John Tolson on Suffolk First

October 17th, 2016

87% of Suffolk now has local DAB and a brand new radio station that says it’s “packed with local information”. We listened in.

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHAT: Suffolk First

WHO: John Tolson

WHEN: Monday 17 October, 1400

Suffolk FirstThe Way You Love Me – Faith Hill

ID: Weather.

No context. No craft. No back anno. Just bed into a straight weather read.

ID: “Online, and on DAB Digital Radio – From Sudbury to Beccles – With Country music and more – This is Suffolk First.”

Broken Strings – James Morrison & Nelly Furtado

ID: This is Suffolk First. Follow Us on Facebook.

Timber, I’m Falling In Love – Patty Loveless

ID: “Suffolk First: Country Music and More. Well, just because you go to a steak house, doesn’t always mean you want steak.” (Moo sound effect)

I’m Already Taken – Steve Wariner

This is Suffolk First. I’m John Tolson with Country music and more. Don’t forget you can contact us through social media (and then lists Facebook and Twitter).

I Met A Girl – William Michael Morgan

ID: Suffolk First

What’s Forever For – Michael Martin Murphy

ID: “Sufflok First – where Ward Thomas meets Coldplay”

Stay With Me – Sam Smith

“You’re with Suffolk First – Country music and more. Your new local radio station where we like to keep you up to date with whats happening from local theatres to special events.”

Ooh Baby Baby – Linda Ronstadt


Google ‘Suffolk First’ and you get a page full of bus timetables and Suffolk safeguarding children. Even ‘Suffolk First Radio’ gets you a page of coverage and no direct link to – for it is there. That’s the only place to listen online at the moment. No Radioplayer, no tunein.

I wanted to like this, I really did. Too often radio follows traditional patterns and belief. There are too few ideas, not enough risks and dials full of bland. So Lincs FM’s new local/yokel hybrid – promising “a heavy emphasis on truly local content for the county” is an interesting idea. Sadly, they’ve not so much ignored the radio rule book here as torn it to pieces and run a tractor over it.

Starting with the links. Well. Links in this example are a misnomer. The definition of link is “a relationship between two things or situations, especially where one affects the other.” In this twenty minute listen, there were two “links” but they didn’t appear to link anything. Just generic space-fillers, one suggesting we contact them through “social media” (Eugh) and another saying they like to keep me up to date with local things. They like to apparently but have made no effort to do so.

The tragedy here is that It’s perfectly possible, with a computer in a cupboard and a brain and some time, to craft content that celebrates Suffolk alongside an acoustic/country/mellow music selection. You don’t have to be sat in Gipping to do that, you could do it from the moon. And are there not enough journos knocking about in Lincs Group to even come up with a minute of bright local news copy each hour?

The liners are excruciating. The steak house one is interesting. It so misses the point. Yes, we used to go to a Berni Inn for everything. But that was in 1974. Stretching the metaphor to breaking point, Chris Country (on the same multiplex) would be Hawksmoor. You’d go expecting a great steak. And you’d get one. Consistent, nicely branded. Back on Suffolk First, the music liners play on the nerdy juxtaposition of country artists and mainstream artists, not the sense, tone or feeling of the station.

Above all else, you’d think a station with the balls to call itself Suffolk First despite being 150 miles away would compensate by dripping in localness. So here’s some free consultancy.

1 Add some of the things that, you know, radio is famous for. Audience connection. Shared experience. Useful, timely, information. Raid the local papers, shell out for the occasional trip to the TSA, get a stringer in Ipswich.

2 If the presenters add nothing, build them up. Or if you can’t afford the time or money to do that, take them away altogether. The music and some decent liners with a skeleton local news would be better than ‘Hi. Facebook exists’ popping up all the time.

3 Sell me some sizzle. Forget the sausage. ‘Country music and more’? Identify who this is for and seduce them.

You’re Suffolking welcome.

Signal Summer

June 16th, 2015

Was it only 5 Listened Ins ago we were checking out Signal’s Christmas station? It sure was. And now the DAB equivalent of the aisle in ASDA that struggles to define the word ‘seasonal’ between Easter and Hallowe’en is back.

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHAT: Signal Summer

WHO: Jockless

WHEN: Tuesday 16 June. 1935.



Only Love Can Hurt Like This/Paloma Faith (May 14)

ID: Hot Hits. Hot Summer Hits. All Summer Long. Signal Summer.

Everywhere/Fleetwood Mac (April 88)

ID: Hot Hits. Hot Summer Hits. All Summer Long. Signal Summer.

Happy/Pharrell Williams (Dec 13)

ID: Non Stop Hot Summer Hits. This. This is Signal Summer.

Somebody That I Used To Know/Gotye (Jan 12)

ID: SU85 non-stop Signal Summer Days. So hot, it’s cool. Signal Summer.

Prayer in C/Lillywood & Robin Schulz (Sep 14)

ID: Signal. Summer. (whisper)

Sunny/Boney M (Mar 77)

ID: The sun shines out of your … radio. This is Signal Summer.

AD: Wayne Walker BBQ Pack/Dave Johnson on Signal 2 cross-promo/The Non Stop Weekday barbie with Wayne Walker.

ID: A radio station playing nothing but Summer Hits? Love Signal Summer.

Groovejet/Spiller (Aug 00)


Terry Underhill, Group Programme Director for UTV Media, told RadioToday: “These stations will become the soundtrack of the summer and will offer a non-stop feel good playlist of the most upbeat summer songs of all time. We are always looking for new ways to engage with our listeners and these stations are an excellent brand extension for us.”

So just what’s a Summer Hit? From this list, not necessarily a song that was a hit in the Summer. OK, note to self: try not to be so pedantic. Summer is a feel-good feeling, a vibe, warm memories. Yeah? So explain Gotye. Example lyric: “Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over.” And it’s almost like someone had a ‘think of the least summery Paloma Faith recurrent you can think of’ side-bet going on.

Summer in Stoke.

Summer in Stoke.

One of radio’s great strengths is matching the mood of the moment. So I’m guessing Signals 1 and 2 sound summerier than usual right now. What this does is just provide a gold-er and spicier (Boney M!) version of Signal for two and a half months. But without any presenter craft or connection that could make that proposition cut through. Then they schedule a Dave Johnson clip promo – a brilliant communicator in this market – just to remind me what I’m missing on Signal 2.

(Wayne Walker for non-carnivores or those who don’t live in Stoke or Bolton is a Butchers Outlet. Not a DJ with a strangely 80s name.)

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to


Aimee Vivian on MKFM

May 26th, 2015

MKFM, the much-supported Milton Keynes not-for-profit DAB station has just won a community FM licence with a thorough application promising “high presentation and production standards”. We have a listen to its existing service.

WHO Aimee Vivian and Unidentified Man


WHEN 1825, Tuesday 26 May.


Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

FourFiveSeconds/Rihanna ft Kanye West & Paul McCartney

ID: “They must know what this is all about” (film clip) + “MKFM” (sung)

White Noise Disclosure ft Aluna George

(Crunch and roll) Unidentified Male: Nice.

Aimee: Nice. You know what is also nice?

Male: What’s that?

Aimee: While I’m bopping along to this song. I really like .. this next song. We had it as our song of the day, remember, two weeks ago?

Male: Yes, yep.

Aimee: Galantis.

Galantis/Runaway (U & I)

Aimee: Galantis, Runaway U & I, love that so, so much. Errrrm yeah we’ve had a few comments about my embarrassing story which I shared before six o’clock.

Male: yeah.

Aimee: about the little bit of a nose issue that we’ll …

Male: Yep.

Aimee: Anyway, about that little issue, Amber has got in touch and said ‘“Aimee, that story is gross.” And that’s all she wrote. But on the other hand Jack said “I think these things happen and you shouldn’t be too worried about it.”

Male: “You should have just said you sneezed, rather than, like, oh look what you made me do. Aimee: Well it wasn’t really .. no. It was too.

Male: But you could have seen it and gone oh oh oh achoo. (fake laughs).

Aimee: Oh yeah, oh oh oh agh achoo. The good thing is that at least it wasn’t a man friend that I did it in front of. Because that would have been a bit worse, like, you can get away with certain things in front of your girls, can’t you, let’s be honest. Right, on the way, as you can hear me scrolling down, we have got some Naughty Boy, Iggy Azalea, and Jennifer Hudson, love that track so much, and Nicole Scherzinger, Boomerang is gonna play next.

ADS: Advertise on MKFM. Keep It Local MK package: Genius Consulting PR, Scottsdale Moneywise ‘providing first class services to individuals and companies’ who ‘will go to the extra mile’ (sic), Aspects (world-class) dentists.

ID: MKFM (sung)

Boomerang/Nicole Scherzinger

ID: Music Positioner. MKFM. Digital Radio

Trouble/Iggy Azalea ft Jennifer Hudson

ID: MKFM Digital Radio.

Naughty Boy/Lifted


It just won an FM licence on the strength of a beautifully-written application and strong local support. But I hope G O’Donnell of the MK Springers Gymnastics Club wasn’t listening this afternoon. They’re quoted in that application.

“The “local” commercial radio station content is banal, while the BBC has a tiny MK coverage.” 

Banal or not, I wonder if either Heart or BBC Three Counties reached the dizzy heights of talking about snot on Drivetime tonight? At least is was some Milton Keynes snot. I assume it’s a snot link. In the recap of a link in the previous hour that forms the only speech block in our customary twenty-minute listen, it’s hard to know. With some thought and some structure, this could have been a connecting bit of observation about doing embarrassing stuff in front of friends.

Elsewhere the music is OK CHR, the ads are in the cut-and-paste-off-the-client’s-website school of production, and the bloke is never identified. Nor is the station, by either presenter, although the imaging does the job OK.

MKFM’s new FM application promises a massive amount of live, non-voicetracked output (12 hours weekdays and 10 each weekend day) and a “daytime music to speech ratio (which) is on average 75:25, with more speech aired between 7am and 1pm and between 4pm and 7pm.” In this 20 minute listen, there were three minutes of speech (including a 1’40 ad break). That’s 85:15.

Of course, those application promises don’t need to materialise until the shiny new FM transmitter is switched on. By then MKFM have a lot of work to do in order to live up to such lofty ambition.

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to

Morning Money on Share Radio

April 8th, 2015

Sharing ideas about money. But will it make any? We try and understand London’s new all-talk financial radio station.

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 07.38.37

WHO  Unidentified man and Louise Cooper.

WHAT  Morning Money on Share Radio

WHEN  0700, Wednesday 8 April 2015

News: BG/Shell Merger, Super Rich Tax, French Air Strike, Passport Scans, Deflation, South Carolina Police shooting, Greedy House Prices

ID: Morning Money on Share Radio

Reads markets information.

ID: Morning Money on Share Radio (the same one as above)

Reads Sport

ID: Morning Money: the Markets, the Papers, and the City. Today’s ‘need to know’ on Share Radio.


There is a slightly laboured intro, cluttered with too many ways for the listener to get involved (and in the next twenty minutes, no-one does) and it includes the wonderful sentence, “Today you need to know that Japan has posted its biggest current account surplus in three and a half years.”

Male presenter sounds unsure as he gets back into the show “We’re gonna get straight to the big news that has just been announced, Lousie is with me back in the studio.”

Then suddenly it all comes alive and shows the potential of this station. Louise is a bit of a star. She’s on to talk about the BG/Shell merger, a big, breaking, financial news story. And clearly she knows her stuff. There’s great discussion and commentary as she picks apart the announcement. “There’s 49 pages, and I’m only on page 2,” she jokes then someone appears with more information, “Oh look, some more pages have arrived.”

There’s a good bit where they explain that ‘pre-tax synergies’ actually means ‘cost cutting’. “You can cut half a board away if you have one company or two.”

ID: Morning Money: the Markets, the Papers, and the City. Today’s ‘need to know’ on Share Radio.

Recaps headline on the big story and some more ‘need to know’s. Throws ahead to ‘Consuming Issues with Georgie Frost’, and her savings expert and – “would you buy a house with a perfect stranger?”

ID: Share Radio Traffic and Travel

Perfunctory read.

ID: Morning Money on Share Radio

Introduces a segment summing up some airline figures and results with John Grant from OAG, who is introduced by some Wikipedia reading out. “OAG, formerly Official Airline Guide, is a United Kingdom-based business providing aviation information and analytical services sourced from its proprietary airline schedules, flight status, fleet, MRO and cargo logistics databases.”

“I’ve got Louise, Louise Cooper with me, market analyst and commentator.”

John’s also a great guest (on the phone) and knows his stuff. “We’re in the Summer Season – so welcome to European discontent”

Good chat about mergers and acquisitions in the airline industry and how airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet are so much better than heritage carriers at filling their planes. “We have 168 airlines in Europe. In China, there are 29.”


From this listen, here’s a great little radio station – in desperate need of a programmer. They’ve done the difficult job – finding good contributors who know their stuff. Trouble is, they’ve been let loose in the wild open empty spaces of speech radio without a sat nav.

When they’re mid-discussion, it’s very good. But around the important edges – the lubrication, the hour open, the plodding station sound, the BBC Local Radio circa 1982 show names – it’s a all a bit lacklustre. Especially when your speech competitors are Radio 4 and LBC. Share has a clear point of difference. And it’s using it well – look at the stories in the news at 7. That’s a mix of stories you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. Even if their inflection was a bit “The Day Today”. Louise didn’t get a surname until nearly at the end of the 20 minute listen. And I still don’t know who the main presenter was.

If you have a strap like ‘need to know’, make sure it’s stuff I need to know. I don’t even know what “Japan’s current account surplus” means, let alone why I ‘need to know’ it. And here’s another problem – who is this station for? Even in the discussion of the top merger story (which had pace and excitement and carried me along – no mean feat) they used some financial terms that a layman wouldn’t have a clue about. I guess the Share Radio issue is that to explain too much annoys your pink newspaper readers. To explain too little leaves the casual listener cold.

More worryingly, on a commercial radio station about money, there was no commercial content in my whole listen (and for another ten minutes after). No sponsor tags, no ad breaks, no S&P.

So what it has is good financial journalists. What it needs is a big dose of radio thinking, and a clearer, better-communicated idea of what it is and who it’s for.


Not that kind of Cher.

Not that kind of Cher.

Nick Wright on Rock FM 2

February 18th, 2015

So, as Bauer’s City Two Greatest Hits network loses its breakfast host after weeks on air. Before the new guy starts, we listen into Nick Wright covering. How is localness being delivered to 45-64s in Lancashire on Rock FM 2?

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHAT Rock FM 2

WHO Nick Jackson

WHEN Wednesday 18 February

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 08.51.20


We join mid-call from Janet, who’s talking about flared trousers and how according to Gok Wan and Phillip Schofield, they’re back in. There’s a casual bit of incestuous bantz. “Don’t tell ‘im who’s on between 7 and 10 will you?,” says Janet who’s clearly a bit of a P1. There’s some discussion of how Ray Rose’s flares would be the width of sails on a sailing ship. Tightly into song. No ID.

You to Me are Everything/The Real Thing

Speedlink into the break. “Nick Wright playing you the Greatest Hits, more of them after 8 o’clock, including Chris Rea and Abba.”

ADS: their dot co dot uk / Corsa / Boots Invisible Hearing Aids / Weightwatchers / Boundary Mill / Do More Online / Morissons Easter Eggs / Direct Line

ID: “This is Rock FM 2 with the latest news, next.”

AD: VW Caddy

ID: Home of the Greatest Hits on Digital Radio, on AM, online and on your smartphone – this is Rock FM 2 (suspense pause) News.

NEWS: Terror teen ‘from our region’ / Blackpool new policy to protect NHS workers following Vause murder / Devolution ‘to regions like Lancashire’  “Here’s the chair” / Big 6 Bills / Blackburn and Wigan football

There’s more news, sport and showbiz on the news pages of our website.

Weather ID & weather. “That’s your latest, I’m Rebecca Barrett.”

ID: This is Rock FM 2 – the Greatest Hits for Lancashire – (sing) Rock FM 2

Knowing Me Knowing You/Abba

ID: This is Rock FM 2 playing the Greatest Hits for Lancashire.

The Road to Hell/Chris Rea

Nick: “This is Rock FM 2”

Ba da da dee dah (Bauer Sonic Logo) into BED

Talks about how when you hear Chris Rea you want to be driving on the long open road, not in traffic on way to work. “There’s a few birthdays to mention …” Riffs around energy suppliers and how easy or not it is to switch, the 120-holidays-a-lifetime story. Bed replaced by Sam Smith intro. “I’ve got nothing booked yet – maybe I should book something like a weekend in Skegness or something ..”

Not the Only One/Sam Smith


So Rock FM 2 (a greatest hits station not on FM) IDs 6 times in 20 minutes, and carries two genuinely local pieces of content, both within news. (I don’t count the terror teen, who’s actually from Manchester. Do listeners distinguish between ‘Region’ (horrible BBC word) and their ‘actual’ locality like people in newsrooms?)

Nick’s one local ID is well-integrated. A dry “This is Rock FM 2” then the irrepressible Bauer sonic logo at the top of an acoustic bed gives separation before the live stuff.

He seems nice enough, from the programme rundown off 8 o’clock. Programme rundowns are for rundown programmes, but he riffs around some of the subjects with some verve to add some character and forward-promotion. It’s warm and slightly formless in that AM-y way. Even if some sounds straight off the prep; “early evidence from a competition probe, suggests.” is one of the phrases he uses.

There’s an unnamed woman on air with him during the earlier link. She’s inexplicably vanished after the news.

That’s a nice fat break into the 8. Two ads mention the words “Tees and Cees” which means nothing to anyone. I love how Boots Hearing Aids ad is set inexplicably against an instrumental break from Fergus Sings the Blues.

Online, Nick still appears at Drive in all the schedule pages with something called The Breakfast Show listed at 6am. You don’t say?!

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to

Signal Christmas

December 10th, 2014

Oh great. There’s more Christmas Radio than ever this year. Smooth Christmas is back from its snowy grave, there’s Christmas Carols Radio – and Free Radio 80s has been bumped for the Festive season. And the good citizens of Stoke and Bradford have new UTV stations on DAB and online. We listened in to Signal Christmas.

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHAT   Signal Christmas

WHO   Jockless

WHEN   0645, Tuesday 10 December, 2014

Signal Xmas

Hallelujah/Alexandra Burke

ID: Dave Johnson from Signal 2 Christmas anecdote about brown turkey and sprouts. Song clip “Its the most wonderful time of the year.” VO: This is Signal Christmas.

AD: The Box in Potteries Shopping Centre

ID: We love Christmas so much, we’ve made a Christmas radio station. Signal Christmas.

Please Come Home for Christmas/Eagles

ID: This. Is Signal Christmas

In Dulce Jubilo/Mike Oldfield

ID: Playing the best Christmas Classics 24 hours a day, Signal Christmas.

The Perfect Year/Dina Carrol

ID: This. Is Signal Christmas.

All I Want for Christmas is You/Mariah Carey

ID: Your 24 Hour Christmas Station. Signal Christmas.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas/Pretenders


Mariah is a banker for a 0700 switch on, but it’s hard to believe anyone, even someone who wears a Christmas jumper in August, would ever say, “Great, In Dulce Jubilo is on the radio again.” I’m not sure Dina Carroll should make an outing until 26 Dec-2 Jan, alongside Abba, natch, and the Pretenders wrote the all-time best Christmas song (and it ain’t this one) but those are minor quibbles. And on a music-driven, background station like this, surely a few nice VO-less old school segues would help it breathe a bit?

Yes. They post one of these on their Facebook EVERY day.

Yes. They post one of these on their Facebook EVERY day.

In fact, the imaging is a bit whatever. The presenter soundbite is a clever way of bringing in voices from the parent station, and adds a bit of colour. The main issue with the IDs is they’ve used growly VO man whose delivery is exactly the same as if he’s reading for Testosterone FM. It’s Christmas, guys. Lighten up a little. What so many Christmas stations still fail to get is that tonally, it’s a time of warmth and connection. Hard to achieve that from a computer in a cupboard, without a little clever voice-tracking.

Last Christmas I gave you my I reviewed Ireland’s Christmas FM and wondered whether there was enough good/familiar Christmas music for a Christmas Radio station. A year earlier, I berated Smooth Christmas for sounding strangely cold. Here’s a little Christmas station that’s getting a little more right. Happy Christmas.

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to


November 11th, 2014

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

This is a different kind of Listened In. It’s about Serial, the new weekly open-ended podcast from the team behind This American Life. It’s a real-life murder mystery, revolving around the killing of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior, in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed is tried and convicted of strangling her. But he maintains his innocence. You have to listen to Serial from the beginning. It’s released in weekly episodes. and this review is of Episode 7.

Serial Logo

Mailchimp Ad

A male voice on the phone, dry: “To be honest with you, I kind of feel like, I want to shoot myself if I hear someone else say I don’t think you did it, cos you’re a nice guy or not.” Then “Previously on Serial” – It’s the voice of Ira Glass, but it’s all we’ll hear from him.

A plinky plonky piano theme cranks up, and a range of clips. Some are phone clips, some are taken from police recordings, some from interviews.  If you’d heard nothing before this episode, you’d be lost. But that’s kind of the point. It’s a serial. The clip sequence ends with an automated phone operator. “This is a prepaid call from – (then the voice of) Adnan Sayers – an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Facility.” Then “From This American Life and WBEZ Chicago, it’s Serial. One story told week by week. I’m Sarah Koenig.”

Sarah chats to us about a similar case to Adnan’s where cellphone records were key. These were overturned – and a man called Justin Wolfe was freed. “Wolfe’s trial attorney later gave up his law licence after the bar had initiated disciplinary charges against him for, and here’s the technical term, ‘being a crappy lawyer’…

“So I read all about this and thought let me talk to the lawyer that helped figure out the flaws in the state’s case against Justin Wolfe. Maybe she has some tips about how we should be looking at the cell records differently in Adnan’s case? I looked her up. Her name is Dierdre Enright. She works at the University of Virginia School of Law. She runs their innocence project there. She does what innocence projects do, they investigate old cases to see if someone’s been wrongly convicted. I called her and asked how she dealt with the cell records in the Justin Wolfe case and she was kinda so so on that topic. She gave me a couple of names to try. No great insights though. But man, on every other topic, I found her so helpful. She started asking me about Adnan’s case, and I ended up sending her a summary I’d made of the detectives’ reports. Then when we talked I asked if she minded going to a studio.”

Into clip of Dierdre

“This is how it is with Dierdre. A conversation with her never seems to begin, exactly. It’s already there, ongoing, her thoughts churning, and you just  kinda join in when you’re ready and hope you can keep up .. she has no time for bullshit. And not because she’s above it or anything, because she actually has no time. She’s one of the busiest and most curious people I ever met.”

A sizeable chunk from Dierdre, just a measured and intelligent conversation about the flaws in the case against Adnan.

One quote from Sarah that sums up the twists and turns in her mind – and ours – “I’ll read something or I’ll do an interview, and I’m like, OK, there’s no way he did this, it doesn’t add up, it doesn’t add up, then the very next day, I’m like, oh my god, oh my god, look at the phone call to Nisha!”.

Later, Dierdre comes up with a worrying thought about the whole case. “Sometimes it’s going to stay exactly the way it is, and that’s unsatisfying.” “That’s my fear,” says Sarah. “is that I’m gonna get through all this and be uhhh-huh.”

Then there’s an unexpected breakthrough, where Dierdre says she’s totally hooked by the case and offers to put a team of her best students onto cracking it. “Many more sets of eyes, some fresh, some jaded, could only be helpful,” reckons Sarah accepting the offer. “I went down to Charlottesville to see how they were getting along. Here’s the sound of a law clinic getting ready to consider a new case. (FX). Thats a scanner, scanning its little heart out ..” Cut to an interview clip. “You said the scanner smells good?,” “Yeah, smells of laundry and ink.” The reason the scanner is so busy is that the first task when reviewing a case like this is to scan all the written evidence. Then the whole team take a weekend to read it. Dierdre spots an important email from 2008 from Baltimore Police, saying it’s believed evidence from the case have been destroyed .. so. Yeah. That’s not good.”

Have Min Lee and Adnan Syed

Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed



So I don’t know how much sense the above will make if, unlike me, you’ve not heard parts one to six. But I include the verbatim transcripts to illustrate the fresh tone of voice in which Serial is written.

Look at the structure of those links, the colloquial and authentic beats. It’s like Sarah’s presenting her story to a friend, or maybe her editor, rather than her listener.

After the pre-launch hype, I was expecting more bells and whistles in its production. But this is no Radiolab. This is more about structure and treatment. An earlier episode, retracing the ‘killer’s’ car route on the day of the crime was a road trip conversation between Sarah and colleague Dana as they tried to understand if the time line was feasible.

Every detail is pored over – which is why this shouldn’t work as well as it does. Radio is NOT usually a detail medium. We at our best giving broad brush strokes. Leave the big, wordy, stories to the web and Sunday supplements. And not everything works. Some interviews could be cut slightly tighter. Some of the police and phone audio is not the best quality. And the theme tune feels a bit jaunty to me. But these are minor gripes.

Once you key into Serial’s unique style, it pays off. You certainly need to concentrate. I find it a good motorway listen, or headphones out of my iPhone on a train ride. It’s not something I can listen to while cooking for example. But each week I’m being sucked in more. It’s reminding me of the Breaking Bad effect, where friends are discovering the show and starting from the beginning. I don’t know how it’s going to end – or even how I feel about Adnan right now. And nor does Sarah, which is kind of the point. We’re both just enjoying the ride.

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to

The Health and Wellbeing Show on Pirate 2

August 27th, 2014

So, Cornwall has a brand new radio station. Or rather, a DAB relay of Pirate with an added 5 podcast specialist shows. We tuned in to Pirate 2.

WHO:  Isha Pitt

WHAT:  The Health and Wellbeing Show on Pirate 2.

WHEN:  Tuesday 26 August, 1900

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.


MVO: The following programme contains commercially sponsored editorial, with content provided by the sponsors of the show. For further details, go to Pirate

ID: Bed only Regular Pirate FM jingle with ‘Pirate 2’ whisper at end.

VO: The Health and Wellbeing Show, brought to you by the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre.

“Hello and a welcome to the Health and Wellbeing Show on Pirate 2. My name’s Isha Pitt and on the show today, we have another segment from the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro. And this week we’r e looking at COPD. We find out exactly what that is by speaking to a range of guests and experts on that topic. We speak to consultant Dr John Myers (so that’s what he’s doing now). We also speak to Joe Barr who is a patient living with COPD. Pharmacist Jo Walkers talks to us about the current medications and the importance of them. And respiratory ward sister, Sarah Wannacot, talks about caring for patients who have needed to come into the hospital as a result of their COPD. So that’s to come very shortly. And also on the show this week, we speak to Ian Woodland, director of HBS Solutions, which is based at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre in Treliske. Ian discusses what his very new business does in the world of corporate health and wellbeing. So all that coming up, but first let’s get this week’s health and wealth being news.”

ID: Instrumental jingle with a whisper again.

I’m Tristan Hunkin.

Ebola Nurse/Doctor Apologies/Parking Charges/MS Cannabis treatment/Choking children/Women think they look 5 years younger.

“Now, would you know what to do if your child was choking. Turns out only half of us feel confident about first aid. And that is only for minor injuries.” Cue clip of man at Red Cross (who provide first aid training, by coincidence) saying we should learn first aid.

ID: VO only. The Health and Wellbeing Show, brought to you by the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre.

PROMO: “As you’re listening to the Health and Wellbeing Show on Pirate 2, you’re probably thinking what can the Health and Wellbeing Show do for me? Or maybe you’re thinking, what can I do for my fellow listeners? If you offer a service or product that our listeners would love, get in touch with Pirate 2, and this airtime could be your airtime. Advertising on the Health and Wellbeing Show will only be offered to three businesses, each with their very own commercial break. This is a fantastic opportunity to be part of Cornwall’s newest radio station, advertising directly to Health & Wellbeing Show listeners on Pirate 2 on Digital Radio,, and via our iTunes podcast. Call the Pirate 2 sales team to find out how you can wow potential customers with an exclusive commercial break during the Health and Wellbeing Show on Pirate 2. Call 01209 314900 or get in touch via Pirate”

ID: VO only. The Health and Wellbeing Show, brought to you by the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre.

“To kick off today’s show, we head back over to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro and get a bit of a feature piece on COPD.” Reads exactly the same intro to the guests she did at the top.

ID: (whoosh FX) The Health and Wellbeing Show – with Royal Cornwall Hospitals Direct. Health advice and news you can trust.


An old boss of mine once told me, witheringly, after I’d done a similar promo at the top of the show, “give me reasons to listen. Not reasons NOT to listen.” The matter of fact open – why do I need to know everyone’s names? – followed by the week’s health news. Or, old IRN clips from the week.

Tristan’s delivery is more arch than the Welland Viaduct. Then the promo to encourage us to advertise serves mainly as a reminder of how a medium so brilliant at persuading people to do something can actually achieve the opposite when copy as un-natural as this is thrown onto the air.

All of which is a shame, as clearly some good research has gone into getting good guests on the chosen subject of COPD (when we finally get to it). Trouble is, we then hear the interviews one after the other, with no treatment, colour, linking script, nothing. If these had been done as a discussion, or cut into a package, it would have been so much more engaging.

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to

Pulse 1

July 29th, 2014

In abandoned IBA-spec studios at Bradford’s Forster Square, only the ghost of Dorothy Box can now be heard. The Pulse has a new digit and a new HQ. We Listened In.

WHO   Jim Coulson, standing in on breakfast.

WHAT   Pulse 1

WHEN   0817, Tuesday 29 July 2014


Bing the Robot

Bing the Robot

If I Go/Ella Eyre

Back Announce. “She’s gonna be at Total Access Live and you could be there for £15. This is Pulse 1 across West Yorkshire, Jim in for Danny and Rosie.” Weather. Random EDM bed starts. Anecdote about how on the way home from the station yesterday, he thought the car was broken. But it was just a boot full of rubbish he’s been meaning to take to the tip and has been in there so long, he’s forgotten about it. “If you run a garage, you could get a lot of money out of me. You could rip me off if you wanted to.”

Higher Love/Stevie Winwood

Back Announce. “Pulse 1 across West Yorkshire Jim in for Danny and Rosie. Sheridan Gibson in Halifax has spotted Bing the ropey looking robot in the wool shops and has won tickets to Bingley Music Live .. Coming up Jess Glynne, the pickiest woman in music, and news headlines.

AD: Kirklees College/MB Motor Group/Hanson & Hanson/Asda Opticians/Ikea

ID: Todays Best Mix Across West Yorkshire. Pulse 1.

Rather Be/Clean Bandit

Back Announce “on Pulse 1 across West Yorkshire. Tell you how you can save a bit of money this summer soon.”

NEWS: Migrant Benefits/Petrol Price Wars/Bake Off Back next week/Cricket/100m/City v Park Avenue.

Off news banter alert. “Do you wanna know something weird? John Lennon’s just followed the radio station on Twitter!” “How do you join Twitter from beyond the grave?,” asks news guy. “I’ll message and ask.”


ID: Todays best Mix across WY Pulse 1

That Don’t Impress Me Much/Shania Twain


I was looking forward to this, as I’d heard great things about Danny Mylo. But he wasn’t on. Call me old-fashioned, but if I was changing the name of my radio station and moving it, I’d probably make sure my breakfast guys weren’t on holiday. It’s still “The Pulse of West Yorkshire” on Facebook too.

Jim Coulson is standing in, and frankly sounds lonely. There’s no audio from the Bing robot promotion (where listeners have to approach a robot to get tickets to a big local music festival, Bingley Music Live. Good idea, a bit thrown away.)

Nor are we told (in this 20 minutes anyway) that big names like the Pet Shop Boys, Example, MNEK, Jess Glynne (and – imagine it’s 1996 – Shed Seven) are appearing there. There is time to do a mention of Ella Eyre appearing at the station’s own Total Access Live event though. Which is in Staffordshire.

The news headlines are hardly worth bothering with. Three ‘stories’. The IRN lead on migrants, the fact that the Great British Bake Off is back with its oldest and youngest contestants ever – and yet another Supermarket petrol price war, with a hastily ‘Leeds-based’ slipped in before the word ASDA to vaguely localise it, alongside the ‘Motorists in West Yorkshire …’ top line. Inexplicable given the not-bad range of stories on the station’s website.

We’ll check Danny out another time.



Connor Coates on Blast 106

July 15th, 2014

It’s the station that took Ofcom to court – and won! The regulator listened for three days and found little evidence of the promised “key commitments to provide local student news and politics, promote debate and discussion, produce documentaries and include a varied music output,” and decided not to renew its licence. That decision was overturned in the High Court. We listened for 20 minutes. 

WHAT   Belfast’s Blast 106.4

WHO   Connor Coates

WHEN   Tuesday 15 July, 1411

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

Blast logo

Lay Me Down/Avicci

ID: Blast 106

Summer/Calvin Harris

ID: (indecipherable) frequency – Blast 106

Dangerous Love/Fuse ODG ft Sean Paul

“Belfast’s Blast 106. Fuse ODG Sean Paul and that is Dangerous Love playing here on Belfast’s Most Music Station. 20 minutes after 2. Conor Coates with you today until 4 o’clock. Just came across a really, really nice story here on the internet now you girls yous are going to love this. A man has trekked across the Egyptian desert to claim a small piece of land in an attempt to fulfil his daughter’s wish to become a princess. How nice is this? He lives in Virginia. His daughter says she wanted him she wanted to become a princess and he thought he’d be good be his promise he made his seven year old daughter. While playing one day she stopped and posed and asked the question to her Dad, will I ever be a real princess? And he’s made it come true? How nice is that? I’m sure your Dads didn’t do that for you. My Dad certainly wouldn’t have trekked across the Egyptian desert and I also didn’t want to be princess either, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? On the way gonna be doing some Sigma, got some Kove and some Sam Smith in there for you as well and it all plays next.”

AD: Party Piglets/Washington Bar/Mikey’s New York Deli/Blast ID/Exclusive Designs Furniture/RAB/McCraggan’s Club

ID: This Frequency Is … Blast 106

Ridin’ Solo/Jason Derulo

ID: This is Belfast’s Blast 106

Nobody to Love/Sigma

ID: Are you ready for this? Blast 106

Way We Are/Kove


“We pride ourselves on being focused on students,” says the website. No evidence of that from this 20 minute listen, unless you want to hire a boozy limo from Party Piglets.

There’s a busy break, and the music’s ok  – but the one link in 20 minutes is a join-the-dots internet read with no relevance. Or punch line.

And why do so many jocks on so many stations persist in telling me when they’re going off?! “With you until 4 ..” Yeah, make it sound like you’re counting the minutes.

So let’s hear it for Blast’s solicitors. Is this a first? A radio regulator not renewing, then being forced to reconsider? DevonAir, and a former incarnation of LBC may have chuntered about judicial review but both ended up off air. But reading between the lines, it looks like Blast really has to meet those heavyweight licence commitments if it’s going to last another five years.

You can also read 2ZY Listened In as part of Radio Today’s eRADIO newsletter every Wednesday. To subscribe, just go to