NYF Open Mic: Radio on Radio with Peter Cernik

NYF’s Radio on Radio features New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards Grand Jury’s insights and observations on the transformation taking place in the industry today, their opinions on the importance of free speech, their thoughts on creating their dream show and more.

Peter Cernik with his New York Festivals Bronze Trophy for "Both Sides Of Dying"

The 2017 TV & Film Awards Grand Jury is comprised of award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives who are actively involved in creating the innovative radio programs heard on radio today. Who better to share their insider information on the wonderful world of radio than this respected group of prominent industry thought leaders?

This week NYF’s Radio on Radio will explore the evolution taking place in the world of radio with 2017 Grand Jury member, Peter Cernik. Peter is a sought after producer, presenter, voice-over talent. For the past 20 years he’s worked on projects for BBC and BBC Scotland,  UKRD Northeast (Star Radio), and Bauer Media and more. From his early career in entertainment working his way up to manager of Butlan’s Ents Team by the age of 21, to his long time collaboration and freelance work with GMTV, to reporting from the

Broadcasting from the Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle to producing and presenting from Lapland, Peter’s versatility shines. Throughout his career, he’s racked up a trophy shelf full of Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards from award competitions including New York Festivals International Radio Awards, Community Radio Awards, SRA  and Charles Parker Awards.

In the interview below Peter shares his creative insights on the revolution in content creation, the biggest shift in radio that he’s noticed in the past year, his dream project, the importance of freedom of the press and much more.

New York Festivals: How will radio transform in the coming years? What is the biggest shift you’ve noticed this past year?

Producing and Presenting in Lapland

Peter Cernik: This is the question on everybody’s lips and if I had an answer, I know I would be sitting at the top of some corporate radio franchise with a very big smile on my face. Over the last 10 years we have seen a dramatic change in the way radio is presented to its listeners, especially here in the UK. Be it the injection of the added podcast that brings the highlights and extra content to the download communities. To a step back from the disc jockeys, who at one time could interact and connect with its audience. But who now must sell random brands of unknown restaurant chains, within the one-minute allotted talk time. We have seen the boom of Internet radio, bringing to life the way community and hospital radios, connect with its communities, in a way commercial radio now fails to achieve. Then there’s the notorious rise and fall of the prank phone call, which at one time could lift a breakfast show to cult status. CDs were released that would sell in their thousands, with the host churning out more and more radio dribble as the pool of ideas got thinner and thinner. But by far the biggest shift in radio is the interaction that comes from instant online services. First it was MySpace, then Facebook, then it was Twitter and now no radio station worth its salt hasn’t got a social media manager who has the control of five or six different accounts across different platforms. Disc jockeys can create content online with more freedom than they can whilst on air. News teams can break stories within seconds, without even entering the studio. This new weapon within the radio industry’s armour, be it good or bad as dramatically changed the way we interact with our radio listening. It is a proven theory that young people no longer listen to radio, but who receive much of their radio content and information from online services. This can be well seen in the way BBC Radio One has invested so much capital and time into its online content, be it a backstage

Greg James and Taylor Swift

tour or a full on music video production with Greg James and Taylor Swift. The way radio uses social media will only get bigger and bolder as the years progress. We are already at the stage where disc jockeys’ can go live on Facebook, putting a face to a voice which to me has always been the mystery and fun about the whole experience. Some say that radio will be completely in our hands within the near future, we will be able to pick the voice, choose the playlist and create targeted adverts all from the comfort of our air-conditioned cars. Me personally I hope that this is just a phase, as I feel radio is a personal medium that should also be a shared experience. Yes I want the disc jockey to talk to me in my kitchen, to make me feel like a friend down the pub. But I also want to be able to still walk into a room and have that conversation about listening to an amazing radio show with other people, just as many of us do every day with TV broadcasts. Still one thing has always remained the same, as times have changed within the radio industry and that is the human voice. Let’s just hope that technology doesn’t take away the human aspect of this incredible medium.

New York Festivals: Is there a revolution going on today in radio content?

Peter Cernik: It’s hard to say! Yes we have some amazing hitting audio being created across the world, from the likes of ‘This American life’ which boasts a 2.5 million download achievement with each episode. To the BBC’s ‘Short Cuts’ that takes audio off into its own identity. But is there a revolution? In the commercial radio sector I feel no. It’s still all about the adverts, sales, repetitive music playlists which has been around for quite some time here in the UK. As for worldwide radio, I would hate to make any type of bold statements simply down to the lack of listening time. But with the invention of the new Transnational Radio Encounters ‘Radio Garden’ app, which allows a listener to circulate the globe listening to new and exciting radio stations, I hope to be able to give you a better answer in the future. But I do hope more mainstream broadcasters take the time to look at some of the more interesting pieces of radio that are being created across the world with in community, student and hospital broadcasting. Tackling subjects that some broadcasters just shy away from, which I feel they truly miss out on some amazing revolutionary productions.

New York Festivals: What would be your dream show to create, budget no object?

Peter Cernik: There are so many dream shows I would like to create, be it a full-scale drama to a mainstream children’s production. But at the moment I would like to use something quite personal to me to help educate and in a way entertain the listeners. I got into radio from a TV background due to having a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. Over the course of 10 years I had many brain operations and even had to have a rib removed to have my adrenals taken out. This has left me with quite an unusual side effect, I now have no ability to feel fear. This is left me with the fun title of ‘The man with no fear’,

"Fearless" Peter Cernik on a parachute jump

which was given to me by a UK national newspaper. This was then picked up on by the BBC, who then included my story into a science program. For this they had me abseil down a 400 foot tower, while a leading fear scientist studied my body outputs to determine if this was true of false. To everyone’s surprise except me, I showed no signs whatsoever of fear or stress. This brings me onto my dream program if there’s any broadcasters out there willing to take a chance. I want to travel the world hunting down other people with strange illnesses and side effects, trying to live in their shoes and experiencing what they go through on a daily basis. Maybe we could throw in a couple of challenges along the way. I know it needs work, but you did say any show with any budget.

New York Festivals: Will you talk about the importance of freedom of press?

Peter Cernik: Press freedom is a very strange thing, yes in most circumstances freedom of the press should always come first. But there are cases where, quite frankly the press should simply back off. We live in a world of nosy people, who need to know every detail about every star, politician and public figure. Which most of the time doesn’t actually have anything to do with the job or situation that the public have a right to know about. At times the press seem to take sides, almost creating a witch hunt that we the public and listeners or drawn into. This brings the ideology of press freedom into disrepute, yes I want to know what Donald Trump is signing and yes I want to know what our Prime Minister has achieved. But do I really need to know how much money Beyoncé spends on her kids. News should be ‘News’ and free to everyone. But when only 13% of the world’s population enjoyed a free press and 41% of the world’s population partly free press, leaving 46% of the population within a non-free media environment (according to freedomhouse.org). Do we really have such a bad deal and do we the listeners not drive the press in the way that they report. After all we listen in to the broadcasts, we buy the newspapers, we indulge in magazines and search online which many of us don’t have the ability to do. Everyone has a personal view on the subject of press freedom, which I might not always agree with. I do hope the world as a whole, will one day have the freedom in their media, which we take for granted.

New York Festivals: Audio landscapes, theater of the mind, how does imagination come into play?

Peter Cernik: Imagination is what it’s all about, if it wasn’t for audio landscaping and having the ability to conjure up your own inventions within your own little worlds, many of the radio productions today would fail. We may all listen to the same piece of audio, but the pictures we create as an individual will all change and interpolate in different ways. This is what makes radio and audio broadcasting such a personal medium. The visual side of audio is never really given to you, yes you may have somebody describing what they see or a familiar sound played to us all, but this still leaves us to interpret it in our own special ways. My winning entry from last year’s awards has had so many different interpretations, which have all been completely different to mine which I am so happy about. If it wasn’t for Orson Wells’s imagination and the audio techniques at the time. The Halloween production of ‘War the worlds’ in 1938 would not have frightened listeners in the way it did. Which had a lot to do with the way the audio created images unique to the listener’s imagination.

Orson Wells "War of the Worlds Broadcast"

And now as techniques and technology improves in ways that I am sure Orson Wells would have loved to use on that 1938 production, audio landscaping has grown into an art form of its own. And as a producer who is drawn to documentary and drama productions who uses audio, it makes me happy to know that my piece of work can inspire people’s imaginations in a way that only the listener can see. Please feel free to find out more about me at www.rentagob.me or on twitter at jordyuk.

The deadline to enter the 2017 World’s Best Radio Programs competition is March 17, 2017. To enter go to: Log In and for additional information go to: Rules and Regulations.

Join New York Festivals Monday, June 19, 2017 as we honor the World’s Best Radio Programs at an awards ceremony at in New York City. To view the 2016 World’s Best Radio Program Ceremony Gala, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/media/rp/2016/

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