Birkbeck College, University of London
As the field of media communications and broadcasting shifts around us, so Radio Studies evolves, the Network widens its interests and further extends a welcome through social media communities as well as at face-to-face events. These encounters provide vital opportunities to engage with the research and teaching practices of others, to share best practice and be inspired to try new approaches. The global nature of academia is always reflected at MeCCSA Conferences; Stirling 2019 was no exception. We presented three radio studies panels with a mixture of domestic content and research from further afield; covering such topics as the regulation of UK radio programmes, identity and gender politics in radio commercials, and interfaith radio in Scotland, as well as the impact of radio on women’s rights in Niger, oral histories as a pedagogical tool in Egypt and even an iPod orchestra from Sweden.
We welcomed new members to our Steering Group in January too: Sue Bowerman (UWL) – lecturer and radio documentary producer; Dr Lawrie Hallett, (University of Bedfordshire) – radio broadcaster, former industry regulator, and lecturer with a research interest in digital radio broadcasting; and Pam Myers (UWL) – an award-winning radio advertising producer, PhD student and our current Deputy Chair. Surveying these and other RSN biographies reveals that possessing practical knowledge gained from working in broadcasting is prevalent in the discipline. Indeed, so much attention is focused on the changing practices of production, transmission and consumption relating to technological developments, that personal experience counts for a lot in anticipating and assessing the implications. The Radio Studies, Practices and Futures symposium held at the University of Sunderland in February is one of multiple similarly themed events that RSN members have participated in so far this year. And our online reading group ECRs and PGs have discussed several articles over the first two terms of 2019, ranging from user-led content, social media and hyperlocal journalism to alternative media practices and podcasting.
A significant news item drawing our attention recently has concerned Ofcom’s regulatory changes regarding mergers in the commercial radio sector leading to widespread de-localization and job losses. Our colleagues in the Policy and the new Local and Community Media networks may also take a scholarly interest. A case in point is that Global has been authorized to reduce local broadcasting to three hours a day from seven. How these changes affect audiences and those employed in the industry has been highlighted by The Local Radio Group which provides a Twitter platform for them to speak out. Their campaign has urged the NUJ to challenge Ofcom and lobbied government to discuss the ramifications. This is no mean feat considering the influence that the commercial sector already enjoys in those circles. There have been robust exchanges with Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio and Radio Today, the online industry trade publication and podcast. Whether researching a political economy angle or the affective potential of radio, broadcasting history is being made as we speak, and academics are listening intently.