Are you one of those folks who listens to the radio in complete ignorance of what’s required of the person speaking to you? Do you listen to Nicky Campbell’s polished Scots in the morning and think I could do that nae bother? Do you marvel at Kirsty Young’s (even more) polished Scots on Radio 4 and think: ‘just what is there to this presenting lark?’ Do you sneer at Galloway on Talksport as he effortlessly runs through another 60 minute diatribe and mock radio hosts for earning a crust doing something a child of seven could manage? Maybe you scoff at James Naughtie as he (yet again) interviews Bruce Anderson on the joys of an eighteenth century diet? Do you listen to Robin Lustig effortlessly skewer another African dictator and think what an easy life?

Working at the BBC means I get to see radio presenters at work close up and you won’t be surprised to learn Dear Reader that it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds (apart of course from Galloway’s inane ranting which for the record, a child of seven could actually do).

This point was brought home to me on Friday. The world’s greatest talk show was broadcasting live from Ghana – not a place with the best communications infrastructure in the world. World Have your Say airs at 6pm and by 5.30pm not a peep had been heard from our sub-Saharan crew. I was gently editing some e-Mails when the boss walked in and posed this little teaser: ‘Nothing from Africa. In all seriousness, could you present tonight’s show?’

Cue a severe case of BES†.

Does the billboard come before the trail? Do we even need a trail – what are we trailing? Where are all the hard posts? What about the news bulletin – does it finish at 5 past or 6 past? Is the half-past bully 3 or 2 minutes long? Which button is it to speak to the SMs? (if you’ve not seen my radio lingo section then check it out).

Believe me . . . filling on a downed line for a few minutes is no problem, but nothing brings home the skill involved in presenting radio as when you’re suddenly asked to potentially do a whole hour from start to finish . . . especially something as totally speech-driven as WHYS – there is rarely anything on tape to go to in emergencies.

You’ll be pleased to know that the Africa team dialled up a few minutes later, greatly relieving the boss, the studio managers and my own thumping ribcage. Appreciation gained.
† Bowel Expansion Syndrome


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