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

SUMMARY

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 suffolkfirst.co.uk – 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.

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