Successful Radio

“5 Live is getting straight to the heart of things.” These were the words of Adrian Van Klaveren controller of BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra. Adrain was the speaker for last Thursday’s Coventry conversation.

He began his presentation referring to the world of radio as an old medium that has survived the years and still has a resonance with modern life. Radio he said has been under all sorts of threats; threats from television and threat from the age of the internet.

Talking about radio having a place in people’s hearts in Britain, he said: “Radio has a special place in the UK with forty-eight million listeners a week.” Unlike television and reading which require a vast amount of concentration, radio he added can be used effectively as a secondary activity.

Radio depicts the power of speech. It has a sense of drama, immediacy and involvement. He expressed that radio sport commentary is central to what 5 Live is does. Speech radio is in a strong position in the UK and more people are seeing what live radio had got to offer. Radio stations he cited in the category of speech radio included 5 Live, Talk Spots and BBC Radio 4.

Adrian highlighted the changes in the past three to four years because of the improvement on advance technology.

“We always acknowledge the fact that somebody out there might know more than we do. They may have experienced what we talk about emotionally or have a connection to it in another way.”

In highlighting the changes in the world of radio he also stated: “The world of radio is changing very fast. The radio is no longer the box that sits in the corner of the room. People tune in on their phone; and follow either on facebook or twitter.”

His passion for 5 Live was evident when he stated 5 Live is about breaking news, live sports and original Journalism. Further adding to this affirmation he said 5 live studios it is one of the few places people come together and talk about the same thing.”

A successful radio station is a station that is clear about what they do. 5 Live does news and sport and there is an audience that likes both. Radio becomes part of people’s daily life and it’s habitual.

Talking about presenter on radio he said: “you want presenters with character. Ones that can connect with the audience and stand out. We want people who will go to the edge and not over it.”As a radio station, involvement in big event and multi-platform makes you stand out.

The future for us is a digital one he reiterated. With digital becoming the key to success he stated: “Digital means more choice and better quality.”

Summing up his presentation, Adrian Van Klaveren said successful radio is one that has things that are relevant. With that he said: “Things that I want to know and care about.” It has to be information and adds to the listener’s knowledge. Stressing on the entrainment audience like to get from listening to radio he said: “If they don’t like it, they will turn it off.”

He concluded saying: “If you do these three very well then you are guaranteed to be successful.”




“So Just What Do You Mean By Local?”

The sixth annual ‘What do you mean by local’ conference that hosted influential figures of local radio, local newspapers and local media under one roof was held last Wednesday in the Ellen Terry building of Coventry University.

Ian Marshall, Deputy vice chancellor of Coventry University was chair and host for the occasion. His interpretation of the meaning of local was: “no audience, no listeners and no job”. The phrase “local”, he added hides much of what it means.

Kevin Marsh, retired executive founding editor of BBC College of journalism also mentioned it is hard to pin down the idea of local.

Darren Parkin, editor for Coventry Telegraph stated: “you have to allow the local audience to tell you what they want”, he also admitted that he sees Coventry Telegraph as a vehicle which tells people what is happening.

A newspaper, he mentioned, is a collection of knowledge, and that knowledge might not apply to everyone. The audience asked him if he is going to save local newspapers, to which he replied by asking if local newspapers needed saving.

“There will always be a need for local newspapers, even with an iPad, nothing beats sitting in an armchair with a newspaper”, he concluded.

Steve Orchard CEO of Touch Fm opposed his statement by saying: “sitting in an arm chair with an iPad is better and this is where local newspapers will die out”.

Local, has a dimension of relevance and the dilemma is going micro in local terms: “Your life does not revolve around your street and local council estates and you might be interested in what goes on beyond your boundaries” he added.

He stressed on the importance of engaging with the local audience: “Try to deliver a sense of emotion and a sense of place. This can be the pride in an area or something that angers the people in the community” he stated.

He proudly displayed the Touch FM Grammy award plaque, which he believes they received because they treat their audience with respect and also serve their listeners beyond their call of duty as a local radio station. This, he reiterated, is what emotional engagement is about. More so, Touch FM was also chosen primarily for their music content.

“If you would do local and do it badly then you are better off not doing it at all” he commented. Adding that local people will know you are not doing your job well.

Mr Orchard also acknowledged that he might not fully understand what is happening with the euro zone but it might mean he has to employ less people; nonetheless quality still has to be delivered.

Looking for a job can be grim he shared, “so be creative about what you have learned after you leave university.” He also encouraged students by saying: “Most people do give up but never be the one who gives up”.

Phil Riley CEO of Orion and Mercia FM began his presentation with an entertaining tale of his days as a student at Loughborough University. He was one of the presenters on the university radio station.

They got approval to buy a radio station because they made a claim that resonates with the local people and aimed to be the “Last men standing” even as Smooth and Kerrang went national.

He stated that because of financial reasons they have moved location and moving out of Coventry city has had three effects.

The present location of service saves money and therefore more money is spent on things that matter. This he deemed a positive effect.

When Mercia started it had about forty to fifty people working for them but now it’s down to about fifteen people. The present work space is also effective because not all the workers are in the building at the same time. The third reason which deemed not so positive is that they have moved out of the core patch of their territory.

He also highlighted the issue of ‘functional’ verses ‘emotional’. Mercia airs news, sports and weather that is local in content but that, he stated, was not enough. You need presenters who can interact with the local audience. The presenter needs to constantly be aware of what is happening around them locally. He accentuated one of Mercia’s successes was the intense coverage of the riots in Birmingham.

Jeremy Pollock managing editor of BBC Coventry and Warwickshire agreed with the three speakers thus also resounding the importance of emotionally engaging with the audience. Nonetheless he stated that the BBC does not have a problem with cost and resources because of licence fees being paid.

Sharing his background with the audience he said, he grew up in Brighton and was always glued to the local radio for its sports content. One day he carried on listening after the sports highlights and was surprised by the news bulletin because it mentioned names of places he knew. That really impressed him and also developed his passion for radio since then.

The BBC he stated might not be concerned as much with financial issues but they are faced with finding a foothold with the local population.

“I can’t echo enough the importance of quality” he related. Not being a utility switch on is what most radio stations work at avoiding. In the sense that people use you to check for weather updates and if roads are working properly and switch off again.” More so, he admitted that BBC local has most often served an older audience with the average age being 56. Appealing to a younger generation is something they are still working on he concluded.

The conference was well attended and for me it has helped to throw more light on all what local is about.


Al Jazeera and the recent Arab “revolution”


        Stephen Cole, Presenter of Al Jazeera English was the very renowned speaker of the Coventry Conversation held last Thursday.

He gave the audience an insight into what Al Jazeera was all about: “We are the fastest growing network, taking centre stage in recent times and Africa is important to us”.

He reiterated that Al Jazeera has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda as people like to suggest. The US government however has a tensed relationship with them, with former President Bush expressing that he wanted to bomb them. As to whether that was a joke, they are not sure. Nonetheless their offices have been hit twice by troops and this they believe was a deliberate attack.

He explained that the Americans changed their minds after seeing their broadcast on Bin Laden. US viewers, who are becoming more interested in Al Jazeera, watch the channel by other means. This new alliance has been a transformative impetus.

Arabic channels, he added, have emerged in the last 1990 and this has given a voice to the marginalised political parties, which are not heard. Al Jazeera was also demonised for giving a contrary opinion on war. America, however, has woken up to the truth. He also affirmed that the cold war that existed between Al Jazeera and America has ended because of US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton’s visit to Qatar. Cole stated that Al Jazeera is becoming a channel of reference; however he doesn’t mean this in an arrogant way.

The channel was created by the Qatar government in 1996 and Al Jazeera English is only five years old. The Qatar government pays an estimated Seven hundred and fifty million towards its running. He said: “You don’t get rich by running a channel, you rather get poor.”

The Middle East saw Al Jazeera as an open door. It helped them to understand the media censorship as matters regarding the state were shaped behind closed doors. The only response citizens ever got from delegated ministers on why things went on behind closed doors, was development and deliberation battles were ongoing hence they were not told the full story.

The recent uproars he explained picked up because the tension has been the heartbeat of generations. Over the past 15 years the frustration of the people in the Middle East has been broken, he stated.

The audience were reminded that reporting from war-torn zones are not without dangers. Cole reported the killings of some of their journalists and also about the recent beating of one of their cameramen who is still off duty. He further objected to any connection between Colonel Gaddafi and Al Jazeera. The 1980’s movement, he reminded, are the ties that bind Gaddaffi.

Tunisia’s regime is not a dictatorship, he added. Eighty percent of Tunisian’s belong to the middle class and their level of education is ranked in 5th position in the Arab world. The uproar began with a human-interest story, he narrated: It was “one market trader and a slap. A young market trader was asked to pay bribe toward the spot he sold his produce. Not having enough money on him that day, he asked if he could go home and get some money when he was slapped. The rage behind the slap was because it was done by an officer who was a woman. The trader saw that as a disgrace to have been slapped by a woman. In his fury he set himself ablaze in the market place to express his frustration on how bribe taking has sunk so low to even a common market trader.”

On Jan 30 Al Jazeera was ordered to be shut down with Nilesat also breaking the contract. However ten Arab sister channels came to their rescue. The breaking of the satellite, Cole stated, has brought about an unexpected new opportunity since it causes people to devise other means of obtaining news. This radical means was strengthened by the vast majority of North African’s who are predominantly under the age of twenty-five.

Mr Cole describes Al Jazeera’s coverage on the Egyptian revolution as their ‘CNN moment’: “People around the world want us. Al Jazeera has become must see TV especially if you want to know what is happening in the Arab world”.

Looking at Al Jazeera’s new engagement, it has become a trusted news provider. The editorial lines are carefully scrutinised hence increasing a powerful alliance between the news media. They have broken the media monopoly.

“We were in Tunis, we were in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and we have deployed five of our team to Japan even though it is a very expensive trip.” He went on to say: “Once people have access to information they can decide their own fate. What we are about is to extract information from the powerful to the people because in reality those who make changes and decisions keep their own people in the dark”.

He acknowledges that what set Al Jazeera apart during Cairo’s uproar was their level of dialogue, as they were speaking to citizens directly. More so, they conveyed a better sense of what was happening. Additionally they are not accustomed to deploying journalists just to cover stories but rather they make use of the ones they have.

Mr Cole mentioned that they are over running many news networks; where news networks were making cuts they were making it their focus and through this they develop a unique identity, he said: “The environment you broadcast adds colour to your network”.

When asked if their broadcasting techniques turned a ‘mob’ into a future ‘mob’ he replied: “we have passed the accuracy test and Al Jazeera broadcasts the truth.” Subsequently when asked if they were the voice to the Middle East he replied with an empathic ‘no’ saying: “we are a channel just like any other.”

He stated that Qatar plays no political role in Al Jazeera. The Qatari government is aiming to raise the profile of its country hence, the vast amount of money they are contributing to Al Jazeera. He additionally reminded us that the Qatari government’s enormous contribution does not influence their job in anyway neither does it affect what news stories they cover. Al Jazeera, he reaffirmed, gets both sides. Not the White House side and one side as done by other networks.

The secrets to news presenting, he gave away, was to have a deep calm. However he emphasised on the amount of research that needed to be done: “Every story should always have a lot of background.”

He concluded with valuable advice to aspiring journalists: “keep reading and read everything because you always get something from the things you read. Find a mentor if you can.”

Picture Source:…/Jan/30/tvnews.television

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding: Fact or Fiction?

Romany Journalist and broadcaster Jake Bowers dropped by at the Herbert Art Gallery on Friday the 4th, to give us an insight in to channel 4’s cutting edge documentary “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”

A programme watched by 9 million viewers with the statistics growing weekly has been a huge success the makers say and an American version is ‘in the pipe line.

More than two thirds of the audience who attended the presentation by show of hands believed they were watching a documentary as well as a true insight into the traveller’s community.

Mr Bowers started his presentation with an overview of who he is. I am a husband, a father, a brother and a friend he said.

He is also a Romany gypsy community member, a former presenter of BBC radio programme for the travelling community. He has contributed to the ‘Guardian’, the ‘independent’ and the ‘ecologist.’ He edits the Traveller’s Times and runs a Gypsy Media Company which aims to broadcast the real truth about gypsies.

Additionally, he gave an over view of who gypsy travellers are. They are an estimate of 30,000 people with Romany gypsies forming 60 percent whilst ethically Irish traveller’s forms 10 percent. New traveller’s form 5% however these are people who have chosen to live their lives as travellers: Nomadic by choice. Roma gypsies form 15 percent and they tend to be darker skin and come from eastern European state. In all we are looking at a population of over 12 million people; bigger than Sweden and Denmark put together he reported.

Over the years gypsies have always been portrayed negatively in the media. They have been stereotyped in literature as depicted in the ‘hutch back of Notre dame’ and in film as seen in ‘Snatch’ for example.

Press propaganda against this community hasn’t been any better. The continuous negative representation of his community is one of the reasons he became a journalist. He stated that he used to think he was the only Romani journalist but added there are three others now.

He reiterated the fact that the programme has been created having no experts from the gypsy community involved and a dress maker acting as spokes person is not in good taste.

Journalist Bowers described the programme as a sneering ‘mockumentary’ not journalism. The Tone and voice over did no justice to the documentary either. Young brides tripping and falling over on their wedding day was just disgraceful not to mention the wrong invited guests in attendance. He added: this is just ‘Trailer trash Flintstones’ showing an unbalanced representation and adding insult not insight.

Channel 4 defended themselves saying they didn’t create any new stereotype. Mr Bowers stated that they didn’t challenge the old ones either but have rather added to it and that was an utter heartbreak to his community. The added stereotype has resulted in unprecedented consequences such as people losing their jobs and also encouraged more bullying in the play ground.

He distastefully stated how his culture has been described as everything that glistens. This is clearly shown in the wedding and communion dresses deck in thousands of crystals. Anyone watching this programme would think we were all ‘loaded’ he said.

Grabbing, he strongly reaffirmed “is not a gypsy tradition. It is a blatant sexual that does not define who we are.” This is a programme that sexualises children, juxtaposes young gypsy girls as prostitute but with morals, women are presented as domestic slaves and their world is described as a man’s world.

He admitted that their attitude towards woman may not be up to date with the 21st century’s definition but describing their world as misogynistic one is deeply offensive.”

The gypsy culture he enlightened has its roots in India so it affects the way they dress and how they see women, however they do accord respect to their women. Eighty percent of the people used in the programme were Irish travellers and that is a poor presentation of Britain’s gypsies.

This programme has prompted a backlash from the gypsy community.  There has being a massive internet revolution and complaints to channel 4 as well as 175,000 facebook fans. The Guardian has called it a platform for bigotry and this resulted in a change of the sound track so that it was less mockery.

Channel 4 has been rumbled for presenting documentary as fact and this programme has prompted an unfinished business and the debate will still carry. The programme was entertainment and should have been clearly labelled as such he added.

Mr Bowers also mentioned that his greatest objection to the programme is not what was in it but rather what could have been in it. There are lots of untold story about the gypsy community. The programme could have looked at  Roma as the fastest growing community, the forced sterilisation of gypsy women, the educational segregation they experience, poverty, crime and also the trafficking of gypsies from Europe.

This programme has left some viewer genuinely surprised as well as fuelled more hatred. There is a great deal of debate going on about representation and non-gypsies are left confused. However the silver lining he sees, is the programme has granted his community a huge media attention.

He concluded that “being gypsy is not defined by life style but rather by bloodline. We have a language and an identity.

When asked if the gypsy community was a secretive one he boldly replied “no”. We are just like everybody else and we just want to live our lives. Most of us don’t live in caravans anymore he added.

Teletubbies: “Eh-OH, Uh-Oh”

 Award winning British producer, writer and composer, Andrew Davenport, was speaker for Thursday’s Coventry conversations.

Dubbed as ‘the J K Rowling of the under fives’, his charisma held the attention of eager adults who were ready to hear all about the children’s series that took the nation by storm.

His presentation was about two of the works he is most associated with: Teletubbies and In the Night Garden. The aim of his creation with Anne Wood was to connect with the universal experience of childhood.

Davenport, a speech scientist by background said: “Playing is an important thing to look at in child development. Child play tells us a lot about their cognitive and social development.”

Teletubbies was aimed at pre-school children and this he described as the most important stage in the development of a child. In The Night Garden however was aimed at children over 3 years of age. He also added that a new language emerges in play before it comes out in the real world: “with Teletubbies came a whole new infantile language.”

Teletubbies was shot in the beautiful grassy landscape of Stratford upon Avon giving it a sense of reality. The visual work is effective in the way it appealed to children and the vast landscape also allowed for things to be described as ‘here’, ‘there’ and ‘over there’. The visual positioning is a way of communicating to children that even though things may be in the distance – ‘over there’ – and they couldn’t see it, it still exited.

The Teletubbies, aired by BBC on the 31st of March 1999, became a critical as well as a commercial success in Britain with 19 people placing calls to the BBC calling it infantile and silly. Some saw it as dumping the British culture and although most people thought of the programme as silly, the audience didn’t find it so. 

Davenport further added that teletubbies was being misunderstood because it excluded the adult audience. Some parents reported that their child’s language development skill is going backwards instead of forward. This was because they have taught their infants to say ‘hello’ properly but after watching teletubbies they say ‘Eh-oh.’

 He justified this complaint by saying, language acquisition is a constant and resilient process therefore it goes forward and not backwards. Children in general ‘’mimic infantile language because it is appealing and that is the reason why teletubbuies speak the way they do’’, he explained. He also mentioned that children will speak appropriately when in different social setting therefore older children mimicked infantile language just to seek attention from their parents.

Teletubbies were created to speak a silly and playful language but in a relevant way. They couldn’t speak any differently because the ‘playfulness’ in the language is what makes a teletubbie. Like saying ‘Eh-oh’ for hello and ‘Uh-oh’ a common toddler’s response to describe events or anything that is not good. The repetitive nature was because children love repetition. The teletubbies are dressed in different bold colours to allow toddlers to follow their constant consecutive movements.

To move the programme forward, Mr. Davenport said he relied on the memories from his childhood and these were occasions at his grandmother’s house, the tradition of tucking him in bed and telling him bedtime stories.

This also brought about the creation of ‘In the night garden’ which featured a new landscape and new possibilities. The title also suggested the beginning of something different hence the characters were created by what they do adding to it the feeling of a living book.

He added that bedtime stories were appealing because he saw the characters as resilient and also they have lived through the years of the stories being handed down from generations. The impossibilities in the rhymes as such ‘the cow jumps over the moon’ gave children a sense of imagination, hence creating a picture in their mind and thus developing their thinking ability. He also wanted to give children a beautiful and romantic idea of bedtime as bedtimes stories were dying out and children were becoming hesitant to go to bed.

The drawings he said were not amazing from the start but were side-stepped by his adult imagination.

‘You start with a design, and as you work with performers everything changes and adapts but it is important not to lose the original idea of what the character was design to do’. An example he said was for ‘Upsy Daisy’.

He wrote books and the melodies that went with programme and the melodies he said came to him whilst designing and as the characters fell into place.

‘In The Night Garden’ was shot in HD and that was the biggest technology at that time. Despite the few technical difficulties the great resolution allowed opportunities in the way things could be shot. The inclusion of an old fashion style animation which was familiar with parents was an attempt to draw them in as some parents were the main critics of the programme. We had an idea there of an audience who were watching a programme which was not made for them he said.

His source of inspiration came from a children’s book over 200 years old published in 1792 called ‘Evening at home children.’  All the things he remembers as a child worked for him he said, because that is what he grew up with so his experiences would also make sense to other children. The popularity of the programme also created a high demand for teletubbie dolls during Christmas periods.

A live stage show of teletubbies is about to start in April 14.The show has been adapted to fit the age group it is reaching out to because conventional theatres are not designed for seating children of that age.

Davenport added: ‘’the younger the children the more universal the programme is likely to appeal to them’’. He believed pre-school children share the same experiences universally. Outside this age group however experiences are different because cultural differences come into play.

Teletubbies also reaches to an audience in Australia, China, the Fareast and some parts of Africa and the programme is tested on children before it is aired.

When asked if he was proud that children as well as some adults all over the world have grown up speaking his language. He modestly replied: “it is the teletubies language.”  When also asked if he saw himself as an educator, he responded by saying: ‘’Stories are used to educate and impart knowledge. The process of understanding a story and developing meaning involves practise and concentration’’.

He was asked what advice he would give to budding journalist and creators. He said the advice applied to anything.

“If you want to make something that is different and ground breaking then you are half way there at becoming successful. Always start from your audience.”

He further added that making contacts with people in various circles of life is not as difficult as it looked. “Once you have something to show someone you are half way there.”

(Information about teletubbies stage show: www.inthenightgardenlive

458 Italia Recall

Mr Ferrari PR, Jason Harris, was speaker for yesterday’s Coventry conversation.  His presentation was centred on the Crisis Management and the recalls of Ferrari 458 Italia. Mr Jason Harris is the regional manager, communication and he also controls the north Europe, Scandinavian, Dutch as well as the UK market.

He began his presentation addressing the audience over exaggerated and distorted headlines in the newspapers.

They believed that the Ferrari 458 Italia was ‘jinxed’; the ‘thermal incidents’, as Ferrari referred to it, happened consecutively. 

Some news papers published headlines such as ‘Top ten Ferrari caught fire’. Mr Harris stated that out of these ten 458 Italia’s only three caught fire. The other seven incidents the cars were involved in were due to accidents and the incompetence of drivers.

The fault was detected as the bonding adhesive used to attach the heat shield to the wheel-arch liner. The glue melts when it is in proximity to very hot temperatures. The wheel-arch coming into contact with the hot exhaust pipe caused the glue to melt, heat up and ignite. The body of Ferrari is designed with aluminium; aluminium under very high temperature melts.

Ferrari said the fire risk was due to a ‘hot day’, a ‘hot road’ and a ‘very hot car.’ Ferrari in the end called back all its 1,248 cars and replaced them for the owners at no cost. Since the incident, all the glued sections of the car are fitted with metal rivets.

The Sun reportedly said four of the cars had gone up in flames when it was three of them as at the time of the report. Ferrari then had to admit it was four cars because denying the claims would mean they had something to hide.

This goes to show how journalists are supposed to check their facts before reporting them. Mr Harris stressed that reports needed to be accurate and fair. His stress throughout the presentation was in defense of his company as well as the inaccurate figures in the press.

Ferrari later issued an official statement saying they had stopped production and recalled more than 1,200 of the super cars.

He also stated that Ferrari has had a similar incident but that was about 20 years ago and definitely before the age of Internet and You-tube. With the incident of the 458 Italia burning in china, the footage was on You-tube in matter of minutes.

We are in an age where the internet is readily available he said. This means that footage posted are easily accessible, therefore companies are also under pressure to answer queries as quickly as possible.

He expressed that the delays in answering journalist questions about incident such as these were due to the fact that the companies must comply with legislation and also a have a formulated plan on how to fix the problem before they can issue a statement or comment of any form.

He acknowledged the positive comments of Auto car journalist Chris Harris, Roger Stansfield and luxury car dealer Clive Sutton.

Chris Harris commented the incident was down to ‘bad luck’ and the glue used was not experimental glue as it is what the company has always used. The incident was bad news Chris stated in an interview with CNN but Ferrari’s response to the incident was very spontaneous. Chris in his interview also added that “any car could go up in flames and nobody would be bothered but a Ferrari in flames definitely makes a news story”.

Mr Harris also commented that Ferrari has a good recall better than other manufactures. In a lean and flat organisation as theirs, information can be communicated quicker and urgent incidents are quickly dealt with.

When asked if the incident would ruin the company’s reputation or damage the brand, he confidently replied: “it would not because of the way we responded to the incident. None of the car dealers I spoke to reported a single cancellation of their order. I don’t know about across the world but certainly that didn’t happen in the UK”

He added: “this problem is a small part of the company and not the whole Ferrari Company as people made it seem”

When asked whether he liked journalists he smiled and exclaimed a loud yes. He later honestly answered saying “I like journalists who are professionals in what they do and understand a brand and therefore accord it the respect it deserve. But you don’t seem to get much of such journalists these days”

Mr Harris said the company does not advertise as the money is used to address PR issues.

Ferrari he said is not your average car and it takes a lot of skills and expertise to design as every design is unique in its own rights. His favourite model he mentioned would be the Ferrari California convertible because he loves convertibles.

“California convertible is the weekend away with my wife” he concluded.

This Cov con session was not podcast because the Ferrari incident has already been addressed by the company and subsequently dealt with.

Last Men Standing: Steve Orchard and Phil Riley


At today’s Coventry conversation, Phil Riley and Steve Orchard talked about their successes and challenges as they aim to keep commercial radio alive.

Steve Orchard created an air of mystery placing his ear by his bag to check if the content ‘was still alive’ and this certainly kept the audience listening. He finally unravelled the mystery item which was a 1946 Bosch wireless radio given to him by his grandmother when he was a teenager.

This has been the catalyst that propelled him into radio as he believed the appliance would take him everywhere in the world in terms of news coverage.

To own a radio station and run it successfully, you have to indeed be the last man standing as there is a dramatic change in radio listeners and also the competition to get as many people listening to a particular station is fierce said Phil Riley”

This competition has driven quite a number of local radio stations to go national. ‘Smooth fm’ which was once a local radio station has gone national. ‘Heart’ has also experienced a reduction in its local programme from 10 hours a day to 7 hours and ‘Galaxy’ now ‘Capital fm’ is hoping to take on Radio 1.

Phil and Steve expressed that, their marketing strategy is to be more local and also offer local advertisers great opportunities and publicity. Even if the local market is not growing, to be the Last Men Standing is hopeful.

Steve stated: “as part of what I do, I find a radio station which is not thriving and improve it. An example is Mercia, I ‘stuck’ the word NEW on the front and that worked. Classic fm adapted music which gives listeners a state of relaxation whiles Plant Rock upped the amount of Led Zeppelin listeners heard.

When asked what the future of a radio station in Coventry is, Steve replied: “unless we are able to recreate a passion for the area in which we broadcast, there is no future. Every successful local radio station should know how to get under the skin of its listeners and for Coventry it should be what makes the tribe of Coventry. What makes them angry and also what makes them swell with pride.”

Phil expressed that, the radio industry is a tough place to be and commercial radio in particular has had a difficult time because it is up against the best. He added that the way forward is to grasp the attention of the audience by connection with them as locals.

Steve further added that commercial radio is shrinking because the programmes are just ‘bland’. For a commercial radio to thrive in Coventry, the programmes have to reflect the lives of the people who live primarily in Coventry and Warwickshire.

He also stressed that “you reap what you sow” therefore the amount of effort you put in anything is always reflected in the end result.

The state of business subsequently is grim for young journalists as the number of them being employed is decreasing. Mercia for instance employs 12 or 15 journalists and news has also slipped down the agenda for some commercial radio shows.

Advice for young Journalists out there?

Steve said: “it is a fantastic environment to work. So learn technology and have a hunger for content. You need to have the ability to tell the story. Don’t stutter or try to be somebody else as the microphone is good at spotting fakes. Be yourself!”

Phil said: “Get a life and I mean that in the best sense. Writing stuff on face book and pinching other people’s work would not get you far. I cannot say what you shouldn’t be but just be yourself. There is something special in everybody that people can connect to and you need to get your personality across in a matter of minutes.”

‘I became a Journalist by mistake’

BBC Radio 3 DJ Andy Kershaw told his story at Thursday’s Coventry Conversation. Andy is known as the champion of world music. He has always been a big fun of radio but his diversion to broadcasting is another story on its own.

His main interest is finding interesting information and the world; this passion is evident in his visits to Haiti. Speaking energetically of his fourth visit to North Korean; a country he describes as the most ‘secretive’ in the world.

Showing the devotion to his interest, Andy stated: “reporting on the Rwandan genocide in close quarters was a matter of life and death.”

Andy is surprisingly modest for the life he has led describing “himself as the luckiest person he has ever met.”

He was a student of Leeds University, and despite never actually graduating he has been very successful in his ‘kind of journalism’.

His picturesque, ‘absurd’ life and butterfly mind meant he cannot deal with boredom. Although only in jail for a mere forty days, Andy read thirty two substantial books.

Showing that imprisonment has not changed him, Andy explained that whilst in prison “the only people whose judgement mattered to him were his children and they have always stood by him”

Andy’s book NO-OFF SWITCH is set to be published in July this year, grab your copy!


Games Arcade

Science fiction promised a lot but computing has delivered.

Games are everywhere and they engage people socially, collaboratively or in a competitive way.

“The world has shrunk and everybody can be a consumer as well as a distributor,” says Dr Phillip Oliver DBA FRSA, speaker at Coventry Conversation this afternoon.

Dr Oliver is the CEO and co-founder of Blitz games studios located in Leamington Spa. The company was founded with his twin brother. They started learning to build games from the manual of the games their parents bought for them.

Their maths, computer and physics teachers have been an inspiration and a great source of help to them. Over the years they have worked what they term as ‘ridiculous’ hours to make their dream materialise and whilst their friends went to university they were focusing on making it in the games industry.

They started in their bedroom at the age of twelve and took turns to sleep because they kept experimenting with different games forms. Dr Oliver designs about a third of all games in the UK and Leamington Spa is now noted as the British centre of games.

The introduction of his presentation discussed family oriented games they have invented and also gave detailed insight into the Blitz Company. The first movie karaoke game is said to be coming out in a few months. The series of games produced comprises of mature, serious, casual, career advice and family games. Serious games are games considered to have a large potential market whilst mature games are also seen as high profile, very much respected and involve a huge amount of technology showcasing.

In as much as there are tones of games on the market, some games technologies have a short term future. Examples of these are 3D and virtual reality, online and socially connected games, digital delivery as well as speech and speech recognition games.

Designing games is not as easy as it sounds. It takes intelligence and a vast amount of hard work. Intelligent designs ranges from opened minded intuitive designs and also focusing on entertaining the player. One of the successes of Blitz is a game called ‘The biggest loser’ which is an ultimate work out game. ‘Fantastic pets’ was also very successful on the market and it was one game in particular that was targeted to children as young as three years old.

Designing games for children, Dr Oliver said can be very demanding, so they often seek advice from psychological experts.  As new games evolve they will get more complex and difficult. Speaking as a games expert, his advice to the audience and game lovers is to embrace change and adapt quickly. Always be prepared to try, learn and try again.

Dr Oliver said: “With change, comes opportunity but only to those who can adapt quickly.”

More so understanding the psychology of people helps the games company to estimate the demand for every game they produce. As a games developer one should be able to predict the future and work very hard.  The audience express that they are yet to see a game that is termed as a classic and readily recognised by all. Dr Oliver replied that Pacman and Super Mario are classic video games. These games were available as he grew and they are still played generations on.

People are vital to any industry and especially the games industry no less. People are their biggest cost, their biggest assets and their biggest liability. Just like any renowned company Blitz hire for attitude, they hire for HIGH levels of skills and they invest a lot in the people they employ.

Dr Oliver expresses the fact that people have gone from knowing how the computer system works to just having knowledge of how programmes operate. This is also a general concern of many parents including Dr Oliver who said that his six year old resorts to Wikipedia most of the time to answer question she does not understand rather that getting a detailed explanation on how things work.

Finally when asked if Leamington Spa is going to be like Coventry in auto cars he replied: “We would do our best.”


When we hear of games we stereotypically expect to see an audience that is largely male. My curiosity as well as interest caused me to attend the last Coventry Conversation for the term when I knew the speaker would be Dr Philip Oliver the CEO and co founder of Blitz games in Leamington Spa.

The demography of people who attended this session proved that being a fan of games is not necessarily aimed at a particular gender.

This article is aimed at the game lovers and also people who aspire to make it in the games industry. It will be published at the games arcade website so people who patronise the website can read more about Blitz and the games industry in general.

Writing about this article was made easy because I attended the Coventry Conversation in person and made note as the session took place. The Blitz website was also very helpful in finding detailed information about the company. (9/Dec/2010)

By nanaamaakpoblu Posted in Cov Con