My time in commercial radio ran through most of the 1980’s. Most of it was spent presenting regular daily shows consisting of local information, local chat and music – the staple diet of local commercial broadcasting. A lot my time with the job of Head of Presentation.
However in 1986 I came up with an excuse to produce something quite adventurous.
It was the year that marked the 50th anniversary of regular British television broadcasting – indeed the first such transmissions in the world.
Along with a young budding hungry programme maker, we produced a one hour special devoted to the aspects and creation of what became ‘the television service’. A whole hour of fascinating radio completely devoid of any aspect of daily programming that was the recipe of the schedule.
We Bring You Live Pictures, is incisive, in part controversial and questioning. It featured many exclusive interviews with television pioneers, producers, news journalists, executives and personalities. Many of these now dead yet in their day were giants of British television. Also archive footage all of which required ‘clearance’ for broadcast on the independent radio network. Indeed this programme was one of a very tiny number produced at DevonAir that ever received network transmission.
In the third (in my view the best) part we looked at the development and role of television news from the ‘safe’ BBC Newsreel to the more thrusting News at Ten. We discuss the role of television news and current affairs with Robin Day, we question the issue of ‘balance’ with Alastair Burnet and looked at what news producers seek from a news ‘story’ with Richard Clutterbuck who was a pioneer in the study of political violence.
This section asked if television news was (in 1986) a news maker or a news breaker – a question still as relevant today as it was 30 years ago (some might find this section disturbing):
We Bring You Live Pictures was transmitted on many large and smaller stations across the then commercial radio network in the UK from London, Birmingham, Manchester to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was reviewed in the national press and acclaimed as ‘an extremely well-crafted programme’ – which was good enough for us. When asked if the person running programmes at DevonAir had heard it, we were given a firm “no”.
I resigned from DevonAir six months after this was transmitted and became an overseas broadcast consultant spending the next six years travelling and working in Europe and Africa. My young budding colleague and a force behind this programme later joined the BBC where he remains in network radio. DevonAir Radio suffered a few management reshuffles, proudly played even more music and lost it’s franchise in 1994 to be replaced by another company who, true to form, played the music until they were bought out by another national radio jukebox sound-alike. As for the poor listener – today that person can be found listening to the new generation of small local information radio stations who are unafraid of speech or BBC Radio Devon who, at the time of writing, still attempt to talk to the audience without the necessity of employing a jukebox.