As BBC Local Radio says goodbye to a whole tranche of local evening programming, we check out one of the threatened shows, campaigning for its future existence.

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 Kat Arni and Helen Scales

WHAT The Naked Scientists, BBC Local Radio in the East

WHEN Sunday 2 December

Some of the Naked Scientists

Naked Scientists

1800

A measured open, over a non-Mcasso bed: How can we protect the worlds oceans? Then into a fuller tease:  “How marine-protected areas can work. We examine evidence supporting the establishment of these around England, including one off the coast of Norfolk. Plus in the news, how the Grand Canyon is even older than we previously thought, and identify a new mechanism that makes tumours resistant to treatment.

ID: “Distilling the best science. The Naked Scientists. Look us up at thenakedscientists.com

Long interaction menu. Tweet, email, facebook etc is followed by the first studio interview.

1801

Jen Ashworth is from Natural England in Peterborough and is here to talk about Marine Preservation Areas. They’re kind of like nature reserves, but in the sea. This was high on fact and enthusiasm but low on emotion, or engagement. It zipped around from idea to idea without focus. One question was 31” long. Transitions sound very read, lacking confidence.

1810

Package from Royal Society unveiling of National Geographic film about a large marine reserve in Pitcairn. Starts with barely understandable audio from the film. Then it really comes alive with an interview featuring great description of the coral and sharks by a man who’s been there.

Some clunky writing here, ‘I spoke to Josh Reichert, Managing Director of the Pew Environment Group about how Pitcairn could fit into their Global Ocean Legacy Project, which is setting up a series of highly protected marine reserves around the world.’

But there was a neat moment where Pitcairn Islanders joined the Royal Society event via Skype. For some reason, they back announce every speaker again off the back, along with their long winded titles. You can see the pics on our website – and doesn’t give the address. Interestingly, it’s not a BBC website but the Naked Scientists’ own.

1819

ID: Reacting to the World’s Best Science – the Naked Scientists.Promo read: “Still to come, we’ll examine the case for marine protected areas around the English coast, and focus on the Norfolk Chalk Reef.” Another plea for interaction.

Then: “This programme is currently due to be taken off air by the BBC Eastern Region at the end of this month. It will be replaced by a music show. There’s a possibility it might continue in a different format but if this does happen it will only be on one radio station, Cambridgeshire. So if you’re listening in another part of the region, I’m afraid there’s going to be no more science programmes for you. If you’re upset about this or want to make your feelings known about this proposal, or you just want to know more about what’s going on, our producer Ben is standing by the phone to answer all your questions and explain where you can find out more about these proposed changes.

SUMMARY

The Naked Scientists have spawned podcasts, books, events – and notably, plenty of awards – during their decade on air.

This was not a stand-out edition. There was little colour, a lack of imagination to illustrate such a rich subject as the majesty of the ocean and what’s being done to protect it. These twenty minutes came alive twice. Once with the description by the deep sea diver – and once in the awkwardness of the announcement about the show’s own future. Hardly in the Danny Baker school of last shows, but still at-odds with the host broadcaster. (There’s much more detail on their Facebook page, including emails back and forth from the Naked Scientists to English Regions HQ.)

The Naked Scientists illustrate a tough call for BBC Local Radio. In sweeping away all kinds of grace-and-favour specialist shows, built at various stages across the history of 40 stations, it opens itself up to external criticism from opinion formers, petitions and even legal challenges!

At the heart is the decades-old debate about sequence shows versus specialist shows. In public service radio, is it better to schedule an hour of science once a week – or to find engaging scientists and wheel them out in front of a mainstream audience on a peak time sequence when the story merits it?

Should your off-peak hours be boutique shops serving a range of niche audiences; handy for ‘the long tail’, harder to manage and comply, or Tesco Extra; everything you want for the mainstream, but risking losing specialist contributors and passionate advocates?

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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