All entries for Monday 13 November 2006

November 13, 2006

RaW at the Student Radio Awards

The RaW Massive!RaW had a great night out at the 2006 Student Radio Awards. The station picked up several awards, including a Gold Award for Best Technical Innovation, which I played a small bit-part in.

Collecting our Best Technical Innovation gongMy interview with David Davis – listen to it here – got Bronze in the Best Interview category, beaten by Pete Swan’s interview with Boris Johnson. RaW clearly loves its politics…

Matt Rebeiro came second in the Best Newcomer category, and Jimmy and Adam came second in the Best Entertainment category. The station also came second in the Best Station category, meaning RaW is essentially the second best student station in Britain (meaning it would be rather stupid of the Union to force it off air next summer…)

Olivia Case with Smiley, Smiley, Jo WhileyIt was a fantastic night out, and a great day too. The nominees were invited to the HQ of GCap Media, the biggest radio group in the country, and the home of Capital Radio, Xfm, Classic FM and more. We got a great tour of the place, and sat in on some live radio shows.

Scott Mills and Jo WhileyCredit should go to some of the industry celebs who stayed a lot longer than in previous years… even if it was only because they were on the pull (a certain Radio 1 DJ knows who I’m talking about and I’d warn them I have photographic evidence!).

As well as a successful piss-up and a great night of success, it was also fantastic to catch up with the RaW Massive! Now it’s over to the next generation to make RaW a success well into the future (blub!)

Behind the scenes at 18 Doughty Street

I’m not going to tell you what 18 Doughty Street is. You either know already, or you can listen to my handy audio guide at the bottom of this entry! But last Wednesday I went behind-the-scenes at the world’s first online political TV channel, spoke to the people who created it, and ended up on air myself.

David Davis MP, being interviewed for 18 Doughty Street

18 Doughty Street is run by Iain Dale – one of Britain’s top bloggers and a member of the Conservative’s “A-List” of candidates for the next election. There’s around ten other people who seem to be full-time, and some others who mill around. I’m not entirely sure what they do, other than file expenses claims (maybe they’re all due in on Wednesdays).

“Other programmes have been pushed towards the edges…”

From lunchtime onwards they sort out the guests for that evening’s broadcast and decide on what stories they want to cover. While the channel began life with a large amount of variety, some of this has been sidelined in recent weeks and the schedule is based more firmly on studio discussion, with other programmes pushed towards the edges. I think this is a bit of a shame, but Iain and Co prefer the live formats. I think they’re planning a night of programming all about Gordon Brown’s Autumn budget statement, which seems like it could be overkill on what is essentially a dull subject.

The set of 18 Doughty Street - smaller than it looks!

Something which I felt was lacking from the proceedings was a Producer. Unless I’m mistaken there’s no-one (outside of the technical people) with any previous experience in television, and it shows. The hierarchy seems to end with Iain at the top, but he’d probably admit to not knowing much about putting together a TV show. I think some of the investment (for there is plenty of money here) should have gone on getting in a pro, who could control the process of making TV, as well as keeping an eye on the bank balance.

The gallery at 18 Doughty Street

The outfit does feel very professional though – they have seven or eight High-Definition cameras, not that they’re very useful when broadcasting online, and a freshly-painted front office.

“Phones are picked up with nervous excitement…”

The office is alive with political gossip. MPs are on the phone questioning the station’s stance on one issue or another, and the computer screensavers couldn’t be much more political if they tried. Phones are picked up with nervous excitement, although in one tragic incident, someone found it was a wrong number.

One of the presenters, Rena Valeh tells me it’s a constant battle to get more left-wing presenters on the channel. I’m given the impression that the Conservatives in charge would be happy if the socialists were banned altogether. As it is, they’re allowed on in order to ridicule their beliefs.

On the show with me is Simon Clark, a good speaker from Forest (the pro-smoking pressure group, funded by… yep, the tobacco industry), Jonathan Sheppard of Tory Radio and Barckley Sumner, the Deputy Editor of Tribune. I’d say the guests were weighted strongly in favour of the Right. While the numbers might be even, it seems more effort goes into getting the right-wingers than the lefties.

“Not for the first time, Ann Widdecombe caused a peak…”

And to the question of viewers? Well there’s a few jokes about how they’re getting lots of media interest but fewer viewers, and I tease out of them that no programme has had more than 10,000 viewers. Probably not for the first time, Ann Widdecombe caused the peak. I don’t think they know exact numbers, but I’d guess from viewer feedback they’re getting somewhere in the low hundreds a night, which isn’t much more than my blog.

But theirs is a bold and forward-thinking attempt to talk about politics without fear of talking over people’s heads. Soon they will have more user-generated content – I’d say the sooner, the better – with contributors ranging from the man on the street to the man in the Shadow Cabinet. They’re honest about their intentions, and I think they will open the door to imitators, so long as investment can be found.

In the short interview below, I ask Iain Dale and one of the other presenters, Donal Blaney, what the channel’s all about and what impact it might be having. My impression is that while its impact on politics may be small, especially as it is so partisan, its impact on broadcasting could be profound and may well outlast the channel itself.

Brown and Ming sitting in a tree…

I got laughed at on 18 Doughty Street for suggesting that Labour and the Lib Dems might go into a proportional-representation-based love-in after the next election.

Well either I’m not the only clown or the rumours are true. Jasper Gerard in the Observer said yesterday:

Upon entering Number 10, he wants fireworks with announcements even more dramatic than his first act as Chancellor, granting independence to the Bank of England. Many of his prize rockets hoarded in the Treasury have already been set off by that twisted fire starter next door, Blair. So Brown needs a spectacular. And what sparkler would light up the political landscape more brightly than electoral reform?

My favourite scenario is for Labour to win a slim-but-unmanageable majority, go into coalition with the Lib Dems, bring in PR, then hold a new election six months later.

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