Alex's Blog

For our final regular broadcast of the year, we produced a 30 minute-long radio show on Portsmouth’s local radio station, 93.7 Express FM. You can catch up with the show here:

Way back at the end of last year, we were required to pitch for a topic from a list of options devised by our lecturer, Katie. The ‘Unsung Heroes’ theme was our first choice, as well as that of one of the other groups. Our pitch was successful as I wanted us to take the very broad ‘unsung heroes’ theme and narrow it down to one specific area, which we could deliver a concise but entertaining and informative programme. I was aware of the danger that with the broad ‘unsung heroes’ theme, we could have so many avenues to explore for this show. However as producer, I thought that blood and organ donation would give us a good topic for a radio show while also remaining in keeping with the ‘unsung heroes’ theme.

Initially, I was quite anxious about stepping back up to the role of producer for the first time this year. Having produced our group’s first year programme ‘TV Now’ as well as ‘Sounds of the City‘, one of the two programmes produced last year, I knew that it was far from an easy job. However, I was able to put some of my SRA-nominated student radio experience to use as this show would be for radio rather than television. The programme would be broadcast on 93.7 Express FM, Portsmouth’s local radio station, with it’s regular audience of 30,000+ listeners, it was a little bit bigger than the amount of people watching CCI TV live or on catch up.

I wanted to be sure we had a mixture of content to fill the programme’s running order, ideally with a combination of genuine personal stories and public interest stories like the package on a new SMS notification service that texts you when blood you’ve donated gets used in a transfusion. For me, one of the hardest things about this show was finding jobs for our team of 15 students to do to keep involved. Although 15 is a good number for producing our regular TV programmes, I think we could probably have done a similar show with a fraction of that. I’m so used to self-recording and self-editing everything for radio that in order to try and make sure everyone had something to do, people doubled up working in little production teams to produce their own packages, writing the script for the studio segments or setting up an interview with a previous blood donor. My one big criticism of the show is that by the time it was broadcast, it was quite ‘blood donation’-centric, with organ donation not getting as much air time. This was ultimately due to the lack of leads for stories on organ donation. We were very fortunate to have Emma’s family willing to talk about their experiences, but I think it would have been a nice touch to have a medical professional who works in organ donation as our live interview guest. We tried hard to track someone down, however putting in calls to the NHS’s press office or chasing up other leads proved less fruitful than it could have been. However in the end, I still think it was a show I’m very proud of!

Pulling all the potential stories together took time (which fortunately we had more of than I’m used to when producing radio shows!) but by the time we went on air, we had exactly what we needed – a full running order at 29 minutes and 41 seconds. This duration was to accomodate the top-of-the-hour news bulletin kicking in 19 seconds early in Express FM’s playout system. We were ready to go on air, and were told that we’d be ready to go live at exactly 12:30pm, however this ended up happening earlier than we had been told. After several rehearsals where we’d perfected our 29:41 running time, that was all out the window and we had an extra few minutes to fill!

Unsung Heroes Running Order

By the end of the show, my running order was a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster compared to it’s original form, but it worked! The programme ran exactly to time.

Fortunately for me as producer, I had an amazing PA and on-air team who coped well with the unexpected start of the show and we made up the additional time we’d gained at the start of the show. As a contingency I had written two versions of the closing of the show, originally intended to give us something to cut to in case we ran over. However this proved invaluable for giving us some structure to work with in order to keep the show ticking through until the 12:59:41 news.

In the end, we pulled it off and the show ran to it’s new time perfectly and we were given some very positive feedback from both our lecturers and the team at Express FM. Although this is the last programme we’ll produce for a while, it won’t be our last show of the year. In June, we’ll be producing a 45 minute-long outside broadcast, live from the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. I’ll have more updates on that show as we work to produce it.

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