Kent looks like Hoth this morning, according to the telly. Snow is RAJAR viagra, if you believe a generation of BBC Local Radio editors. So how is Radio Kent rising to the challenge?

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

WHAT   Breakfast

WHO     John Warnett and Clare McDonnell, according to the schedule, but John appears to be solo.

WHEN   Tuesday 12 February 2013

John Warnett

Clare McDonnell and John Warnett. But no Clare on air.


“Buses, there are far too many buses to individually list every line. If your bus operates from the Folkestone  or Dover depot, it’s not operating.” Repeats some info, adds those little phrases that spin out time without adding information.

ID: “Share your travel news.” Forgettable number. “BBC Radio Kent.” Lots of 1987-imaging wooshes. Nasty samples.

John reads a text from Heather in Maidstone, whose daughter’s been stuck on the A2 at Lyddon. Hasn’t moved since 1am. Only 19. Low on petrol. Keep up the good work. Tom’s been towing vehicles for 14 hours near the Roundhill Tunnel and has been abused by loads of people he’s trying to help. “This has been caused by drifting snow, accidents and incapable drivers,” reckons the texter. And Helen says she had a three hour wait for a train from Victoria to Maidstone. Says it’s sickening to hear South Eastern are doing a good job.


Introduces, in quality, Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, who’s in Maidstone to talk about another story “but I thought we’d ask you about the road situation. I know your guys are out there working hard but a lot of people have not seen gritters, and they’re a bit annoyed, to be frank.” Carter explains difference between Highways Agency and county roads – and when he brings them up, John effortlessly crosses to woman from the Agency. “What’s gone wrong overnight?”

“They’ve been doing back to back salting runs, snowploughs are out ..” John interrupts. “Have you gritted the M20 past J11, because I looked at the camera earlier and it’s covered in snow”. Turns out some of the clear-up vehicles have themselves got stuck. This is good stuff around BBC Local Radio’s current mission to hold everyone to account.


We’ll hold the papers review. But there is only one story – the Huhnes, says John before leading us into what I guess would have been the morning’s lead if it weren’t for the weather.

Vulnerable teenagers have been left destitute, due to row between Borders Agency and Kent CC. Paul Carter is back. This is a good local row about asylum seekers – about 900 are funded by the county as they go through process. The 20% who fail ALSO have to be looked after by the Kent, costing £2m a year. Why aren’t they being deported?, John asks the leader. But surely he should be asking the Home Office that?

Good story but goes on about two minutes too long. We hear from no young people involved. And John seems to have lost the statement from the UK Border Agency, who wouldn’t put anyone up. “We’ll bring it to you later.”

A pro pos of nothing, Paul Carter could do a passable impression of Barry Cryer if ever one was required.


“Adam Dowling is here with the headlines, or the lowlines, or the bad bits of the travel news,” says John, having a senior slash Partridge moment. There’s another very, maybe understandably, long, travel bulletin.


“The latest sport and weather in a moment, but first we’ll update the headlines in Kent this morning with Rose.”

Snow stuff: Highways and County criticised (Cheryl Baker phone clip). KCC and Highways reaction: “Clare Brooks told THIS PROGRAMME ..” into the clip. Copy on a coastguard rescue. Savile latest. Very clunky copy on the asylum seekers story. And an ‘and finally’ about a street closed to let toads migrate across a road. Includes the immortal line, “Every year 100 toads about the size of a teenager’s fist are killed by car.” John is a pedant assuring Rose that toads don’t hop they walk.

Good chat with reporter in Chatham who’s driven along there along the A2 from Faversham. ‘All that was near my home was a light dusting as though someone had gone over it with icing sugar.” Once you get to Medway “It’s like it’s own little microclimate.”

Dee texted in asking about the Bridgewood Roundabout. “I wouldn’t risk it that far” warns reporter Alex. Live to Kate Kinsella in the weather centre, who gives good forecast but uses those ridiculous Met Office warning terms ‘orange warning, which is slightly more severe than the normal yellow.’


First the good stuff. In 20 minutes, we heard some good listener texts, two road clearing bosses (lightly) grilled about the state of the roads, a strong local story (if executed slightly obviously), and a well-read headline sequence.

The traffic and weather included what we needed to know, even if both slightly outstayed their welcome.

What didn’t we hear? ANY endorsement of the station by the team. It was ID-ed twice – each time at the end of the traffic ident. Not even into the 0730 heads.

If, indeed, an audience switches from Heart, or Radio 2 to something local and talky in times of crisis – and I’m not sure the evidence shows they do any more – then shouldn’t we use that opportunity to try and keep them? Where was the compelling tease line for mid morning? Or even a moment to remind people what they’ve tuned into? Or an elegant way to welcome people tuning in for the first time (without, of course, using any of those words.) It’s also one of those stations where no-one appears to have a surname, and the host expects us to know who he is without telling us.

Still, John’s a good turn, doing it a thousand years and still sounding engaged and largely in control. I’m still waiting for that Highways Agency statement though. But mercifully, no school closure list.

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