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 half-past twelve at night and six in the morning, 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 allmediascotland.com: “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.

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