James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Ken Bruce hits the air and Bauer hits its stride

James Cridland, radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

4ZZZ, the community radio station in Brisbane, always confused me by not having any RDS signal – so there was no branding on a car radio. When audience figures are put together using diaries, RDS encoding is a quick and obvious way of reminding people what the station name is, so they can fill it in.

I offered an RDS encoder to their station manager; then their successor; then their successor. Finally, one was interested: they got it costed in December, and installed by March. I gather, if you have RadioText, it gives all kinds of information on the screen; but I don’t (my one and only RDS radio receiver returned to the UK).

In any case, I’m delighted to have made a permanent change to the Brisbane FM airwaves. Look!

In the UK, Ken Bruce (background here) started on Greatest Hits Radio this morning. Listening to the first half-hour, it was an impressive listen, though odd that Ken didn’t mention the station name once in any of his links! I would imagine that’ll change tomorrow.

BBC Breakfast on TV made the rather odd editorial choice to interview him live from his new studio, so he could get a plug in for his new home, after exiting BBC Radio 2 a few weeks ago. God bless the BBC. I bet Radio 2 are delighted.

Ken’s appearance has been marked with a very good TV ad for the station which is worth a look: featuring other stars from the station, though not breakfast (because some parts of the UK get a different breakfast show). It’s a really good, clear ad.

The day before, lots of good luck messages from the station; and this was nice, too – a welcome in Golden Square from the Bauer staff. (The only thing I’d have done is to have removed the rather obvious route to the on-air studio for security reasons; though perhaps I know the building too well).

Cleverly, they’re using his appearance as a way to flog “radio without ad-breaks like at the old place” – the ad-free premium service, free for the first 90 days.

GHR has also replaced a number of other stations today, too, for maximum effect – Lincs FM’s FM transmitters, plus CFM and Radio Borders.

Bauer has clearly taken a step forward with this launch – not a foot wrong, and every opportunity taken to gain from it. Bravo to them.

  • It was splendid to be at Radiodays Europe earlier this month. Excellent to see so many friends, and to have raised a glass to Paul Easton on the occasion of his funeral. At the event was Roger Lanctot, who wrote this piece on Xperi’s announcement at the show – exciting times for in-car data.
  • In a bewilderingly sudden move, national newstalk station Today FM in New Zealand was pulled off air. The station is run by MediaWorks; its competitor is NZME’s Newstalk ZB, which is the dominant station.
  • In Australia, the ABC is beginning to take action on its ratings slump. Last survey, ABC Melbourne slumped to its worst-ever figures; but it’s also worth pointing out drops for AM stations 4BC, 2GB, FiveAA and 6PR. While I personally believe both ABC Local Radio and ABC Radio National need severe, root-and-branch, changes to improve their programming, I’d also suggest that the AM band is part of the issue. I gather it’s illegal to simulcast the same output on both AM and FM in this country – perhaps that’s a law that needs quick, fast change.
  • Talking of the demise of AM, Long Wave 252 is to be turned off this month in Ireland. Another AM service bites the dust.
  • Meanwhile, here’s an astonishing graph showing UK newspaper consumption since 2000.
  • Bauer Media also announced Rayo, their forthcoming radio and audio app (their answer to the Global Player and BBC Sounds). The press release seems a masterclass in how to say nothing at all.
  • BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live now comes from Cardiff. This video, emblazoned with “LIVE FROM CARDIFF”, is the rehearsal, not the actual live broadcast. The presenters are Nikki Bedi (who lives in London), Peter Curran (who lives in London); and the producer is Ben Mitchell (who lives in London). The Great Western Railway must be delighted. I’m sure it all makes sense to someone.

And some good BBC news – from today, the BBC’s daily Korean service will come from a studio in Seoul, rather than London. It’s aired at 1530-1830 GMT (0030-0330 Korean time) on three SW frequencies. It goes out in the middle of the night as that is thought to be safest time for North Koreans to tune in. (says Chris Greenway)

  • Finally, Emmis Communications’s Jeff Smulyan wrote a book during the pandemic, it turns out. Never Ride a Rollercoaster Upside Down is rather a good read; especially for his withering attitude towards Bob Pittman. Below, his closing thoughts on podcasting. Not sure I agree, but always interesting (and when I met him he was very nice).

James Cridland