Politics Assessment – The Treatment

Radio Four or Radio Cornwall?

I have to prepare my politics package for one of these stations, and aim it towards the appropriate audience. So before I decide, let’s have a look what each is about.

BBC Radio Four

bbc-radio-4This station describes itself as: “A station for anyone interested in intelligent speech. Its schedule is packed with the most insightful journalism, the wittiest comedy, the most fascinating features and the most compelling drama and readings anywhere in UK radio.’’

It’s aimed towards an older target audience, almost thirty-five per cent are over the age of sixty-five, and listeners are split almost equally between men and women, though figures suggest slightly more men tune in.

The news prioritised on Radio Four seems to reflect the audience that listens to it. There’s a strong focus on political affairs, with very little attention paid to entertainment or celebrity news – both are unlikely to appeal to the majority of its listeners. The Archers is probably about as close as you’ll get to ‘shleb’ gossip.

Daily programmes like Today (on from 6-9am), The World at One (1-1:45pm), and PM (5-6pm), provide in-depth coverage of big – and most importantly, national – political stories.

Their packages tend to be longer in length and far more comprehensive than you’d find on a local or commercial station. Occasionally, they’ll split stories up into a series which will be presented over a week.

Instead of the music, jingles, wildtrack and SFX often heard on other stations, you’re far more likely to hear extended clips, or simply longer news stories.

BBC Radio CornwallBBC Cornwall

By contrast, local radio stations – like BBC Radio Cornwall – more often focus on shorter packages with snappy sound-bites around three minutes long. Instead I’ve heard such packages ‘bulked up’, so to speak, with live guests, voicers, and two-ways to add colour and keep listeners listening.

BBC Local Radio audiences tend to be aged 50 and over. They have a strong preference for local news over in-depth national stories. Radio Cornwall has even been criticised for its lack of Cornish accents among its presenters, which shows just how seriously the audience takes locality – Radio Cornwall’s motto is: “Loving where we live.”

That said, the station’s seen a large rise in younger listeners over the last few years – to the point where it’s been criticised for ignoring the needs of its older audience.

Who’s my audience?

Well, what a predicament. My story could do well as both a national piece about “changes to benefits,” or a local feature focused on the Camborne protest and the views of relevant Cornish MPs. This time, it will have a Cornwall angle.

The next issue is the length. At six minutes, it’s unlikely this story would feature on BBC Radio Cornwall, though for the purpose of this assessment, it’ll have to.

So for my Frankenstein’s monster radio package, I’ll need to combine the length and analysis of a Radio Four package with the local focus and snappy sound-bites of Radio Cornwall.

To get this right I’ll be sure to tighten up the story angle, include strong interview subjects, and plenty in the way of SFX to keep my listeners interested.


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