This week, we watched a radio show. Away from the ‘ta-daa’ of the big-idea visualisations, a little Radio 4 business show is quietly getting on with showing how it could be done.

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.

Evan Davis in the Bottom Line studio

WHO Evan Davis

WHAT The Bottom Line

WHEN  14 October 2012

The Bottom Line is a business show on Radio 4. But there are cameras in this studio, and the resulting show can be seen as well as heard in various places, including the BBC News Channel at the weekend.

James Cridland blogs about it here and makes the distinction between ‘adding visuals to radio’ and ‘making television’ [out of radio]. This show is certainly the latter, but I would say it is the least affected by pictures of anything that’s gone before.

Evan starts each show on TV with a specially recorded into from the Broadcasting House roof terrace.

“Each week influential business leaders gather for the BBC Radio 4 programme The Bottom Line. And now you can see it, as well as hear it.”

A montage of Radio 4 crown jewels (shipping forecast, pips, Jeni Murray) against a fast cut images of BH introduces the show to viewers. Listeners get straight to the meat.

What strikes me about The Bottom Line is how even though it is first and foremost a radio programme, that makes the television better. There’s an informality about our medium, that survives the invasion of cameras into our space. It means the guests and presenter seem so much more, well, real. This was particularly apparent this weekend, when fellow Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden was a panelist, so you could make a real comparison between their television-television and radio-on-television personas.

In response to a point from venture capitalist John Moulton, Evan exclaims “God, that’s amazing isn’t it?” I suspect even he’d not be as relaxed as that if it was just on the junior medium of television. He rustles his paper, leans on the desk, runs a hand through his crop, his suit jacket wrapped around his chair.

Deborah, too, looks so much more natural in a pink top, without that bloody green jewellery and that thing she does with her thumb and index finger on Dragons’ Den.

David Haines is a cold fish, from bathroom fixture empire Grohe, stiff and uncomfortable, but even he thaws as we hear a remarkable insight into Evan’s bathroom. “Your taps and showers are very expensive, aren’t they? It is amazing when you fix up a bathroom, you pay one amount for the tiling and you think that’s quite a big number, then you find you’re paying a similar amount for the taps, it’s extraordinary!”

The always-good-value Moulton tells us that in companies that make quality products, executives “caress them rather more than they do their wives.” “Or more than they caress their husbands too”, corrects Evan. Sound Women would be thrilled.

Apart from the silhouette of a rather congruous music stand (Did Debra bring a trombone?) and a discarded PC keyboard in the talks table-well, it looks like the tidiest radio studio I’ve ever seen. Beautifully and simply lit with a blue wash and Radio 4 logo projected onto the wall, branded mugs in shot too, and microphones just visible enough to prove this is a radio show.

It makes you wonder why News Channel bothers with some of those other weekend specials. Like Julian Worwicker and Mark Kermode badly lit and awkwardly perched on swivel chairs, in a cavernous news studio, in front of a giant screen rattling through the week’s films.

In the week the always-reliable Earshot creative blogged about the influence of music radio on Heart and Capital TV, maybe there’s plenty more for television to learn from the techniques, immediacy and authenticity of radio?

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