Dave Woodhall comments on the latest blow to local-themed radio.
The departure of Carl Chinn from Radio WM has come as a bit of a surprise. He’s well-known and his audience fits the station’s demographic. I don’t know how popular his Sunday lunchtime show was, or which way the audience figures had gone recently, but Carl’s departure is another setback for any hopes that the region may enjoy a properly representative media presence. The show wasn’t exactly cutting edge, innovative radio. It wouldn’t win many awards. That, though, isn’t the point.
Carl Chinn’s show couldn’t have been made anywhere else, or broadcast in any other region. It was a local show, for local people, and if that sounds like a slight then it isn’t meant to be. It’s what local radio should be about. As with all of his work, Carl made ordinary people realise that their lives were worthy of recognition. He championed the area, its cultures and its people. That’s exactly what the remit of a local radio station, of any local media outlet, should be.
I’d like to think that Carl will be replaced by a new arrival at WM, bringing with them a fresh approach and an innovative show. Instead, there will inevitably be yet another reactionary chat-show or more bland musical output, fitting in with the station’s outlook of unchallenging conformity. Looking at their weekday scheduling, sport apart there isn’t a programme that couldn’t be broadcast from, and to, any other part of the country. Only the place names differ.
In an interview with the Mail that followed his departure from WM, Carl asked where the young local presenters were coming through. It’s a fair point, because there’s little sign on that station, or for that matter any of the other stations ostensibly aimed at local listeners, of any emerging new talent. Local radio should be a breeding ground for future stars yet, Adrian Goldberg apart, there isn’t any presenter with the spark of originality that marks a good broadcaster – and Adrian first worked for WM over a decade ago. They’re not championing local talent, they’re cutting back on local-orientated programming. What, then, is the point of Radio WM?