Course Module: 
Convergent Journalism 1
MA Practical Multimedia Journalism





Introduction to Radio 



The senior service has proved also to be one of the most robust.


It has adapted to the internet smoothly and fast.


Thousands of radio stations are streamed on the net. Some exist only on the net e.g. Radio Caroline.


Radio and online are converging. Radio station websites attract hundreds of millions of page impressions per year. 


Digital Radio exists alongside old fashioned analogue FM/AM and LW services.


Many people choose to listen via digital television.


More than 90% of the UK population listens to radio each week. The last two decades – the 1990s and our own beloved noughties – were very good for radio in general (though not for commercial radio profitability). People regard their favourite radio stations almost as friends. They resent changes in personnel or style – as every controller of BBC Radio 4 knows. 


The only dark clouds on radio’s horizon are declining interest among the young and the incredible dominance of the BBC which attracts, according to RAJAR, the radio audiences measuring body, approximately 50% of total listening and sometimes more.      














BBC National Radio stations include the big five – which are transmitted on old-fashioned analogue transmitters as well as digitally – so Five Live can be heard on 909 and 693 MW as well as on DAB or via a digital television. Radio Four on 92 – 95 FM and 198 LW. 


Commercial National radio stations include Classic FM and Talksport follow essentially the same model.


BBC Local Radio – here BBC Radio Kent – differs from its commercial rivals in terms of content. It was created to  





The pictures are better? (Listen to a great FOOC, Alan Little, Hugh Sykes, Fergal Keane, Sue MacGregor)


At best that’s true – but convenience plays a huge part.


You don’t have to stop what you’re doing to listen to radio. You can do it in the car, in the bath, in the garden or while out walking 


I think that’s why radio has survived every new technology that has arrived to challenge it.




The ease and convenience that makes radio hugely popular among listeners also renders it a wonderful medium for journalists.


The first beauty of radio, from the journalist’s point of view is it is fast. With a breaking news story that merits immediate broadcast, a reporter can get it on air simply by telephoning the studio and going live with an instant report. A modern digital mobile phone can give an entirely audible signal. It is not perfect, but it is good enough for instant news. 


Even with the advent of videophones, television can be slow, cumbersome and complex by comparison. It requires several people to make it work. Picture quality is paramount. 


If you doubt this take a careful look at how rolling news channels such as Sky News, CNN and Al-Jazeera cover big stories at which they have not yet got broadcast quality cameras and satellite trucks. They convert instantly to radio mode – broadcasting telephone reports and interviews with eyewitnesses, sometimes over basic stills pictures or locator maps, often without. 


People listen to radio news when they need to know what is happening quickly. Think of some of the services most radio stations supply, largely for this reason:


Travel updates

Currency exchange rates

Weather warnings

Football results


I don’t know if you remember the air crash in 2008 at Farnborough in Kent in which five people were killed when a small plane crashed while attempting to land. The first accurate news of the accident was broadcast on local and national radio stations by reporters with mobile telephones.


It is true that services such as twitter and Facebook allow citizen journalists – or amateur bloggers as I prefer to call them - to break news before professional reporters.  We saw a particularly dramatic example in the Mumbai terror attack last term. But for accurate, reliable news radio has incomparable power and reach. 


It is why revolutionaries and coup plotters of the twentieth century regarded seizing the radio station as a crucial first step. Their twenty first century successors appear convinced that it is still important.




The speed argument does not just apply to radio’s ability to break news fast. It works for deeper, more ambitious forms of journalism as well. Radio can provide rapid analysis and debate. It can even get tough investigative reporting on air faster and less expensively than television. 


In TL's biography of the Today Programme Chapter 4 is entitled “The Magic of Radio.” Aspects of it are out of date, particularly the references to quarter inch magnetic tape, which is rarely used in our new digital world but was still standard in 2001, but the broad themes is as relevant today as it ever has been.


A well edited radio news programme can change its running order at a seconds notice. It can put editorial priorities first rather than being stymied by technology. 


Life in television has improved, but when TL first made the move from radio to television news he found the visual medium intensely frustrating. A story he could commission easily and get on air fast as a radio editor now took longer and involved more people. 


Colleagues would nag him about the pictures – to the extent of suggesting that items should be included in a news programme simply because the ‘pictures are fantastic’ as they put it, not because the story was important.




What makes great radio news?





You are familiar with BBC Radio 4.


(Play IRN Bulletin from )


(Play Five Live from )


(Play Newsbeat Bulletin from )




Who does what in a radio newsroom (in many newsrooms most people take a turn at doing everything, it is less hierarchical than television)….


JOBS (See Page 25, 26, 27 of Basic Radio Journalism)


News Editor


Bulletin Editor


Programme Editor


Senior Broadcast Journalist/News Producer


Broadcast Journalist/Reporter



At the BBC traditional major news programmes such as Today, WATO, PM, World Tonight and TW2 have large teams and clear hierarchies.  There is an editor, a deputy editor, Duty Editors/ Senior Broadcast Journalists, Broadcast Journalists and Programme Assistants. There are also, of course, PRESENTERS – sometimes God like figures such as John Humphrys, Sarah Montague who turn up just before dawn, when the night production team has been up all night, and take most of the credit for all your hard work.  


Five Live is a little more streamlined – but only a little.  


Even in local radio the BBC stations are better resourced – and therefore have more staff than their commercial rivals – though the idea of multi-skilling is now properly embedded in BBC local newsrooms.


The BBC used to make a clear distinction between producers and reporters. The former did work including: identifying stories, briefing reporters, booking interviews and guests, writing prospects (explain) cues and briefings for the presenters and travelling in the field with specialist and foreign correspondents to help them identify suitable stories and fashion their work to suit specific outlets.


Reporters reported – providing everything from twenty second voice pieces and bulletin copy for short news bulletins and summaries via minute long pieces including clips of actuality for the hourly bulletins to four or five minute packages for the sequence programmes containing three or more voices, sound and wild track.  


Now these distinctions survive only at the very expensive end of radio. Journalists on the Today programme have the same titles as their colleagues in local radio. They are SBJs, BJs etc, but they retain quite clearly defined roles. You will not hear the editor – any more than you will hear senior colleagues such as Roger Harrabin and Honor Wilson. They edit and produce and remain entirely behind the scenes – except for the occasional on air credit at the end of the show. 


In most radio newsrooms – as a broad generalisation – multi-skilling and flexibility is the norm. People will perform individual roles on individual shifts e.g. news editor, reporter or producer. But each journalist will be capable of producing and reporting and will often do both in the course of a week and often in the course of a single programme. 


In many local radio stations a single journalist writes the news, conducts interviews on the telephone or down the line, compiles the news bulletin and then presents it. The first time you find yourself in the newsroom, alone, with a bulletin approaching can be quite a lonely experience. 




That is how do you get stories on air for radio?


Distinction between news and current affairs (e.g. the bulletin and the body of the programme)


COPY (You write it, the presenter reads it)


VOICE PIECE (or voicer or spot) + explain what a cue is.




INTERVIEW (Live or Recorded)


















Which station does it best?



A superb, short introduction appears on the BBC Website


(Introduce students to BBC Radio Newsroom Guide )

















Student Access: 
Year 1
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Convergent block: 

Introduction to radio