It's XXXXXXX Cold in This Studio
It doesn’t take anyone in radio much effort to imagine how Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ listeners were treated accidentally to the voice of another presenter from another studio all over their You and Yours Programme today.
It’s happened to many of us. Certainly on my stations, sadly. I recall how it was dealt with too.
This is BBC Radio 4 – on which £89m is spent annually. Not a programme on a frantic commercial radio station where journalists are pre-recording 6 different bulletins for different places - or one off-peak at a stretched BBC local radio station.
Basic studio discipline means that you should not swear where there is a microphone. You may think it is not live, but there is always the risk. Most broadcasters are acutely aware of this.
But - we are human. That’s why we are employed. And human beings make mistakes. I feel for the presenter involved.
Whilst the swear word would likely surprise Radio 4 listeners, I’d wager they’ve heard it a few fucking times before. That, in a sense, is less of an issue. Frankly, I was more annoyed by the miserable interview after it.
What is more worrying is that this issue took so long to sort. The errant mic feed appeared on-air for a matter of minutes. There lies the real danger.
We know that at a large broadcaster like the BBC, there are not only many studios, there are several geographic bases from which programmes originate. The risk of something intruding into the transmission chain is high. We also know that sometimes, for reasons of digital delay, the mix monitored by the presenter/producer is often not the one the listeners hear. Many of us do, however, sensibly flick to off-air to check all is well.
Thankfully, however, the Corporation is well-staffed with management and producers. Someone, one imagines, would have heard this issue and taken the best remedial action. In extremis, even to take the station off-air briefly if getting to the source were impractical in a timely manner.
This was a serious risk. A news person could well have been talking about a matter of political and industrial controversy rather than just uttering a swear word and rehearsing a script. Another Sachsgate could have loomed. Or - the voice could have belonged to an informed intruder
Meanwhile, in stations across the country, bitten by Sachsgate, poor BBC staff suffer ludicrous compliance systems relating to the vetting of often highly innocuous low-risk recorded programmes. The focus on those being because that is where the error lay in that memorable Ross/Brand debacle some eleven years ago. I said at the time that the measures were disproportionate and a waste of licence payers’ money because the next issue would be something different. A broader more sensible approach was needed.
Again, I fear with this latest issue, the focus will be the poor individuals caught up in it – and the corrective measures over-specific. Forget all that. Have a stern word and move on. This is really about studio discipline generally, effective programme production, well thought-through studio systems - and clean management lines. Often clean, effective management means fewer people, not more.
And - you can't beat having a radio on your desk.
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