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Wading Through The Talent Puddle

There’s a lot of talk around the radio about where the next generation of talent is coming from in radio. This normally boils down into “where are the next radio DJs coming from”? Moments later we hear names of fresh young talents who present like experts and can really engage their audiences beginning to break through.

Many stations let a lot of talent go in past years, but it was generally talent behind the mic. This led to a real line being drawn between the sides of the mic, with few Programme Controller/ Directors taking an airshift. Meanwhile, the remaining presenters have been insulated from many of the station’s operations, “freeing them up” to concentrate on”their gig”.

This sounds like an excellent situation, with enormously talented people seeing commercial radio into its new era, with a broader mix of national brands and a new mix of genuinely local services. All these stations will be better targeted and the talented programmers will deliver better, more relevant content for their listeners.

But a niggling worry of mine was thrown into sharp relief when I was having a quick chat with a prominent Programme Director the other day. “Yes, there’s a talent pipeline”, they said. “But there’s nobody ready to be the next Programme Controller out there.”

It’s obvious. With the cuts in staffing on the programme-making side of the business, the talented programmers who listen all the time, craft creative ideas and generally manage the team have less of a pool in which to train their new talent. That’s as true of presenters as it is of production people who learn the delicate mix of geekiness and creativity that kick starts a career in station management.

Certainly some of the big IR stations have full-time producers, but the route where presenters can learn their craft and move up the food chain needs to be better signposted. In some stations, the manager has effectively pulled up the ladder and rules by email. In others, a presenter picks up the flack. In some, we have an old-fashioned PD who does all the things that the accountants demand of them while developing talent.

But where does the next generation learn more than tech skills and how to crunch’n’roll?

I have a feeling this has to be more than a station/ group initiative. Somebody, perhaps the UK’s Radio Academy, has to take a lead in training people in employment law, compliance and understanding audience metrice. But they have to do this in a way that encourages free thinking and creativity – not fear for their job.

And they have to do it imminently.

Those of us who understand radio and know how to teach it independently of ‘the company’ are only too willing to help.

Author: johnco

Born in 1963, been involved in radio since 1977.

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