4 September 2018
Commercial stations are splashing the cash on big signings - but where are the diverse names, asks Edward Adoo
Source: Sky News
Chris Evans: announced Radio 2 departure this week
Radio is one of our best and loved mediums. As a broadcaster and avid radio geek, it’s the best in the world. The recent signings and movements across the industry shows how radio is truly valued.
UK radio still boasts the best stations and presenters but it has morphed into a world of bidding wars, with talent commanding high fees for prominent slots.
It has become like the football transfer season. But Chris Evans announcing he was leaving the Radio 2 Breakfast show then moving to Virgin Radio earlier this morning was the biggest kept secret in radio – and Evans could only reveal the first part of the story on his show.
This, plus LBC’s signing of Eddie Mair from the BBC and Matthew Wright signing for TalkSport, indicates there is still long life in radio, with big name talents commanding mass audiences.
Yet commercial stations are fishing in a safe pool. Evans, Mair and Wright are all tried and tested middle-class white guys. Where are the women or BAME talent in the mix?
Surely they should be getting a chance to connect with mainstream audiences, not just a select few?
Many years ago, I tried to secure airtime for a major commercial radio group, but soon realised I wouldn’t be valued or respected working there. I have constantly questioned why commerical radio has been sluggish to address diversity.
In a roundtable discussion at the DCMS in 2016 with former Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, I put the question to Radiocentre director Siobhan Kenny, who assured me the industry was aware of the problem and steps would be taken to ensure it is priortised.
Kenny totally got it, and I trust that she and her colleagues will ensure the sector will be more representative. But unfortunately much of commercial radio is still a boys’ club, dominated by middle class and white decision-makers who are not always aware of talent outside of their world.
“For the next generation of diverse broadcasters, Evans’ return to Virgin will not be seen as a positive step”
Bauer Group is an exception, with its top stars Angie Greaves at Magic and Melvin and Rickie on Kiss FM Breakfast. But they shouldn’t be the only group championing diverse talent.
For the next generation of diverse broadcasters, Evans’ return to Virgin will not be seen as a positive step.
Both BBC and commercial radio are keen to target the next generation of radio listeners. It’s proven quite tricky to tap into their lifestyle and the ways they consume music and other forms of media today.
Global Radio’s LBC schedule still lacks diverse choice, with one BAME presenter at the weekend and one woman at lunchtime. There is talent out there who could easily fill these slots - June Sarpong, Trevor Philips, Yasmeen Khan, Adil Ray, to name a few.
I’m not here to knock LBC, but they and others need to change their mindset. Radio must move with the times to connect with all audiences.
The BBC is addressing diversity and making sure all of its networks from national to local stations are reaching out. Some regions are playing catch up, but they are on the right track.
Big signings should appeal to all talent in radio, it should be diverse, with more room at the top especially for BAME and female talent.
Commercial radio may be cheering about their new signings, but they’ve got a long way to go if they want to get to grips with diversity.