NYF Open Mic: Spotlight on TBI Media’s Phil Critchlow

Each week, NYF’s Open Mic feature interviews with prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week  NYF Advisory Board member Phil Critchlow, CEO and Founding Director of TBI Media, UK spends a few minutes with NYF.


Phil’s career spans  over 25 years in the industry and during that time he has developed and delivered some of the highest profile broadcast and events projects in the UK and internationally on Television, Radio and Online. He’s won over 100 awards for creativity, including leading TBI to earning the New York Festivals Radio Awards ‘Production Company of the Year’  for the last 5 years consecutively. This esteemed award recognizes the production company with the highest scores for entries and largest medal count across all categories. Bravo TBI!

In the interview below, Phil  spends a few minutes sharing his industry insights including the creative challenges he encountered when producing his Grand Award-winning live broadcast of “World Cup 66”, TBI’s unique approach to complex productions, how his team recreates historical events, and much more.

NYF Radio: TBI Media earned the title of 2017 Production Company of the Year Award for their outstanding programs, to what do you attribute TBI’s continued success?

Phil Critchlow: We have a great team at TBI who always seem prepared to go the extra mile to make something that’s genuinely different, often challenging and hopefully completely engaging. The bottom line is that it’s all fundamentally down to that team spirit.

NYF Radio: How many years running have you earned this prestigious title?

Phil Critchlow: This is the 5th year

NYF Radio: Your spectacular entry “World Cup 66” also earned the Grand Award (History). What creative challenges did you encounter when producing this complex musical undertaking and how did technology play a part in its creation?

Phil Critchlow: The whole thing – narration, drama, all music, FX and inserts was delivered, or played, fully live, in a 10,000-seat arena, to BBC Radio 2, Radio 5Live, TV, and over 200 cinemas across the UK.

On the afternoon of Saturday 30th July, beginning at 3:00pm, exactly 50 years to the minute later, drama, music, history and sport combined into a once in a lifetime event – ‘World Cup 66 Live – Minute by Minute’. It brought the United Kingdom together, through radio, to mark a defining moment in our nation’s cultural and sporting history.

Representing a number of BBC firsts – the programme was broadcast live from Wembley Arena, yards from where the original game was played. The story was told in a completely new way with a painstakingly timed approach, which took the listener Minute by Minute through the whole game and, importantly, showed how people from all walks of life responded to it.

It was a mammoth musical undertaking, guest vocalists delivered live, newly arranged performances of hits from 1966. All was then underscored by a specially composed filmic soundtrack, played by 22 musicians throughout the 2 hour and 40 minute production.

The 100 plus pages of original script required over 400 audio and visual cues. 160 audio sources were mixed from the stage. As well as the stereo soundtrack for 2 simulcast national BBC Radio networks and TV. The team also generated a separate, full 5.1 surround mix for cinemas.

The extremely complex narration was delivered by Jeremy Vine and Louise Minchin. Sherlock and Hobbit Star, Martin Freeman played Bobby Moore. Special guest appearances included Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst.

The reaction was phenomenal, with unprecedented levels of social media, 3 national newspaper front page photos the following day and many commenting on the level of emotion conveyed by the approach.

This is possibly one of the most complex, live radio programmes ever made but – complexity aside – we hope it was driven throughout by the power of a compelling story, told in a completely new way, fundamentally through radio.

NYF Radio: TBI took home a total of 6 Gold Trophies, 5 Silver and 4 Finalist Certificates, your programs consistently score multiple accolades, what makes your approach to production so unique and award-worthy?

Phil Critchlow: Again, it’s down to a team who are prepared to go the extra mile in finding the best stories, and then telling them with journalistic integrity and real attention to detail. We also focus on programmes we hope deliver a real emotional reaction from the audience.

NYF Radio: TBI has a reputation for creating live events incorporating lots of moving parts and pieces including multiple locations, musicians, actors, how did you personally start down this enormously creative yet challenging road?

Phil Critchlow: It always starts with the story. We then spend time working out the best way to tell it. Sometimes that can be a big stage like World Cup 66, but there are still moments when a much smaller and more intimate approach is what’s needed, as with ‘The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away’ which picked up 3 Golds this year and involved a series of powerful interviews linked by a strong script delivered by a passionate presenter.

NYF Radio: Your team re-creates spectacular historical events taking place in real-time, how do you begin to tackle projects of this size and scope and maintain historical accuracy?

Phil Critchlow: Our writing team, led by Jonathan Mayo, go through a painstaking

Jonathan Mayo, Producer, TBI Media

research process to make sure the story is told accurately. There’s a real focus on finding unexpected parts of each narrative with particular attention paid to unearthing small details about the human reactions to the story.

NYF Radio: How does your team work so seamlessly on such a wide variety of live events? What particular skill set is need to produce the complex level of programs that you create? And how long is the timeline from concept to finished production?

Phil Critchlow: Again, we tell stories, and regardless of genera or subject the process ultimately tends to be the same. Establish the truth and then convey that truth in as compelling a way as possible. The skill is principally understanding how to tell each story in the best way possible to create a strong human reaction and level of engagement from the audience.

Time lines vary enormously. They can be as short as a couple of weeks, and as long as 3 years from concept to delivery.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and so, what was it?

Phil Critchlow: There’s always another dream project, and we have several more in the early stages of production as we speak. For me personally, they will almost always involve what I believe to be great stories, told on large stages by great presenters and actors, complimented by the best music.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/


This entry was posted in interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

six - 3 =