Category Archives: Opinion
I was delighted to be invited to speak to journalism students at my former university, UCLan in Preston, about how I work from home for BBC Radio Cumbria. Also, how the broadcast industry has adapted to the changes we’ve seen this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve been working from a back room in my house for more than seven months due to underlying health conditions. In keeping with the topic of the talk, it was delivered via video call to the students who were watching in their own homes on Microsoft Teams. An enjoyable session with about 40 people watching, who asked excellent questions at the end. Some of the salient points of the discussion are included here.
As a key worker, it’s a privilege to continue to contribute to the radio station throughout the pandemic in an important role. There’s a wide range of things you can do in the broadcasting industry, while working from home. I mostly produce items for the breakfast programme but can also record and edit reports as well as broadcast live, using specialised apps and software.
Here’s political correspondent, Paul Rowley, doing exactly that on BBC Radio Cumbria. Even with disruptions, it turned out to be a memorable moment and Tweet!
Without a commute of over an hour each day, I have a lot more time. I’m able to read for pleasure a lot more than I used to. There’s also more time to spend with family and pets… Even if my cat does seem to know when I’m on an important phone call because that’s exactly when she’ll meow for Dreamies! For parents, arrangements can be flexible to allow for childcare and appointments.
Technology has increased our connectivity; people from across the organisation can connect in an instant with the likes of Zoom. That’s something I do weekly for a diversity and inclusion steering group that I’m part of. I’ve had training sessions, without the need to travel or meet face-to-face, and even taken part in a Pilates session during a lunch break.
One of the main aspects I miss is the social side of going to work. Those ‘water cooler moments’ where you get to know colleagues personally in the little chats in the kitchen or corridor. Bouncing ideas around with others and having a banter in the office is great… it’s not quite the same over email! Our weekly team Zoom call to catch up with each other is something I look forward to.
The amount of screen time has, understandably, increased. Usually face-to-face meetings provide a break from this, but not so on a video call. It can be tempting to avoid taking breaks and just plough through but it’s actually even more important to do so when working from home, to prevent eye strain. Try to move around, rather than stay completely sedentary, too.
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when there’s no commute to provide a mental break and a chance to assimilate all that’s happened. My tip is to try to have a separate workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you only have something like a dining table to work off don’t sit in the same place to eat as well. If you use a laptop, pack that away once you’ve finished using it.
When the computer is only in the next room it can be tempting to “just do a little bit more” work – something I have been guilty of on occasion! Set boundaries so that you will only work the same amount of hours as you would, if you were physically in the office.
Our ability to work from home will probably be with us, long after this pandemic. It would be a shame not to take the positives of what has been learnt to become more effective in future. Without the need for as much travelling, it gives us more productive time in the day – and it’s better for the environment too. Our homes are now the equivalent of district offices.
As broadcasters and journalists working in the media, being adaptable is what we do. It’s how the industry has developed into what it is today and we shouldn’t fight this. We’re currently in a period of great change at the moment anyway, but the possibilities of what can be achieved when we put our minds to it are still limitless.
A recent example of how working from home has become a ‘new normal’ was evident in how the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing was broadcast. Showbiz reporter, Betty Redondo, Tweeted that it was actually directed by crew members from home. You wouldn’t have known any different while watching the show live on Saturday night either:
Finally, you can claim tax relief of £6.00 a week for job expenses, while working from home. More information is available HERE.
“The show must go on”, as the old adage of theatre goes. Although, during the coronavirus pandemic, this has been incredibly difficult for the arts and entertainment industry. Any ticketed indoor venue has to weigh up the social distancing and sanitising costs against any potential profit they can make by putting on a show with a reduced audience. For a lot of theatre companies, it’s currently not a viable option.
Therefore, for many of us, we have to think back to pre-lockdown times to remember the last occasion when we were sat in an auditorium together, watching a live performance on stage. However, this past week offered a chance to see the latter streamed live into our own homes. On Tuesday, this was supporting theatres across the north of the UK, where the doors have been closed to the public for at least the last six months.
The performance was Romantics Anonymous, put on by the Wise Children theatre company. The story is based on the French-Belgium romantic comedy film Les Émotifs Anonymes, which has been adapted into a musical by Emma Rice. The plot is predominantly set in a chocolate factory. It follows the lead characters: Angélique – a shy chocolatier, and Jean-René – the factory manager, as they fall in love despite their social anxieties.
All the actors have been in a bubble together, which meant there was no social distancing necessary on stage – they could sing, dance and kiss each other, just like in old times. The performance was streamed live from Bristol Old Vic and each night this supported theatres in a specific region of the UK or the USA, with the funds generated in the price of a virtual ticket. Theatres close to my heart, as well as geographically, that were hosting the show that I saw were Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, The Lowry in Salford and Home, Manchester.
It was great escapism to watch this musical; for a couple of hours, life felt normal again. The story was sweet, just like chocolate, and I particularly liked the stylised elements of the staging – there were hardly any doors used on set, for example. The car chase scene was also performed innovatively without a physical car, as such. No spoilers – but there was mini remote controlled version!
Another adage of theatre is “the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd” – or is it the other way around? There was a socially distanced show performed to a seated audience at the end of the week. However, for the majority of the shows, there may not have been an audience in person to see the performance but it will have been enjoyed by many people, viewing over a screen as part of 2020’s ‘new normal’.
Listening to the latest episode of The Diversity Gap podcast on Spotify, something instantly struck a chord with me: “Timing is everything”.
“There are some thoughts you can share… and they fall completely flat. It’s almost as if no one was listening. But then, you can share that same thought in the right cultural moment and it sets the world on a different trajectory altogether.”Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
You could make a statement at one point in time and nobody would take any notice but you could say it at another moment in time and it resonates. I feel that’s what we’re currently witnessing for the Black Lives Matter movement. For years, decades and even centuries people in the black community have been speaking of their views about prejudice. Now others are taking notice.
In news for something to be on the agenda there needs to be a ‘peg’, something to hang a story on. This could be an anniversary, event or development. The death of George Floyd was that moment. He died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
I cannot profess to be an expert in racial issues. I’m a white woman of privilege; someone who has experienced prejudice in life but in a different way to that of racial tension or oppression. However, I’m someone who can hopefully be seen as an ally, who’s passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality. I’ve tried to educate myself in the issues that are being discussed, watched the coverage, read articles and spoken to black people to hear their views.
It should not have to take the death of a man to make people take notice. When anyone raises concerns over the way they are treated we, as a 21st century society, must listen. (Not just pay lip-service. Lip-service is akin to ignorance.) Then, if necessary, make any changes that come out of those conversations to quell inequality.
Systematic changes can take time but, as Bethaney Wilkinson says in The Diversity Gap podcast “timing is everything”. Social change is possible and maybe the time for that in terms of race relations is now. We’ve already seen global protests, statues taken down and police officers charged, in the three weeks since George Floyd’s death.
“Diversity is about dignity. It’s not about metrics and marketing and money. It’s about real people, real stories, real lives.”Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
Racism is wrong. Diversity is something to be celebrated. And, when prejudice occurs, it must not be ignored.
A week ago we welcomed a new addition to our family and adopted a cat. I’m an animal lover, and feel like a house isn’t really a home without a pet, but the process wasn’t without various pitfalls along the way.
When I was growing up, I was surrounded by animals. From a cockatiel to a hamster and various fish. What about the controversial cat vs dog camp? Well, sadly, I’m allergic to dogs so by default that makes me a crazy cat lady! I had four cats throughout my childhood and various others who visited. You can imagine my disappointment when I moved out and the contract of my flat stated “no pets allowed”!
I recently reported on a story where a rescue centre had been inundated with kittens due to people not spaying their pets. There was a plea for people to come and help adopt the youngsters and free up space. I didn’t need much persuading anyway and, now I’ve moved to Cumbria, the time seemed right.
Convincing my fiancé, who favours dogs, was the first hurdle. Then onto the adoption process. I’d owned adult cats before and wanted an adult to re-home again because when there are many kittens in the rescue centres, it’s the adults that often get overlooked. I’d also been inclined to adopt a black cat because, due to superstition, you will find many of these in rescue centres. That’s why there’s even a national “Black Cat” day to raise awareness of the issue.
There was a mix up with the first we tried to adopt, after various appointments and trying to reserve the cat, I was informed she’d actually been re-homed with someone else instead due to an admin error. This was disheartening but at least the cat had a home. What surprised me was when I spoke to other people about their experiences of animal adoption that situation is a lot more common than I first thought.
Staff at another centre never got back to our enquiry to adopt a cat. However, the saddest part of the process came unexpectedly. A cat we’d arranged to meet had an existing health condition and had to be put to sleep. This was heartbreaking but handled very well at the rescue centre. They asked, seeing as we had an appointment booked, would we still like to visit the cattery?
I took them up on the offer but, after so many set backs, tried not to get my hopes up. As soon as we went in a black and white cat called Pushkin – presumably named after the Russian poet – came to greet us. They say cats choose their owners, rather than the other way around, and I think that’s definitely what happened here! I’ve never known a cat called that before but, because she answers to it, the name has stuck.
Within a week we had taken her home. She has had to be introduced to each room at a time but has settled in incredibly well. Pushkin is a loving and affectionate cat – she’s actually been sitting on my knee as I write this! She’s such a character and, because she’s 5-years-old, is very well behaved.
I’d urge anyone who’s interested in having a cat as a pet to consider adopting from a rescue centre. There are so many lovely animals who are in need of a home. In Pushkin’s case, her original owner had died and then was relocated from Manchester to Ambleside, before finding herself in need of a home.
Rescue centres are often charities and will really appreciate and value your support. I’d also say that the adoptions sometimes don’t go as you may wish, so it’s best to go into it with an open mind. If you have too many expectations then you may miss out on your purr-fect pet. Adopting a cat has been quite an emotional rollercoaster, in my case anyway, but it’s been one of the highlights of my year. I can’t imagine our house without her now and she’s certainly made herself at home…
It’s 50 years since the most beautiful airliner the world has ever seen took to the skies. I’ve had a soft spot for Concorde many years and wanted to mark the anniversary of its first British test flight by explaining why the aircraft is special to me.
Despite being retired from air travel, Concorde remains a pride of British and French engineering as a mainstay of supersonic flight – reaching Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, at an incredible 1,350 miles an hour.
Aviation is in my blood on both sides of the family, so much so that in the first careers test I did at school the results indicated that I should work in that industry. My uncle was an air steward for British Airways and my Mum, Dad and auntie all worked at Fairey Engineering in Stockport, which was originally a manufacturer of military aircraft.
As you might expect, I grew up living under the flight path of Manchester Airport (some may call it Ringway) and could see the line of take offs and descents from my bedroom window. The site of the Stockport air disaster in 1967 isn’t too far away either.
One particular occasion in the school playground, the whistle blew and everyone had to stand still and listen to the teacher for instruction. It seemed far too early to go inside, but instead we were told to look to the sky. Concorde was flying overhead and it was a magnificent sight and sound to experience.
This didn’t sound like a usual aircraft landing, there wasn’t a sonic boom of course as that was forbidden over towns and cities. The sound of the airliner was louder but smooth. I also saw the inimitable streamlined shape from below with the outline of the wings and a “snoop droop” nose sketching a silhouette into the sky, as the landed gear was lowed. All I can describe it as is a magical sight to witness that has stayed with me.
Concorde retired from the skies in 2003. That was after a crash in France due to a catalogue of errors three years earlier had affected some public feeling towards the aircraft. Attitudes towards supersonic travel changed but the fondness the pubic holds towards Concorde still exists. That was witnessed in the last flypast over Buckingham Palace, alongside the RAF Red Arrows. The last time it would be seen in the sky.
Nowadays Concorde is a tourist attraction at sites across the UK, including the Runway Visitor Park at Manchester Airport. Tour guides take you onto the plane and you can also sit where the likes of Sir David Frost, Dame Joan Collins or even The Queen would have travelled.
It makes you wonder how such a splendid aircraft came to be grounded? But in this era of budget air travel it’s clear to see how it happened. Now Brexit is on the cards (or is it…) finances and feelings are elsewhere when it comes to supersonic flight. However, the Concorde era will remain an extraordinary period of aviation history and an example of the great heights that can be achieved.
An inclusive range of Barbie dolls, that have disabilities, has been announced by toy makers Mattel. This isn’t like the previous incarnation of “Share a Smile Becky”, which showed a pink wheelchair that didn’t fit into ‘Barbie’s dream house’. Soon Barbie will look more authentic. One of the dolls uses a wheelchair and another has a prosthetic leg. This range will be available in Autumn later this year.
There’s now more representations of disabilities in the mainstream media, which means we’re getting closer to reflecting society but there’s still more to do.
11 million people in the UK are living with a disability, statistics from Disability Sport show. Diversity is a wonderful thing that we must celebrate, rather than shy away from, and the media has an important role to play in holding a mirror up to society.
This is by no means an simple task, but who said positive change was easy? There’s different models used to depict disability and it’s vital that the media takes a stance that will have a positive impact.
The medical model.
As the name suggests, the name derives from health care. When a person is born with an impairment or acquires one, in the medical model, this is often seen as something to be cured through surgery or otherwise. Here we can see negative connotations used with descriptive language, such as someone “suffers” from a condition rather than lives with it or worse is “handicapped”. This places the disability as a fault with the person concerned, which can lead to prejudice and negative stereotypes to the public subliminally.
The social model.
This is a more liberating view which focuses on the environment we live in. What differs in the viewpoints is that, in the social model, it’s our surroundings that are disabling not the person. Think of a building, the room you need to get to is on the first floor. A non-disabled person may choose to use the stairs and a wheelchair user would take the lift. They’ve both able to access where they need to go, so nothing has become disabling in that situation. If a lift wasn’t available that’s when a person would be disabled because they can’t get to where they need to go. Up until that point, both people were being treated exactly the same.
I personally think if more people and organisations used the social model the world would be a more accessible, inclusive and accepting place.
We’re getting there, albeit slowly. Some of the most encouraging representations I see are like the the new range of Barbie dolls or inclusivity in children’s TV programmes because that’s giving young people a true representation before society has a chance to condition kids’ views as they grow up. Young people are often very accepting and non-judgemental, we can learn a lot from them. No one is born with prejudice, leading to the school of thought it’s something learnt through life.
The London Paralympics in 2012 gave hope that coverage could change some negative perceptions. Channel 4 was the broadcaster for this and, while I’m sure there were the very best of intentions, I felt the marketing missed the mark: Athletes were billed as ‘Super Human’. This was almost a hypercorrection for all the ills of the past. A Guardian article by Penny Pepper in 2016 commented how disabled people don’t want to be treated like superheroes, just as equal humans.
The media is a powerful tool. Look at the sea-change and conversations that are happening about views towards plastic waste since David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II. It can happen again for perceptions about disability and here’s my thoughts about how…
Actions for change.
- If we’re rightfully celebrating diversity then let’s do it properly. Don’t show one group or the other – show integration.
- Greater representation of disabled people on-air. Young disabled people deserve to see people who are like them on TV, in print or hear on radio. Only 8% of people with disabilities in this country are wheelchair users, even some people who have mobility impairments don’t use one. Representation needs to encompass this range.
- If a disabled person is cast in a drama, have them take part in storylines that don’t constantly revolve around their impairment.
- Cut out ‘inspiration porn’. It’s not inspirational for someone with a disability to have an education, a job or be in a relationship… that’s normal. By all means, celebrate achievements but not the ordinary.
- Have sporting events such as the Olympics and Paralympics run together concurrently. This happened at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year.
- There’s a lot more to disabled people than just sport, representations should focus on all walks of life.
- Use positive language.
- Talk, talk and talk more; this is the only way to tackle the taboo. Most misconceptions come from a lack of understanding or fear of the unknown.
You may not agree with some or all of what I say here but at least a discussion is being had, rather than the elephant in the room. A video was produced by journalist Ellis Palmer for BBC Ideas recently “How to talk about disability”. If you’ve found the themes I’ve written about interesting I urge you to take a look at the short film and continue the conversation:
As Ellis says in that film: “treat others as you wish to be treated”. An impairment doesn’t define a person, it shapes experiences through life. Let’s make a difference and use the social model of disability everywhere, particularly in the media.
I’m the sort of person who laughs in the face of superstition. Who actively seeks out locker number 13 in the gym, for example. It’s almost always free. Some people are superstitious and there are some Doctor Who fans – known as Whovians – who think the casting of the thirteenth Doctor is indeed unlucky.
The actor just happens to be a woman: Jodie Whittacker. I think it’s a brilliant decision.
Firstly, let me start with this caveat: I won’t begrudge anyone an opinion and it’s fine for you to disagree with me. It’s fine for you not to like the casting. (I take a while to come round to the idea of a new Doctor after each regeneration myself.) It’s even fine for you to object to the casting because she’s a woman and it breaks the tradition of the male canon of actors we’ve seen previously in the role.
What I do take issue with, however, is some of the language I saw on social media after the announcement. Antiquated statements like: “shouldn’t she be in the kitchen instead”, “she won’t be able to park the TARDIS” or this Tweet from Katie Hopkins:
I describe this as ‘subtle sexism’. Even though it’s garish and unsubtle in nature, it is subtle sexism because it’s meant to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’. Joking doesn’t cut it though; it’s just as offensive and I’m inclined to think these statements are more likely a true word spoken in jest.
You don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist and, as Kate Hopkins’ sentiments show, you don’t have to be male to be a misogynist. Misogyny is really a response of fear. It’s the ‘alpha-male’ culture where people fight men to get to the top of their trade. Nowadays the pool is more equal but larger. The quest to get noticed is gradually becoming between both men and woman, in many industries. When comments alluding to the subordination of woman arise in conversations such as this Doctor Who debate I believe it’s down to a fundamental, even subconscious, resistance to gender equality.
It’s a shame it’s taken so many regenerations to get to this stage with the show. If a woman had been cast as The Doctor earlier people would have got use to the idea by now. I find it actually quite sad that having a female cast in the show’s title role causes such animosity in 2017. If there was true equality then it wouldn’t be an issue.
What I love about the series, and the sci-fi genre in general, is that anything is possible. Originally, The Doctor could only regenerate a number of times but we have surpassed that now due to the creative license of the writers. This same creative license applies to a gender change; we’re dealing with fiction after all. The Doctor has four hearts, so why does it matter whether he / she has a penis a a vagina? Can she exterminate the Daleks convincingly? As a Whovian, that’s what I’m interested in.
If we can have a female Prime Minister running the country then surely we can have a female Time Lord travelling the universe. The only thing that really matters is whether Jodie Whittacker is a good enough actor to play such an iconic role. She did open her hand very well in the teaser trailer but, until I’ve seen her first episode, I’ll reserve judgement. I wasn’t familiar with much of her work beforehand but from what I’ve researched it certainly bodes well for next series.
A change in ideology of gender equality takes time. As some people’s sentiments after the casting announcement indicate, we’re not quite there yet. The casting of a female Doctor is a step closer though. Hopefully, before long she’ll just be accepted – without any digs, jibes or fuss – as part of the canon of work in this extraordinary series.
Five decades since it began (albeit with a hiatus in the middle) and the programme still prompts such in-depth discussion about social issues. Doctor Who is as important, relevant and socially revolutionary as ever.
I’ll leave the last word to the legend that is Colin Baker, who played the sixth incarnation of The Doctor:
It feels like so much has happened in the month since the suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, so much bad news, so much terror. For every negative emotion though there has also been unity and love.
The explosion was literally close to home. Most people I know have been there to see events. They’re often some of the happiest times of our lives. No doubt, that’s how the people who’d been to see Ariana Grande on 22 May felt too. Until just after 22:30, when the explosion happened and everything changed. That night 22 people never came home and countless lives changed forever.
It’s a tragedy that’s affected people beyond the city’s boundaries. For me personally, four of the victims were from Lancashire and, as news of the atrocity filtered through, it unfolded that I knew one of the people who died in the blast; I’d gone to the same high school as 29-year-old Martyn Hett.
I’m from Stockport originally, the same town as Martyn. It’s six miles away from Manchester and most Stopfordian’s are proud to call themselves Mancunian. Just like the majority of the country and beyond did after the attack. In uniting against evil, showing our empathy and solidarity, we’re all Mancunian because being Manc is about much more than geography. The bee is a symbol of our undying spirit of love, peace and hope.
Even now, I can remember vividly the night of the bomb. I got an inkling from social media, my first thoughts were that surely something of this scale must be a hoax? It was a concert with a young following after all. But terrorism knows no boundaries.
I turned on the radio and as the details began to unfold it just got more and more horrifying as Greater Manchester Police confirmed fatalities. Understandably, there was a sombre feeling that followed. I was one of the breakfast show producers that week at BBC Radio Lancashire and we were reflecting the mood in our programme. It gave me chance to get in touch with my Manchester contacts from home. One thing struck me straight away from speaking to people – resilience. Ours is a city that will never be beaten.
LISTEN: The report I put together for the four Lancashire victims of the Manchester bomb, which aired on BBC Radio Lancashire a week after the attack… (Blog post continues below.)
Of course, there’s grief and the nation mourns together. We must reflect on the evil but we then must counter that by remembering those we have lost and reflecting on the hope there was in the aftermath. Hope came in many forms: Tony Walsh’s ‘Our Place’ poem, the ‘One Love’ concert staged by Ariana Grande and her team or the people who went out to the memorials to water the floral tributes.
What really resonated for me were the outbursts of Oasis’s ‘Don’t look back in anger’, which has rightfully become an anthem of Manchester. My family are all Mancunian and the majority of my education happened in Manchester. I went to sixth form college at Parrs Wood in Didsbury and then studied for my undergrad degree at The University of Manchester, so have spent a lot of time in the city during my formative years. The bee is a great emblem because there is such a buzz. There’s many things I love about Manchester, but most of all, I love how diverse the place is.
If you stand on Market Street in the city centre, for example, you will see all kinds of people all going about their business, the same as anyone else. In my experience, there’s very little discrimination because people are so accepting and friendly. The ripples of acts of terrorism don’t just happen at the time though. It can affect people for years to come, in different ways, if you let it. It may manifest as fear or prejudice, either subliminally or overtly, but that’s what we must reject. It creates a divide and that isn’t what our Mancunian spirit is about. I have tickets to go to a gig at the arena at the end of the year, if it’s open by then. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there ever again but that’s not the right attitude to have. Hopefully I can go and have a good time.
There is an unquantifiable sadness – we’ve had vigils for the victims and now the funerals are taking place one by one. I went to the vigil for Martyn Hett in Heaton Moor Park and it was cathartic in ways I hadn’t imagined. To see so many people coming together to celebrate his life was truly heart-warming, after so much heartbreak.
Manchester stands proud of our history, our culture and our people. We always have and always will… And as the lyrics of the song go: “Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.”
This week I went to the Nations and Regions Media Conference at The Lowry in Salford. Since the Radio Festival changed venue and moved down south, I was looking forward to a conference of a similar vein in the old stomping ground.
I should have known from the ticket price (£90 early-bird rate) that this was aimed more at executive level, rather than for those of us who work in production. It would take a journalist working at some commercial stations around two days salary to pay to go to all events, adding travel and parking costs etc. The redeeming feature was the price did include lunch though – bonus!
One of the early sessions about investigative journalism was insightful; there was a lot of wistful reminiscing to the past about the likes of ITV’s long-gone ‘World in Action’. It was a treat to hear from director Paul Greengrass, who used to work on the programme before heading off to Hollywood. What I took from this session was journalists are more than ever required to “show their workings” in this era of “Fake News”, as President Trump coined it. It means, due to this vigour, the quality of work broadcasters are producing is actually more reliable. Maybe not all of Trump’s media criticisms are so damming for the industry, after all?
The second day got underway and I was enjoying debates on various issues. MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, shared her view that – because MediaCity now exists – that doesn’t automatically mean northern views are catered for. “The North” doesn’t stop at Salford and start again in Scotland. There’s a whole wealth of audience members, stories and talent that’ll be missed, if that’s a widely-held belief.
I hope it isn’t, but have taken calls from people in the past who have made humorous misconceptions. While I can forgive statements like: “Is Bolton in Lancashire?”, because it’s on the border. It only takes a quick glance at a map to know the answer to: “Is Blackburn in Manchester?”
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, announced there will be a consultation to move some of Channel 4’s staff out of London to “wherever it can be found” in the UK. As someone who grew up in Greater Manchester, I know how amazing the opportunities at MediaCityUK are: the area’s been completely regenerated and is buzzing. However, if every major media outlet sets up there, Salford will become as much of an isolated bubble as London is perceived to be.
As a regional staple, I was disappointed with the lack of mentions local radio got at the conference. People who work in that area make a limited amount of resources spread far and wide in order to create content. Talented staff are serving parts of the audience that other platforms may not reach. At times, providing vital information – the recent Lancashire floods are a prime example. I would urge any sceptic to spend a day in a local radio newsroom – either commercial or BBC – and see for themselves. Yet newsrooms in local stations are constantly under threat from cuts.
BBC local radio as an example; there are stations all across the country. Audience reach of all of them combined must be enough to match a national network station. Surely that makes it eligible to warrant a discussion? The audience is more concentrated in each TSA and the issues differ from place to place, but that makes what’s on offer so unique.
It was infectious hearing Head of BBC Radio, Bob Shennan’s, positivity for the medium and his enthusiasm that another golden age of radio is “still to come”, even if it may be different from what has gone before. Due to the way the discussion went though, ill-fated Channel 4 Radio got more of a mention than local radio, which is still very much thriving on the dials.
At the end of a thought-provoking conference, I was driving home listening to a network station when the news came on. There was a Lancashire story in the bulletin and my ears pricked up, because that’s where I live and work. The reader made the easy mistake of pronouncing Barrowford, in Pendle, as: “BARROW-F’D”. You need local knowledge to know it’s actually pronounced: ‘BARROW-FORD’. There’s no way of knowing this by reading off a script alone. I carried on my journey explicitly aware that local radio is still as important as ever.
A day after the result of the US Election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hilary Clinton, you’ll be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard the news both in the US and here across the pond.
Any new leader of the free world is bound to be a big headline grabber, particularly in our 24-hour ‘breaking news’ culture. But with Trump it is more so due to the unexpected nature of his victory and the publicity he has generated throughout his campaign.
Donald Trump’s rise to power is the epitome of celebrity culture and where it can get people. I know he’s a billionaire businessman and, in spite of any inheritance, to maintain and build upon a fortune does take skill. But would that alone have been enough to get Trump into the White House?
It’s hypothetical now of course, but I don’t think Trump would have won without the celebrity brand he’d built up. This is a man so famous The Simpson’s even made a satirical joke about him becoming president, 16 years earlier! You don’t have to live in America to be aware of the media mogul either; he had cameos in Home Alone 2, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Sex and the City.
I became aware of this stratospheric celebrity status when on holiday in Tenerife in January. It was the last night of our trip and must have been around 03:00 in the morning when I got back to my hotel room. Still buzzing from what had good night out in the resort, I turned on the TV to try to relax. I wasn’t expecting much; mostly everything was broadcast in Spanish. I did channel-hop to a programme with spoken English though, it was The Apprentice. Not Lord Sugar’s UK version, but Donald Trump’s US hit- which indicates just how far his brand was reaching.
I’m wrestling fan, not as avid as I once was, but I find it great escapism from ‘reality’! You may have seen a video circulating around social media about his appearances with the WWE. This sticks in my mind particularly because I think I can attribute this particular angle as the cause of me falling out of love a little with “sports entertainment”.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon (who also plays an alter-ego character ‘Mr McMahon’ in the ring) must’ve fancied a new hair cut because this was woven into a storyline. A stipulation was that the billionaire loser out of him and Trump would also lose their locks. I was originally a fan of the WWF ‘Attitude Era’ (Hell Yeah!!) and this just became too far-fetched, even for me. It’s surreal now Donald Trump is President-Elect, watching clips of him taking Vince down and shaving his hair off!
I’m not saying people who’ve achieved fame shouldn’t go for a political position. We live in a democracy and if a candidate meets the criteria to stand then they should. Look at the likes of Ronald Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example – Hollywood actors who have since branched out into politics. I’m sure there will be many more instances of crossovers too.
I can’t help but think though, amid all the controversy, would Trump have made it to the White House without his celebrity status? The exit polls showed Hilary Clinton was the more poplar candidate yet, when it mattered, the result wasn’t as close as some pundits first thought. Maybe a familiar name on a ballot paper does help put a tick in a box, particularly when voters are apathetic or unsure.