James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: India tells mobile phone manufacturers to put FM tuners in; and the ‘live item tag’

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.

(Above: Mumbai, India, when I last visited in 2010)

(Above: Mumbai, India, when I last visited in 2010)

The Indian government has mandated that mobile phones include FM tuners. They’re asking manufacturers not to disable an existing FM radio feature; and also asking if FM radio can be added to phones if it’s not already there. It’s just an advisory, though, so has no legal weight; The Register notes that it says “mobile phones” not “smart phones” (about 20% of the country still uses feature phones), and says that you can buy a phone with a year’s free calls for ₹1499 – about $18.30. Probably not worth holding your breath that Apple will add an FM radio tuner in iPhone any time soon.

Something interesting is happening in podcasting – and it involves radio.

First, Spotify has been promoting “broadcast to podcast”, a new feature now offered by Megaphone that turns radio shows into podcasts at the press of a few buttons (or even automatically). Not to be out-done, Triton Digital’s Omny Studio has been reminding people that they’ve offered that feature forever, too. You can hear interviews with Spotify and Omny Studio in this week’s Podnews Weekly Review – the chat starts at 17’45”.

But also, other clever people have been working on something called “the LiveItem Tag”, a new extension to the RSS feed.

So here’s how it works if you’re a listener: you subscribe to your favourite radio show’s podcast in your podcast player. You get the podcasts as you normally would; but because this podcast also uses the LiveItem tag, your app is able to notify you when the show is going live on the radio. The app can play the stream directly, letting you tune in and listen; or can even be set to open your radio app instead if you want it to.

The LiveItem tag contains a time that the show should go live – but it also realises that not every show starts on a clock-start, so it includes triggering to signal when the show really goes live, so if you’re ten minutes late for some reason, that’s fine.

Currently, the LiveItem tag is supported by PodversePodcastAddict, and CurioCaster; but it’s relatively simple to add, and other podcast apps are beginning to add it.

There are a few shows that are “LIT and Live”, most notably Podcasting 2.0 ▸ (Friday evenings, UK time) and New Media Show ▸, which I think airs Wednesday afternoons, US time. No Agenda ▸ also uses it.

Since it can be added to any podcast feed without breaking anything, it might be worth looking into – a notification to listen seems a good thing for radio!

BBC News PR, based in London, seemed delighted at the recent silver placing of BBC Radio 4’s Today Show, based in London.

After quite a few BBC types queried whether the Gold from news station BBC Radio 5 Live was, surely, rather more worthy of congratulation, the team tweeted:

And of course congratulations to 5 Live! We don’t officially ‘PR’ them from this account so the tweet below isn’t a snub or an omission, but of course we’re proud of all the BBC family!

…and then promptly deleted both tweets (against BBC Editorial Policy, which states that ‘content on our social channels is still part of the BBC archive’, incidentally).

The back of the BBC ID card still says something about “one BBC”, but as ever the internal fiefdoms drive nonsense like this. Or – is it because BBC Radio 5 Live is in Salford?

BBC Local Radio’s changes seem horrible to watch from overseas.

David Lloyd wrote about the funeral for BBC Local Radio, calling it “little short of scandalous”. He listens to a poor interview as a senior manager tries to defend the cuts on the runner-up-award-winning BBC Radio 4 Today; and another on Feedback. He looks into how the BBC can execute its new local radio plan; and wonders – rightly – where Ofcom is with all of this. And he looks at the poor online offerings currently being presented as an alternative.

It seems the incompetence isn’t just in the plans: but in the awful, dreadful execution by the BBC’s HR teams and by management.

A side note: I should probably declare an interest here: I was the subject of constructive dismissal at the BBC in 2009 – bullied and obstructed while doing my job, set up to fail, and forced into resigning from a corporation I was initially so proud to work for. After finding some, my lawyers threatened the BBC with legal action, and rather than me taking them to court, the BBC settled for a decent financial sum, along with a gagging order that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about their awful HR department. It’s now fourteen years later, so I don’t suppose anyone there will care if I now willingly break the terms of that agreement in this paragraph. I’ve never worked for any company with a worse disregard for their people than the BBC; and it left me in a pretty poor state for some years.

With the above in mind – Nicky Horne has been collating some examples of the BBC’s awful way of treating their people in BBC Local Radio, likening it to “Hunger Games” treatment. Some examples:

Some staff at one station have been told, “When we said last week that all journalists now not at risk, sorry that was a mistake and you’re still at risk at this station”. Incompetence meets cruelty. source

I’m told by successful presenters in BBC LR that even if you’re successful your show will be under “constant review” and you could be moved off it at any point. So presenters will go on air daily in constant fear for their job. source

The BBC CareersHub website was shut in mid-April. “They’re shutting down the BBC careers site and deleting our profiles while we’re all looking for new work! You could not make this up!” source

“We were given 60 seconds to save our career and had to treat it like a speed date. We were timed with the stop watch but not shown the clock. It all felt so degrading, I was timed as 2 seconds out. It’s honestly been worst 6 months of my career” source

“I used to work in ILR (GWR, Capital, GCAP) and have never known a situation that’s been so badly handled by so many supposedly experienced managers who’ve managed to demonstrate a complete lack of management skill” source

“I’ve given my working life to BBC and always felt valued.But in a 10 min Zoom I’ve been made to feel completely worthless and irrelevant.I was called a short time before I was on air and was expected to continue as normal.I was in pieces” source

A senior manager said to one old hand “We’ll let you know after Easter if you still have a job, so you have a week to find Jesus” and then laughed. source

There are plenty more. Rejection letters from BBC HR haven’t even bothered to complete the contact details. Follow Nicky for more.

The announcements of great people leaving are all over the BBC – Anna King, after 37 yearsJonathan Cowap, after 34 yearsDavid Burns, after more than 20 years, almost the entire BBC Radio Bristol line-up. David Fitzgerald at BBC Radio Devon, who was told he was being made redundant, then told to go on-air as if nothing had happened, suffered a heart issue. Carl Wheatley blogged about what he’s heard at his former local stationPrivate Eye has written about it. Meanwhile BBC Local Radio journalists are to go on strike again.

There is no good way to achieve this number of cuts: but this is no way for any employer to behave. Shame.

James Cridland