Media: Double Standards - 'Hippier Radio is a stupid name for a radio format'

Two commercial radio programme directors agree on everything from the BBC to digital opportunities to the quality of UK stations.

RICHARD PARK - PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, MAGIC 105.4

- Which programme or station has developed the most impressive format?

I would have to say Magic 105.4. Plenty of quality, adult-oriented music and intelligent, unobtrusive presentation.

- What do you think of Capital's "never more than two ads in a row" strategy?

It had to try something to interest its diminishing audience but, as a commercial organisation, it doesn't send out a great message. A great radio station is about so much more than just how many ads in a row it plays.

- What effect has consolidation in the industry had on the quality of programming?

It is important to ensure that there are senior programmers around to coach the next generation - groups that don't invest in programming and training will suffer.

- How fair is Rajar as a measurement system?

It is always fair when my stations get respectable results. Totally unfair when it dishes up anything else.

- What inspires your best creative ideas?

Conversations with my two youngest children, Jonathan and Jack. They have tomorrow figured out! So do the team at Magic.

- What's the quality of commercial radio like in the UK compared with overseas markets?

Our best commercial stations stand comparison with any around the globe. On a local level, more attention could be given to formats. London does not currently have a contemporary hit radio station or an FM station to reflect our fab musical heritage from the past 40 years!

- Which radio show have you had the most fun creating?

Radio Clyde score-board ... The Pepsi Chart Show, which lasted a decade ... Westwood Rap Show ... Mellow Magic ... several breakfast shows too.

- Has the arrival of digital radio opened up new programming opportunities?

With more internet listening, innovations such as podcasting, and opportunities for more mobile listening, the time is right for format reviews and greater creativity around exploiting new opportunities.

- Does the BBC have all the best on-air talent?

Certainly not. It has the biggest selection of nationally recognised broadcasters, but that doesn't make them the best. Up and down the country, there are skilled artisans who dominate their areas. (Les Ross in Brum, Justin Moorhouse in Manchester, Angie Greaves in London.) - Does the BBC's licence fee funding give it an unfair advantage against its commercial competitors and are its DJs paid too much?

The BBC has a massive advantage. With its licence fee cash, it can buy everything that moves in the musical world. Commercial radio is not competing as strongly as in the 80s and 90s, and this has been partly brought about by BBC cross- promotion. The broadcasters' salaries need a review against the backdrop of non-commercial organisations.

- What attracted you to radio and how did you come to work in the industry?

The immediacy of the medium. Decisions taken can be on-air in moments.

- Who are your top three presenters and why?

The king of breakfast Chris Tarrant, the remarkable Alan Freeman and, of course, Neil Fox.

MARK BROWNING - PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, HEART 106.2

- Which programme or station has developed the most impressive format?

Right now, UK radio is playing it too safe. The Jack format in the US is brave and is rating well and there's a new oldies format called Hippier Radio, which is a neat repackage of what we know in the UK as the Gold format. Trouble is, it's a stupid name.

- What do you think of Capital's "never more than two ads in a row" strategy?

Explain this: Heart, Magic and Capital have been running roughly the same number of ads for the past three years. Heart and Magic have grown, Capital has declined. Doesn't sound like an ad problem to me.

- What effect has consolidation in the industry had on the quality of programming?

It's made it harder to stand out, which has meant you have had to be even better to simply remain where you are. It's now a battle, link by link and song by song. In some stations, this has meant the quality has improved.

- How fair is Rajar as a measurement system?

Very fair when Heart is number one. It's our currency, and until something much more robust comes along, we should just get on with it.

- What inspires your best creative ideas?

Not a what - more a who. Actually, a beer and a who. In fact, a few beers and a few whos! Ideas flow with the right company. And we do get through a lot of beer at Heart.

- What's the quality of commercial radio like in the UK compared with overseas markets?

The quality of UK commercial radio is much stronger than overseas and if we can keep the listener and programme content, the priority things will get better. Just listen to stations in Los Angeles, Sydney, Berlin and Stockholm. London beats the lot in the quality stakes.

- Which radio show have you had the most fun creating?

The Jamie Theakston Breakfast Show, and it's great he was nominated for a Sony award, as it's been a lot of fun.

- Has the arrival of digital radio opened up new programming opportunities?

Digital now accounts for more than 10 per cent of all listening. This is fantastic for programmers, as there is scope for us to provide highly targeted content and create clearly identifiable formats.

- Does the BBC have all the best on-air talent?

No. They have some of the best. And they have some pretty awful presenters too. Just watch BBC London or listen to some of the local stations. And many of the current BBC stock came from commercial radio. Which brings us neatly on to the issue of DJ pay!

- Does the BBC's licence fee funding give it an unfair advantage against its commercial competitors and are its DJs paid too much?

Its DJs are certainly paid more, but commercial radio has some great talent. Look at this year's Sony nominees: Jamie Theakston (Heart 106.2), Nick Ferrari (LBC 97.3), Toolan in the Morning (Key 103), and Wes at Breakfast (Galaxy Manchester). I wish commercial radio would stop whingeing about the BBC and get on with what we are better at than the Beeb, 'cos there is plenty!

- What attracted you to radio and how did you come to work in the industry?

I blagged it, to be honest, via a roundabout route from news to breakfast jocking to management.

- Who are your top three presenters and why?

Brian Johnston was a radio hero of mine on Test Match Special. He had an innate ability to communicate intimately to millions of people at the same time. Zane Lowe sounds bright and fresh on Radio 1 and Iain Lee on LBC has a wonderful ability to throw the rule book out the window and make it work.

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