BBC Scotland to experiment in themed radio

AN experiment in aggregating content into themes, such as comedy, is to launch on BBC Radio Scotland from Tuesday, in what is a first for the BBC.

Between 00.30 and 06.00, the station will be mostly re-purposing its archives in a series of five-and-a-half hour ‘zones’ – in the first instance, five: Celtic (music); history; new music; the arts plus classical and jazz music; and comedy.

State-of-the-art digital technology at BBC Scotland’s new HQ in Glasgow now makes it possible to easily retrieve archive, in a way that was not possible before.

‘The Zones’ replace Nightshift, hosted by Tony Currie, who has been a consultant on the project. Says head of radio at BBC Scotland, Jeff Zycinski, Currie’s programme has been a ‘beta version’ of The Zones, not least in resolving copyright issues.

Not that it will be necessary to listen live to The Zones; they are to be made available on a variety of ‘platforms’, including online. In the US, there is already an established tradition of highly themed radio stations.

Zycinski told “I think we might look back on this and see it as a significant milestone. But, to be honest, we just don’t know how well it will work. We are ‘testing the water’.”

Archive material will be combined with more current output. Multi-award winning folk singer, Julie Fowlis, will present the first ‘Zone’: Celtic. Glasgow indie band, The Fratellis, have also been signed up, to present a new music Zone.

Added Zycinski: “It’s great news to be the first station in the UK to offer audiences such a wide range of content across analogue and digital platforms in this themed way.

“The key to this is listener choice. Consuming audio content online is increasing at a phenomenal rate and it’s important that we respond to this rising demand in a fresh and innovative way.”

The online versions of The Zones may soon include still and moving pictures.

Last year, BBC Radio Scotland launched a short-term digital radio station dedicated to the Children in Need charity. Itself an experiment in themed radio broadcasting, Radio Pudsey, emerged as a ratings winner.