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BCR FM BRIDGWATER RADIO
STATION CONTENT
MONITORING REPORT
by
GRANT GODDARD

www.grantgoddard.co.uk
April 2005
TASK
To monitor the broadcast output of BCR FM and to make recommendations as
to possible changes to the station’s program...
1.0 OVERALL IMPRESSION
BCR FM sounded very professional from the day’s monitoring exercise and
many different elements of ...
2.0 LOCALNESS
BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom defines its Format as:
A broad mix of classic adult contemporary hits and locall...
For any local radio station, such a lack of “localness” would be amiss, but this
is even more critical for a station such ...
In the breakfast show, I heard local news bulletins at 0604, 0704, 0804 and
0904, but not at 1004, which is required by th...
assault, including a phone interview. The second story lasted 34 seconds and
was about school prizes awarded for a nutriti...
station’s sports presenter, I assume) but he gave no local sports news and
only introduced the networked report, making hi...
period. The only other vaguely local content I heard was a contest to name a
seagull who lived outside the BCR FM studio w...
Recommendation: Local information and features of particular local relevance
must be strongly in evidence throughout progr...
requirement of the licence. Certainly, the nine minutes per hour minimum was
achieved during hours with presenters, but th...
3.0 MUSIC
The detail of BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom says:
The music is a spread of Classic Adult Contemporary hits
from th...
between 0600 and 0900 would have little interest for me because there was
only one song from the 60s and no songs from the...
THE MIDDAY SHOW included:
Three songs in two hours that sounded too rock-y – “Filthy Gorgeous” at

1212, followed by “Som...
4.0 COMMERCIALS
The commercials heard on BCR FM had good production values, but their
scheduling within the station’s outp...
5.0 BREAKFAST SHOW
Without doubt, the breakfast show is the most significant show in any radio
station’s schedule. It attr...
The effect of these long-duration programme elements was to drag down the
pace and urgency of the breakfast show. At times...
6.0 AUTOMATION
The automated hours of music at 1100 and 1400 should be integrated into
presenters’ shows, rather than bein...
7.0 OFF-AIR MARKETING
As noted already, I observed a lack of “community” in the day’s output. Without
wishing to repeat th...
8.0 CENSUS DATA

A basic look at the 2001 census data for Sedgemoor shows that it has a
distinctive population. The propor...
9.0 CONCLUSION
From the evidence of twelve hours of listening, it is clear that technically BCR
FM achieves a high standar...
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'BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report' by Grant Goddard

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An analysis of the content of UK commercial radio station BCR FM in Bridgwater and recommendations for programme improvements, written by Grant Goddard in April 2005 for Choice Media Limited.

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'BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report' by Grant Goddard

  1. 1. BCR FM BRIDGWATER RADIO STATION CONTENT MONITORING REPORT by GRANT GODDARD www.grantgoddard.co.uk April 2005
  2. 2. TASK To monitor the broadcast output of BCR FM and to make recommendations as to possible changes to the station’s programming that will:  Ensure the station complies with its licence issued by Ofcom;  Increase the station’s potential audience. EXECUTION BCR FM output was monitored from 1000 to 1800 continuously on Wednesday 6 April 2005, and from 0600 to 1000 continuously on Thursday 7 April 2005 (monitoring had to be split across two days because internet streaming of the station was unavailable at 0600 on Wednesday). Notes were taken of each programming element that was broadcast and timings were taken of key events in the schedule. DEFINITIONS MCA = measured coverage area. This is defined by Ofcom as the geographical area in which the station’s signal is of sufficient strength to guarantee good reception for listeners. The MCA of BCR FM is 38,299 adults aged 15+. TSA = total survey area. This is defined by the radio station as the geographical area in which the station measures its audiences for the radio industry’s quarterly RAJAR ratings survey. BCR FM does not participate in RAJAR, so no data is available. LA = local authority area. BCR FM’s signal covers only part of the population within the boundary of Sedgemoor District Council. The total population of the district is 105,881, while the 15+ adult population is 86,446 [Census 2001]. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 2
  3. 3. 1.0 OVERALL IMPRESSION BCR FM sounded very professional from the day’s monitoring exercise and many different elements of the station were executed well and in the appropriate way. There is no denying that the technical aspects of the station’s programming are flawless and are of a much higher quality than would be expected of a station of this comparatively small size. The commercials were all produced to a high standard, and the station IDs and jingles were well made. I particularly liked the way that some of the programme IDs used voices that were not obviously professional or that of the presenters themselves. This helps to add some colour to the output and make the sound of the station less similar to other commercial stations. What follows is an examination of various elements of the station’s programming that could be modified or refined. The station already sounds professional in many different respects, but the reason for this initial study is to develop an action plan for the future. This is why the narrative that follows will look only at areas where there is room for improvement. It is important that this is not misconstrued as criticism of the whole station, as this is not the case. Even from only one day’s listening, BCR FM has shown itself to be a professional and powerful local medium. This report is intended to assist in maximising the potential of that medium. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 3
  4. 4. 2.0 LOCALNESS BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom defines its Format as: A broad mix of classic adult contemporary hits and locally focused information for 25 to 54 year olds in the Bridgwater area. Because BCR FM is in a location that is already served by existing local commercial radio stations (Orchard FM and Vibe 101), this Format is intended to differentiate the station from its competitors in two different ways:  Music. BCR FM’s music policy is “classic adult contemporary hits”, whereas Orchard FM’s music policy is “current chart hits, new releases or hits up to ten years old” and Vibe 101’s music policy is “rhythmic based”.  Location. BCR FM is intended for an audience in “the Bridgwater area”, whereas Orchard FM is specifically aimed at the audience in “the Taunton and Yeovil area”. Areas where competing stations are similar or identical are:  Demographic. Both BCR FM and Orchard FM are aimed at “25 to 54 year olds”, so there is no difference.  Non-music output. BCR FM has “local information and features of particular local relevance”, while Orchard FM has “information and/or features of particular local relevance”. It is useful to compare these factors in a competitive market, because BCR FM must be clear how it intends to differentiate itself from a competitor (Orchard FM) that, in this case, has a longer heritage in the area and is owned by a much larger company. This is important both for the audience and for potential advertisers. If a station is not the first local station in the market, it loses the novelty of being “local radio.” A second, third or fourth station has to be clear exactly how it is different from what has gone before. The first question a potential advertiser or listener is going to ask is: “What makes you different from Orchard FM?” The answer to this question has to be (at a minimum) the two differences that are set out in the licence – you will hear different music on BCR FM; and you will hear programming tailored to a different locality. On the day I listened, I was surprised how little genuine “localness” the station communicated to its audience. I came away from twelve hours as a listener knowing nothing more about Bridgwater than before I had started listening. Whilst it is true that there were regular travel bulletins, some local what’s on information and some local weather reports, the most I learnt about Bridgwater were the names of the shops and businesses mentioned in the advertisements, but nothing intrinsic about the town itself. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 4
  5. 5. For any local radio station, such a lack of “localness” would be amiss, but this is even more critical for a station such as BCR FM serving only one population centre and very little of the hinterland beyond. By default, everyone listening to the station on FM either lives or works in Bridgwater, which gives the station absolutely no downside in mentioning Bridgwater extensively and exclusively. (By contrast, for example, Orchard FM serves both Taunton and Yeovil, and faces a balancing act not to ignore one town or the other.) Additionally, although the station name has been abbreviated on-air to only “BCR”, there must be a proportion of the population that remembers the station name was originally “Bridgwater Community Radio”, a name that implies substantial community presence in the station’s output. On the day I listened, I was appalled that I did not hear one single voice of a listener or member of the Bridgwater community in the entire twelve hours of listening. While the station sounded very professional across the entire twelve hours, it also sounded extremely anonymous. At times, I felt I was listening to a training radio station where presenters learn to excel at the technical aspects and the ability to talk just the right amount to hit the news bulletin on the hour, but the net effect was a lack of “soul” within the programming. Good radio is a dialogue – a conversation between the presenter and the listener. Whereas too much of BCR FM’s programming sounded like a monologue, where the presenter was talking “at” the listener rather than “to” the listener. The presenters were firmly in control and exercised that control by keeping the audience at a distance. As a listener, the most I could contribute to the station was guessing the answer to quizzes set by the presenters (but my voice would not be heard on-air). I was never asked my opinion on anything, and neither was I able to contribute to the station in any way or participate in any station activities. I will examine some of the key elements of “localness” in turn: 2.1 LOCAL NEWS The detail of BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom requires: Hourly bulletins containing local news [and prepared solely for BCR] will be aired at least during weekday peaktimes. “Peaktimes” are defined in the licence as the duration of the breakfast and drivetime shows. On BCR FM, the breakfast show runs 0600 to 1100 while the drivetime show runs 1500 to 1900. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 5
  6. 6. In the breakfast show, I heard local news bulletins at 0604, 0704, 0804 and 0904, but not at 1004, which is required by the Format. I also heard local news headlines at 0632, 0732, 0832, but not at 0932, though these headlines are not a Format requirement. In the drivetime show, I heard local news bulletins at 1604, 1704 and 1804, but not at 1504, which is required by the Format. There were no news headlines on the half-hour during the drivetime show, though these are not required by the Format. The content of the local news bulletins I heard was derisory. The news was not read live, but pre-recorded once and the same recording repeated each hour. The drivetime bulletin was 1 minute 49 seconds duration and comprised three stories. The first story lasted 37 seconds and was not a local news story in any way, but was about the date of the General Election and did not even include any local angle. The second story lasted 47 seconds and was not a news story, but a sports story about Bridgwater Town, including a phone interview with someone from the team. The third story lasted 25 seconds and was not a news story, but what’s on information for an event organised by The Burnham Lions. Not one of the three news stories used was a real local news story. The first was a national story, the second was a sports story that belonged in the sports news [see later], and the third was what’s on information that belonged in the “bulletin board” feature. I am sympathetic that Bridgwater is a small town where not much news is generated on a daily basis, so I used the internet to check for myself the availability of suitable stories. It took me less than one minute, using a Google News search for “Bridgwater” and “Sedgemoor”, to find two recent news stories that should have been in the BCR news bulletins that afternoon. The first story I found was issued by the Avon & Somerset Constabulary at 0747 that morning and was an appeal for witnesses to an assault outside a Bridgwater nightclub. This news item was deemed important enough that the BBC included in its online news pages, where their version of the story was filed at 0756 that morning. Anyone searching the internet could have found this story, but it did not appear on BCR FM that day whatsoever. The second story I found was also issued by Avon & Somerset Constabulary at 1645 the previous afternoon. It was a positive story about the Safer Sedgemoor Partnership which had bought equipment for a mobile skatepark that youngsters would be able to use in different parts of the District. Although the story did not mention Bridgwater specifically, it could have been an interesting story about the surrounding district. The breakfast show local news bulletin the next morning followed the same pattern of a pre-recorded piece repeated each hour. The morning bulletin lasted 1 minute 56 seconds and comprised three stories. The first story lasted 47 seconds and was about the police appeal for witnesses to the nightclub BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 6
  7. 7. assault, including a phone interview. The second story lasted 34 seconds and was about school prizes awarded for a nutrition project. The third story lasted 35 seconds and was what’s on information that was happening on Sunday (this was Thursday). The first and second stories were local news stories, but the third should have been assigned to the “bulletin board” feature. The lead story about the nightclub incident was one day late. If I worked for BCR FM, would I not find it embarrassing to cover a story that happened on my doorstep a full day later than it had been covered by national and (one presumes) regional media? Also, if I were short of news, would I not consider 47 seconds rather too short a time to allocate to such a major local story? And might I not think that such a story should be covered not just in a bulletin, but also during the station’s programming, to assist the police in eliciting information from local residents? This is a particular example where local radio could win out for its localness and for its immediacy, but in both areas the station completely failed to grasp the opportunity. Recommendation: Local news bulletins must be broadcast hourly in the breakfast and drivetime shows (licence requirement). Content of news bulletins must be improved substantially to include local news, not national stories or what’s on information. A news gathering system needs to be implemented to ensure that relevant stories are put to air quickly and with sufficient detail. Local news bulletins could also be broadcast during the rest of the day to emphasise localness. 2.2 EXTENDED NEWS BULLETINS The detail of BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom says: Extended news bulletins will be broadcast twice each weekday during peaktime. The Format does not specify the content of these extended news bulletins, but the assumption is that they should comprise substantial local content, given the emphasis on localness in other parts of the Format. During the breakfast show, I heard the 0600 bulletin comprise national news, local news and a business update; the 0732 bulletin comprise national news headlines, local news headlines and sports news; and the 0832 bulletin likewise comprise national news headlines, local news headlines and sports news. The business news was supplied by the station’s national news supplier and had no local content. The sports news was also supplied by the station’s national news supplier and had no local content. I was confused by the fact that the sports news was introduced by a different voice (who might be the BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 7
  8. 8. station’s sports presenter, I assume) but he gave no local sports news and only introduced the networked report, making his role redundant. During the drivetime show, there was one extended news bulletin at 1800 that comprised national news, local news, sports news and business news. Again, the sports news and business news had no local content. So, although there was an extended bulletin at 1800 in the drivetime show, there appeared to be no extended bulletin in the breakfast show, but rather a mixture of different news-type items at different times. None of these items – sports and business – included any local content. Recommendation: Extended news bulletins need to be scheduled once in the breakfast show and once in the drivetime show (licence requirement). The extended bulletins should include content that has some local relevance and be presented in a way that makes them appear to be part of the programme, rather than simply nationally syndicated audio broadcast to comply with licence requirements. 2.3 LOCAL INFORMATION & FEATURES The detail of BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom says: ….. local information and features of particular local relevance will be strongly in evidence throughout programming. The programming of this type that I monitored during the day’s output was:  Local weather – weather information (some live, some pre-recorded) at 0608, 0707, 0734, 0808, 0834, 0908, 1008, 1108, 1208, 1308, 1408, 1508, 1608, 1708.  Local travel news – read live by the presenter at 0715, 0737, 0749, 0820, 0835, 0847, 1621, 1647, 1722, 1748.  What’s on information – the station “bulletin board” was read by the presenter at 0653, 1053, 1234, 1334, 1553, 1755.  Missing cat – presenter read at 1052.  Workplace of the day at 1030. It was good to hear the local weather report used throughout the day and the local travel news used regularly in the breakfast and drivetime shows. However, if you take away these items, the day’s entire local content is reduced to six what’s on bulletins and two one-off items across a 12-hour BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 8
  9. 9. period. The only other vaguely local content I heard was a contest to name a seagull who lived outside the BCR FM studio window. I do not believe that the words “strongly” and “throughout” as used in the licence are being satisfied by this very minor amount of local content. I did hear the breakfast show presenter refer to the high winds and heavy rain he had encountered driving to the studio in the morning, but otherwise no presenter made any reference to anything he had seen or heard going on in and around Bridgwater. This is not to say that the presenters’ shows were merely filled with non-stop music. There were all sorts of programming elements that were used throughout the day, such as:            Quiz question at 0617 Birthday file at 0651 Mystery celebrity birthday at 0708 Breakfast bugle at 0715 On this day at 0813, 1318 Guess the golden hour year at 0920, 0940 Waxing lyrical at 1219 BCR health matters at 1248, 1745 Things you didn’t know at 1350 Three from one at 1530 Brain of Bridgwater quiz at 1615 As you can see, the day’s output included a host of different contests and challenges, but none of these had any local content. Surprisingly, even the “Brain of Bridgwater” question set by the presenter required no local knowledge (the question was “in what country is Rimini?”). Because of the lack of localness in this myriad of items, the station had a certain anonymity to it that is the exact opposite of what it should be trying to achieve. It could easily have been a regional or national station, a characteristic that is not going to persuade the people of Bridgwater to listen. This kind of content is available from many other stations and does not give the audience a motivation to listen to BCR FM rather than a competitor. The most glaring example was the “BCR health matters” feature. It was a prerecorded item with health information about mosquito nets and malaria that was obviously being read from a script. There was no attempt to put this information in any kind of local context. Such information has little relevant use in Somerset, except when one is going abroad on holiday. So the presenter should explain which holiday destinations might have mosquito problems. Where in Bridgwater can I buy a mosquito net? How do I obtain malaria tablets? Is there a travel clinic in Bridgwater or do I simple use my family GP? The end result was a dull reading of a dull script that could be used on any radio station in the world. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 9
  10. 10. Recommendation: Local information and features of particular local relevance must be strongly in evidence throughout programming (licence requirement). The entire focus of what the presenters talk about during their shows and the items on their show menus needs to changed to accommodate the fact that the audience they are addressing lives in Bridgwater. 2.4 LOCAL INTERVIEWS Although not specifically referred to in the licence, the inclusion of interviews with local people is a way of showing that the radio station interacts with its audience. I did not hear a single interview during the 12-hour listening period. Recommendation: A system needs to be introduced to invite relevant local people to come to the studio and talk live on-air about what they are doing. 2.5 DISCUSSIONS Although not specifically referred to in the licence, the inclusion of discussions in the output is a way to show that a dialogue exists between the radio station and its listeners. Discussions need not necessarily be made into an entire programme. Discussions can be an opportunity to invite listeners to call in with viewpoints on a local topic that arises from the day’s local news stories. This does not have to be a phone-in show. Even a one-minute conversation with a listener between two songs helps to emphasise that the station is in touch with and listening to the people in the community. Recommendation: Presenters need to be encouraged to have dialogue with their listeners and to put those listeners on the air to talk about specific local topics (in a short and concise way) between records. 2.6 OTHER LOCAL INFORMATION The detail of BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom says: Speech should not normally fall below 15% of daytime output. During this 12-hour monitoring survey, I did not time the individual speech elements to the second, so I cannot say whether the station satisfied this BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 10
  11. 11. requirement of the licence. Certainly, the nine minutes per hour minimum was achieved during hours with presenters, but the two hours of back-to-back music played during daytime reduces the average considerably. The Ofcom licence allows stations to average this 15% speech quota over the entire daytime output (0600 to 1900), so it is likely that BCR FM complied over this period of time. Although the licence states that the station should be “music-led”, a very local radio station of this type should find it easy to comply with the 15% quota and not have to worry about satisfying this aspect of the licence. Even if the presenters had talked to a couple of local people on the phone during their shows, there would be no doubt that the minimum had been achieved easily. Recommendation: Speech content should be made an integral part of each programme, so that there is no doubt the station is achieving its 15% speech quota on a daily basis (licence requirement). This need not be executed by asking presenters merely to talk more, but by introducing relevant local content that would automatically increase the station’s speech minutage without detracting from its “music-led” Format. 2.7 LISTENERS’ VOICES During the 12-hour monitoring session, I did not hear a single listener’s voice on the radio. I did hear listeners’ names mentioned, when they had called in with answers to contests and quizzes. Even though the radio station is small, I cannot believe that the studio lacks the technical ability to put phone calls onair, even if they have to be pre-recorded in advance by the presenter. This lack of voices represents the station’s greatest failure in understanding how it can persuade its listeners that it has genuine roots in its community. If the station views its programming as a monologue, then that station is bound to fail. Radio is no more or less than a conversation, but the listener has to be able to hear that conversation taking place on the air when they listen to the station. There are many different ways that a station can ensure that voices other than those of its presenters are regularly included in its programming. BCR FM needs to work to make this happen, particularly if it markets itself as “Bridgwater Community Radio”. My first question, as a listener or advertiser, would be: “well, where is the community?” Recommendation: Listeners’ voices need to be incorporated into the output to demonstrate that the station is in a dialogue with its audience, listening to what it says and letting its voice be heard on-air. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 11
  12. 12. 3.0 MUSIC The detail of BCR FM’s licence from Ofcom says: The music is a spread of Classic Adult Contemporary hits from the last 40 years, with no more than 30% being current/recent (released 0 to 12 months prior to broadcast). The terminology used in this Format, as in other station Formats, is rather imprecise and slightly contradictory. The words “contemporary” and “classic” are usually opposites, though in this case they are used to try and expand on the station’s music aimed at its core audience of 25 to 54 year olds. “Adult contemporary”, as a phrase, means music that is neither too rock-y nor too dance-y, both of which genres are more likely to appeal to youth rather than adults. This fits in with the fact that the station is not targeting anyone younger than 25 years old. The words “classic” and “hits” mean essentially the same thing. These refer to well-known songs that have achieved success in the UK record sales charts. Listening to BCR FM, there seemed to be a dichotomy between the music played in the automated hours and during the presenter-led shows. I cannot be sure whether this is a result of deliberate policy or whether it is a result of individual presenters being allowed to choose appropriate music for their shows. Whatever the reason, the net result is that the station does not sound as if it has a coherent music policy to appeal to its target audience. On the positive side, I would definitely say that the station is complying with its requirement to implement an “adult contemporary hit” music policy during its daytime broadcasts. Almost all the songs played fell within this genre of music, ensuring that the station is complying with the requirements of its licence. 3.1 MUSIC SCHEDULING Different shows on BCR FM comprised a very different mix of music from different eras, a policy that fails to give the station an overall sound that can be identified by listeners. The breakfast show played predominantly music from the 90s and 00s until the final 0900 to 1000 hour. Then it suddenly switched to 30 minutes of music from 1964, followed by 30 minutes of music from 1972. If I were a 30-year old listener to BCR FM, the entire hour of music played between 0900 and 1000 would have little meaning to me because it was all recorded before I was born. Conversely, if I were a 50-year old listener to BCR FM, the music played BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 12
  13. 13. between 0600 and 0900 would have little interest for me because there was only one song from the 60s and no songs from the 70s. This represents a failure in scheduling the station’s music to appeal to the target audience of 25 to 54 year olds. It is important to include something in every hour and, if possible, something in every quarter-hour that is significant to all constituent elements of your target audience. Flip-flopping between long segments of music, all from the same era, is not a way to keep your listeners tuned to BCR FM. Then, the final hour of the breakfast show between 1000 and 1100 included a much wider range of eras from the 70s to date, as did the automated 1100 to 1200 hour that followed. The midday show from 1200 to 1400, although including songs from the 60s to date, fitted less well into the “adult contemporary” Format by including songs that were too rock-y and songs that were too dance-y. The automated hour between 1400 and 1500, like its morning counterpart, was an excellent selection of music that proved quite a (positive) jolt from the music it succeeded. The drivetime show included no 60s songs from 1500 to 1800, although there were a few 70s songs. Recommendation: Each show, each hour, and each quarter-hour of output should be scheduled to include the mix of 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s music required in the licence. 3.2 MUSIC SELECTIONS Each show seemed to have a problem with a minority of sings that did not fit very well alongside the “adult contemporary” Format required by the licence. THE BREAKFAST SHOW included:  Far too may current and recent chart hits. This is the most important show of the day and the music content must aim to please as great a proportion of the target audience as possible. Current hits are the weakest spot in any radio station’s music policy. Unless you have to, do not include current hits in your flagship show because the majority of people over the age of 30 have no idea what songs are currently in the charts.  Two songs in a row (“Heroes” and “Born To Be Wild”) that are too loud for this time of day. If you are asleep and your radio/alarm clock springs into action at 0636 playing the loud section of “Heroes”, you are likely to throw it across the room. At other times of day, these songs might be fine. The BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 13
  14. 14. THE MIDDAY SHOW included: Three songs in two hours that sounded too rock-y – “Filthy Gorgeous” at  1212, followed by “Some Might Say” at 1216, and “Fat Bottom Girls” at 1253. Great songs, but not for an “adult contemporary” format that is trying to appeal to listeners up to the age of 54. THE DRIVETIME SHOW included:  Too many songs that were current or recent chart hits. Again, you have to think about your entire audience when programming the music, and not just of pleasing one particular segment. The issues with music policy on BCR FM are the common ones that reduce a station’s impact on its audience: HIT SONGS – some songs were not sufficiently big hits to be immediately recognised by the audience. LOUD SONGS – there were a minority of loud-ish rock/pop songs that did not fit the “adult contemporary” requirement of the licence. CURRENT CHART SONGS – current hits are the least recognisable by the majority of your audience, and there were too many included in the programmes. Whilst the overall music policy of the station definitely complied with the requirements of the licence, a minority of songs chosen effectively ruined all the station’s good work in other hours. The most important thing to offer listeners is consistency in music. However many great songs you have just played for the average listener, it only needs a single bad song to persuade them to tune to a different station. And then you have lost them, even if the next song would have been one of their all-time favourite tunes. As the licence says, the station is “music-led”, so the consistency and high quality of your music playlist is one of the most important things your station needs to achieve. However small a station is, it can very effectively thrash its competitors simply by having a superior music policy. The ability to select appropriate songs to capture an audience is not a cost-related item, which gives any station an important level playing field on which it can achieve superior performance to competitors that may have many times the available resources. Recommendation: Every single song in the station’s music playlist should be reviewed to ensure that all tracks used on-air comply with the “adult contemporary” definition within the Format (licence requirement). The policies used to schedule songs across the entire output should be reviewed to improve the station sound. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 14
  15. 15. 4.0 COMMERCIALS The commercials heard on BCR FM had good production values, but their scheduling within the station’s output could be improved. Because all research shows that listeners find commercials a negative rather than a positive when listening to a radio station, it becomes very important to schedule commercials to disrupt as little as possible the flow of music and information. Every hour that I monitored included a batch of commercials immediately after the news bulletin at the top of each hour. This created the net effect of there being no music played on the station for the first ten minutes of some hours. If the commercials were distributed away from the on-the-hour non-music segment, it would help make BCR FM sound more like the music-led station that it is. Additionally, several of the commercial segments were placed immediately after features or contests or quizzes where the presenter talks for a substantial amount of time. In the listener’s head, this creates the effect of prolonging the break from music even further. Each commercial break should be placed at a point in the hour where the presenter is instructed to lead in and/or out of the break with a minimum of chat. The commercial breaks, if they had not been placed adjacent to other nonmusic items, were of an appropriate length – neither too long nor too short. The most I heard were four commercials in a row. However, sometimes, they were also adjacent to sponsor messages (“the midday show brought to you by ….”). If these sponsor messages are to achieve maximum impact, they should also be moved away from the normal commercial breaks and left to stand on their own at relevant points in the programme. This helps both the advertiser and the listener not to feel that they are being swamped by too many commercial messages at one time. Recommendation: The “traffic” system for scheduling commercials should be revised with the deliberate objective of moving commercials away from the news, from speech-based features, and from sponsored programming messages. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 15
  16. 16. 5.0 BREAKFAST SHOW Without doubt, the breakfast show is the most significant show in any radio station’s schedule. It attracts both the maximum listeners of any daypart and also the most revenue from advertisers. Because of this, it is worth paying particular attention to this show, as a priority above other programmes. Because the average time spent listening to the breakfast show is much shorter than other parts of the day, the show must have a different feel and a different pattern to shows at other times of the day. Most listeners can only spend 15 minutes listening to the radio in the morning, because they are hurrying to work or to school. So their needs have to be satisfied in unique ways at this time. The breakfast show needs to have a brisk pace, while the content needs to be very informative, brief, factual and to-the-point. When people wake up in the morning, they do not have time to digest all the detailed facts about things. They want to know the simple things that help them leave the house. What are the main news stories? Is it going to rain today? Is my train/bus running on time? What is going on in Bridgwater tonight that I might want to go to after work/school? The breakfast show on BCR FM achieved many of these objectives admirably. There were regular travel news bulletins, national news bulletins and national news headlines, some local news, regular weather reports and some what’s on information. These are all appropriate and productive elements of the breakfast show mix. The areas that let down the breakfast show were the elements of listener participation. It was great to hear them there in the show, but most of them were too long to engage listeners at this busy time of the day. Multi-part quizzes and multi-part contests are a great way to keep audiences listening to the radio at times when they have the radio on for long periods of time – during the daytime and during the evening – but they are not so appropriate for a fastmoving breakfast show. For example, the “breakfast bugle” contest started at 0715 but was not completed until 0842. It is very unlikely that many of the listeners to a breakfast show would have remained tuned consistently across a 90-minute period (except for the unemployed and housebound). The same problem applies equally to the quiz question that started at 0620 and ended at 0649 and the mystery birthday that started at 0711 and ended at 0856. While all of these are good ideas to enhance the listening experience, they would be more appropriate at other times of the day, rather than in the breakfast show. Instead, the breakfast show should include contests and quizzes that turn around much more quickly (within the 15-minute listening window) so that an individual listener can hear both the challenge and the answer in relatively quick succession. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 16
  17. 17. The effect of these long-duration programme elements was to drag down the pace and urgency of the breakfast show. At times, it felt as if time were passing very slowly, which is the opposite effect of what should be achieved at this time of day. I did not measure the precise amount of talk within the show, but the overall impression was that the show was too chatty. This may be an impression rather than a fact because, if the speech content had been more information-based and more urgently delivered, I would probably have come away with a different opinion. As noted in the MUSIC section of this document, there are additional concerns about a minority of the songs played in the breakfast show, and concern about the sudden shift to the “golden years” format at 0900. As with all the day’s output, it was noteworthy that no listener voices were heard during the show, despite the presence of mini-features that so obviously could have led to listener involvement. Recommendation: The composition and scheduling of elements within the Breakfast Show should be revised to make it more relevant to the needs and listening patterns of its audience at this critical time of day. Quizzes and contests should be designed to reflect the short attention span of listeners at this time. Music played should be more consistent and comprise more blockbuster hits. Music policy also needs to be more consistent. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 17
  18. 18. 6.0 AUTOMATION The automated hours of music at 1100 and 1400 should be integrated into presenters’ shows, rather than being marooned between shows like lost islands. This is because they break up the continuity of the schedule across the day and leave listeners with the impression that nobody is taking responsibility for what they are listening to. Even with automation, it is easy to achieve a “non-stop music” hour that remains under the aegis of a presenter, finishing with a pre-recorded generic “goodbye – see you tomorrow/next Monday” that can used on a daily basis. Listening to the radio is a very personal experience and, when a presenter says “goodbye” at 1100, but the next presenter does not say “hello” until 1200, the listener is left with a very impersonal experience. This does not develop a bond of trust between the listener and the radio station, because the listener feels they have a right to know and understand what is being directed at them from the station studio. If a part of the output remains unexplained – as these automated hours are – then the listener is left confused and perplexed. If there is no presenter, then who is playing the records? And, whoever it is, why will they not “own” this hour by giving me their name? Integration of the automated hours of music, combined with making the music policy more consistent across the day, would give the station a much smoother feel, and would help develop the bond between the station and its audience. Automation is a useful tool for a small radio station but does not need to be flaunted to an audience who desire a “personal” experience from a radio station. Recommendation: Automated hours should be included in each presenter’s show, rather than be scheduled between shows, to give the programme schedule greater continuity. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 18
  19. 19. 7.0 OFF-AIR MARKETING As noted already, I observed a lack of “community” in the day’s output. Without wishing to repeat those observations, it is much easier for a radio station to make an impact on a small focused market such as Bridgwater than it is for a larger station serving several population centres. Marketing does not have to be expensive or executed on a grand scale. The most important thing is for a station to be seen in its community. The second most important thing is for a station to be seen to be seen in its community. This means that any kind of community activity in which the station is involved should be trumpeted loud and clear on the airwaves of the station itself. It should also be an opportunity to attract coverage in the local and regional press, and even to issue press releases to industry trade magazines and local organisations concerned with community action. Without off-air marketing, a radio station ends up only preaching to the converted, and develops only a small core of regular listeners. But the largest proportion of a station’s audience should derive from the core of radio users who only tune into the station irregularly or for specific information that is not available elsewhere. For this audience, off-air marketing is essential to remind them that the station still exists and to keep them aware that the station can be relied upon as and when needed. It should be part of every member of staff’s responsibility at the radio station to be involved in some regular off-air marketing activity. Everybody can do something that all adds to the presence of the station within the community that it is designed to serve. Recommendation: The station needs to sound on-air as if it is engaging itself and its staff in local activities in which it is encouraging its listeners to be involved. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 19
  20. 20. 8.0 CENSUS DATA A basic look at the 2001 census data for Sedgemoor shows that it has a distinctive population. The proportion of 20 to 30 year olds in the district is much lower than the national average, whereas the proportion of 50 to 54 year olds is much higher. The data has significant implications for the radio station in terms of:  the potential advertisers  the potential listeners  the station’s programming  the station’s music policy  the station’s marketing strategy. The characteristics of the local population need to be examined in more detail so that BCR FM understands the composition of its 25-54 year old audience outlined in its licence. BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 20
  21. 21. 9.0 CONCLUSION From the evidence of twelve hours of listening, it is clear that technically BCR FM achieves a high standard and its programming sounds very professional. The key areas that need to be addressed are:    compliance with Ofcom Format consistency of programming focus on Bridgwater. The programming elements that need to be tackled are:      localness music policy commercial scheduling breakfast show automation. Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk BCR FM Bridgwater Radio Station Content Monitoring Report ©2005 Grant Goddard page 21

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