Politics Assessment: The package

Here’s my package on Cornwall’s views on the so-called ‘bedroom tax’:

(It’s conveniently split into two which means you have time to go and make yourself a nice cup of tea before you listen to the second half.)

Editorial choices:

  • Longer, yet relevant quotes to allow my interview subjects to tell the story. Yes, it runs the risk of sounding rambling and boring, but I’d like to think the clips I chose are interesting, informative and where appropriate, emotive.
  • Music and SFX. I took a gamble in using music to run through my package. It’s something I’ve never done before and I was aware it could prove distracting or even cheesy. I’m pleased with the outcome, however, and think it brings out the best of the clips and adds plenty of drama. The main reason I used it was to move the story on in an interesting manner. Six minutes is a relatively long time for my audience to sit listening to the story, so I hoped this – along with the clips from the protest – would add that extra bit of interest.
  • A strong focus on how the issue will affect locals. This package is aimed at a Radio Cornwall audience, so I made sure I spoke to relevant people from the county (protesters), along with Cornish politicians who spend much of their time down here, as opposed to Westminster. I reigned the national story in from how the changes (to all welfare benefits) will affect those on benefits, to how it could impact those claiming housing benefit in Cornwall – with a particular focus on the Camborne area.

The triumphs:osborne happy

  • The interviews: They all went smoothly, and all of my subjects were helpful and provided plenty of good talking points – particularly George Eustice who spoke of elderly people who “continue to hog houses that are too big for them”.
  • The protest: As luck would have it, there was an anti-bedroom tax protest staged in Camborne in March. I went along and picked up some interviews and lots of SFX.
  • Being organised: As I’d planned my story well in advance I knew from the start who I needed to speak to and what I wanted to ask them. I then felt relatively confident that I could put together a decent package.

The catastrophes:Osborne sad

  • Sabotage by computer: An error message appeared on my computer, followed by the blue screen of death, the very second I’d just laid down my final clip. I had no choice but to force a shut down. Fortunately I’d been saving my project as I’d gone along, so I only had to re-do a small part of my piece. Annoying all the same though.
  • The M-Audio: Always a bit of a trouble-maker and the quality of the recordings isn’t great – spending ages de-essing and getting rid of static is not fun. I guess you know by now that I don’t rate it much.

Do you feel more informed about the changes to benefits as a result of listening to this radio package? Leave your comments on the form below:


Politics Assessment: The Editing Process

There’s always a vast amount of material to listen to before you can decide what to cram into a package. And this was no exception.

Even at six minutes long (which is rather a lengthy package) it’s still a challenge to pick out only a small selection of good clips.

To that end, some things didn’t make the final edit for one reason or another.

So here are some of the rough cuts I set aside from the George Eustice and Jude Robinson interviews which ultimately weren’t used, but they’re interesting all the same.

Listen to them on the player below.

Politics Assessment: Legal Considerations

 The Music

I chose to feature a piece of music – a cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Placebo – in my package.

I like to think it’s added to the overall piece, keeping up the pace, ramping up emotion and drama where it’s needed, and emphasising key points.


But when using any piece of music a journalist must be aware of copyright law – if it’s being broadcast you can’t play copyright music without paying royalties to the musician or record label who owns it, or you or your organisation will get sued for a mountain of cash. And unless your boss is incredibly forgiving, or you work for Megabucks Inc. who don’t mind paying out, your career will probably end right there.

If I were working for a reputable media organisation, like the BBC (bear in mind my package is supposed to be for Radio Cornwall,) they’d be able to get clearance to use whatever material’s needed.

But seeing as I’m a student and my package will never see the light of day (other than being heard by the gangs of one and two who view this blog) I understand that I’m not breaking the law.

Politics Assessment: The Equipment

Bah! Once again I got to use my old chum the M-Audio Microtrack II.

It really is a pretty terrible bit of kit (in my opinion).


Take a look at the photo and you’ll see why it’s necessary I arrive at least ten minutes early to any interview I arrange. That’s how long it takes to slot the various bits and pieces together, reel in all the cables, and check the thing’s working properly – which it rarely is.

Even in perfect conditions it will pick up on noises you’d rather it didn’t, and add a sprinkling of high frequency hiss for good measure.

One of my interviews has been particularly affected by the device’s recording quirks. Even sitting uncomfortably close to my subject in a near-silent room it’s injected an alarming amount of white noise into the recording. Better still, it’s also managed to pick up the sound of her pet dog scratching itself quietly across the other side of the room.

But all’s not lost – it just means more work for me. Dodgy sound can be fixed using Adobe Audition’s various plug-ins, but I shouldn’t have to start messing about with equalisers and filters to get a clean sound.

Thanks M-Audio. Thanks a bunch.

Politics Assessment – The People

For my six-minute package I’ve decided to include three voices. Here’s my cast-list:

Chris Gibson – Cornwall Anti Cuts Alliance


As I mentioned, I went along to a ‘bedroom tax’ protest in Camborne to speak to some of the organisers from Cornwall Anti Cuts Alliance.

As you can imagine, they were very happy to stop and chat and explain why they were demonstrating and why they’re against pretty much every Tory reform.

This chap stood out with his strong political views and brilliant voice, so I’ll definitely include him in my piece. 

George Eustice – Conservative MP 

GeorgeEusticeConservative MP George Eustice very kindly agreed to let me interview him at his office in Camborne.

He gave good, contrasting thoughts to the protesters, explaining why his party thinks the benefit changes are “the right thing to do”.

He also told me that dozens of brand new one-bedroom flats (right next to his office) were being made available to retired people which will make it easier for affected locals to downsize and, as he put it, “stop hogging houses.”

Jude Robinson – Labour Councillor


Taking time out of her very hectic schedule, Jude Robinson invited me to her home in Pool to squeeze a quick interview in over lunch-time.

Naturally she was against the “bedroom tax,” saying it was something Labour would never dream of doing.

I had the chance to put to her some of the questions I’d asked George Eustice, and got some interesting answers, which I’ll share with you all soon.

But my highlight: I had the privilege of meeting her very friendly dog, two cats and three chickens. They didn’t have much to say on the issue.

‘Bedroom Tax’: The story

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Changes to housing and council tax benefit – or the ‘bedroom tax’ as it’s more commonly known – came into action on April 1.

So what does this all mean?

Many social housing tenants living in properties deemed too large for them will have their housing benefit payments cut. Under the reforms, this is likely to affect about 3,000 people in Cornwall alone.

Why is this happening?

Well, the government wants to end what it calls the “spare room subsidy” for social tenants. It hopes the “under-occupancy changes” will shave £500m off the nation’s benefits bill.

That’s fair enough, some might say. Those living in a house with spare rooms and claiming benefits should move into something smaller. But is there enough social housing in Cornwall for people to relocate? The simple answer is no. And people are worried – so much so that the internet’s abuzz with interactive surveys and quizzes which calculate just how better or worse off you’ll be. Take this “bedroom tax” calculator for example.

With thousands of people having demonstrated across the country – two protests were held in Cornwall – the reform is proving unpopular among many.

Lots of people aren’t content with the 1p off a pint peace-offering the Chancellor made in his annual Budget. Or the tax relief on childcare (apparently starting in 2015.) No, these individuals took to the streets, armed with placards and banners, chanting “axe, axe the bedroom tax,” and encouraging passing traffic to honk if they support. Plenty did.

First and foremost, I aimed to gather the opinions of protesters, as well as those who support the changes, and those who don’t. This should allow me to form a script and keep my package balanced.

I’ve spoken to protest organisers from Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance, and have interviews lined up with George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, and Jude Robinson, Labour Councillor for Camborne North.

Will you be affected by the Government’s housing benefit reforms? Let me know what it means to you using the form below.

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.