You’re Only As Good As…

It’s been a crappy week so far.  First the death of the gorgeous Lis Sladen, and then yesterday I learned that my radio production company (the oldest in the UK) had been denied the right to pitch/produce a certain style of documentaries for BBC Radio 4 for the next 2 years.  We’ve been succesfully making these sorts of docs since 1992…they are the core of what we do…but now, like afternoon plays 2 years ago, we’re off the list!

Why?

Well, it seems you are only as good as your last…erm…well, it can’t be success.  Our docs have garnered critical praise and listener admiration.  Some have even won awards.  We are told that, in a couple of instances, our previous docs weren’t “admired”…but they were admired by the press, the audience and our fellow producers.  So it was only the network chiefs who didn’t like them?  I wonder who we are REALLY trying to make programmes for? The commissioners or the stakeholders who pay the bill every year (you and me!)

So, suddenly, I am looking at a £30,000 per year loss in work.  I have 6 producers and 10 presenters no longer earning.  My company loses some credibility.  I wonder if I can pay the mortgage.  It’s not like there’s anyone else out there paying money to have these docs produced – if only the UK government would allow some kind of competition in the speech radio market, but alas, they may look like they hate the BBC, but I promise you, they are all cronies together.

So I am angry, and upset, and frustrated.  “You are rewarded for loyalty and success” makes me laugh, almost as much as every time talent asks me “So surely they’ll pay us more for this considering the success of the last thing?”  Ha ha ha, really? Go ask them.  It is ever diminishing budgets, ever increasing rights packages and ever insulting BBC-independent producer relationships.

Are we still producing kick-ass, award winning, top-class, critically acclaimed radio programmes and series?  Damn right we are.  Just check out “Russia: The Wild East” on R4 right now.  Ridiculous praise and press.  But will that translate in to more commissions for 2012-13.  I have a sinking sensation.

The BBC already hates having to deal with radio indies.  They are now pushing aggressively for the smaller and medium sized indies to shut down, so they only have to deal with 5 or 10 super-indies.  And then BBC Radio will be where BBC TV is…with the occassional superb production, in amongst the cookie-cutter production line nonsense.

We’ll persevere, but we’ll push even harder through our Spokenworld Audio sister company to producer, publish, sell and even commission new audio that goes straight to market.  It is high time the BBC were removed from their place of privilege and reminded that other people know what they are talking about, too.  So, here’s to the BBC, may it remain a bastion of UK creative arts.  But now comes the time of the independent commissioner and publisher…we may not have the free access to cash from the licence fee, but we’ll get the best and the brightest to work with us because OUR CREATIVITY IS STRONG!

A Couple Of Fascinating Radio Programmes For A Sunday

Made In Manchester Logo

The following two radio docs were made by my friend Ashley Byrne’s radio indie Made In Manchester, and both are on-air on the BBC today.  If you have the chance, check them out!

WALKING WITH WHITMAN

Stuart Maconie meets devotees of Walt Whitman in Bolton and explores the history of the town’s unlikely yet enduring relationship with the American poet.

A group of devoted fans established the Whitman Fellowship from 1885 onwards, and, although he never visited the town, Whitman developed strong ties through his correspondence with members of the group. Today, Whitman devotees gather for the annual Whitman Walk, to recite his works and share from Whitman’s Loving Cup, a gift presented to his followers in Bolton in 1894.

Stuart joins this happy band of walkers and Whitmanites to discover why the poet is still celebrated there, nearly 120 years after his death.

  • 1630-1700 (BST)
  • Sunday, July 5th 2009 (Repeated at 23.30-0000 BST on Saturday 11th July 2009)
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 92.4-94.6 FM LW 198 on line, Dab digital radio, Freeview, Sky or the BBC i-player for 7 days after broadcast.
  • Presented by Stuart Maconie
  • Produced by Russell Crewe and Andrew Edwards
  • Executive Producer: Neil Gardner

·         A Made in Manchester Production for BBC Radio 4

GAY LIFE AFTER SADDAM

Aasmah Mir investigates how life for gay or LGBT people in Iraq has got much worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The programme contains harrowing testimonies from gay, bi and trans Iraqis and shocking descriptions of murder and torture which some listeners may find disturbing.

  • 1900-2000 (BST)
  • Sunday, July 5th 2009
  • BBC Radio 5Live
  • 909/693 MW, on line, Dab digital radio, Freeview, Sky or the BBC i-player for 7 days after broadcast.
  • Presented by Aasmah Mir
  • Produced by Ashley Byrne and Gail Champion
  • Executive Producer: Russell Crewe
  • Actors: Ashley Byrne, Samuel Barnett (History Boys, Beautiful People, Mrs Henderson Presents, Desperate Romantics) and Paul Kendrick (Consenting Adults)

·         A Made in Manchester Production for BBC Radio 5Live

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