Radio : where the pictures are better

“You have a great face for radio” is one of the oldest put downs in the book. And now, city broadcaster Notts TV is about to empoy one of the oldest gimmicks in broadcasting : putting a radio show on the TV.

From Monday, the station will simulcast Sam and Amy’s breakfast show from Gem 106. It’s a slick move : the duo’s programme performs well in the local radio ratings. And – perhaps in a first for commercial Presenters currently on air – BBC Radio 2 allowed them a couple of overnight shows. The big question, though, is who will watch it and why?

It’s by no means the first time such a joint venture has been tried. Back in the 1980s James Whale’s late night talk show (at the time on Radio Aire in Leeds) was broadcast on ITV. It was unashamedly late night filler, designed for the back from the pub audience who probably didn’t care what was on screen. But just like the late night kebab, it filled a gap and probably didn’t do Aire or Yorkshire TV any harm. It also helped to fill a quota of local output which still existed at that time in ITV.

Programmer Keri Jones points to a more contemporary example. In New Zealand Paul Henry’s morning talk show is carried by TV3. Keri observes : “There are video versions of sweepers which still work on FM. Video walls provide graphics and b-roll backgrounds to lift copy-only stories on TV. And interestingly, audio soundbites are used in news clips with viewers seeing a still with a moving waveform graphic.”

Paul Henry's TV3 show looks slick.
Paul Henry’s TV3 show looks slick.

In recent years, webcams became commonplace in radio studios. But they were little more than gimmicks. The BBC’s network stations have moved to a different level, with multi camera setups now being regularly used for “Red Button” versions of shows from Five Live, Radio 2 and the World Service.

Yet none of this really answers the question of exactly why – at breakfast time – you’d want to look at a local radio show on the TV. It may have something to do with convergence : many people use the convenience of their existng Freeview or Virgin TV sets to access the radio. You might as well have pictures on Channel 8 as just the sound on 820. But is that really going to lure viewers who currently watch BBC Breakfast or Good Morning Britain?

Perhaps the real reason behind this is much simpler. Reciprocal brand awareness. Both Notts TV and Gem 106 end up with free advertising on each other’s platforms. It’s a win-win, low cost partnership. It also adds to Notts TV’s local programming quota, which in turn can attract advertising and a few brownie points from the regulator. For Gem 106 it’s all about visibility. Its logos are already a frequent sight at events across the East Midlands – by no means an accidental strategy.

Above all, the move generates talkability. Speaking of which, word reaches me that the “suspended” Alex Dyke is miraculously returning to BBC Radio Solent tomorrow. Which has to be the quickest BBC disciplinary I’ve ever witnessed.

Definitely not a publicity stunt, then?


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