Friday, January 26, 2007

Behind the mic...

More now on how I got into the murky world of the media...

So after bombarding television stations up and down the country about `how it all works` my gran arranged for me to have a look around my local radio station in Preston, Red Rose Radio (now Rock FM / Magic 999).

I turned up one Saturday afternoon and was shown around by local radio legend John Gillmore. He kindly showed me around the studios and the newsroom, explaining how they broadcast. I was shown how the journalists edited audio, how the news bulletins were constructed and how the presenters prepared for their shows. I got to press a few buttons and to pretend I was actually live on the air. Little did I know that I would be working with `Gilly` several years later.

Something happened during my tour, I was bitten by the radio bug, and it confirmed that I must work in the industry. Seeing the faders in the studio, the CD's, the cart machines, the reel to reel players, the newsroom printer with national stories being sent up from London.... It was definitely for me.

John told me that I needed to get some experience, and had I considered hospital radio? No. I didn't know such a thing existed. Some hospitals have their own radio station broadcasting on the internal ringmain, playing requests for patients and giving out hospital information.

I contacted one of my local hospitals, The Royal Preston. They did have a local station, but it only broadcast on Sundays, and that was linked to the local church. They transmitted the church service for patients in the hospital. So that wasn't much good for me.

Disappointed I tried Chorley Hospital, and discovered to my delight they did have their own local station, Hospital Radio Chorley. I arranged to meet the station manager.

I was 13 at the time, and the manager, a local magistrate, was expecting someone older. She said she couldn't possibly allow someone so young to present a show. There was a glimmer of hope though, she spotted I was keen, and agreed that I could help out on one of the weekend shows.

There were four or five people involved on the Sunday night show. They presented half hour slots picking their own songs and playing requests they'd gathered from the patients.

Under supervision I was allowed to play three songs, and introduce them. Not exactly a big break, but I had managed to break into the industry.......

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

ABOUT: ONE: How did an ordinary Preston lad get on the radio?

I always seem to be waffling on about what I'm up to at work, and I will continue to bore you, but I thought it would be good to take you back to the start, and where my interest in media began....

I'm 28 and from Preston. I've lived in Preston most of my life. Now I work for BBC Radio Manchester reading and writing the news, producing award winning programmes. Previous to that I worked for BBC Radio Leeds, and home town station, Rock FM / Magic 999 (Red Rose Radio)

Just how did an ordinary Preston lad get on the radio, writing and reading the news?

I come from a family firmly based in Preston and its surrounding areas of Higher Walton. Both sides of my family tree have roots in the Lancashire cotton industry with both my respective grandmothers working in mills, as did their parents and relatives before them. Outside the cotton world, the other career choice for my family is the aeroplane industry with my Grandfather, Dad, Mum and Uncle all working for British Aerospace, initially at the old Strand Road site before being transferred to Samlesbury after the Preston site closure.

With that background, you would have thought I would have been destined to work in that industry, in fact I nearly did, being interviewed for the role of `sweeper-upper` at BAe for a summer job one year, but other events derailed that career move. Phew!

I had always been interested in television, and was fascinated not by the programmes, but by how they were made and broadcast. It started with TV-am, the old breakfast broadcaster that lost its franchise to the current GMTV.

I was never allowed to put the TV on before school, with my mum insisting there was nothing on, but one day I did. I discovered Roland Rat, Wacaday and other silly children's shows, but crucially I was intrigued by the news and information content. It was different from other, boring and dull news programmes that I'd seen. Compared to the BBC, where my family always watched the Six O'clock News, TV-am was relaxed, bright, chatty; the on-screen set with its sofas and tables was an extension of my living room.

Much to my mums disgust I watched every morning, I felt the presenters were talking to me personally, I felt included, even if sometimes I didn't understand the topic. One day I wrote to TV-am, not expecting a reply, asking how it all worked. To my surprise I was sent an information pack and behind the scenes video. Now my interest in the media was really sparked.

I started to video tape local TV news shows, `Granada Tonight` and `BBC North West Tonight` - looking for clues into how the shows were made, watching the techniques of the presenters and reporters. I used to love hanging around the Harris Library and law courts in Preston when there was a big trial on or if the snooker was being broadcast live from the Guild Hall. The television companies would come to my town of Preston, I'd go and look at the satellite broadcast trucks and try and spot the reporters going about their job. I'd read the Lancashire Evening Post, particularly Brian Ellis, so I could pretend to school friends I knew lots about football and I'd listen to news bulletins on Red Rose Radio.

By now, aged around 13/14 I'd decided that I wanted to work in the media. But how to get started? My parents and grandparents had a skilled factory/carpentry background. I was going to have to work hard to make a move into an competitive industry with limited opportunities close to where I live.

- Next - Hospital Radio Chorley, tour of Red Rose Radio and work experience at the Lancashire Evening Post.

** incidentally, all my views expressed here are entirely personal, and no way reflect the position of my current employer, BBC Radio Manchester, and the wider BBC.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Busy Busy Busy...

Hi -

It's been a busy start to the year - Last Thursday and Friday I ended up working two 13 hour days! Long days, but I didn't mind as I was asked to present the BBC Radio Manchester drivetime show again. I'd also been working early reading the morning news bulletins, but you know me, radio tart! I've really enjoyed presenting the shows, and feel more confident. Until now I've not had the chance to get my teeth into a show as I've only covered for one day, two at the most.

Outside work, there's some exciting developments, but I need to get them confirmed before I can talk about it on here. Come back in a couple of weeks and I'll be able to let you know.

I treated myself to a big TV in the sales, and have had fun with my dad trying to mount it on the wall. Believe me, it's not as easy as it looks! Now it's on the wall, it's great. I hoping to treat myself to a Playstation 3 when they are launched too, so I can take advantage of the HD functions. I'd like to get Sky HD but I don't think there is enough content yet to justify the subscription. The pictures look great, but I'll wait until more HD channels have launched before I make the switch. Have you got HD TV? What do you think?

I also like the look of the Logik Internet Radio. Apparantly you can receive around 5000 radio stations from around the world. I tried to hear what they sounded like in my local electrical shop, but they didn't have a WI-FI connection. Have you got one, are they any good?