Written by Radio

Myers Report

Yesterday, Tim Davie presented the Myers Report into Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2 and 6 Music. John Myers, CEO of the Radio Academy and someone who’s for a longtime been involved in commercial radio, had been asked to look at ways for the services to reduce costs while maintaining quality.
Responses have largely been as expected. Many – myself included – were surprised to learn that Newsbeat has 52 people working for it (in the 80s there were 15), which does seem very sizeable. We don’t know how these numbers are broken down, although obviously things like the web might require increased staffing levels. And it’s certainly true that Newsbeat strives to do different public service things that commercial radio would never attempt.
Then there was the discovery that Radio 2’s newsreaders don’t apparently do much more than read a script that somebody else has written once an hour. That’s pretty indefensible on any level.
Whether the BBC would move Radio 2 into Broadcasting House, and put them in the same physical location as Radio 1 will be once it too has moved, I don’t know. But Myers does suggest that the same things are being learnt and relearnt by two disparate staffs.
And there’s really no excuse for so much of Radio 2’s output being pre-recorded at the weekend. Most of those presenters are star names, no doubt earning decent salaries (not part of Myer’s review), and therefore should “earn” them by working live. For most music programming, that seems sensible.
Myers also addresses Radio 2’s comedy remit which does indeed seem to duplicate Radio 4’s. I must admit that I’ve never quite understood why it exists. And with Radio 4 Extra being much more heavily comedy focused, I’d argue that comedy should be removed from the service licence and perhaps something a little more “public service” introduced.
The other area he identifies is the significant number of studio managers that Radio 2 employs compared with Radio 1. That’s because Radio 1 tends to employ people who can operate their own desks. That’s not always true for Radio 2.
There are always some people who’s skills lie in what they say on the radio rather than the buttons they can press, but there’s probably room for improvement as far as Myers is concerned.
There’s an underlying suggestion, which you certainly hear from BBC staffers, that compliance is a real issue. It’s frankly bizarre that broadcasting live should involve less compliance than pre-recording, when it comes with all the dangers that “live” brings with it. Yet it seems to be an issue – particularly with Radio 2. While that’s obviously where the Ross/Brand affair took place, I would defy anyone to prove that Radio 2 is actually that dangerous.
Radio 2’s most expensive show is Friday Night is Music Night – largely, one imagines, because it includes lots of live performances including the BBC Concert Orchestra. This is the kind of programming that only the BBC can make, and while tendering programmes to independent production companies is to be welcomed, it’d be very easy to diminish a programme like this (in any case – since so many of the programmes use significant BBC resources, including the aforementioned orchestra – I wonder if there are real savings to be achieved).
I think that like others in commercial radio, it is a very welcome report, and I certainly hope that it won’t just be filed in a drawer somewhere. I doubt that’ll happen though, since the BBC has to achieve some very real savings, and Myers has certainly highlighted them.
(As an aside, I was amused that UTV’s response to the Myers report, as reported by eRadio, concentrated solely on a station that wasn’t in the remit of Myers, and is a direct competitor to TalkSport, Five Live).
Myers report
Tim Davie: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio/2011/06/johnmyersreviewbbcradio.html
The report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio/downloads/john_myers_report_june_2011.pdf