Behind the scenes…

…I always enjoy watching a radio show go out.
It’s the mix of technology: headphones, microphones (yes – those things again), mixing desks, computer monitor screens, and chairs with little wheels on the bottom of the legs.
Seriously. Never try to broadcast on a dining room chair. It just doesn’t work.
You need to dissipate your nervous energy as you talk by shuffling your chair at the same time.
I’ve worked in enough studios to tell you that the carpet is always threadbare behind the desk in the DJ/presenter’s position.
In one studio I’ve used, the station boss put strong perspex down to try and protect the carpet.

Chair 01

Some hope: the chair had a tendency to slide off the perspex and rest on the edge, wheels dug into the carpet.
“That’ll soon wear a grove”, I thought to myself, as I shuffled the chair and said my next link on-air into the mic.
Just watch this great video for evidence to support my assertion:

(May need to try another device if this doesn’t open…)

Tulip Mazumdar is the Radio 1 Newsbeat presenter in this clip from 2010.
On right, in the check shirt, is Derek Knight, one of the Newsbeat technical studio broadcast assistants, working the controls.
On his right, in the left of the picture and partly obscured by the technicals, is the show’s duty producer.

And while we’re on the subject of BBC Radio 1, take a look at these two links to see how the station portrays the breakfast jocks to the listeners; and how the behind-the-scenes business of broadcasting is both glamourised and made mundane/everyday at the same time.
First, Greg James, and then Grimmy‘s stint on the Radio 1 breakfast show.

That’s the delight of radio: that it is, as Paddy Scannell (1996) says, both constructed and temporal. Radio’s fundamental quality is its dailyness.


It’s the joy of knowing your favourite DJ is always there for you.
When a station changes it’s presenter line-up, and makes changes (eg. Grimmy for James) the listener can be disoriented.
And it’s being able to identify with that voice. If you’ve followed Tony Blackburn‘s career then you’ll love chapter 6 of Scannell’s book (1996, pp. 117-143) which dissects Blackburn’s BBC Radio London show of the late 1980s.
It’s both a delight, and an academic-sociological overload of deep references. You can hear Blackburn in every quote. Great stuff.
But radio is, as Scannell observes, also about reporting events, being authentic, being sincere, and being intentional – so that speech and conversations may sound as if they just happen, but in fact it’s all been (hopefully) carefully planned and produced before transmission.

So that in the event, the threadbare carpet, the shouted instructions over the talkback, and the preparation and production all fade into the background as the transmission begins and the mics go live.

2 thoughts on “Behind the scenes…

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