Chrysalis Radio’s chief exec Phil Riley had me in the hot seat on stage at The Radio Academy’s annual festival yesterday, in front of radio’s great & gross. On the topic “Improperganda – Wild, Wicked and Worth it?” we cheered everyone up with tales of great radio publicity stunts and included a rare appearance by veteren American producer Sam Fields, whom they flew in from NY at my suggestion. Sam worked with Orson Welles on the infamous radio production of H.G.Wells’ “War of the Worlds” which had half 1930s America leaping in their cars and heading for the hills to avoid invading Martians. On reflection, this could have been due to the fact that half 1930s America was remarkably poorly educated. Also, Orson hadn’t yet recorded his even more infamous series of frozen pea commercials, so nobody recognised his fabulous voice.
Our spot followed a serious heads-down discussion on whether British Radio is ‘the Last Stronghold of the Liberal Left?’ featuring Charles Moore, John Lloyd etc. Well the BBC maybe, but not commercial radio. Commercial radio in this country has taken a generation to evolve from a tiny, inconsequential flea bite, hell bent on making absolute maximum profits for its investors, into a quite nasty rash, hell bent on making absolute maximum profits for its investors. You can’t hear much wealth on-air, that’s for sure.
When Classic FM opened in 1992 it planned to function at a profit on 4 minutes of ads an hour. Listen to it now and weep for lost innocence.