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Why does Charlie not have a proper national radio slot?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 4:41 pm
by Peter Sampson
For some while now I have been conducting a letter writing campaign to senior executives at the BBC to try to get Charlie a regular national radio slot, which I feel he (and we deserve).

This was particularly occasioned when I moved from The South to Manchester a few years ago and could no longer receive Charlie's show on FM (I don't have broadband either - I shouldn't need to, I pay my TV/Radio license fee). Nor is BBC London transmitted on Digital in the Manchester area - if that were the case I would rush out and get a Digital radio, just for Charlie's show.

My most recent letter was to Jenny Abramsky the BBC's Director of Radio and Music - I got a non-committal reply from Jenny's PA in early November which said:

"Thank you so much for your recent letter to Jenny Abramsky regarding
Charlie Gillett. I hope that you don't mind that she has asked me to
respond on her behalf. As Director of Radio & Music, Jenny does not
directly employ presenters or commission programmes. That is done by
the network controllers and their commissioning teams. I will however
pass your letter to 6 Music and Radio 2 as the networks whose output is
most appropriate for Charlie Gillett's talents."

So they obviously know that Charlie talents - but they're not doing much to deploy them on a regular national basis - and I've heard nothing from Radio 2 or 6 Music ....

If the Director of Radio & Music can't influence who gets radio slots who can?

What do other listener's think? Should the BBC give Charlie a regular slot on national radio? Does he, and the music he plays, deserve a wider audience?

Peter Sampson.

National radio for Charlie's progs

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 6:02 pm
by jayne
I'm 100% behind you there Peter.

It seems ironic, parochial and patronising that the Beeb often appears to believe that world music's footfall should be the privilege of a purely inner M25 conclave.

I've ridden my own hobby horse on this issue to the powers that be, questioning the BBC's charter for inclusion, but to no avail.

I don't like the agenda of Ms Abramsky with reference to 6 Music. We all know how the government and the BBC expect everyone to have digital radio in the near future, but this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. She presents herself as manipulative…Why should the listening public be puppets for her next performance targets review and annual bonus?

What’s wrong with good old national steam radio anyway?

Regards, JB

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 3:01 pm
by Con Murphy
I guess we're the people who should get behind this appeal, if it's not too embarrassing to Charlie. With Howard's Weapons of Mass Discursion I can't see how we could fail.

Personally, I see the BBC London show as an ideal candidate for a move to Saturday nights on Radio 3, giving us 7 days a week of open and diverse approaches to the world of contemporary music on that station. From the wonderful Late Junction ladies on Monday to Thursday, through Friday's brilliant but at times challenging Mixing It, to Andy Kershaw's roots based show on Sundays, R3 seems to have a yawning gap that needs filling by a Saturday night, 10:15 "world music" show.

I'm suspicious about R2 because when Charlie covered for Bob Harris a couple of years back, he seemed to be rationed to a handful of foreign-language tracks, and if that is one of the criteria for deciding a playlist, then they can keep it in my opinion. 6 Music just seems too nostalgist for Charlie to last there long, but who knows? Tinariwen have gone some way to bridging the divide between me and some people I know who are regular Sixers, so now might be the time to try it.

I really think somebody clever should edit together a Best of the Sound of the World, including Ping-Pong excerpts that dovetail mainstream names (David Byrne, Mavis Staples, Terry Hall, Tom Robinson) with more' obscure' people, and that compilation should be hawked round the Radio Controllers pointing out the consistently interesting nature of a man of huge broadcasting pedigree talking to major popular music talents from all over the globe.

It would make for an interesting 2005 if a co-ordinated campaign got off the ground in the next few weeks. Maybe we should give it a go?

Merry Christmas everybody.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 4:18 pm
by Ian Anderson, fRoots
Opposing view! I think we ought to be more than satisfied with Charlie staying just where he is. The show we like so much is like it is because of where it is. It was very noticeable in the years between Charlie being fired by Capital and re-hired by local BBC that the London scene (and so, indirectly, the national one) suffered from losing the community notice board focal point that Charlie provides. That's a really valuable public service broadcasting role we can't afford to lose. While Charlie was missing I was luckily able to cover that facet for a while during my tenure on Jazz FM, but it's unlikely that any other broadcaster or station would do so now. So I'd argue for Charlie keeping on doing what he's (amazingly) allowed to do best where he is, being there as a massive public service and as an accesible beacon and role model for the next generation of presenters.

The days of "national radio" having superior importance are gone. Radio is already fractured and diversified - the days of a couple of national channels that are key reference points have vanished. It's easy enough to listen to Charlie's London show anywhere in the world on the net: Peter Sampson's comment that he pays his license fee so didn't ought to have to get broadband is eye-poppingly off target - broadband is a life-enhancing convenience facility that b.t.w. allows you to hear the vast range of net radio out there (plug for fRoots Radio!), but it's not first and foremost a radio receiver. Broadband service expansion and take-up is so wide and rapid now that in a few years time it will be ubiquitous and we won't be able to imagine a time when it wasn't there - it'll be central to all our lives, like the telephone, electricity and running water.

Radio 2 likes "household name" presenters and safe, middle-of-the-road music that doesn't frighten the horses. Hence the folk programme presented by Mike Harding which is totally unrepresentative of what's going on out there in the 21st century. I can't imagine Charlie would enjoy the straitjacket they'd put on him, or survive very long if he refused it. Radio 3 already has its quota of roots/ world music shows and the eternal problem that to add something you have to drop something else. If anything, to fulfil that public service broadcasting role, it needs to fill in the musical gaps that Charlie, Andy K, Lucy Duran etc and Radio 2's folk show currently don't already cover elsewhere, rather than add more of the same which would be harder to justify.

If we are going to get world/ roots/ folk programmes cropping up on the new digital channels etc, this is a big opportunity for the next generation of presenters to be given a foot in the door, bringing fresh viewpoints and a different set of prejudices. We haven't acquired any new voices since Andy Kershaw hit the airwaves around 20 years ago. Andy filled the gap left by Alexis Korner. Now we've lost John Peel. Not wanting to be morbid, but when the current sitting tenants of the existing world/ roots/ folk slots fall over, who will be there to take their places if we don't get them up and running pretty soon?

PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 2:09 pm
by Howard
As I agree in principle with Peter, Jayne and Con’s comments, let’s get straight to the point. Ian - typical of an old folkie to want things to stay as they are! (:-))

Obviously I wouldn’t want Charlie to be broadcasting a programme which was a diluted version of his London Show, but surely we have to be a little more optimistic here. There’s a big John Peel –sized hole now at the BBC. They might even be looking for another maverick with a long distinguished pedigree to fill that vacuum. (Sorry about any embarrassment caused by all this Charlie – it’s a weird and unique thing to be writing about someone, knowing they will be reading it at some point!)

And Radio 2 isn’t the middle-of-the-road cul-de-sac it used to be. There are regular shows on Reggae (no straitjacket on Mark Lamaar as far as I can tell), Soul, R & B and even Punk. Jonathan Ross’ peak-time Saturday morning show features Franz Ferdinand and all the usual contemporary pop people. Not a sign of Perry Como or Geoff Love.

Radio 3 already has its World Music DJs and its World Music style – stuff which, on the whole, in its soporific tastefulness, complements their classical output. Charlie would be the ideal man to offer the older listener, the Rock, Soul and Pop fan (who by now has abandoned the sinking ship of Radio 1), some alternative sounds to satisfy and cleanse their palette, on Radio 2.

Yes it’s easy enough to listen to CG on the net, but that’s not how most people listen to music. Radio functions as a background to most people’s lives. Hits become so by osmoses, and that’s the kind of exposure World Music needs.
Only the serious audio junky goes looking for stuff on their computer. So, in effect, when Charlie finds new listeners on the Internet, he is preaching to the converted – the adventurous by nature. Because London Radio appears to have a zero budget for promoting shows such as Charlie’s, as things stand, as Charlie has said himself - he more or less acquires new listeners one at a time.

As regards ‘the community notice board’ aspect of the show (to me it’s least important function, as such information can always be found elsewhere), we must look at the wider picture - the utopian vision of the UK’s more discerning music fans becoming as addicted to World Music as we merry band of listeners are. Imagine my friends, an alternative universe where Rufus or even Issa had been the number one this Christmas rather than Band Aid!
Not as far fetched as it sounds if you consider the huge fall in singles sales generally. I’m sure a modest audience for Charlie on Radio 2 could easily secure a World Music Top 10 hit or two every couple of months as hordes of middle aged blokes buy their first single in 15 years after hearing Tinaiwen for the first time.

But on a more serious note, I believe if you want letters to the BBC to have any impact they’re not going to be impressed by a few dozen signatures from a bunch of Worldies (is this the first use of this collective label? Let’s hope it’s the last)

You have to make a reasoned case which, aside from selling Charlie’s impeccable credentials, also argues the case for world music reaching a wider audience and saving the sinking music industry by giving consumers real choice again. As radio is a part of this industry, this is a way of bringing self-interest into the equation.

You also have to bring up Charlie’s legendary status as both expert in this field and having rock and pop roots which give him a finely tuned ear for picking out what sounds good on the radio and what rock and pop fans are most likely to find exciting.

You have to point out that it is the older music listener that needs to be fed new and exciting sounds not the youngster, whose loyalties are at best, divided between music and all the other multi-media bollocks being thrust at them. It is the older fan with money they don’t know what to do with, who has ran out of back-catalogue favorites to repurchase and is tired of the diluted copes of old favorites they feel obliged to give the benefit of the doubt to. World Music is the cash cow the music industry doesn’t realize it has.

And OK Ian, granted, you’ve have shown some forward looking vision by suggesting a new boy for the job. But where is this new boy? Frankly I don’t think he exists. DJ’s are now would-be musicians rather than simple players of records. And anyway, to produce a show of such a consistently high standard and variety as Charlie’s would mean you would need to have good ears and a sense of musical context and history to pick out the fine wines from the cheap supermarket plonk.
Your new boy would no doubt (as is the case with most young fashion-conscious listeners) be tribal and blinkered in his/her tastes, and all we would get would be two hours of Brazilian House, or some other punishing side branch of World.
Because of its vast and always expanding parameters, World is not the genre where new blood is going to be of much use. Charlie is perfect because he’s happy to admit his knowledge limitations, he asks the questions we want to hear the answers to, and yet he has the necessary background context to most of the records he plays due to the fact he’s been swimming in this stuff for at least two decades.

Finally, as I reach the end of your ‘opposing view’ Ian, I feel that you’ve done such a convincing job of arguing that Charlie isn’t the right guy for promotion, that I’m even beginning to suspect he may have put you up to it, so he can just get on with his relatively quiet life with his unfeasibly perfect job.
After all, why should he care if the rest of the Country is enlightened about the joys of World Music, when he’s got his cozy little studio where he can get his favourite musicians to come and gather around his mixing-console hearth, on a Saturday night?

an old folkie put in his place

PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 7:31 pm
by Ian Anderson, fRoots
Howard wrote:let’s get straight to the point. Ian - typical of an old folkie to want things to stay as they are!

Sorry, I momentarily forgot that being an old folkie means that I don't know anything about world music or broadcasting. Sigh.

Howard wrote:Charlie on Radio 2 could easily secure a World Music Top 10 hit or two every couple of months as hordes of middle aged blokes buy their first single in 15 years after hearing Tinaiwen for the first time.

Dream on . . .

Howard wrote:it is the older music listener that needs to be fed new and exciting sounds not the youngster

Seems to me that abandoning the younger potential enthusiast who might get hooked for life in favour of trying to lure grumpy old blokes who already know what they like is a risky strategy. But then what do I know?

Howard wrote:you’ve have shown some forward looking vision by suggesting a new boy for the job. But where is this new boy? Frankly I don’t think he exists.

Who said anything about a "boy". A typical male response? Personally, I find that most of the running in world/ roots/ folk music and the industry alongside it is being made by women these days. But then I know nothing . . .

Howard wrote:Because of its vast and always expanding parameters, World is not the genre where new blood is going to be of much use.

Sorry, but I find that an incredibly arrogant, supercilious attitude. What I specifically said in my previous post was that a new generation of presenters could bring "fresh viewpoints and a different set of prejudices." Still can't see what's wrong with that.

However . . .

Howard wrote:. . . endless paragraphs more as well. . .

. . . . and thus defeated me by sheer weight of argument. Off to get a set of fresh hind legs for all my disabled donkeys. Jeez . . .

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 3:28 am
by Tom McPhillips
One day these two will actually meet and be perfectly embarrassed by their mutual love for each other! It's like watching those two people who have nothing good to say about one another and then proceed to live happily ever after.... it's a fine form of entertainment nevertheless!

I for one am selfishly in favour of the status quo - but I'm in the US and wherever the show is on, all I care about is that it remains on the air. What scares me more is that Radio London will do yet another makeover, with only too predictable consequences. At that point hopefully we'll still be able to tune in on the web...

Many of you will probably never heard of Fiona Ritchie, a Scots lass who from her base in Greenock, provides American Public Radio with a weekly show called "The Thistle and Shamrock" a vaguely national institution which I've been known to listen to, though it's a bit too Celtick for my continuous listening pleasure. She does posess, however, one of the most beautiful speaking voices ever heard on the air...

What would be far more wonderful is that Charlie could licence Saturday Night to NPR, and join the ranks of Afro-Pop Worldwide and Echoes (nothing to do with the GLR prog of the same name (BTWwho was the pesenter? Stuart somebody... my mind just won't recall that name...)) - There's nothing over here that really covers the field - And Charlie could choose a nice local radio station in a nice spot over here to visit appropriately to get the ball rolling... WITF Harrisburg, for example (my local musically-challenged NPR station)...

I know... dream on...

Happy New Year everyone! Just bear in mind that this is the Year of the GREEN Chicken!

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:50 am
by Guest
Tom McPhillips wrote:Echoes (nothing to do with the GLR prog of the same name (BTWwho was the pesenter? Stuart somebody... my mind just won't recall that name...))

Stuart Coleman. He left several makeovers ago....

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 5:36 pm
by Howard
Well, most of your snorts and growls don’t really warrant a response Ian, however your comment on my superciliousness and arrogance does seem to require some repost.

Of course young presenters would be welcome in World Music broadcasting, but if we are talking about a flagship show, CG is the only man for the job.
By the very fact of the young being young, they tend to have little to offer but an of-the-moment, trend-related response to music. I know this because I was one once, and so were my friends and we were all, to a man (oh, and woman, Ian), extremely limited in our musical tastes.

Be careful what you wish for Ian – we could end up with all those awful world music albums with grafted-on breakbeats and cack-handed raps dominating the airwaves simply because young people neither have the time nor inclination to dig deeper. Of course Charlie doesn’t have to do much digging because, by dint of the many decades he’s had his ear to the groove, he’s got a wide pallet of musical influences to draw from.
He gets that fine balance right - of being both highly discerning and unusually open-minded about what he plays. It takes years to develop these twin filtering systems, making younger ladies and gentlemen simply unqualified for the job.
While young blood is definitely appreciated on the musicians side of the fence, we desperately need more experienced ears to save us from the worst manifestations of world musak.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 6:14 pm
by Tom McPhillips
Actually, Howard points to a phenomenon that's already happened in the US - Nic Harcourt, who presents Morning Becomes Eclectic from KCRW in Santa Monica CA includes a wide variety of "eclecticism" in the mix - It goes anyhere from Thievery Corp, Badly Drawn Boy to the BeGood Tanyas, and he does play a bunch of World stuff, but our faves are likely to turn up in a remix rather than the original. But being in LA, his audience is wider and presumably a lot more trendy than Charlie's narrower church, (that is to say, us bunch of middle-aged misfits whose musical education he can take much credit for).

I tend to tune out what much of MBE and its offspring play, whereas with CG I'm glued to every song. I listen on the web to World Mix Radio which djsomcharle runs out of NY which in my view is the closest playlist to Charlie that's availiable over here on the web - but I miss having name checks between songs- instead he sends an weekly email playlist. Most of the radio stations that play World here are only in a local NPR area and don't archive their programs on the web. And yet the nationally broadcast news and magazine programs like All Things Considered often review and promote world music - there was a nice piece on Yussou N'Dour's Egypt last night for instance, (and actually sell the Cd's too) so I believe there's a market for the niche.

There's quite a bit of crossover between Club Music (or however you monicker it) and World, so the younger (gender-correct) DJ person would no doubt plug into that since it's probably a thriving area and easier to make the broadcast case for. So I agree that's that would be the likely outcome of a younger protagonist-

So who's taking up Mr Peel's spot?

And yes, Stuart Coleman and the musical dentist - whatever happened to them?

Post Honkytonk - Pre Saturday Night

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 7:41 pm
by Guessed
Tom McPhillips wrote:And yes, Stuart Coleman and the musical dentist - whatever happened to them?

Stuart Coleman moved to Nashville and has been a successful record producer. Chas White / Dr. Rock wrote THE biography of r&r quasar Little Richard (recently re-published) and may still be pulling teeth in Ireland. They both shuffled off London broadcasting in 1988.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 11:50 pm
by Con Murphy
Lots of really interesting points in amongst the brickbats, and I can't resist airing a few responses/thoughts, even though they probably won't add much to the debate.

First of all, like Tom I have a selfish side of me that says "yeah, keep Charlie and his programme where they are, the last thing we want is a watered down format", and to that end I agree with Ian about what might be lost by a move to national radio. Question is, would it be worth the compromise? Hard to tell of course, because we don't know what a national show would look like. I have to say, I think it would be worth the risk for the benefits it would bring purely in terms of the material CG would play to a larger audience.

I also agree with Ian about broadband not being a radio facility but a fantastic communications medium (and therefore radio enabler), although I also agree with Howard that this is still very much a minority or add-on way of accessing radio. Like most acquaintances of mine, I do not have the PC technology to give me the sound that I get from "real" radio and CDs, so it's very much a step foward in accessibility but a step <i>back</i> in quality. What's more, you can't listen to internet radio in the car! There's no doubt in my mind, therefore, that a "popular music with a local colour" style show such as Charlie's would be "pushed" (in the internet parlance) to a much larger audience over the radio airwaves than those that "pull" it from the internet at present (I guess somebody clever will have the stats to prove me wrong on that) .

As for Radio 3 having its quota of roots shows, I guess that could be true given that World Routes is on Saturdays (and assuming we count Mixing It as at least partially roots/worldly, that gives 7-days-a-week coverage), but once again in my very selfish way I would love to see the full monty of 10pm-Midnightish programmes on the station, inclusive of Saturdays.

(As an aside, I have to say that Howard is very unfair on Andy Kershaw, the LJ ladies and Mixing It lads to describe R3 roots programmes as soporific. Kershaw especially does not fit that derogatory term, and even Late Junction only deserves that description in that it tends to keep things at a leisurely pace. However, there's enough going on to make it deserving of a less pejorative adjective, in my opinion. And if you want a YOUNG, FEMALE broadcaster to take things forward, who better than an unshackled Verity Sharp? I'd love to hear her fill in for Charlie or Andy K, and see what she comes up with.)

I don't really understand the line that is drawn between young and old listeners, either. I'm 39 (young? old? the latter, I guess, in pop terms) but got into African music aged 18, via John Peel on Prime(ish) Time Radio 1. OK, times have changed and there are more distractions for youngsters these days (and oldsters come to that - the Mojo(e)s and 6 Musics that cater for nostalgists who can remain in their cosy little constantly recycling dad-rock worlds), but you can't tell me that I and a handful of others my age were that different that so-called world music must now be ghettoised as a (supposed) genre that is only to be pitched at the relatively old and well-off?

Which brings us to the term "World Music", something that is part of the problem in my view. There isn't really a "World Music" to pitch, other than as a loose-fitting description that people can be snobbish about in both directions, either in the "we're so mature and tasteful and open and maybe when you grow up you will be too" way or the "World. Isn't that Bulgarian potato-pickers or Peruvian nose-flute players, or something?" way. It's all just music, and surely all we want is for people to make a similar connection to those of us in this cosy little world, ie that Mavis Staples and Amparanoia and Franz Ferdinand and Markscheider Kunst are all essentially doing the same thing so why should 50% of these artists be deprived of airtime purely because we cannot understand what they are saying and/or need to make a culturally empathetic leap to 'get' them?

I was going to go on about Clubland's role in all this and how I got into Latin/Brazilian music via Jazz Clubs myself, but I've just Word Counted what I have so far, and I'm sure I've detained you too long already, so shall leave it there.

Just some thoughts for the mix......

PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 11:18 am
by Howard
Can't say I disagree with any of that Con. And of course I agree that Mixing it and Andy Kershaw's show aren't soporific, I just tend to think of Late Junction as Radio 3's main show.
However both of these noisier and more cutting edge programmes still manage to leave most of the more pop orientated world music out of the picture. It would be a completely logical developement if Charlie represented this part of the world spectrum on Radio 2. In an ideal world (no pun intended) he would continue his London show and do a slightly more assessable weekly version for Radio 2.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 4:58 pm
by Tom McPhillips
Just to insert another format into the list... Here in the US Satelite radio is really taking off - I don't have it in my car, but I'm sure it'll be a basic option on my next one, should I spring for the subscription. Plus it's going beyond just in-car fairly quickly - it may well be that that's how we'll get radio here in the future. I would have thought that a format such as Charlie's could easily get taken on as one among many niche channels... Going back to Nic Harcourt, I noticed that he'd done a playlist for one of those airline channels, with "Morning Becomes Eclectic" featured as a "brand" for that kind of music-mix, and I think David Dye's doing much the same thing with "World Cafe" (a misleading title unfortunately, though he does play a lot of good stuff).

Maybe (Zee?) could take the "Saturday Night" brand and shop it around! (a bit too hi-tech and "marketing" for Charlie?)

I'm slightly put out that almost everthing I've really liked that Charlie's played recently is pretty much unobtainable over here...

merry green chicken!

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 3:07 pm
by howard male
Hi Tom - a groovy yule to you too.

Try the 'Links' section of the website for a few mail-order options, where you can get most of what Charlie plays. Even us Londoners have to resort to mail order to get some stuff and it's pretty fast and reliable on the whole.