R.A.P. Interview: Steve Martin

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Steve Martin, Presentation Producer, BBC Radio Scotland, Glasgow, Scotland

steve-martin-jul95

by Jerry Vigil

Before commercial radio ever existed in Britain, there was the BBC, what we in the US might call Public Broadcasting. There are no commercials on BBC Radio Scotland, but great attention is put on the promos, and that's where Steve Martin comes in. Join us for an enjoyable visit with Steve and a most interesting look at Radio Scotland, an AM/FM simulcasted network that utilizes some 50 transmitters to reach Scotland's population of about five million. Don't you know their Chief Engineer is "out at the transmitter" a lot!

R.A.P.: Tell us a bit about your background in radio.
Steve: The radio business is the only one I've ever worked in really. I started while I was still at school just working weekends and doing odd evening and holiday work at a local station. I did odds and ends, low-grade stuff that a lot of people start with such as pulling feeds off the wires for sports and news programming. I also met and talked with presenters and journalists and learned a little about the business from the inside rather than studying it formally. At that time, the Program Controller of the radio station was extremely firm and key on station identity and image, and I think that sparked my interest in marketing and the promotion and publicity of radio, as well as in the editorial and style of the output itself.

R.A.P.: Was this is Glasgow?
Steve: No. This was in Surrey in the South of England, which is where I grew up. I worked my way to Glasgow through the BBC. I joined the BBC having written to them while I was still studying at school. I was taken on as an audio trainee. I wasn't sure that was what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work in radio. At that time, the audio staff who worked for the BBC were all put on a three-year training course. It was like an apprenticeship and was extremely broad in that they would train you in both radio and television audio operations and in various elements of program production and in the techniques and values of program making. They gave you a fairly broad idea of editorial values, as well. So this was a three-year apprenticeship which took me to Birmingham in the English Midlands, and it enabled me to learn a lot about the mechanics of making radio.

I think within the BBC just about every style of radio is represented, from music to speech radio, from young to older market groups. Within the BBC, I was able to move about as my interests developed; the BBC enables you to move on attachments within the organization as part of their career development program. So that took me to local radio stations where I was able to develop some presentation and interviewing skills working on outside broadcasts and a lot of strategic planning that's involved in those operations. I also worked on the marketing and the style of radio as opposed to the content and the editorial.

From that local station I went to a station in London called Radio Five which doesn't broadcast anymore, but at the time it was the BBC's national UK-wide station containing sports and youth and children's output and some educational output. It was a very peculiar mix, and I was there to build station promotions and help the identity of the station. From there I went to Glasgow to Radio Scotland, which is where I am now.


R.A.P.: Tell us a little bit about how radio is structured there.
Steve: In Britain, the radio market is divided into the BBC stations, which represent public service broadcasting here, and the commercial stations. The BBC accounts for about half the listening in British radio these days, and the commercial stations the other half. And in both halves, there are both national and local stations and what are termed regional stations which will cover an area somewhere between the other two in physical size. The BBC runs five UK national stations from London. Radio One is a popular music station. Radio Two is aimed at an older age group, again music based with a lighter feel to it. Radio Three is a classical music station and a great classical music patron as well. Radio Four is a UK-wide news and current affairs and arts station. And Radio Five Live is the fifth UK national station, which is news and sport. The news is pacier than on Radio Four, and the addition of sport also adds an extra element of excitement to that station's output.

Now, layered on top of that are BBC local stations which in England are centered around cities or quite tightly defined geographical areas. Then, in Scotland and Wales, there are national stations. In Wales there are two, one which is broadcast in the Welsh language, and the other, Radio Wales, which is broadcast in the English language. Then in Scotland, there is Radio Scotland, the station I work for, which covers the whole of the Scottish nation. The population of Scotland is about one-tenth of the total UK population. We have about five million people in Scotland today, and get about a million listeners a week, roughly.

bbc-radio-scotland-logoR.A.P.: Tell us a little more about Radio Scotland format and its role in the BBC.
Steve: Radio Scotland is a speech-based station. It's the only national station in Scotland, so it has a very important role to perform in uniting the nation, really. All the competing stations in Scotland are centered around urban areas--Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Dundee--and have a local focus. Radio Scotland's been here since 1978, and its main purpose is to deliver distinctive, high-quality programming which will describe or reflect or celebrate Scottish culture and society. So that means meaningful speech based on a spine of news and current affairs, but all from a Scottish perspective which makes us distinct from any of the London stations which can also be heard across Scotland. We also include popular music forums and special services such as output for schools.

The main part of the Radio Scotland day includes presenter-led discussions, magazine format programming, built documentaries, and distinctive music. Our speech output is thoroughly researched and heavily produced--we never "hold the production meeting on the air." We're often powerful and provocative and always relevant to today's Scotland. We target an ABC1, 30-55 demographic so you can see how a commercial station would do anything to have our listeners for their advertisers!

The BBC is governed by Royal Charter, which has just been renewed, and is funded essentially from a television license fee. In Britain, if you own or operate a television receiver, you must pay an annual license fee, and that money is basically what funds the BBC. That funds the BBC's television services, as well as the radio services, except for the BBC World Service, which is funded separately. No BBC service carries any sponsorship or any advertising at all.

R.A.P.: Are the commercial stations funded solely from advertising revenue?
Steve: Yes. The commercial radio sector, which has been increasing and doing extremely well in terms of revenue in recent years in Britain, has three times the stations. There are UK national stations which, just by chance, all decided to set up in London. There's a classic FM, which is a classic music station. There's Virgin Radio, which is a rock station which broadcasts on the AM band, and the third one is called Talk Radio UK, which has only been on the air for a short time and is still developing. It is talk radio with a lot of phone-in, pretty much akin to the talk radio that has emerged from the United States.

Then there are regional stations which are all fairly new. They are covering areas like, for example, central Scotland, which is about four-fifths of the population of Scotland, or the midland of England, or the west midland of England, which is an area a regional station covers. These are termed regional commercial stations. I think there are just five of them.

R.A.P.: And then we get down to the local commercial stations.
Steve: There are hundreds of those. And it is the local commercial stations which have been broadcasting for the longest of all the commercial stations. They started in 1973 in London with LBC and Capitol Radio.

R.A.P.: Prior to that, was it just the BBC?
Steve: That's right.

R.A.P.: Commercial radio in Britain is relatively young.
Steve: Yes, certainly younger than in America. But every city and most towns in Britain now have their own commercial radio station of one size or another. London has dozens.

R.A.P.: You said the BBC maintains half of the listening audience and the commercial stations the other half. That says quite a lot for BBC programming. In the US, publicly owned stations barely show up in the ratings.
Steve: Across the UK, there's a great loyalty to the BBC services. The BBC has been with many people longer than most people can remember. And the loyalty, I'm sure, sustains a degree of the listenership. But, it's an increasingly competitive market, and people who work in public service radio, BBC radio, as well as those who work in the commercial sector, are aware that the competition for listeners is fiercer now than it ever has been and will become increasingly so. It makes our job in promotions increasingly important.


R.A.P.: With the BBC stations having such a large share of the listenership, I would imagine the commercial stations are doing their best to take listeners away from the BBC. How does the BBC counter this competition?
Steve: Part of the importance and the distinctiveness of BBC services is that they are public service stations. They are there with a remit to provide information, education, and entertainment. BBC stations are there not just to go for the highest audience share. Yes, of course we prefer it if we have stronger audience figures, but there are certain qualities and values attached to BBC programming which would not be taken on board by commercial stations. They wouldn't need to. The commercial stations are there solely for their shareholders and, in a sense, have a freedom to buy their listenership. You wouldn't find, for example, any BBC station giving away thousands of pounds on a breakfast show.

R.A.P.: Give us an example of the promotional material you produce on a regular basis.
Steve: For Radio Scotland, the promotions on air are very much promotions for the station rather than for any individual piece of our output, although our scheduling is made up of individual programs. And part of our regional diversity is built on the fact that some of our programs are made in Glasgow or in Aberdeen or in Inverness or Edinburgh. Programs are broadcast from all those different areas of Scotland and are broadcast as self-contained programs. Only when it hits the air waves does it become part of Radio Scotland. So my job in creating a cohesive sound for the station is very important.

In terms of promotion, the aim is, as always, to draw on the strength of the programming to encourage listeners to stay with us longer. We have no giveaways. We don't give away thousands of pounds. People listen to us because we're relevant with the program content. The editorial is relevant. So the types of promotions we would make would be to highlight particular features on air. If our morning program is devoting an hour discussion to shoplifting, that may well be something that touches people's lives. Then I would construct a trail using, perhaps, program material, if some has been prepared in advance. Program producers will supply me with background information and clips from the program in advance and, quite often, this will spark an idea. But I feel uncomfortable if I'm not familiar with the program before I produce the promo. I tend to procrastinate to the last possible moment, then I'm confident I've given the promo as much thought as possible. You want your best idea BEFORE you make the promo, not when you're listening to the bad one on the radio! Right?

The other sort of promotion which we produce is a more generic, image-building type where we would want to make a statement about the radio station, influence people's perception to it. We would want to again encourage people to stay with us longer, and, where possible, once again, I'll use extracts from our programs to illustrate the station, in whatever creative way it seems suitable, and make it memorable. Quite often people will join us for one program, but we clearly want to encourage them to join us for a longer listening span. The key point then is to get people to remember that it's on Radio Scotland that they heard the program they enjoyed so much.

Your best ideas are often drawn from personal experience, so I try to socialize away from the media community wherever possible. I love clever comedy which is terrific for lateral thinking. I'll read satire and observational stuff, too--P.J. O'Rourke's just about right.

R.A.P.: How much promo production would you say you are doing weekly?
Steve: Every week we identify about six priorities to be set for heavy promotion, usually particular programs, but sometimes themes, personalities or station achievements. Promos for these will demand a good deal of my time. They run on rotation, so I like them to be written well and to sound polished.

As well as the six weekly priorities, each of our daily magazine shows will have a daily "menu" promo, often produced by the program teams to a set of house-style guidelines. We generate about fifteen promo carts a day, but I get a lot of help from our announcers who all understand our on-air profile and help me with promos, ideas, and the mechanics of production. I'd love to reduce the throughput of promos and concentrate on a few key priorities, but it's important for Radio Scotland to sound busy. So it's a very hungry station for promos.

I also have responsibility for managing our "Audio Design," an "anti-jingle" package, distinctive with no singing! It's a series of twenty station idents, and all our main program themes are inspired by three Celtic musical motifs. The way in which these logos are woven into the texture of the music is inventive and sophisticated, but then, that's Radio Scotland!

When your program content is so diverse and eclectic, I believe it is essential to highlight and develop the points of consistency -the style, the tone, and the on-air behavior that mark your identity on which station loyalty is built. While Radio Scotland can't pretend to be consistent in content, and wouldn't want to be, we can promote a single, solid identity. That's my job; I'm supposed to be a triumph of style over content.

R.A.P.: What's a major change you've noticed in British radio since the commercial stations have flourished?
Steve: Listeners are becoming more promiscuous. At one time, many listeners would have a favorite station, and it would be the only station they listened to. Now, as more stations come on the dial, stations are specializing in a particular format, whether it is a talk format or a music format or a particular kind of music--jazz, classical, soul. Listeners are choosing more by station than by program, which is contrary to the television method. In this country, the way people use television is that people will have a favorite program. It might be a soap one evening, a quiz show another evening, or it could be a news program. If you ask people what they saw on TV last night in Britain, they will give you a list of programs. If you ask them what they chose on the radio, most likely they'll give you a list of stations they listen to. So, as more stations come on, it's very important for us to keep our name and station identity at a high profile level, and that is an important part, the key part in fact, of the work we do with promotions on air on Radio Scotland.

R.A.P.: Is there any outside promotion done as with billboards or print advertising?
Steve: Yes, and where that is the case we would work to coordinate the external advertising and the on air work. Even if we don't draw on a common theme, the message is supportive. If you have seen the external advertising and you have heard the station, there is no conflicting message there. We would spend less on advertising than a commercial competitor.

R.A.P.: How does Radio in Scotland rate technology-wise?
Steve: Well, the BBC stations have been developing for many years, and what tends to happen with equipment in the BBC is that it becomes replaced on a life-cycle basis. Because the commercial stations have been increasing in number, and a lot of new stations have been built recently, all of those are being built with the latest technology. It is the case quite often that the most recent technology is to be found in commercial stations. But the BBC has its own research and development department which is actually at the forefront of many technologies, and those will quite often find their way into BBC studios before they find their way into commercial studios.

R.A.P.: What kind of studio setup do you have at Radio Scotland?
Steve: Let me first explain a little about how our station runs. As I mentioned earlier, we have programs made in Aberdeen, in Edinburgh, in Inverness, and in our largest center which is in Glasgow. At each of those centers there are two, perhaps three, studios which can go live on air. So, when a program is being broadcast from there, the signal will be sent from the studio where the presenter is, and it's probably going to be operated by an audio operator. That will be sent to our continuity suite which is in Glasgow. Any program which is live on air will pass through the continuity suite where the news bulletins are read, where the promos are slotted in from, where any recordings would be made if a program is to be repeated at a later time, where, basically, the station is directed from. The continuity suite is on air all the time and is always staffed.

Now in terms of promotion production, we have two continuity suites here, and we only use them both live on air when we have split our frequencies, when we're providing different programs on the FM channel than on the medium-wave channel, the AM. The second continuity suite is available for production work through the day, so we've invested in some additional equipment in that to turn it into more of a production studio. It is centered around a SADiE digital editing system, and that's where I do my promotions production. It's a self-op studio without a separate voice booth, and we produce all the promotion material in that one studio.


R.A.P.: When you say it's a self-op studio, do you mean self operated?
Steve: Yes, self operated. There isn't a separate voice booth, so when we're using those studios as continuity, it is driven by the news reader, the continuity announcer, who will be operating all the equipment, reading the news and directing the station simultaneously. It is very efficient.

R.A.P.: The continuity announcer. That's a new term for me.
Steve: It's a very old term in Britain. It's based on one of the most traditional forms of running a radio network here. Because the programs are all made in individual centers, and they only form together as one radio station as they hit the air, the continuity of the station is very important. I suppose the continuity announcer will perform a lot of the promotion duty that would be done by a jock on many American stations and, indeed, on some stations in Britain. The continuity announcer is the focus of the station, really. He's a sign post. When your station output is extremely diverse and is full of little gems that you wouldn't want to miss, the continuity announcer performs a very important role in pointing, in sign posting those, and, as the term would suggest as well, providing a stream of continuity through the day. When the programming is diverse, in continuity and in promotion, you have to concentrate on what is consistent, and the continuity announcer is there to enhance the consistency of the station's style and, therefore, the station's identity.

So the continuity announcer is always pointing ahead, is always encouraging listeners to stay with us, is highlighting other areas of our output which would be attractive to people who've already been attracted to a particular program. That's all part of the function of the continuity announcer, and smoothing the junctions through so we don't lose listeners is key. We want to hold the listeners as long as possible.

R.A.P.: The SADiE digital system you mentioned...it's not used a lot in the US, to my knowledge, maybe because it's fairly new. How do you like the system?
Steve: It's actually quite new in Britain as well. But, it's made in England, so it's probably not surprising to find more of them here. It's based on a PC and runs under Windows. So, it was very easy for the continuity announcers I work with to learn. They also become directly involved in making some of the promos because they can operate the studio. It's not daunting because it looks like another Windows application, which is exactly what it is.

It has transformed the ease with which we make promotions. Before, we were just running on 2-track tape, and if it was something complicated, quite often you'd be bouncing from tape to tape and losing generations. Now we have none of that and the quality has improved dramatically. The speed with which we work has increased, and, also, the flexibility with which we can archive material is vastly increased. Quite often I'll make a promotion for a specific program--say a half-hour documentary which we're broadcasting on a Thursday evening--and I would need to make a promotion in several versions, a version that says "this Thursday," "tomorrow evening," "this evening." With the SADiE system, that has just become simplicity itself.

R.A.P.: What are some basic rules you apply when creating a promotional announcement for any program on Radio Scotland?
Steve: It needs to be relevant. It needs to be memorable. When I'm packaging promotionals, they're all self contained. They need to be creative. They need to be provocative. They need to form a bond with the listener, which is one of the great strengths of radio. You can have a relationship with your listener, your audience, which you can't from some of the other media. It's very much a one-to-one relationship, and I try to exploit that whenever I can with promotions in different ways, by touching on the realities of life more often than not.

R.A.P.: Since you don't have commercials, I assume the promos are all treated with much greater respect when it comes to scheduling as well as their content and creative appeal.
Steve: Yes. Frankly, they're made like commercials and scheduled like commercials. A typical Radio Scotland promotion would be broadcast a dozen or maybe twenty times, if it was a priority, at different times through the day. It would be broadcast within programs, and it would be broadcast between programs. The trailers, and we tend to call them trails...is that a familiar term for American radio?

R.A.P.: I believe what you're calling trails we call promos.
Steve: Right. That's the same thing, trails or promos. I think we talk about promotions being a campaign, or in commercial radio it could be a giveaway or some sort of gimmick, whereas the trail is actually the piece of creative audio which goes on air, which is the thing I produce. Anyway, these trails all tend to be self contained. They will vary in length between thirty and sixty seconds. Quite often, if we have a priority item on the air, for instance a new series which we want to promote quite heavily, I will make several promotions for that series drawing on different aspects of it or finding different angles on it that, in such a way, are all supportive, and yet there are enough of them that they can be promoted quite heavily without alienating the audience. Sometimes you can go to far, particularly if your audience is as ours is. Our audience is fairly upmarket--an articulate, intelligent audience who would find some of the more blatant commercial style of some of our competitors fairly off putting. We need to sell our programming in an original and sometimes humorous way, but an interesting way. We can't just go on air and say, "Listen to it." We need to draw on strengths. We need to provide real reasons for listening.


R.A.P.: What are you doing for production music?
Steve: In this country there's a system called MCPS which is Mechanical Copyright Protection and PRSCs. In British radio you only pay for the music you use. This is extremely useful because it means we can have a vast number of libraries in stock here, and the disks are provided free of charge by the production library companies themselves. They generate their revenue when we use the music on air. So we have a good variety of material to draw on, and quite a lot of material which is available is relicensed from American libraries.

The alternative to that is to use a buyout system. For some stations, that's really more cost effective. In the BBC, and the way we use the material here, it's far more valuable for us to have a good range of quality material to draw on, then we only pay for what we use. Now that does mean that there's a lot of administration involved in logging the material which is broadcast, and that will become easier once computer digital play-out systems become the norm. At the moment, it's all done manually. We have to log, second by second, any library production music we use, and then the BBC will pay for the music which is aired. I've got about a dozen different libraries here: KPM, Bruton, Chappell are some of the big British libraries. Atmosphere is another big library. They all have slightly different styles and different ranges of material, and between them you can generally find the sort of material you want quite quickly.

Also, the big libraries will operate a free music search. So if you want a specific piece, say a brass band playing a particular piece of music, and you can't find it quickly, just give the music library a call. They'll let you know if they have it on their library because it's in their interest that you use their material.

The problem with using library music in this way is that there is no exclusivity, so it could be that another station in this market is using the same piece of music for a different function. I made a promotion some time ago for one of our Radio Scotland programs. It was a discussion show. I'd worked quite hard on this, and I happened to be driving around one day and heard the same piece of music being used on a commercial for a shoe shop on another station. I wasn't too happy about that. It doesn't happen too often, but some of the better known libraries get used quite a lot on television as well as radio.

R.A.P.: How many CDs of music would you say you have in-house to choose from?
Steve: About a thousand.

R.A.P.: How can you possibly keep up with what music you have?
Steve: What tends to happen is whenever a new disk comes in, and we tend to get four or five a week from the various libraries, I make a point of listening--even if it's just for the first second of each track--to the material. You get to know the libraries quite well in that way.

R.A.P.: What American produced libraries are you using?
Steve: I have seen some stuff come through from Brown Bag, and there's some Firstcom available, too. Of course, we always have the option of buying out material. I think you can buy material from companies like Jam and Production Garden and Music Bakery. That sort of material is available on a buyout, but, again, there's no guarantee of market exclusivity. Radio Scotland covers a large area, and there are a lot of other stations in that area. If a company was selling music in a market-exclusive way and they sold to a station like Radio Scotland, then there'd only be one sale in the whole of Scotland. So it's not in their interest to market that way.

R.A.P.: Are you the voice-over talent on any of the promotional announcements?
Steve: No. I haven't broadcast on air since I worked in London, for a couple of years now. That's the one area I've missed from previous jobs. The continuity announcers I spoke about earlier are very much the voice of Radio Scotland. They become familiar and associated with it. They tend to be the voice talents I use on air, and we're very lucky in that a lot of the continuity announcers--we have five or six who are working regularly with us--are actors in training. So I can write character parts and create drama scenes just as easily as doing straight voice-overs, and they don't sound hammy which is quite often a problem we hear with commercial stations who are making radio commercials on a fairly low budget.

R.A.P.: Are you producing any material for any other BBC stations?
Steve: Yes. The radio station also produces material for the BBC's UK-wide station, so not all the material which is produced at Radio Scotland actually goes out on our own station. We were talking about frustrations before...because listeners are choosing stations more and more by identity, it becomes more and more important to know where your program is being broadcast. And if you are a program producer here, quite often you'll be making programs for different services and, therefore, different audiences. And each individual service will want to have its own house style.

A lot of the work I'm doing at the moment is trying to stamp a more cohesive house style, a more distinctive brand identity into our programming because the programming, in essence, could exist without Radio Scotland because the programs are made individually. As I explained before, they only form together as the one station when they hit the air.

I'm now starting to work backwards into the programs so the programming itself is starting to inherit the positive statements of style and behavior that are distinctive to Radio Scotland. The identity of the station is now moving back into the programming, so it becomes far more cohesive and solid. There's a danger when you're involved in a radio station which is constructed of single programs and continuity junctions that you are only the radio station you say you are in the continuity junctions. At the other times, the station is broadcasting a program which could be broadcast anywhere, really. That's the danger. As the listeners choose more and more by stations, we need to be more and more clear to the listener that we are Radio Scotland all the time, not just when we say we are. That, hopefully, is what we're achieving with Radio Scotland. You can turn on Radio Scotland at any time of the day or night and know instinctively that it is this station. That's the ultimate goal, and we've started a fairly large branding project inside Radio Scotland to ensure the values and qualities that people associate with the Radio Scotland brand name are exploited throughout the programs. We could just, every two minutes, remind people this is Radio Scotland, but we want to do more than that. We want to take the values that people associate with our name and exploit those throughout the day.

We know that the Radio Scotland name carries all sorts of positive associations. When people talk about Radio Scotland, they have a certain perception. The station's been here a long time, since 1978. So it has a great heritage built up around it. Certainly, in some advertising, we may want to change people's perception towards the station. But on air, we want to draw on all the positive perceptions of the station and associate those with the programs, so that when you listen to Radio Scotland, you are aware you are listening to Radio Scotland and associate that pleasure of listening to the station with the name. That strengthens the name. It's more than just identification because it's drawing on the strengths and associations of the name. And it's also strengthening the name for the future because it's using the experience of listening to the station now and investing in the Radio Scotland name for the future. It's two way. That's the key to our branding project.

R.A.P.: What's Radio Scotland's most popular show?
Steve: Our biggest audience winner is "Good Morning Scotland," the nation's morning news program. This is where Scotland's news agenda is set every morning and where politicians, public figures, and those who want to be, jostle for Radio Scotland air-time. So often, it's not just reporting the news, but news in the making with quality BBC journalism at pace and with authority.

radio-scotland-ad

R.A.P.: What kind of special weekend programming do you do?
Steve: We respond to the Scottish weekend by relaxing a little, living it up with plenty of fun for an articulate and intelligent audience. In particular, Radio Scotland's sport on a Saturday afternoon and long-established evening program of traditional Scottish dance music attract massive audiences. It's not uncommon for one in three radios to be tuned to Radio Scotland on a Saturday evening! The sports audience is heavily male-dominated, and the Scottish dancing appeals to an older and less upmarket demographic.

Clearly, Radio Scotland is far more mixed than any formatted station. Our schedule is stuffed full of "spice" programming and entry points for a specialist listener. This provides a high weekly cume but remains our greatest challenge in creating a unified, unmistakable identity for the station. That's why our on-air promotional activity is all about building station identity and increasing listener hours.

R.A.P.: How much time do you spend at work on an average day?
Steve: I tend to work quite a long day because I care quite a lot about the output, and I'm the only producer working the heart of the station whereas every other producer is working on individual programming. What tends to happen in the BBC is that production teams, teams of producers and researchers and the presenters, are built up around the various programs rather than the station itself. And I'm the only producer that works on the cement, really, rather than the content of the individual programs.

R.A.P.: Most radio production people we interview have to deal with some frustrations at work, if not the sales department, then maybe it's the poor equipment. What frustrates you at your job?
Steve: The biggest frustration, I suppose, is the on-air deadline. There are no sales guys here, so your deadlines are quite often self-imposed. But it's extremely frustrating when you miss them. Because production departments are centered on programs, it is quite often difficult for them to think of the promotion of their programs and register that a deadline for promoting a program could well be seven days in advance of the program transmission date. And if you're making a program, then you would quite often have that transmission date fixed in your mind as your target. I think I annoy a lot of people by phoning them and badgering them for material well in advance of the time they may have perceived as their deadline. I think I can probably irritate people a lot that way. But you do need that material. If I'm to think of a creative angle on something, then I'll want to know what material I have to work with before I start. And if material isn't forthcoming, then I need to change the creative idea and think of another one.

Quite often our programming doesn't happen until it's on air. So, if that's the case, I would need to make a promotion not using program material. Those tend to be the spots of the best creative ideas, those which really become memorable, because if you don't use program material, I find that increases your creative freedom. If you're using a section from an interview in a program trail, then clearly you can't misrepresent the interviewee or edit it in such a way that supports your creative ideas, even though it wasn't really the intention of the interviewer. Sometimes you might get away with it, but it's extremely cheeky. We might have some fun with it, but quite often the subject matter will not lend itself to that. So often it's the power of the content of the material which would be the reason for listening. That would be what makes the program memorable and what makes Radio Scotland memorable.

If we don't have material and we're building a promotion from scratch, then I can think far more freely and think about the values of the station and how they are associated with the values of the program. I can think more about the environments in which the program exists, and when you start doing that, then the creative ideas really start flowing. I find that's when you get the greatest number of creative ideas to choose from, and I try, if I've got time, not to be satisfied with the first one. I'll think of two or three, then choose what I believe to be the best. If you do that and something falls down, then you've got a couple of ideas to go back on. You don't get halfway through the production, realize something's broken, and then have to start from scratch all over again. It's a good investment in time to spend just a little bit of extra time thinking out some alternative concepts, some alternative ideas.

R.A.P.: What do you like most about your job?
Steve: I probably like getting a reaction from my work, and that's a typical ego thing, really. It's true success, I suppose, because you know you've succeeded when you provoke a reaction from someone. Whether it's a positive or negative reaction, at least you know the promotion has had an impact and that the promotion has become memorable. And that's the key, to make the station memorable. So that's the greatest buzz I get. There's also the people I work with. I'm quite lucky to be working with such a great bunch of people.

In many ways I'm quite glad to be freed of salespeople. I read your magazine, and I get an extremely poor impression of salespeople around the world. I'm sure they're not such a bad bunch altogether. The first station I worked at when I was still at school was a commercial station, but at that time I wasn't involved in advertising promotion. I was just doing leg work. I can appreciate the pressures of salesmen and that they are quite often the go between with the client and getting the commercial on air. I suppose the client here is the radio station itself, and it's a very good client. I can recommend it to you.

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