RADIO presenting is wonderful fun once you get over the idea that while your audience might be numbered in millions you are actually speaking one-to-one with a woman in her car on the way to work or having a chat with a househusband doing the dishes after dropping his daughter off at school.
That’s when the nerves vanish and the mic and headphones exist only as a means of conversing with an individual, albeit a conversation with a few hundred thousand eavesdroppers!
While the presenter’s two-way with his audience demands only a decent knowledge of current affairs (where would talk show presenters be without daily newspapers or rolling news websites?) and a head full of opinions (where would they be without newspaper columnists or websites like this one?) he relies on a small but important, unseen team ‘behind the glass’: a producer calling the shots, a technical operator playing in recordings and keeping the hundreds of switches, buttons and indicators on his ‘board’ sweet, and the phone-op, first point of contact with callers.
Between them this vital crew provides the kind of seamless service that make The On-Air Voice – and a prime example of that ‘voice’ would be multiple Radio Awards winner Nick Ferrari, my old Talk Radio and LBC presenting partner – the towering figure of talk they appear to be. It is NOT a solo performance.
I worked with some of the best – and at least one of the worst – in several years as a (shall we say?) eccentric presenter of talk shows. Nick’s current producer, Christian Mitchell, and his masterly techie, Clive Jones, are as good as they come.
But if presenters come and go then so do radio stations and, more likely, network owners. And with a change of ownership come the inevitable staff changes when all too often the proverbial baby sails down the plug hole with the bath water.
That, in part, explains why Mark Gale, one of the better tech ops I worked with, has spent the last few years driving a London bus (I say ‘in part’ because London Transport wages are probably a sight better than he can earn twiddling knobs on a control board!). Anyway, I’m celebrating Mark’s recent Facebook announcement that his career ‘On The Buses’ is (at least temporarily) over in favour of a return to twiddling knobs on a ‘Broadcast News’ show.
It’s been a long, bitter-sweet love affair with radio for Mark, as you’ll see from his own story. . .
“OXFORD STREET studios, London, 1995: My first interview with the then-new national commercial radio station talkRADIO. Mocked by my two interviewers, I came away knowing that I hadn’t got the job and didn’t want to work for them, anyway.
“Many years later [about the time I worked with Banks and Ferrari] another opportunity to return to Oxford Street came my way: I walked into reception and announced I was there for my first day’s work. The receptionist looked at me in horror and said ‘We are just letting everyone go!’. The person who hired me had already departed.
“I had just quit my last job in Central London to turn up to a gig that looked like it was over before it had begun. . . and with no signed contract!
“Thankfully I was saved! I spent eight happy years there [until management changed again!]. Now, following a 10-year break, I am going back to the relaunched talkRADIO [it had morphed into talkSPORT some years ago] after being asked to return over Facebook Messenger by someone who used to be the phone-op on the Breakfast Show and is now the Managing Editor!
“It’s been a hard road but I’ve made some golden rules along the way.
- Don’t let anyone hold you back, never accept rejection, keep trying.
- Do a good job and someone will remember you and come looking for you later on.
- Never leave a job without a contract for the next job in your hand.
“Last week I broke my own rules – I quit with no contract However, I am confident enough to turn up tomorrow and know I will be welcomed with open arms.”
And yes, he was. Mark Gale has been back in the gallery for two weeks now, expertly twiddling the knobs for the new talkRADIO and doing every bit the brilliant job he used to do for Ferrari and me.
Sure, the world has turned: I’m a listener up north in Godzone and my mates Mark and Ferrari are rivals on opposite camps of the broadcasting battlefield.
That’s radio for you!