The last year has been a stellar one for commercial and community radio in the UK. The level of innovation has shot through the roof and broadcasters unseated by changes at heritage stations have decided to spend less time being annoyed and more innovating and reinventing.
My friend Nails Mahoney pointed out the other day that it’s healthy to be fed up when your gig vaporises, but if you decide to get back into the game then know that they won’t come to you. The 2020s have seen some leaps and strides that tell me radio is going great guns.
The consolidated larger stations are getting their act together. Bauer’s recent moves to build out Greatest Hits in particular will pay dividends when we start measuring audiences again.
Two national launches have really stood out for me. I had high hopes for Times Radio – and it’s exceeded them. A very strong lineup and a station that’s constantly interesting. I wish their early breakfast started at 4am because Calum McDonald is just so good. Every time I listen to it I end up wondering when BBC 5 Live lost its way. One issue for me with them is the number of technical errors in their overnight when highlights don’t fit their slots and audio gets chopped off. Outstanding work though and if it’s working financially I’m delighted.
The station that’s blown me away though, is Boom Radio. Designed for over 60s and operated on a tight budget, it has replaced Radio 2 in my listening – I’ll tell you why later. It’s not the on-air team that attract me as many of them were never available on my radio in Scotland back in the day so they’re new to me. They’re certainly talented and experienced. No, it’s the music that does it for me.
With Radio 2 moving younger it makes too many excursions into tunes I just don’t get. I’m 58, I get that, but it’s pushing younger and nudging me towards the door.
Boom on the other hand shares much of the same canon but its excursions mean a deeper dive into 60s and 70s hits that don’t get played as much (if at all) elsewhere. To me that makes for an overall listen that surprises and delights, and one I’m listening to more and more.
Add to those successes the plucky online stations that are popping up all over the country. They vary in size and sound but one thing pours out of the smart speaker – passion. These presenters come from many backgrounds and their music selections come from all manner of places, but their offerings matter and some of the innovations will change British Radio going forward.
We now have the virtual radio dial I dreamed of as a boy. Signals from all over the world and the ability to pick and choose like never before. As a broadcaster I have more opportunities than ever before (always looking for more ;-))
We really never have had it so good.