Why aren’t presenters on music radio stations putting callers on the air?

I read a tweet this week from @Aircheck, the social networking site for radio. They were asking if a person who calls in with traffic information should be referred to on the air as a “listener” or a “caller”.

I replied with,
“Why not just put the caller/listener on the air and address them by their first name?”

Radio is an intimate medium, in a world of hi-tech, it has the ability to be hi-touch.  Why not talk to people on the air?

I understand that it can be dangerous to put callers on live but it’s pretty easy to record a chat with them off the air while the songs are on and play them back a few minutes later. You can even coach them and edit the calls so they sound great.

Radio is sound, we should always be looking for great audio to play. Hearing a bloke drive a digger through the front of a Travelodge or the Little girl Calling 999 because her mother has collapsed or the latest crazy thing Donald Trump has said sounds better than me telling you what went on or what was said.

Having a caller at the scene of an accident describing what they can see, telling you how it’s affecting traffic and the best way to avoid it is far more compelling and real than hearing a presenter just give you the cold hard facts.

News people know this, that’s why their bulletins are full of clips of actuality. Why haven’t music presenters worked this out?  

And it’s the biggest names on the biggest stations that are the worst offenders, “Hi to Dave in Salisbury who’s listening while he washes his car, Sam in Edinburgh is decorating today and Jo in Poole is ironing”. There’s nothing wrong with that but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re short changing the rest of the people listening. Most of the content on some shows is just presenters reading out texts. Surely in an over-communicated multimedia world, radio needs to be more than that.

The big shows on national stations have producers and screeners whose job is to pre-read texts and take phone calls, then pass that information on to the presenter. A team of people are actually paid to take something that could be compelling radio and turn it into a cold, lifeless script.

I remember the day when everything changed. I was at BRMB in Birmingham in the late 90s when the engineer showed us this new screen that displayed texts that listeners had sent. Some of the presenters got really excited by this new way for our audience to interact with us. I remember thinking, why would anyone want to hear me just read from a screen instead of actually talking to the listeners on the phone?

Maybe some presenters don’t actually have anything to say. They read out listeners comments and opinions instead.

Do they keep listeners off the air because they’re so insecure, they don’t want to be upstaged by a caller who is more entertaining than they are?

Craic on!

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