Silence on the radio is not radio silence

Reading time: 2 minutes

I once had to do a one minute silence on the radio.

It was on Mother’s Day in March 1996, the Sunday following the horrific Dunblane massacre, in which a gunman killed 16 children and a teacher at a Scottish primary school.

We were running Sound Radio – a community radio station – from an empty flat on an estate in Hackney, north-east London. We’d rigged up the studio, and were on air for a month. I worked as a producer and presenter and also drove the desk.

Somebody needed to be at the studio 24 hours a day, so we organised a rota. I was on the nightshift that weekend.

As a tribute to those killed in Dunblane, there was to be a national one minute silence at 9:30 on Sunday morning.

From 8:00 am that day we’d scheduled two hours of pre-recorded comedy.

I wrote a script and rehearsed it a couple of times, timing myself, so I’d know how many seconds beforehand I’d need to start reading it on air.

At 9:29 and 46 seconds I brought down the faders on the comedy programme and faded up my microphone to announce the silence.

For a silence on the radio, you can’t turn your microphone off. If you do, it’ll sound to the listener like their radio isn’t on, or there’s a fault with the radio transmission.

To avoid this, I left the microphone open for the 60 seconds, so the listener would hear ‘atmos’ as it’s called.

It didn’t feel right to go back to the comedy, so I’d put together a playlist of songs which felt appropriate to the moment, starting with the Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel duet Don’t Give Up.


Double espresso –

Reading time: 2 minutes

Inspired by Tom Coombs’s recent “Have you seen…?” post, here are some of the things I’ve been banging on about recently over a double espresso. First…

Last FM plays you music while you’re online. It can create your own personalised radio station based the music you like, using its audioscrobbler music recommendation system. Connect it to iTunes to learn what you’re in to. Or just go to the site and type in the name of a band you like and start listening.

Click the heart symbol in the music player to “Love this track” and your radio station gets ever more tailored to you.

I’m listening over at

Starting life in East London in 2002, has really come in to its own with the proliferation of broadband and now mobile broadband. In 2007 was bought by CBS.

Every track you play will tell your profile something about what you like. It can connect you to other people who like what you like – and recommend songs from their music collections and yours too.


I’ve heard good things about the iPhone app.

And finally if, like me, you like to sing along from time to time, check out Lyrics Muse – which combines with a lyrics wiki to display the lyrics of the song you’re listening to in real time. And as the source is a wiki, if you think the lyrics displayed are wrong, you can always go and correct them.

Never can say goodbye

Reading time: 1 minute

Have you noticed that on the radio very few, if any, presenters and guests say “goodbye” at the end of an interview or phone call?

More often than not they say “thank you” instead.

I was just wondering if this is conscious and deliberate.

Ad nonsense

Reading time: 1 minute

Listening to Xfm on my phone on the bus on the way home from work on Thursday night and an ad came on that went something like this:

Imagine a world where we all watched one TV channel.

Imagine a world where we all read just one newspaper.

Imagine a world where we all used just one search engine.

Now I don’t know about you, but right now I’m thinking about one search engine, and it’s probably the same one you’re thinking of too.

So the ad continues…… the other search engine.

At this stage I’m momentarily thinking I’d heard “arse dot come” – seriously, that’s what it sounds like.

But I’m also still thinking about one search engine, and it’s not

I’d be very interested to know how the agency involved persuaded a company to accept that they’re second best, that they’re other.