1 – A Quick Word From Katherine….

By 18th December 2014How To Do Radio, News

I never wanted to be a producer. And it would seem I’m not alone. There’s a real reticence from journalists working in BBC local radio to take the plunge into what can be a thankless job, with lots of hassle and very little glory…to be honest, it can be that, but it doesn’t have to be.

For years, producers have been expendable. Long-established presenters got used to a steady stream of smartarse kids coming in, trying to change an act that had served them well for umpteen years (or so they and their loyal band of listeners thought), getting fed up, and moving on. Sometimes that move would be the producer’s choice, often it would be the result of a quiet word in the boss’s ear, occasionally the words would be loud, Anglo-Saxon and hurled across the Newsroom.

So who wants this job, then?

Turns out, I do.

Because things are changing. The time is coming where the presenter is no longer the boss’s mate from the golf club – I’m going to shock you now, our boss is…a woman! I’m not sure she even likes golf. I know! Radical stuff!

So where does this leave the producer? Well, in my case, on a level pegging with the presenter. We’re a partnership. It’s us against the world, and it’s bloody brilliant.

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been a presenter myself…although it used to.

In the past I’ve had to sit on this side of the glass listening to someone pretty much muffing the whole thing up. You feel like marching in, and saying “Right, budge up. This is how you do it.” But that would make me an arse, and that’s something I try very hard not to be (with varying levels of success).

Anyway, the experience of being the one in front of the microphone, learning to think out loud and trying to engage an audience which had got very passive, has given me a different approach to producing. I was also lucky to work alongside the brilliant Talk Sport and BBC Local Radio talent, Ronnie Barbour. He was the first to show me that doing things differently didn’t mean doing it wrong. When a story came up, we’d ask ourselves how everyone else would approach it and then do the opposite. It’s terrifying at first, but ultimately hugely liberating.

When Ronnie left, I wondered how I’d go back to making ‘ordinary’ radio. For a while I sunk into a deep fug. Post-Sachsgate, it seemed there was no appetite for something new. ‘Edgy’ and ‘risky’ became dirty words overnight. At one point I was offered the chance to present an afternoon show. Trouble was they wanted something conventional and I knew I couldn’t go back there, so I said no. The look on the station manager’s face was a picture. He thought I was joking when I said I’d rather read the news. I wasn’t.

Which is where Iain comes in.

The idea was to blur the traditional boundaries between the news bulletin and the programme. Rather than being the disembodied voice of authority breaking up each half hour of the show, my bulletins would feed and be fed by the interviews and calls in the programme. So, no more national news at the top of my headlines. The local leads were to be strong enough to kick off the news bulletins too. Nine times out of ten it worked. I was actually quite surprised.

There’d be no banter, Iain told me, and I was fine with that. News/ presenter banter deserves its own section in this blog – it’s usually forced and, well, crap – but within a few weeks, we’d both had a change of heart and found that we seemed to spark off each quite successfully. There was no ‘OK, I’m going to say this, so you play dumb so I can get to this punch line’ we just got on…and that’s how it is now.

We Get Paid For This

We Get Paid For This

Long (and slightly dull) story short, the fact Iain and were on the same wavelength and he didn’t hate my guts caught management’s ears and they suggested I might become his producer. I didn’t want the hassle or the responsibility at first, but as time went by I came around to the idea that those two rather beige aspects of the job would be outweighed by the fun of making the sort of radio I’d always wanted to with someone who totally gets ‘it’.

My aim is to use this blog is to explain, as best I can, what ‘it’ is.

I’ll try not to bang on…although I can’t promise.

Katherine x

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Ian says:

    Lovely to read this. It’s great when you can tell there is genuine respect for the other in presenter/producer or presenter/presenter partnerships. When you have blurred the heirarchies in the people working on the show and how important the content is seen to be, it seems you’re left with something terrific like your show or the Danny Baker 5 Live show (when you have talent and aren’t afraid).

  • Simon Tomlinson says:

    As a daily listener I totally get what your saying Cath it makes wonderful radio the chemistry that you all have together is truly brilliant.
    Justin Dealy is a star in the making too I love the guy!


  • Philip says:

    Sometimes I guess things just work, so whatever ‘it’ is perhaps best not to over analyze. I know it makes me laugh out loud! I’ll be honest and say as a fan of Iain’s radio work I wasn’t sure what to expect from 3CR. Living overseas it was a shock when he disappeared from the airwaves. But as time has gone on the show, and for me I mean the podcast, has just got better and better as the group dynamic has grown. Long may it continue, and keep up the blogging.

    • Iain says:

      Thanks. You’re right about the over analysing, we will try not to vanish up our own backsides or lose the magic. But we do passionately believe there are a few simple tricks that more people could incorporate into their shows to just help bring them to life. We aren’t doing this to pick on people, this blog is not about anyone or anywhere specific, but we just want people to make the radio they want to make.

  • It’s rare to listen to local radio that’s not formulaic and repetitive – I am probably one of the very few who came from Radio 1, though they didn’t want me listening any more, because I was nearly 30 and supposedly that’s why Chris Moyles (who presented my favourite ever radio show) was axed – when he went, I felt a little lost, but you do the so-called “zoo format” (a phrase I hate) very well. I never thought I’d say this, but I really enjoy local radio in the mornings now! I’m not a complete convert; I think your show is the exception rather than the rule and it would take something truly special to tear me away from Simon Mayo’s show in the afternoon, but the mix of serious and fun is something I enjoy. If I’m travelling for work, I always miss your show – though actually, the guy who does the BBC Sheffield breakfast show isn’t bad Either, I must admit.

    • Iain says:

      Thanks for this. When I mention I’m on a BBC local radio station, a lot of people say ‘Oh well, never mind. It will pick up again’. They don’t get that I am exactly where I want to be right now. I’m so lucky to be working with such talented people and be given the freedom to do something a little bit different. It’s just convincing enough people to give us a chance that is the tricky thing!


  • Phillip Side says:

    I think what you are doing for radio is brilliant, you have revived this form of communication and are providing wonderful and thought provoking entertainment for your listeners, plus, as a long time listener of Iain’s work, we no longer have to suffer hearing from that young lady called Varinder, which is nice.

    • Iain says:

      Ha. Well done for being the first person to remember Varinder!

      Kath and I really hope this blog has some life in it. It’s already had so many visits and nice comments (I haven’t seen any bad ones yet, honest) that we shall be continuing this for a while…

  • Maria says:

    Hello both of you!

    Love the show! Listened to every single Absolute episode you ever did Iain! And some of the LBC too! Some episodes I’d be crying with laughter! Was nervous about listening to you on bbc as I was terrified you would have had to have reigned it in and become too corporate. But started listening recently and you and the team are just as brilliant!

    Katherine, you mention in the blog about sachsagte. I maybe reading too much in to your comments, but do you think that the furore it caused was undeserved? I think that this went a bit too far in regards to “edgy” and “risky”.

    Have a great Christmas!!


  • Katherine says:

    Too tired….. I’m a doctor ,no I’m not really ,just a mere home carer , but I have had a lot of weird looks whilst laughing uncontrollably in my car while listening to you! But don’t get a big head ,… Sometimes I think why’s he being so annoying!!! …..but that passes. Been listening for the last couple of years and love your show. Btw please keep playing the hobo!!!! Loveit! I can be in the worst mood and you play song and all is good!

  • Tony says:

    Love Iain and JVS’s slight sexual tension, (lol!) especially the morning of JVS’ birthday when Iain offered a Birthday Wrestle! Bonkers!

  • Poondash says:

    The connection you four (Kelly & J-Dog) have is amazing, I’ve followed Iain for years from LBC to 3C. When you left Absolute I was gutted your show was great part by you & part your regulars & it made me sad knowing another show like that would never happen.
    Your current show see’s you somewhat in the same capacity but the other three well make up for that old git from Watford. There isn’t a bond in radio like you have there keep it going!

    As a podcaster it made my day the other week soon as I heard Katia’s voice calling in.

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