Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And another thing.....

Busy, busy week - but just time to collate a few random thoughts as no fewer than six men peer down a hole in the pavement outside my house!

I'm stuck here this morning - not least because I can't get my car past two transit vans - and am fascinated by the 'great British workman' in action.

We've had drainage problems since December, and finally, the gang turned up to replace a broken pipe on Monday. They arrived at 8.15, told us they'd arrived, and proceded to sit in their van for an hour before even unpacking their gear. I was trying to work from here, but as they dug into the road, our broadband dropped out, the building alarm went off and then all the power died. I was due in Southampton in the afternoon, so I just headed off a couple of hours early. When I got back at about 10pm, there was a hole in the road with all the lights, safety fencing and other paraphanelia one would expect. Yesterday just two workers turned up. Nothing happened with the hole in the road. They sat in their van for most of the morning - apart from breaking off to wash one 'worker's' car which was parked in the road opposite. I was out for the afternoon, but when I got back the hole seemed peaceful; undisturbed by a day of inaction.

They were back at 7am this morning. I looked out bleary-eyed to see the van parked up over the road and two workers happily reading the paper. To be fair, they got cracking just before 8.30am and there's all sorts of banging, crashing and the sounds of machinery going on out there now. I'd love to know how they charge for their time - so far they've been in attendance for about 18 hours, and I'd say they've actually physically worked on the job for a third of that. Madness.

Anyway, part of the visit to Southampton was the chance to discuss BBC local radio music policy. Now I'm a fan of local radio - when it's good it's excellent at uniting local communities; providing a level of local interest journalism that the nationals can't rival and a style of programming that's at a completely different pace from the relentlessness of national broadcasting. But while stations such as BBC Radio 2 have reinvented their music policy and new options such as 6 Music have emerged, BBC local radio has kept its music choices safe, warm and fuzzy, paddling in the shallows of the safe 70s to the soft end of 90s rock. It's bland, boring and too often cheesey. So, it was good to hear from a BBC local radio station's editor how the music is chosen. In short, a playlist of around 600 tunes is tested on focus groups fitting the demographic ther stations are aiming at. What happens in practice is that this list is fed to a bunch of 50-something critical friends of the BBC. Those melodies that appeal form part of a package sent to all stations. But presenters don't then select individual tunes, they select time slots and genre (upbeat, ballad, or whatever) and the computer does the rest. The result? Bland, personality-free music choices - and frankly, lazy radio. At a time when local radio is losing listeners, and those it's keeping are getting older and older, this doesn't bode well. Fewer and fewer of the next generation will be bitten by the local radio bug.

But what will we be listening to in the future? possibly not DAB. GCap's decision to close the Jazz and Planet Rock and move out of DAB further weakens the platform. And though the BBC has announced it has no plans to ditch DAB, there has to be a danger that it becomes the Betamax of the radio industry. OneWord, Storm and a number of other DAB pioneers have recently disappeared and commercial FM stations have been slow to take up DAB multiplex slots. GCap clearly see FM and the internet as the ways forward......which is a bit of a pain if, like me, you have four DAB radios in the house!

Anyway, performance management, pandemic flu, hange management and Khrushchev are all a-calling, so I'd better crack on.

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