NYF Open Mic: Radio on Radio with Guy Starkey

Radio on Radio features New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards Grand Jury’s insights and observations on the transformation taking place in the radio industry today.

We’ve interviewed our brilliant jury, all award-winner’s themselves and asked them to weigh in on how radio will evolve in the coming years, the changes in content creation, their “dream project” and freedom of the press.

Guy Starkey, Associate Dean, Global Engagement, Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University

NYF’s Grand Jury is comprised of the industry’s most respected directors, producers, journalists, writers, educators, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives who are actively involved in creating the innovative radio programs heard on radio today. This esteemed jury selects the World’s Best Radio Programs from all the entries submitted from around the globe. Who better to share their insider information on the wonderful world of radio?

NYF caught up with Dr. Guy Starkey, Associate Dean, Global Engagement, Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University and asked him to share his insights. Guy is a former radio producer and presenter on commercial radio in the UK, the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Gibraltar and stations in France and the Middle East, he still broadcasts daily on the internet radio stations 1540 The VOP and The Voice of Peace.

His books include ‘Local Radio, Going Global’, ‘Radio in Context’, ‘Radio Journalism’ (with Professor Andrew Crisell) and ‘Balance and Bias in Journalism: Representation, Regulation and Democracy’.

In the interview below Guy shares his thoughts on content, the evolving world of radio, freedom of the press, how imagination comes into play in radio 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?

Guy Starkey: Radio is obviously maturing into a medium which is heard through different platforms and devices, which is seen as well as heard, and which has to square up to increasing competition in order to survive. One of the most remarkable things about radio in most markets is that, despite dire predictions of its impending demise, it has proven to be pretty resilient so far. In the UK 89% of the adult population who are 15 years old and above tune into radio in a week. I don’t want to say the word ‘still’ because we shouldn’t accept it’s going to decline in popularity. Radio has changed a lot since the 1950s when TV first came along, and it can evolve further to keep holding onto its audiences. In fact it’s nothing short of remarkable that radio has been this resilient, when you look at the big falls in newspaper circulation in recent years and how traditional TV has been affected by short-form interactive content through online platforms such as YouTube and on-demand subscription services like Netflix. Exactly which way radio is going to go is hard to predict, but stations should play to its strengths and realize that if it just sounds like an online music stream, it’s hardly in the right place to compete with the many real online music streams.

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

Guy Starkey: I’d say evolution, rather than revolution. There’s so much diversity in radio content that it’s difficult to claim everyone’s going in the same direction. In the UK it’s the slow but steady progress of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) that’s driving a real growth in the number of different formats. More and more new cars have DAB installed as standard here and the marketing talks about DAB because the market likes it. Last year a new national digital multiplex launched in the UK, bringing extra choice of music formats but most importantly new talk stations, like the business station Share Radio and the news and entertainment focused Talk Radio. TalkSPORT added TalkSPORT 2 and so on. Small-scale DAB has brought lots of local alternatives.

As so many entries in these awards demonstrate, what radio does that very few other media do well is great speech, so one step backwards has been our biggest brand BBC Radio 2 automating overnights. With their comparatively huge budgets it was a real shock they abandoned one of radio’s greatest assets, live speech. The BBC’s budget has been under attack recently for political and ideological reasons, so we have to hope there’s no more of this to come.

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

Guy Starkey: Maybe a show that gets people in different parts of the world talking to each other and understanding each other better. The BBC World Service already does this, but maybe it needs to be entertainment led in order to get bigger audiences. If budget’s no object, we could get some really big names to be in it – although I’m not a big fan of parachuting TV personalities into radio presentation roles. The two jobs are different and we’ve already got a lot of great talent in radio, thanks very much!

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

Guy Starkey: Yes, of course the freedom of the press is important, but with it should come great responsibility. Too many press barons just use their newspaper titles to influence public opinion and change the course of history when it comes to elections and big-issue referenda like over Brexit, for example. So many lies and biased opinions were splashed across front pages and the ‘news’ pages during that campaign, no wonder a tiny majority voted to turn back the clock forty years and dig ourselves into an economic and political bunker – at a time when some really difficult geopolitical tensions are emerging. So, every time our press raise objections to the imposition of sensible regulation – not even on matters of political bias and impartiality – it reminds me that in the UK and many other countries it is the broadcasters who are already regulated and who have to take their responsibilities to tell the truth seriously. No reasonable commentator seriously claims the BBC is unable to carry out fearless journalism within the law simply because it is subject to regulation.

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

Guy Starkey: Radio can take its listeners to new and unfamiliar places simply by creating pictures in their minds. It’s not just words that can do that, but sounds too, carefully crafted together. A student once said me that radio can’t be any good, because there aren’t any pictures, unlike TV. If that were true, then the novel would have died out a long time ago!

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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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