In My Opinion: John Collins: Don’t ignore radio in debates about the future of the media

SEVERAL months ago, I was at a conference on the future of Scotland’s media, post-2014.

There were loads of great sessions on drama production, the success of commissioning at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay, the roll-out of STV Local. Good speakers demonstrating that we had a bright future. One speaker – Lisa Kerr, now a media consultant but a former director of the RadioCentre – had her session cut short.

All the speakers from TV, gaming etc, overran their slots and the radio speaker had to find a way to account for the medium with the biggest footprint in the shortest time.

Last week, there was a similar event, where the biggest brains in the country developed the arguments. Of the presentations from The Scotsman Conferences event that I’ve seen online, not one focussed on radio and its role in Scotland’s media future.

I asked one of the speakers why this might be. His response? “You have to appreciate that it’s difficult to fit everything in.”

Around 90 per cent of Scots consume radio every week. That’s an enviable figure that’s actually trending higher. Yet the medium is regularly overlooked at events like this. Wherever people with larger brains than mine gather, they talk about TV, film and online – not the medium they consume in the shower or car or while making the dinner.

We’re in danger of overlooking radio’s role in society, allowing the market to give us exactly what we don’t need.

We need more speech, more ideas and a broader variety of voices on the radio.

I’m not convinced that can happen if the radio industry doesn’t stand up for itself. We need to remind producers of other media that radio is thoroughly modern and a real success story. Then the sector can grow and feel it has the space to innovate.

Radio is no more a utility than TV, film or gaming. It’s time it stood up for itself.

John Collins lectures in radio broadcasting at Reid Kerr College in Paisley, following a 25-year career on both sides of the microphone at both the BBC and in commercial radio in Scotland. He still pops up occasionally on the radio, at Clyde 2 on a Sunday morning. Pic: Michele Dillon.