When is a radio show not a radio show?

Sara Cox

If you’re like me, when you picture a radio presenter in your mind, you see them wearing a big pair of headphones, sitting (or standing) at a desk, speaking into a microphone and occasionally pressing buttons.

Although the age of DJs actually ‘spinning discs’ is long gone, most of the rest still holds true… or so I thought.

Last week, however, while idly browsing iPlayer, I came across Sara Cox’s Sounds of the 80s.

Not such an 80s classic
This goes out on BBC Radio 2 on a Friday night from 10pm – midnight and it seems fairly popular.

Ostensibly, it’s just Sara Cox playing lots of a-Ha, Wham!, Billy Ocean and Madonna to dance around to, or so I thought.

You see, this radio show is also available to watch. Now we’re not talking a webcam in the corner here – I mean Sara Cox standing in a proper TV studio facing a camera delivering her script.

No microphone, buttons, headphones or any other radio accoutrements in sight. 

In between her links, you can watch the videos associated with the 80s tunes. 

Then partway through the show, she introduces her special guest – in this case Billy Ocean – and they sit on comfy chairs having a chat show-style conversation. 

Two quarts into a pint pot
But this is a radio show! It started out as a radio show and is still ostensibly broadcast as that.

Why is the BBC trying to do two things at once and – in my humble opinion – failing at both?

Sara Cox may be an accomplished broadcaster, but here she fails to deliver the intimacy and personal nature that is the hallmark of a good radio show.

Similarly, it’s weird watching a ‘TV show’ that is clearly made for radio. 

It’s not the first time the BBC has done this. For a while now, Radio 5 Live has broadcast MOTD3 simultaneously on BBC1 at the weekend.

Somehow, though, it doesn’t look odd, because Mark Chapman and the three pundits are sitting round a desk and discussing matches and teams.

They’re not introducing video clips which patently wouldn’t work on radio.

If it’s cost-cutting, it’s a terrible way to go about it. What will they do next? You couldn’t imagine them using Clare Balding’s Olympics TV coverage as a replacement for Radio 5 Live, could you? Let’s bloody hope not.

It’s about context not just content
As someone who works slap bang in the ‘content’ world, I know that you often have to reuse or repackage things to save money, but you don’t have to be a genius to know a 3-minute video you put on YouTube doesn’t fit on Instagram – neither figuratively or figuratively.

Radio and TV are two different worlds. You may be good at both, but what works visually doesn’t usually translate to an audio-only context.

Of course, I could be getting my knickers in a twist about nothing. Am I?

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