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Somebody see to it, will you?

February 7, 2010

I have a friend who works in radio.

He didn’t always work in radio. Five years ago he used to work in one of a handful of divisions at the BBC often to be found on a list titled “dull”. Like the division I worked for at the time, there were calls for it to be sold off. Things looked bleak for both of us when we met up for the first time.

We’d met because he’d read a blog I’d been writing on the BBC Blogs Network. (For anyone interested in mildly-engaging BBC history, the BBC Blogs Network used to be on Gateway, the BBC’s beleagured intranet. it was a publishing platform for BBC staff and departments, acting as a test-bed for the now public BBC Blogs network on bbc.co.uk. As I recall there was a preview function with that system and a considerably a swifter publishing time too.)

The blog I wrote – the pretentiously titled ‘Thoroughly Good Blog (BBC)’ was written in the hope that radio producer-type people at Broadcasting House might read it and think I was exactly the type of person they wanted. Exploit the system, I thought. Throw paint at the wall. Something will stick. You’ll get your dream job.

The fact that someone equally keen to get into radio production read it and made contact with me was both flattering and a bit weird. We had a common bond. That did seem nice at the outset. But given we were we after the same thing, were we in fact in competition? Or were we in this together? Could one hand wash the other? Might he able to get me a job there if he got one first? Or would it work the other way around?

Five years later I can confirm that my friend didn’t need me in any way shape or form, even if he didn’t know it at the time. When he announced he’d found the first rung on the Radio 3 ladder and confidently stepped on it, I found myself having to bite my lip and conceal my envy.

And whilst every subsequent conversation we have had has seen me battling even more to conceal increased amounts of envy as his career progresses, I’ve remained reassured about one core belief: the BBC dream of someone starting at the bottom before steadily climbing the steep ladder annotated career progression really does exist. You just have to look harder for it in the present climate. You have to be even more committed. You have to be even more patient. You have to be even more charming. You probably have to smile quite a lot more too. It’s not all as straightforward as David Attenborough writes about in the opening of his autobiographical tome.

There is a ladder to climb at the BBC, you see. Some of us are still driven by that. That’s why we’re still there. That’s why talk of project schedules, wireframes, quarterlies, scrum and sprints does little to dent our enthusiasm. That’s business talk shielding insecurities and shameful ineffectiveness. The vitally important people are those who create the output the audience consumes. The producers are the key, so too the broadcast assistants who do the grunt work for them.

Of course, I appreciate that World on 3 late on Radio 3’s Friday night schedule may not necessarily strike you as accessible as say a pops concert at the BBC Proms or something on Radio 1 (or, if you’re middle-aged before your time like me, Radio 2). But that late-night Radio 3 genre of music is important to my friend and because of that very fact I’ve ended up listening this afternoon to the edition of the show he produced for the very first time last week. He gets a mention. It’s one of those “seminal” radio moments for two of us at least. I’ll forgive you if you don’t experience the same warm fluffy feeling I do when I hear it.

I’m far from envious. I’m actually proud of his success.

The next time he emails me however, I want to see the word “producer” in his email signature.

Somebody see to it, will you? Don’t make me email Roger Wright.

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2 Comments
  1. I can identify with some of this! Still sub-rung here – fixed term contract doing shift work in a windowless room, and still not entirely sure where to find the paint and the empty wall.

    Good luck to you and your friend – and I’m very much looking forward to reading about your success, rung by rung.

  2. I’d say that if he’s done it and you want it, you will too x

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