Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Come again?

Once upon a time, local radio was a hotbed of experimentation and daring. The BBC used to groom the stars of the future in its regional stations, letting them make all their rookie mistakes in front of a sympathetic audience before launching them into prime time. It even outsourced some of that work to independent stations, letting them invest all their money in talent development before tempting away their stars with the promise of a kiss and a lollipop, just like your dirty uncle Gavin.

But in recent years, local radio stations have lost some of their spark. Gone are the days when Chris Morris could get away with filling a studio with helium just before the newsreader arrived. Now everything is formatted, regimented and playlisted. Some DJs are mere voice-over artists - reading scripts delivered to a tele-prompter from corporate HQ. Your local station has roughly the same degree of autonomy as Radio Deutschland in 1944. Not that they have to play oompah bands and denounce the Jews, but you get the point.

Thank God, then, for Clive Garner. He's a doddery old man, who turns up at Radio Merseyside every week with a handful of his collection of 50,000 78rpm records. Clive's been doing this for 15 years, which is just as well, because no station manager would let him through the door now. Actually, that's harsh. They'd let him through the door, find him somewhere to have a quick nap and a cup of tea before putting him back on the bus to convalescent home.

In turns, Clive sounds drunk, confused, asleep, drugged, and clinically dead. But, brilliantly, he shook things up last week and dedicated his programme to… Well, perhaps you should just listen:

  • A 30-second trail...
  • ...And then the programme

    Also flying the flag for innovative local programming is this startling piece of reporting from another BBC local station. Always first with the exclusive breaking news, they reveal that there is an owl in Shropshire:

  • Owl news
  • More owl news

    You couldn't make this stuff up.

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