Style trial 

9 March 2004 tbs.pm/665

Axed DJ accuses BBC of failing black community

There is a danger that this story will be seen by some people purely as a race issue, but here’s a quote from David Robey, the station’s managing editor that sums up what is actually a ‘problem’ (even though he doesn’t seem to realise it):

“It was a question of fitting in with our personality and style, which can be seen and heard in characters like Vanessa Feltz and Danny Baker. They are big, full-on, opinionated people. They are highly articulate and intelligent, a description that also applies to Henry, but they are also quite rooted. I feel Henry’s approach has been too intellectual, not quite colloquial enough.”

He may not see this as a problem, but I do. Local radio – unlike mainstream talk radio – should have a broader mixture of styles that appeal to all sectors of the community at different times, otherwise you end up with broadly one style of presentation dominating the schedules as with most other stations (‘talk’ or otherwise). And local radio – especially BBC local radio – has a local agenda to serve which should override any notion of ratings chasing if it provides something really distinctive that is appreciated by a sector of the local population.

I have never heard Henry Bonsu’s show but strongly suspect that the only problem was that he wasn’t trying to behave like a Danny Baker clone or engage guests in smalltalk about what was on EastEnders last night. And the real issue here isn’t about the intelligence of the presenters (Danny Baker and Vanessa Feltz are both intelligent people) but about the presentation style of the station and the discussion of serious issues with guests and listeners.

There will always be a place for the Danny Bakers and Vanessa Feltzes of the world in local radio, but once you end up imposing a similar style throughout the schedule (and at all times of the day) you run a real risk of ending up with alienating sections of the local community who dislike that general style of presentation as well as those wanting a more intellectual discussion-based agenda on a station other than Radio 4.

So from what I gather (rightly or wrongly), as a local radio presenter you can be intelligent yourself but it’s “wrong” to impart too much of that intelligence to either your listeners or guests, it seems. And as a result the ‘dumbing down’ of the station’s style will be complete.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Saturday 2 July 2022