Thursday, 19 September 2019

RTE Lyric FM: a genius radio station under threat?

Well hello there... my, it's been a long, long time.
How'm I doing? Well, I guess I'm doing fine.

Willie Nelson wrote that song, Funny How Time Slips Away. There are dozens of fine versions. It's a simple, truthful song of enormous quality. Songs like that get better with age. So do some radio stations, when they get the chance to grow into themselves. And so do some people, who blossom over the years. I'll come back to that. I'm working up a podcast series; I'll go into great detail in the next post.

I've used that couplet because I have been quiet of late on this blog. I've been not so much under the weather as comprehensively flattened. It's taken me a while to wrestle myself back upright. So, my apologies if you've been missing any, er, shining thoughts. Now, to the meat of this post...

  Classical Music and the arts on the Radio. Under threat. Again.

Photo: Peter Hopper
I wrapped up a six month consult gig in April this year. The job was to set up the initial library and scheduling database for Bauer Media's new Classical music station, Scala Radio. It was enormous fun; it's work I love to do. What you heard at launch date was pretty much what I had been beavering away on since September 2018.

I would not have got that gig without experience gained twenty years ago with the team at RTE Lyric FM. I worked with them, on and off, for five years from 1998. Now, Scala's project was top secret when I joined. So that made me a good fit, being the only person they could find in the UK with Classical programming chops who wasn't at Radio 3 or Classic FM. I had also worked in New York on the RCS gSelector scheduling engine, and that came in useful too. I wrote the online help there. Since then, of course, it's been much expanded to go with the program's development. And it was a strange thing to look afresh at the work I did in 2009.

Lyric FM 

Of course I didn't know it back in 1998, but the Lyric work opened the Scala door for me. Lyric was the most fun place I ever worked for. There were, and I'm sure there still are, some brilliant, articulate, eloquent broadcasters. The Irish can put their English colleagues to shame with their use of language when so minded. Lyric was bursting with talent and enthusiasm. It's the only music station I worked at where the majority of the staff actually made music. Over its twenty years, Lyric has been garlanded with awards at home and abroad. They run on a shoestring budget. Lyric's funding to awards ratio must be one the most respectable in Europe. But now for the bad news.

A casual remark on an RTE TV show last week suggests that RTE are considering 'cutting' Lyric FM. It's all about costs: RTE are in even deeper financial difficulties than the BBC.

It must have been sickening to learn this information at third hand. There's a part of me that wonders if the mooted decision to 'cut' Lyric FM was helped by geography. Lyric is based in Limerick; Most of RTE in based in Dublin. I know, to my cost, how capital city workers frequently regard work done outside the capital with contempt. In the UK, it happened at Pebble Mill in Birmingham time and time again. In fact, this week, In the Radio Times, John Sergeant bemoaned the fact that sometimes he was forced to travel outside London to do his BBC work. The poor lamb. It must have been frightful. The provinces! I shudder for him.

Time for action?

Be that as it may, the bald fact is that Lyric is under threat. And I encourage you, wherever you are, to sign petitions, tweet and email your support.

Lyric is bold and adventurous. It is also a nursery slope, a training ground and a solid platform for broadcast talent that is out of the ordinary. Lyric champions a wonderful range of music. It is the home for much of RTE's Arts coverage. And it is astonishingly good value. If you haven't done so yet, take a listen here

Here are some links to follow and addresses to contact: both the basic facts and the people who make the decisions. They need to hear from you if you care about adventurous radio.

This link takes you to the facts as reported

Dee Forbes (Director General, RTE)
Richard Bruton (Minister for Communications) 

On Twitter there is a group voicing their opinion: g
o to @RTÉlyricfm 
And use the hashtags: #lyricfmpublicservicebroadcasting #savelyricfm

And sign this petition 

See more radio and broadcasting posts on Radio To Go


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