Extra, Extra Read all about it! BBC Radio 4 Extra has some exciting news for you!

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December 28, 2014 by johnnyseifertradio

2014 in radio included myself being nominated for a Student Radio Award under Best Journalistic Programming, Stephanie Hirst revealing he was transgender, the Radio Academy announcing there would be ‘changes’, LBC going more political as they became a national station and finally the introduction and refresh feel to the ‘Extra’ radio stations on DAB.

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In the Global Radio family; Capital FM rebranded Choice Fm to Capital Xtra in April, Smooth Radio launched in late December their Smooth ‘Extra’ service with a refresh look on the Smooth Radio artists using their more upbeat songs from Abba, Robbie Williams and Whitney Houston repertoires, whilst Heart Fm announced that they will launch an Extra service in April 2015. Over in the BBC, BBC Radio 1Xtra is going from strength to strength with their documentaries being showcased and well respected in the radio industry as well as recognition for their 1Xtra tour that took place in Birmingham this year featuring big American artists such as Mary J Blige and Rick Ross.

Throwback to ten years ago, covered in spots and little hairs, I started out in radio as a reporter for The Big Toe Radio Show on BBC Radio 7. The set up as a reporter would be having a producer call me on the land line house phone and in my radio-like voice with a big smile on my face I would report on a story that mattered to me such as the history of Eastenders that even a thirty year old would not have known. This was the place that children at the time had a voice and were being targeted on the radio spectrum with a mixture of live magazine shows, books being read as well as serving an older audience once we were at school with comedy and archived dramas. Forward nine years since launch and we are now in 2011 when this station was re-branded at BBC Radio 4 Extra and the children’s services were stopped with Folder Media and Create Soho having the advantage to target this audience on the excellent multi-platform Fun Kids Radio. The programming on BBC Radio 4 Extra instead became an archive place of old BBC Radio 4 shows such as Dessert Island Discs to repeats of the original radio version of Little Britain before it made the jump to BBC 3 and later BBC 1.

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Moving forward three years and here we are in late 2014 when BBC Radio 4 Extra gained my attention for the first time since it was BBC 7. In October 2014, the BBC announced that they had bought the twelve Serial podcasts and would broadcast them on BBC 4 Extra with the duration ending with the final episode coinciding with the podcast release. Serial has taken podcasts and radio in a new direction with 1.5 million downloads which I have previously spoken about. Furthermore, it was announced this week that BBC Radio 4 Extra would be broadcasting a TED hour every week.  TED standing for: Technology, Entertainment and Design has an ethos to share ideas worth spreading. For example, below shows a TED video that shows Lizzie Velasquez, a women who was once labelled the ‘most ugliest women’ speaking candidly about how we define ourselves.

This video was the first I saw of TED around two years ago and daily I watch the TED videos for inspiration to apply to my life and the approach to stories that I share on the radio. I have two points that I would like to share with you about the broadcast of both podcasts on the station:

Firstly, whilst BBC Radio 1 caters for 15-29 year olds, BBC Radio 4 caters for an older audience of 45+. However, both stations have the same remit to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ with only BBC Radio 4 looking to seek intelligent programmes through speech rather than entertainment programmes using music as BBC Radio 1 does. I would argue that having BBC Radio 4 Extra is an excellent way of actually bridging the two polar opposite stations together. I will be honest with you as a twenty-two year old, BBC Radio 4 scares me. I remember being in Media Studies in school with radio debates involving Capital Fm and BBC Radio 1 whilst my teacher would talk about BBC Radio 4, the grown up station. The Today programme is based around political and current affair news. Women’s Hour… lets’ not go there… However, having this station actually interests me and it has given a platform for young listeners as well as older listeners to think. In TV it is easy to produce programmes that target big audiences no matter the age as seen with The Missing and Broadchurch however in radio these radio stations are constantly looking at RAJARs’ and ways to make sure they can get a big enough audience by targeting their shows at very specific audiences. In the RAJARs’ for the Summer of 2014 1% of 15-24 year olds’ were listening whilst only 3% of 45-54 year olds were listening showing that actually the audiences are more similar then the big bosses probably think.

Secondly, as we know it is very hard for independent production companies to get commissions with increasing pressure for radio to be out-sourced from London as one factor to name but a few. However, with programming all being pre-recorded or repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra, can a small portion of their budget of £5 Million be used to broadcast new documentaries and commission more series from independents that want to target a bigger audience rather than focusing on a niche.  They have a remit to support new talent yet as far as I am aware they are not using any new presenters on air even with 85% of the output not including repeated programming.

I will leave this post open ended as I am excited to see what will happen in 2015 with BBC Radio 4 Extra as it opens up to more audiences. But, I would like to know what you think. You have heard from a young radio listener but what about yourselves who have the experience in working and listening to the radio for more years than I have been alive?

Editors Note: A big thank you to David Lloyd, Group Director at Orion Media and Radio Anorak with his brilliant Radio Moment blogs and podcasts for his help into researching figures for BBC Radio 4 as well as radio consultant Paul Easton.

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