Radiowaves Special Feature: The Radio 4U Story


Chapter Fifteen

Coming back to the great changes which took place in January:
Even though Frances and I were working full-time at the station, we faced an extreme and permanent shortage of staff. Most jocks were students or had a main job to go to. Once the summer recess was over it became more and more difficult to prove to the listener that there were more than two voices behind Radio 4U. Way back in October I thought of a scheme to prerecord programmes and to repeat them throughout the day. The average radio listener is only tuned to the wireless for about two hours a day anyway. Even if you listen to the BBC you will notice that certain information and quite a lot of music is actually repeated over and over again.

Willy got me a second hand Sony MTL 10 cassette deck in which you can load up to 10 tapes. Three months passed before I actually had it operative. Firstly, Willy (pictured below on the studio) needed to do some work on the unit, and then it went missing in the post, hence its introduction in January.

Besides the obvious advantage of cutting down on production time, I also aimed at an improved programme quality. Up to now I left it widely to the discretion of the presenter to read book or film reviews or to broadcast other information.

Radio to me is more than music and brainless talk. Radio 4U was intended to be an information channel too. Now I wanted it my way, as the new system freed a lot of resources so that everybody was now able to put more effort into a much shorter programme.

In a way it spoiled the fun a bit for the jocks, the excitement of being on live radio was gone but I can honestly say that the programme quality improved immensely and I guess that a lot of listeners agreed with me. It is better to listen to a good programme twice than to hear a bad one once.

We recorded seven programmes plus two news magazines for each day. Some programmes were suitable to be recorded several days in advance whilst others had to be produced just before broadcasting.

Also, Radio 4U was now the first regular 24 hours operator in the City – another advantage of this new schedule.

Every programme lasted 47 minutes with the exception of live news magazines. The programme day started at a quarter past ten at night when we read the latest headlines and then repeated the early evening edition of the news magazine.
This was followed by Programme 1, containing Horoscopes for the day and a cooking recipe.
At 23:50 we followed with Programme 4 which contained a film review and a feature such as health, motoring or consumer tips.
Half past midnight came Programme 3 with brain teasers, video reviews, and a look back on a funny event which happened on that day in the past.
Next came Programme 5 with book reviews, another brain teaser, and consumer advice.
At 2:10 am we repeated Programme 1 again, followed by the light entertainment Programme 6.
The final repeat of the evening news was scheduled at 3:45.
Programme 2 with an event guide and gossip from behind the TV scenes followed at half four until a quarter past five.

Then it was time for the first broadcast of the Radio 4U Sports Service, internally known as Programme 7. Kieran took over the Sports Service in March. Until that point this programme had been hosted by Frank Bruno and me.
Well, actually, I had a sound collection of answers which Frank gave in a TV interview. I could ask him a lot of very stupid questions every day and always got the same pattern of answers.
Me: “Frank, what other sports do you like besides boxing?”
Frank: “I like athletics, football, watching cricket, ehm, boat-racing, motor- racing……”
Me: “Ok, let me read some golf news then…….”
Next day I asked: “Frank what are your plans for the weekend?” and the answer would have been again: “I like…..”
Another clip was “Yeah” or “Not really” – very suitable for all sorts of things.
With the words: “She is a strong lady,” I let him pass a lot of comments about various people. A funny one was “I ate so much beef, I could be a cow myself.”

I haven’t got a clue about sport really, but pirate radio allowed me to use Frank’s clippings to liven up the otherwise boring sports news. It is the same old thing again, if you do a specialist programme, don’t forget your faithful audience who might not be interested in this topic.

After dawn the schedule was as follows:
6.05: Programme 5
6.52: Programme 1
7.40 Programme 2
8.26: Sports
9.13 Programme 6
At 10:00 precisely the fresh morning edition of the news service was presented live in the traditional Radio 4U news-style which listeners had got used to from day one. Only the lighter bits, such as the horoscopes, were rescheduled to other slots.

Also, Marie had left by now because she’d moved house. This was certainly a great loss for Radio 4U.

At about five to eleven the last repeat of Programme 1 with the horoscopes was played, followed by Programme 5, 3 and Programme 4. At 14:00 (2pm) the morning news service was repeated in an edited and slightly shorter version.
After Programme 2 and the Sport Service, which concluded with a short Yoga session, we approached twenty past four, just enough time to squeeze Programme 6 and 5 in before the live Evening News Service from 17:55 until 19:05.
The early evening was filled with Programme 4, 3 and 2, before a last repeat of the Sport Service concluded the programme day at approx. ten past ten.

Programmes were scheduled according to possible target audiences and I put a lot of thought into reducing the possibilities that the same target audience would listen to the same programme. For example, you don’t want to hear the same programme which you listened to at breakfast to be repeated when you come back from work. No programme was repeated more than four times.

Surely this was by far not the ideal way to run a radio station, but nevertheless I was pleased with the station output and even more with my personal working time / achievement ratio. Gone were those days like Christmas were I spent 12 hours in the studio.