I want to return…

…to thinking about what is ‘radio’. I still stand by my view that it’s the microphone which defines and determines the very essence of what radio is.

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Without it, there’s no way our voices can be captured, recorded, processed and transmitted for the listener and the audience to enjoy.

In that same blog post I wrangled with the question of whether or not a podcast can be included in the very idea of ‘radio’. As a keen reader you’ll’ve noticed that I carefully avoided coming to my own conclusion on this point.

Quite so. Because one recently emerging trend is for short-form talk radio shows to brand themselves as ‘podcasts’. These can be pop-up shows with limited runs, one-offs, or even pilots designed to ease new ideas into the schedules. There’s plenty of examples that’ve emerged on BBC 5 live during the night in recent times. The simple idea is that they fill the schedules during the early hours, and then pick up a fresh audience through the various podcasting subscription services – for listeners commuting by train, bus or car to hear in their own time. It’s a clever branding exercise and it kills two birds with one stone: reaching conventional listeners as well as web/mobile audiences..

Some examples of the wide range of topics and shows available via BBC 5 live:

Newscast (previously known as Brexitcast)
Fit & Fearless (women’s health)
You, Me & the Big C (women and cancer)
Tailenders (cricket)
Under the Weather (meteorology)
The BBC MMA Show (mixed martial arts)
5 live Boxing with Costello & Bunce

Each one of these is a new show, varying in duration from anything between 20 and 59 minutes long. And the topics keep changing on a regular basis. For a current list of BBC 5 live podcasts, click this link.

In my opinion, this is a clever use of the word ‘podcast’ to help engage specialist shows with their intended audiences. And it works. On a more prosaic level, the BBC has for a number of years offered its mainstream strands as subscription podcasts. One of my favourites is In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4.


The live version is at 0900hrs on a Thursday morning (during university term time – of course). The edited repeat airs at 2130hrs that same evening, but the full version is quickly available as a podcast on my ‘phone via my subscription. For the complete archive of over 800 editions follow this link.

I recall a stand-up comedian once joking that they’d had a nightmare, and had woken up in the In Our Time studio – with Melvyn Bragg asking them a question about which they knew absolutely nothing. That’s a definition if ‘being scared’ that makes me chuckle.

Elsewhere, one of my favourite podcasts is from the USA, from 2013, about the art of creating a running order for a major current-affairs talk show on National Public Radio. The radio geek in me likes the detail and scrutiny of the workings – and the stress – of a running order. I can see that others share my angst about hitting the next junction cleanly…

In England, a group of academics and radio trainers has just started a podcast about making radio. And James Cridland, a radio producer from England now settled in Australia, has a daily briefing on the world of podcasting which you may find interesting.

I’m still not convinced that this universe of audio is ‘radio’. I think I’m old-fashioned and curmudgeonly enough to insist on live broadcasting (or pre-recorded programmes scheduled for transmission by a radio station for my listening enjoyment). But having said that, this world of on-demand is a fascinating area to delve into.

2 thoughts on “I want to return…

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