Using the internet to broadcast 24/7 worldwide
BTN is quietly sitting in the corner of a radio studio. It’s late afternoon. The sun is beating its way through the shaded windows. And it’s hot. Proper hot.
Ferndale Community Radio’s station manager Steve Medlin makes tea as we listen to today’s drivetime presenters discuss what’s going to be on their show.
FCR’s big strength is using the internet to broadcast programming. It means anyone anywhere on the planet can either host a show – or tune in and listen.
‘Perhaps our guest would like to choose a few tracks?’ asks Jade Scott. She’s the one ‘driving’ today’s show and is currently seated behind a vast array of computer screens, microphones, headphones and mixing desks.
It’s nearly five o’clock and we will shortly be on air. Seated opposite her is Nick Taylor, her compatriot for the next two hours.
The two have a fantastic rapport and it’s quickly apparent that their easy going banter will be highly enjoyable stuff.
And this is radio station with a big following and growing popularity. It’s on the Skyfall app so it’s easy to find. Requests come from all over the world. People living in Zambia tune in and ask for gospel music to be played.
It’s Wednesday 1 June and BTN rocked up earlier to learn more about the station’s appeal and popularity. We quickly find out that Jade and Nick will be presenting this evening. Introductions are made. Hands are shaken.
Our music choices consist of a list of ‘go to’ favourites: Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams, Abba, Lesley Gore and Keane. She nods approvingly. We can tell she’s impressed. Good taste.
We’re now five minutes from ‘showtime’ and everything is running smoothly. Jade and Nick’s organisational skills are impressive. Everything is well planned. Meticulous. This is definitely a well-oiled machine.
A snapshot of life in a radio studio
Rewind a couple of hours. Cue wobbly screen effects as BTN is greeted by Steve who guides us into a low rise building positioned next to the studio.
Future studio blueprints for the growing broadcaster rest on a table. The room we’re in has a homely feel to it and it’s clear there’s some serious development planned for FCR.
‘Our radio station is run by a community tenants’ group. It’s the only one of it’s kind this side of Birmingham. We have two million people from around the world tuning in each month. It was scary when I was first heard that figure,’ says Steve.
The studio’s colossal success largely rests with its presenters. And today, BTN will be shadowing the drivetime extravaganza.
We get chatting with Jade and Nick. Their first foray into the radio world took place a little over a year ago. Their podcasts quickly became successful and it was clear their friendship was central to the success of their working partnership.
‘Our show is very interactive,’ says Jade, who is also the Chairperson of the radio’s six strong management committee. ‘People message in to say what they want – or they’re subjected to our music taste. We talk a lot about food.’
‘We’re all volunteers and we treat everyone as we would want to be treated,’ says Steve. ‘Presenters have the freedom to choose what they want to do.’
‘There’s something for everyone and we have shows coming in from Greece and four shows from Australia.’
And that worldwide appeal means the team can also try to help communities around the globe.
They recently donated a computer and digital camera to an orphanage in Liberia. It’s hugely expensive to send anything into remote parts of Africa and Steve wryly jokes that the postage costs might have been greater than the actual value of the kit.
Closer to home and the team’s raised thousands of pounds for charities, including Save The Children and Livewire, which supports young people through its use of music.
‘Goodnight America, wherever you are.’
It’s a short walk from the office setting to the studio. The clock is now ticking down to our on air time.
Nick is making notes about what he wants to bring up on the show: his wife’s birthday is coming up and he’s keen to share his thoughts about QPR’s new manager. Jade is less enthusiastic on the latter suggestion.
His other discussion areas will centre around food delivery services, a Lady Gaga tribute act and events taking place over the course of the Jubilee weekend. The Top Gun sequel might also get a look in. This is gonna be a busy show!
The red light pings up and control for the radio station is moved from the previous DJ across to Jade. The mics are live and BTN is beginning to wonder if it can add Plastic Bertrand, Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada song and Baccara to its music requests.
Nick chats with BTN about our website. It’s all relaxed stuff. No John Humphries styled questioning here.
In between music breaks, the team quietly discusses the daily routine at the station which starts at six every morning when Steve arrives to set everything up for the presenters. All of them are volunteers.
BTN was a colossal fan of the 1980s American hit show, Midnight Caller. It starred Gary Cole as Jack Killian, a hardened cop turned DJ who would solve crimes whilst hosting his popular phone in show.
As we head towards the end of the programme, Jade asks if BTN would like to ‘do the honours’ and introduce Keane and their hit song, Atlantic.
Someone messages in to say we have a good voice for radio. It makes us feel like we could be the next Killian. We’ll keep you posted on that one, pop pickers!
The drivetime programme zooms past. At the end, Jade asks, ‘What’s just happened for the past two hours of my life?’ She’s right. It was fast! Over in a flash. The team hand over to the next host and FCR continues its 24/7 service.
Radio provides company, comfort, solace and hope. It also provides happiness and escapism. And, in the case of Jade and Nick, it’s given a lot of people a lot of laughter and smiles over the past two hours. BTN included. Thank you.