Back in November 2007 I was comissioned by channel 4’s 4talent to investigate the celebrity obsessed radio industry. I interviewed Kerrang! (West Midlands) radio’s breakfast presenters Kate Lawler and Tim Shaw to find out whether they thought radio presenting’s future is in the hands of reality tv stars and d-list celebrities.
Please note this interview took place before Tim Shaw decided to hammer the final nail in his already vunerable radio DJ career by fixing the shows comeptitions for mates.
More and more reality TV stars and d-list celebrities are turning to radio to resuscitate their media careers. Rosalind Brabner talks to the top dogs at Birmingham’s Kerrang! radio to find out whether this industry trend is damaging the chances of young radio hopefuls.
Like most aspects of the media industry the radio world is a highly desirable career path. Thousands of students graduate from radio specialist degrees each year in the UK, but thanks to our current celebrity-obsessed media is it possible that this talent is wasted in favour of a recognisable ‘name’?
Kelly Osborne, Goldie Lookin’ Chain and even z-listers like Richard and Leah from Big Brother are just a handful of examples that have used their fame to rule the airwaves. That’s not to say that there aren’t examples of new talent coming through in the industry: Radio One recently plucked UEA graduate, Greg James straight from the clutches of student radio, but is this just a unique case or is there room in the industry for more home grown talent?
“We looked at a lot of different options but the chemistry was so strong”
Midlands radio station Kerrang! made column inches recently when former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler was announced as the new co-presenter of the prime time breakfast slot along with controversial radio DJ Tim Shaw back in October.
Gordon Davidson, Programme Director of the rock music station admits “having a name is of interest” but stresses that it is the content that is paramount. “We looked at a lot of different options but the chemistry was so strong, they get on with each other and enjoy working together.”
“Big Brother did open a lot of doors, and I don’t think all the things would have happened otherwise”
Having dabbled in a number of media projects after her success on Big Brother, such as TV presenting and modelling, 27 year old Kate is certainly thankful: “Big Brother did open a lot of doors, and I don’t think all the things would have happened otherwise – I wouldn’t have tried to get into this industry”. But Kate explains her background as a reality television star hasn’t always helped her career. “There were a lot of times where people said ‘I can’t really employ her because of Big Brother’- but on the whole I’ve had really nice response.”
Kate’s co-host, 32 year old Tim Shaw believes that there is definitely room in the industry for new talent: “English radio is on its fookin’ arse big time, nobody is doing anything new”. Ranked third most controversial radio DJ of all time by an American broadcaster’s website, the father of two has been sacked or suspended from every station he has ever worked at, and says, “We need brighter people in commercial radio: it’s full of idiots”. With a first class degree himself from Ravensvourne in Kent, Tim believes there is a need for graduates in radio: “it just moves you forward- I think that it will weed out all the twaddle, and it shows you’re serious about it.”
“You need to really demonstrate your skills and professionalism to get noticed”
Like all careers in the media, success within the radio industry is at least partly determined by the amount of experience that you gain. Birmingham City University student Jay Dormer juggles his radio degree with working part time for Chrysilis radio at Heart 100.7 and Galaxy 102.2, believing “you need to really demonstrate your skills and professionalism to get noticed because there really is a lot of competition always on your back.”
Despite lacking notoriety as yet, Jay has a positive outlook for the future of his radio career: “There are loads of opportunities out there; I wouldn’t say I’ve so far found it really difficult to get into the industry.” And is he worried about the increase of known names in radio? “Going to university has given me skills that I can use to make a difference, a Z-list celebrity is more likely to turn up, squeeze their big head through the door and do a simple mindless job.”
“Some of the world’s best DJs are up their own arses”
Never short on opinions, Tim Shaw thinks “some of the world’s best DJs are up their own arses,” while Gordon Davidson on the other hand believes it’s important to “learn from those who’ve been around before” but stresses it can simply boil down to “a lot of luck.”
“Radio is full of dreadfully insecure people”, Tim says, and his best advice for people considering a career in the industry is therefore to “go away and ask yourself every day for a year if you really want to be in radio.” And if after that year they still want the same career? “Then hands on experience is better than anything.”
“Radio is full of dreadfully insecure people”
Having a ‘name’ is a clear headstart in any media career but it’s pretty obvious you need more than that to sustain yourself in the business.
Kate’s clearly one of the lucky ones – which is not to say she doesn’t have talent – but she admits doors have certainly opened for her due to her celebrity. But for every Kate Lawler there’s a Tim Shaw, and thanks to the likes of DAB radio and internet stations it’s getting easier for the next radio savior to have an impact on the airwaves.