The Joy Of Text

Don’t get me wrong. I love our listeners. I really do. And, in the main, they love their radio station. The latest audience figures may show some fluctuations across the country, but in the main, radio ratings are healthy.

But there’s an awkward moment when, after putting hours of work into a programme, you receive what may or may not be a “humorous” communication. One of the best judges of humour, in my opinion, is BBC Radio Northampton’s Bernie Keith. His wit, deference and sheer comic genius is arguably one of the best listens anywhere on the wireless.
Don’t complain – it just makes Bernie even funnier!

So it was great to hear this clip from Bern’s show this week, deftly handling a comical text. Trouble is, it’s quite hard to see what emotions are really being expressed in a message on your computer.

As a presenter, you can do one of several things. Firstly, ignore it. After all, if someone really doesn’t like your show, why give them the privilege of airtime? But that’s the easy way out.

What Bernie does with Jack’s text is an example of his genius. Although it’s not rocket science. Simply turn a negative from them into a positive for you. An “abusive” text is content that you don’t have to bother thinking up. Just tweak it, put it out there, and stuff the consequences.

The chances are that your loyal audience will love you for it. Those who despise you will also listen for longer – just to see what you’re going to say next. And those in between – well, they may umm and ahh – but ultimately they’ll laugh.

Comment, complaint or whinge? All have to be taken seriously.

I really hope that Jack in Corby heard the riposte and takes it in the spirit it was intended. I say this because I came across an item in my own work inbox today. To save blushes – and getting myself into a lot of trouble – I won’t repeat what it said. But it did have the tone of a serial moaner, who’d taken umbrage with a feature we’d previously run, and was even more scathing when we had the gall to return to the same subject for a follow up. Nevertheless, it was duly “referred up” to a manager.

It raises the challenge for a producer of when a “comment” turns into a “complaint” – and how you draw the line between the two. But here’s the flipside. If you’re an angry listener and you make an active decision to send in a text to a live show, beware. It may just backfire – and be read out on air. By pressing send, you are implicitly giving your consent for that comment to be made public.

One of radio’s great strengths is its ability to provoke a reaction – instantly – from the audience. But a handful of the texts and emails I read are just plain nasty, and sometimes personal. It comes with the territory of being in the public eye.

But at the end of a hard shift, it’s just the wireless. Nobody died. At least, I hope Jack didn’t.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. News Mutt says:

    A post script… Always nice to have new readers to the blog, including the person who runs the spoof Twitter account @BBCDG. Apparently I have “fabulously defended presenters who wish their listeners dead”. I’d just like to thank BBCDG for bringing this audio to my attention in the first place. I hope it made him smile.

    Hugs. I think.

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