Radio Broadcasting. Old vs New.

Posted By Alan Wayne on Oct 09 2009 12:00 AM
Being "On the radio" these days has got to be easy surely? Isn't everything done for you, haven't you got time for a sip of tea between tunes while the computer sorts out your playlist. Face it, anyone presenting a radio show in this day and age has got it made. I Know  I even have time to actually hear the song being played.

Let us go back a bit, say thirty years and take a look at what being a dj on the radio then was all about. I'm using this era as it seems to of been the golden age of radio in the UK with Radio 1 leading the way with today's household names like Noel Edmonds and Tony Blackburn, and any semblance of new technology was in it's infancy.

So what of the radio studio back then. Without a bank of computer screens, cd and mini-disc players, the broadcast hub could look a bit bland. The music you heard through your transistor would of been vinyl records for a start, either single 45's or LP and our favourite dj had the cumbersome task of cueing up the track. Some kids today are astounded that all this messing around had to be done  in the first place, so time was constantly taken up between records getting the next one ready. Of course the more experienced you were the quicker this was done, usually on a deck either side of the presenters chair. Jingles and station Idents were played out using carts which had the title written on it and which were manhandled into a sometimes tempremental machine.
Many a time you would hear the chosen jingle slow or stutter and it was no surprise that the shelf life of a cart was only so long before it found itself in the bin. So back in those dark days the studio could look cluttered, between a pile of records, carts and letters-yes actual hand written letters! I think if their is one big difference in presenting a radio show today as opposed to 25/30 years ago it's the instant rapport the presenter has with the listener, via of course E.Mail, which has changed the way some shows can be broadcast. Competitions can be organized within the hour and winners announced, Years ago it was always "we'll read the winners out next week". This must of put hundreds of people off entering for anything! Of course now you can have an instant request, or inform the dj of an event happening on the same day.

Fast Forward to the studio of 2009 and it can look like you have walked into a plane flight simulator, albeit a tad simpler and without the cd's! At the radio station I work for guests always ask what all the computers are for and what all the buttons on the desk do. It would be great if I knew and they always look a bit let down when you tell them you don't need to use them all but explain about the one's that are used. Today an electronic playlist is in front of me with pre-selected tracks, a simple click of the mouse does it all...even the track time left is counted down, the news is played in and out automatically and another computer deals with listerner's emails.

Here's the thing then. If today's presenters have all that digital help available should some of them not sound better? After all they have more thinking time for links etc. The presenters of 30 years ago still managed to sound slick, smooth and witty without today's innovations. Of course not every Radio station today has all mod cons. Many hospital and Community stations still rely on a mix of the old and new and still retain record decks for classic vinyl. I myself enjoy the physical task of getting a vinyl record ready and feel a sense of achievement when it starts correctly!

It's easy to get nostalgic about the past, but i'm sure those same pioneering dj's who started on the pirates and entered mainstream radio would not want to go back to the studio's of yore. Having said that, I know of one famous "old" name who will not read out emails on his show he does today, so perhaps a bit of old and new isn't a bad thing. I look forward to the next 20 years.



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