It will have done wonders for BBC Radio Stoke’s iPlayer figures. But who’s to blame for the most entertaining train-wreck of a show in a long time? We listened in.

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.

WHO      Paula White

WHAT   BBC Radio Stoke

WHEN   Friday 10 May 2013

Paula, on a better day.

Paula, on a better day.

“For the last time on lunchtime, let’s saaaaaaayyyy youuuuu pick the music. Oh yah.”

The Best/Tina Turner

“Played that for my Dad when he was 60 at Rileys, which is now a Co-op at the top of Smallthorne.”

ID: BBC Radio Stoke – Be Part of It.

“It’s always better when you arrrrrrrrrre! (gap) Paula, enjoy your day and thanks for being yourself, from Glynn.” Perhaps more of herself than Glynn was expecting, but hey. “Paula, we’ll miss your wit and sense of humour. Look forward to Saturdays from Sandra in Stoke. Thank you. It’s a P-A-R-T-Y … because I said so!” (claps hands)

“Last lunchtime. Some people will say ‘oh thank goodness for that. She’s gone’. Other people will go ‘hmmm, how will i get the dog to sleep,’ because I know people actually play this show out for their dogs. How lovely!” (this exclamation is the funniest moment of comedy in the whole thing. I still can’t tell if it’s loaded with contempt or genuinely appreciative!)

“It is my last show. I want song suggestions. Look. Let’s just throw it all out. I don’t get told what songs to pl- No, I do get told what songs to play. But I don’t get told what songs to play – ewww – on the last day of my … showwwwww.

So if you want a song, oh my goodness. If you want a song, let’s have a party, party, party. Last day with Paula. I’m quite sad. I will cry. I’ve cried about ten times today, on John Acres and Jody and different people. I know. I know. But if you want a song for a Friday. It’s the 10th of May. Let me know. 81 treble three. Start your message with the Stoke. You have to start it with Stoke. Leave me your name and where you’re texting from.”

Come on Over to My Place/Drifters

Laughs. “The Drifters, Come on Over to my Place. I. Don’t. Care. Whatever you want to hear this afternoon, it’s like you can hear it.”

Them/Here Comes the Night

“It’s Them. Here Comes the NIght. Rich says ‘Paula you sound drunk’. I’m not drunk. I’ve had a couple of drinks, I’m not drunk! (squeals, laughs). I’m sad. We’ll miss you Paula. Shame you’re going, won’t be the same in the week. Be listening on a Saturday says Rog. Aaaaand wishing you all the best for the future. Ohhh. Right, songs today. Not just the last song, but songs you want to hear. (whispers) Carte Blanche. That’s what they call it when you got a free range. Err, Tina in Blurton would like to hear Charlie Rich, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. Ahhhhh Tina! Oh, she means for her.

Tony in Handforth says ‘I’m going back’ – going back WHERE? (shreiks). And Gazza in Stafford says AEIOUU by Freez. Oh my gosh! We we gotta play that anyway! You just said it, we gotta play it. Thank you for all your song suggestions. Between now and 4 o’clock we’re having a par-tayyyyy. We can. We absolutely can. Last day. So if you’ve got a song you want to hear then get in touch. 81 treble three start your message with the word Stoke and suggest a song you’d like to hear.

Now this lady won Eurovision for us a couple of years ago. Erm. (clears throat). She wasn’t with the Sunshines or the Waves. Oh. I’ll try and get a hold … it’s just like the computer’s just not working. Awwwww How lovely! It’s like me last day and I’m just. Oh. Shall I do it now? Yeah? Shall I do this?”

(first note of Walking on Sunshine followed by instrumental jingle).

“It didn’t work. So. Shall we go for the Beatles. Oh. That’s not working either. Ohhh (laughs) It’s my last day and nothing’s working. Why’s nothing working? Errrrrrrrrr. Let’s try this shall we. (whispers) Shall we try this?”

Hello Goodbye/The Beatles

Segues to Travel.

Segues to The Conversation/Texas

“Thats the new one from texas and conversation on BBC Radio Stoke.”

Walking on Sunshine/Katrina and the Waves

“Katrina and the Waves and Walking on Sunshine.”

Then we cut halfway into a chat about Paula’s weight watching challenge (with a big fat plug for weightwatchers.co.uk).

“How brilliant. It’s my last day today on the lunchtime show and I have lost, (gasps) count it people, 18 lbs. I know, I know. you might think ‘is that it?’ Apart from one week when I put it on. 18lb in the last four months. I am so happy. I look a bit straggly. But 18lb!”  (squeals).

“Ya-hay!”

SUMMARY

What a joyful, fascinating, piece of radio. If you’ve had even half a career in radio, you’ve probably done a ‘last show’ at some time. Or, you’ve created the circumstances under which someone else has one. The first thing to note is Paula’s profanity filter is still in evidence. There’s nothing here that would trouble Ofcom. And if the best radio is ‘as in life, on the air’ then this certainly meets that criterion. This is a woman doing a real life Rex Bob Lowenstein. Six and a half years of her life, a few drinks, and we’re getting something straight from the heart. Maybe there’s a lesson in how uptight we all are so much of the time that this sounds so different, so exciting, so … real.

There was a clue that Paula may not have been in the right place when, having taken control, she sings over the top of ‘Electric Dreams’ in the previous show. Her talk into the news is also clearly slurred and unpredictable. “You’re in for an interesting ride this afternoon,” says the outgoing presenter.

Final shows can go many ways, of course. There’s the celebratory, well-planned final moment (Ross/BRMB, Moyles/R1, Fox/Capital); the presenter-decided surprise final show, forever known as doing a DLT – or maybe now, a Baker.; Then there’s the final show the presenter doesn’t know about, beloved by some commercial programmers but, strangely, rarely an approach used at the BBC.

So, nobody died. Nobody swore. Some people had a good laugh at Paula’s expense. But the question here is what the hell was happening in the rest of the station? Did no-one think to alert any management. How come she was left on the air for half an hour in such a state?

This is Radio Management 1.01. When a manager has ‘the conversation’, you assess the individual’s state and make a judgement on how they will be on the air for the rest of their contract. Surely, even after those considerations, any programmer would want to be on station, and listening to a last show, ‘just in case’?

And is it not wise in such a situation, to go and see the talent just before a last show, shake their hand, and subtly remind them of what is expected, if you feel that needs doing? If that had happened, Paula’s condition would have been spotted. You don’t get that drunk by taking a couple of sips of something during the news.

So, good luck Paula White. I hope you get to do your Saturday show. You drank the drink, but you’re only partly responsible for being left on the air like that for half an hour. You deserve more than a few snidey inches in the Daily Mail after six and a half years.

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

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