Saturday, 18 March 2017

Laser Radio Programming

  Laser's programming secrets revealed     in new book

After my book late last year about the Communicator, I was asked dozens of questions about the sophisticated programming techniques used by Laser, and how they helped win up to 10 MILLION listeners for the station.   The Radio Adventures of the MV Communicator book was ideal for techies who wanted to know about the ship, aerials and transmitters, but was a bit thin on programme content.

This new book, Laser Radio Programming, answers all those questions, and more!  It discusses the station's format, the style of delivery, the Hot Clocks, and many other programming techniques that have remained secrets - and still seem to be unknown by a lot of programmers in British radio.  

I've taken the debate into the situation post Laser and looked at WHO used the Laser name since the 1980s, and why.   As an appendix I included a reprint of the Laser 558 Operations Manual, which has much valuable information that was the standard template issued to the station's team.  It gives a valuable insight into Laser's output and to radio programming in general.

Offshore Radio today

The book also looks at offshore radio today -  the ongoing Radio Caroline and its quest to be more widely heard (its currently online and has an application for a community radio licence in East Anglia)  and the Radio Seagull operation in the Netherlands.

Both Radio Seagull and Radio Caroline are discussed and referenced in Laser Radio Programming,  along with the Radio Day Offshore Radio Festival in May which is being held in Harlingen. Attendees will be able to take a trip across the harbour aand climb on board Radio Seagull's lightship, the Jenni Baynton, and see programmes going out live. A unique experience!

The book also examines the formats used by offshore stations in the 1960s, especially Swinging Radio England, which is the closes thing to a grandfather that Laser had.  I also look at what the radio landscape was in the UK before Laser launched in 1984, particularly the draconian needle time restrictions, that were one of the reasons Laser was such a resounding success. Well, it was a success as far as audience ratings went - on the financial front, Laser was an unmitigated disaster for its poor backer who was routinely fleeced, cheated and lied to.

UK Radio Programming today

A few weeks ago, an ILR manager issued a memno to his on-air staff basically saying "don't say anything on the air unless cleared with your PD". A ridiculous situation. Other comments in the memo are simply the 'first grade' instructions that Americans give to kids in their school radio stations when they first enter the business.  I espouse that it shows how primitive British radio techniques still are and discuss UK radio programming  further.

The recent axing of overnight DJs at most station, even at BBC Radio 2,  is a disater for radio. Those overnight shifts were a valuable training ground for radio talent. The move to eliminate such opportunities might not be suicideal for radio, but is certainly some vicious "self harming" and I really do worry about the future of radio.

Ive also included comments from veteran Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg DJ Tony Prince about the subject.  This is something that everyone with an interest in the medium should concern themselves with.

The Book

The book, Laser Radio Programming is available from World of Radio now. It's a softback book of 181 pages at just £15.95 (includes postage to the UK, to the rest of the world it's £19.95).  I believe the book is bound to become another 'collectors' item', so don't delay in ordering it!  Orders taken by Paypal, so you can use a card and the books ARE in stock, so your order will be dispatched immediately

You can also order the previous book about Laser, Radio Adventures of the MV Communicator, which tells about the ship, its equipmenmt and all the 11 radio stations that broadcast from her over a 21 year carrer as a radio ship. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Stevie Wonder battles for radio's future

Stevie Wonder battles for the future of radio

Legendary Motown musician Stevie Wonder has joined the battle for the future of radio. He's written a lengthy article about how the current trend towards ever more copyright bodies is stifling radio and may lead to its demise. The move will certainly drive many smaller stations out of business, leaving only the big boys on the bands - the major conglomerates.

Stevie makes several impassioned pleas in his article (you can read it all by clicking here), and stands up firmly on the sign of broadcasters.  He owns his own station in Los Angeleses, called KJLH Stevie says it stands for Kindness, Joy, Love and Harmony and he insists that the DJs have a free hand in the music they play. The station even includes the name FREE in its title.  Stevie bought the station over forty years ago, in the early 1970s. KVLH has long been one of the leading black music stations in California and is now the oldest African-American owned station on the west coast.

"Radio give us not only music and entertainment and direct into our homes, but news, war and religion, " says Stevie.  "It has helped shape the psyche of our country in difficult times and it has served to reassure us that we were not alone at times we thought we were. And while radio has seemingly been eclipsed through the years by other forms of mass communication, radio remains that constant that we rely on to always be there to deliver what we need."

The first thing most people think about when they think about radio is hearing their favorite song," Stevie reminds us. "Or they will be tuning in to listen to their favorite radio personality, because to this day DJs are often just as big a star as those on the records they spin (an out-of-date metaphor, I know, but you get the point).

"The first thing most people think about when they think about radio is hearing their favorite song," Stevie reminds us. "Or they will be tuning in to listen to their favorite radio personality, because to this day DJs are often just as big a star as those on the records they spin (an out-of-date metaphor, I know, but you get the point)."

"Mo matter how much current artists embrace new technology and platforms to spread their music, if you ask any one of them, they will still tell you that their biggest kick came from hearing their song on the radio for the first time, " says Stevie in the article

One of Stevie's best friends will tell you exactly the same. Paul McCartney (his and Stevie's duet Ebony and Ivory was #1 around the world in late 1983) reports that the first time he and the other three Beatles heard their music on the radio was in the group's van travelling home from a gig in 1962. They herd it on Radio Luxembourg; DJ Tony Prince has the actual copy played  and now signed by Paul McCartney its worth over £10,000. 

"All across the country there are still independent station owners maintaining a strong and vital link to their communities in the form of being not just a source of entertainment but also the eyes, ears and voice of their listeners. They are small-business men and women trying to be of service to their local markets while also dealing with the obstacles of running a radio station. I know these people very well, because I am one of them. I have owned my radio station KJLH in Los Angeles for almost 40 years," says Stevie, whose music continues to be among the most downloaded on iTunes. KJLH programmes all kinds of black-oriented music, but primailly jazz and urban contemporary. 

  "We strive very hard to be a meaningful member of our community and offer things that the large or nationwide programmers can’t. We are a home to our listeners, a place they find comfort and refuge from the mass market. All that is threatened if we cant stay in business. As a songwriter and recording artist, I grew up at a time when there were only two performing rights organizations in the United States, ASCAP and BMI. In virtually every other country in the world there is only one society. Then came a third, SESAC. And now we have a fourth: GMR. We  independent station owners are facing higher costs to play the music our audience wants to hear.  We have chaos, uncertainty and uinfairness!"

Let us all find a way to create a better system that takes away the need for any of us to be unhappy. 
Let us work together to get this thing right.