Mack’s Craic

01Apr13

Radio Ga Ga

I’ve been working on the air at a lot of different radio stations around the UK lately and it’s been quite a steep learning curve. Next week, it’ll be twenty-one consecutive days broadcasting on five different radio stations, all in different parts of the country and sometimes two stations in different cities on the same day.

Each radio station has its own quirks and twice I’ve been caught out by the double glazing that separates studios. At Jack FM in Southampton, I looked through the glass into a darkened room and got the fright of my life when a bald head popped up and looked back at me. It was the presenter on a different radio station in the same building. He liked to work in the dark and as I like as much light as possible in the studio, I bet my frightened face looked scarier to him than his did to me. It was a lot like that scene in Jaws when they’re diving on the wreck of that sunken boat at night and a severed head bobs into shot. I reacted the same way as I did when I first saw the film but unlike that night in 1975 at the ABC Cinema in Warrington, I didn’t drop my Kia-Ora Orange. The other time a studio’s double glazing caught me out this week was even more embarrassing but I’ll save that till the end of this Craic.

Broadcast mixing desks are all set up differently. If the microphone fader is on the left at one station, I can almost guarantee it’ll be on the right at the next one. BBC stations use a different computer playout system to commercial stations and each station has its own format with tight time windows that you have to hit for live crosses to weather and traffic reporters. These windows are at different “standard” times in different hours on each station but bizarrely are often the same reporters. Every station has it’s own on-air phone and text numbers for me to memorize or write down on a piece of paper that I fumble for with seconds to spare before I give them out on the air and the pronunciation of local place names follows no common rules.

The hardest thing is doing two shows on different stations in one day. Apart from the driving, I have to switch mindsets from the one in the morning to the one in the afternoon. They can have very different formats. Some shows I do, like Drivetime on BBC London 94.9, are all speech and news, covering very serious topics. I’ll interview cabinet ministers live from Westminster and the victims of crime, but others like Jack FM are mostly music and I’m expected to add comedy. Sometimes what I do on the air is so different that I bet if you listened to two of my shows online on the same day, you’d think there must be two broadcasters called Graham Mack.

OK, so that other time I got caught out by studio double glazing? At BBC Hereford and Worcester I saw a familiar face on the other side of the glass, waved, then realized I was waving at my own reflection!

Craic on!

Check out the latest Mack Nuggets at http://www.mackmedia.co.uk

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