coming back
  • Dr Dick’s Midnight Surgery
  • Brian Ford – the epitome of slick on Homeward Bound
  • Half Way Down Robertson Street
  • Captain George patrolling the Conga Line
  • Jim Waugh in the overnight with lots of talk
  • Stick It In Your Ear – the tightest music mag on the radio
  • Richard Park doing football commentary
  • The first time I went in there and thinking OMG
  • The colour red. Everywhere.
  • Kids singing songs for Tiger Tim
  • The recipe on Steve Jones show with Sheila Duffy
  • ‘The Big Day’ with live music all over Glasgow in 1989
  • The early ‘Clyde Festivals’ in Kelvingrove Park
  • The way it sounded huge in the Bobby Hain era
  • Frank Skerret’s turntable going round and round with old songs and bad jokes
  • A local 2-way family favourites – ‘Radio Clyde Worldwide’
  • The way I felt a wee bit disappointed in people who left Clyde to join the BBC
  • Mike Riddoch pointing out the management leaving the building in their helicopter
  • Thinking I’d hit the big time when I was finally allowed on Clyde 2 in 1999
  • Donald Dewar hosting a Friday evening phone in between stints as an MP
  • Ronnie Bergman’s tiny football OB that came in a shopping bag. Ours came in an estate car.
  • Jimmy Mack proudly (and ostentatiously) using a BBC programme box for his show
  • Ross King on the chart on a Saturday morning using an amazing edit of Ah-Ha’s ”The Sun Always Shines on TV”
  • The jingle for Ashfield Motors, featuring a Frank Sinatra soundalike
  • Bill Smith’s old ‘Smithsonian Institute’. Pop fodder & banter it may have been, but I loved it.
  • Billy Sloan’s brilliant Simple Minds programmes around the time of ‘New Gold Dream’.
  • The launch of Clyde FM – a production tour de force
  • The switch from 95.1 to “Stereo Live, 102.5”
  • Riddy on Breakfast. At his best, the Gold Standard of morning shows.
  • Mike Holloway “in your ear”. Nuts but a brilliant music presenter.
  • Donna Summer’s “Love’s Unkind” at Number 2 on Clyde’s Tartan 30. 10 days before it was released.
  • The fact that it had a swimming pool when it moved out to Clydebank.
  • McLaughlin’s Ceilidh, listened to by “grannies oan trannies in single ends and butts & bens…”
  • Lots (and lots) of speech programming
  • A dim memory of Glenn Michael (of Cartoon Cavalcade fame) having a regular show
  • Me Mark Page at his singular best on weekends. I couldn’t understand how he was so knowledgeable about Glasgow until the penny dropped.


There’s a ton of old Clyde audio out there and this set of cuts produced by Bill Padley in 1985 popped up on Soundcloud. In many ways the retrospectives concentrate on the 70s, but in the mid-80s the station was at the peak of it’s powers. I joined the BBC in January that year and moved to Partick and finally became a loyal local listener. It’s fair to say that what they did then influenced everything else I’ve done since. Incidentally, can you name the male lead on these jingles?


December 4, 2013
by johnco
Comments Off on A Tale Of One City

A Tale Of One City

This is a revised version of  an article published in the excellent e-radio on 4th December. That article started out at 900-odd words and i was asked for 500-700. This version takes a view slightly more distant view and re-incorporates some of the elements I dropped for space. It also makes a couple of corrections and additions.

The tragedy at the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow will rank as the biggest news stories of the year – especially in Scotland, where the bar is one of the most famous in the city. It was also a game changer in how the news was covered.

At Clyde, Content Controller Davey Walker spotted early tweets shortly after the police helicopter crashed into the roof of the busy pub. Real Radio Scotland’s Paul Harper initially thought the social media flurry was one of those ‘twitter rumours’, but he lives nearby and could tell something was going on.

While Walker was talking to Brian Paige (Clyde’s Content Director), Harper went down to the scene, arriving shortly after the initial rush of activity. “Amazingly, my iPhone was fully charged – on a Friday night – so I grabbed some interviews to send over to news, who I knew had been scrambled.”

Walker and Paige almost immediately agreed that Clyde 1 and Clyde 2 would both come off the network and ‘In Demand: Scotland’ presenter Romeo was doing a separate programme to the network by 1120pm. “I think he really captured the spirit of the city” said Paige, with 2 news reporters in the studio, phone reports from the scene and social media to paint the picture. It was a raw, in the early stages faltering broadcast. But it caught the emotion of the moment.

The rest of Bauer’s Scottish network programmes carried additional news bulletins and continued something resembling their normal form, but in Glasgow it was different.

Meanwhile presenter Paul Harper and Programme Controller David Treasurer sat and crafted a new music log and discussed what the most appropriate tone would be. The call was made to only use calls and social media where it actually added to listeners’ understanding of the story. Paul anchored from before midnight as Real Scotland left the network and began rolling coverage. Having been at the scene, there was a different feeling to the broadcast, with the audio he captured at the scene and input from the reporters who, by now were filing from the city centre.

Like the other Scottish stations, news at Real was extended with the Bailieston team feeding overnight bulletins to the network in addition to providing live material for the station itself every 20 minutes.

Meanwhile a mile from the Clutha Bar at the BBCs Pacific Quay HQ, Radio Scotland resolutely stuck to it’s schedule of pre-recorded content within a music show. The live bulletin at midnight had some information, but the pre-rec continued until the station joined 5 live’s excellent coverage. The presenter was there with a built show and nothing to do other than play out the scheduled interview, play a toned-down running order and trail the next bulletin. This continues a trend for the station where despite having reporters in the field, they have serviced other outlets and failed to go live locally.

This certainly raised eyebrows, both inside and outside PQ, where programme teams felt ready to go to air long before their 1am join to Salford with the material they had available to them. Sources close to to the station lamented the lack of live coverage or even signposts to the coverage on Radio 5 live. After the relay of 5, they returned to cosy and jolly local programming that didn’t reference the crash until the schedule permitted local production.

The first long-form locally produced content on Radio Scotland was a very thorough Good Morning Scotland at 8am and for the remainder of the day the style and tone of the network changed and various news specials were aired. A police press conference also was given precedence over football commentary. Having come late to the party, the station really had depth and breadth in it’s coverage.

The tone of Knoxy’s Radio Clyde programme, which started in Glasgow at 4am captured the mood of many – “It’s four o’clock on a Saturday morning and like you, I’m trying to come to terms with what’s just happened”.

Capital Scotland were faced with a difficult situation. A heavily networked brand and short bulletins were never going to work in the crucial overnight and small hours. PC Stuart Barrie and Head of News did an excellent job of tweaking their music and running extended local bulletins. The bolstering of their local operation in subsequent days by reporters from elsewhere in the Global family added to the breadth and depth of their coverage which maintained the tight, immediate style they have become known for. A special note that like others, Capital also used social media to get the info out there with numerous tweets and  boos of bulletins and interviews.

At Real, David Treasurer was really proud of the stations work on a difficult night. “I’m very proud of the news and programming teams effort, professionalism, and sensitivity through what has been a tragic story to report on”.

In Clydebank, where Scotland’s first commercial station is weeks away from its 40th birthday celebrations, Brian Paige summed up his feelings, “I’m really proud of our team. We really captured the pulse of the city.”.

So did the city’s radio stations.