The Radio Today – 2012 UK radio review

The year 2012 in UK radio – we had Myers reporting, Moyles departing and a new DG or two. The end of GMG Radio and the expansion of Global Radio. Take a moment to reminisce with us as we take you back over the last 12 months.

The year started with the sad news of the death of Bob Holness. Although best known to many for the TV show “Blockbusters”, Bob
presented Late Night Extra on the Light Programme before taking the show to Radio 1 then Radio 2. He spent ten years on LBC’s “AM Programme” with Douglas Cameron – before rejoining Radio 2 for twelve years until 1997.

And in what now seems a lifetime ago – but was only the third week of January – the BBC Trust began the process to find the next Director General of the BBC, even though Mark Thompson hadn’t yet announced plans to leave.

Into February, and Jazz FM broadcast five minutes of “sexual noises”, after what then-programme director Mike Vitti told RadioToday was “unauthorised activity and behaviour in the studio”.

Meanwhile, John Myers’ report on the cost-saving proposals for BBC Local Radio recommended halving the number of Managing Editors across the 40 stations. Myers had been commissioned by the corporation to identify ways of making savings away from programme budgets through the Delivering Quality First (DQF) scheme. BBC Oxford and Berkshire did this in October but insist the idea was there long before Myers suggested it.

In the first of a series of BBC anniversaries, the World Service had a special day of live programming to mark its 80th birthday on 29th February. Audiences also got a behind the scenes look at the station’s long-term home in Bush House, ahead of the move to join other BBC radio stations in Broadcasting House. And it was also announced that the Egton Wing of New Broadcasting House was to be renamed after the late BBC Radio 1 presenter John Peel.

Then, BBC Radio 6 Music’s 10th birthday on 11th March was marked with a day of special programmes and Lauren Laverne’s show showcasing 6 Music artists including Spiritualized and Orbital live in session at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios.

BRMB, Mercia, Beacon and Wyvern changed to Free Radio, after the announcement in January and 40 years of heritage in the region.

Over at Absolute Radio, breakfast presenter Christian O’Connell did his first live late-night radio show in front of an audience in a West End theatre. The unscripted hour-long programme, ‘Man on Wireless’ featured no adverts or music – but did include appearances from audience members sharing their secrets and strange life stories.

In April, Audioboo celebrated after agreeing a deal with the BBC to become an official partner. The Beeb started using the spoken-word social network for publishing web clips of its programming content. And the BBC Academy and Sound Women formed a partnership to launch a new mentoring scheme, allowing thirty new mentees already working in the industry to progress their careers.

May saw the announcement that all BBC local radio stations across England and the Channel Islands would be networking an evening show, under revised DQF plans. The BBC estimated that overall 130 posts will be lost, instead of the original estimate of 280, and the savings target reduced from £15million to £8million.

And BBC Radio Humberside’s Beryl and Betty charmed the Sony Radio Academy Awards. They beat Frank Skinner and Adam and Joe to take home Gold – for Best Entertainment Programme Award – and received a standing ovation when collecting the award.

BBC 6 Music won Station of the Year and Nicholas Parsons won the 2012 Gold.

After weeks of speculation, in June GMG Radio was sold to Global Radio for an undisclosed sum, thought to be around £50-70m. The Competition Commission is now investigating the deal, with its final report due in March.

Into July, and plans to extend local digital radio coverage moved a step closer as Government, the BBC and commercial operators signed a joint agreement, establishing the framework for up to £21 million of new investment in radio infrastructure. And the Director of BBC Vision, George Entwistle was announced as the Corporation’s new Director-General.

It was also revealed that after almost nine years at breakfast, Chris Moyles would leave the flagship show on BBC Radio 1 – with Nick Grimshaw taking over in September. Moyles would also be touring the UK in the autumn, playing King Herod in the stage musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

Olympics fever hit the UK, with the BBC launching dedicated pop-up station “5 live Olympics Extra”, using capacity on the BBC’s national multiplex made available by reducing the quality of sister stations including BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4. Radio 1′s Hackney Weekend saw stars such as Jay Z, Rihanna, and David Guetta perform for 100,000 listeners.

September saw Global Radio make a move into television with Heart TV and Capital TV, launching on Sky and Freesat. And Global’s Classic FM turned 20, and celebrated with a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall, with hosts John Suchet and Margherita Taylor.

In October, ITV broadcast “Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile”, setting off a chain of events that would eventually topple the new Director-General after just 54 days. The police investigation known as “Operation Yewtree” into historic allegations of sexual abuse by Savile and others, has seen eight people arrested and bailed to date, including Magic AM presenter Dave Lee Travis, and Savile’s former Radio 1 producer Ted Beston.

Meanwhile, the industry’s online radio console, Radioplayer launched a free app on the iOS platform for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. It was quickly followed by the BBC’s iPlayer unveiling a dedicated radio version for PC and mobile.

November started with Danny Baker tweeting “We dwell amid pinheaded weasels who know only timid, the generic and the abacus”, after he was sacked from his afternoon show on BBC London just days before being inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame.

There was also the announcement of another new BBC DG – Tony Hall, the Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, and former head of BBC News and Current Affairs from 1996 to 2001. He starts in March. And we met “D Love” for the first time – a 15-inch puppet with a pigeon best friend, asking us to “spread the love” for digital radio.

Around 55 BBC radio stations all aired the same output for three minutes, ninety years since the first broadcast from the British Broadcasting Company. Radio Reunited took place on November 14 at 17:33 GMT, with a three minute composition entitled 2LO Calling – a combination of specially written music, iconic sounds from radio’s past and present, and messages to the future from listeners around the world.

The first weeks of December were dominated by a prank call made by Sydney’s 2Day FM to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness. The nurse who took the hoax call, Jacintha Saldanha, was subsequently found dead. 2Day FM withdrew advertising for several days, and is being investigated by Australian regulators, while presenters, Michael Christian and Mel Greig are reported to have received death threats.

In industry moves, Emma Bunton was announced as joining Jamie Theakston on Heart London’s breakfast show, with Jon Holmes the new host of Xfm London breakfast, replacing Danny Wallace. talkSPORT Programme Director Moz Dee and Managing Director of Sales Adam Bullock will be leaving the UTV Media station in the new year, to launch a new company, Contented Digital Media.

Just in time for those digital radio Christmas presents, the first new local DAB multiplex since 2004 was switched on by Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey. It broadcasts BBC Radio Oxford, Jack FM, Heart, Capital and Gold to 300,000 households across Oxfordshire.

So as we head into another exciting year of radio – we’ve got a few predictions up our sleeves, which you’ll be able to read here next week.

Some things are a little easier to predict, others not so much. But whatever happens in UK radio in 2013, you can be sure it will appear here on Radio Today as we enter our 10th year of reporting.

Merry Christmas from all the team.

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