Silence on the radio is not radio silence

By Nic Price on 16 March 2017 — 1 min read

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.


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    • Thanks Steve.

      This was on the cusp of things going digital, so I was using a mixture of 1/4″ tape – with chinagraph pencil and razor blade for editing – and minidisc for interviews and vox pops.

      Happy days 🙂

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