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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

The last switchover

If you’re old enough this might count as nostalgia. If you’re not it’s probably just weird.

It was 1990. I was 22. That’s enough context. This video shows how the BBC handled the tricky business of moving a mature audience from AM to FM. Listeners actually had to find an scary untouched switch on their radios and use it.

“Don’t touch that dial” wasn’t a plea from desperate DJs but a public health warning. “Careful Gladys or you’ll end up with the commercials.”

Thankfully, that pioneer of technological advancement and breakfast host of his time, Derek Jamieson was on hand to demonstrate.

The craft skills in this spot are as delightful as the arranged flowers on the occasional table. The cut between establishing shot and close-up prop is seamless and achieved entirely without CGI. Just perspective, props and lighting at play here. Students of film take note.

However, you’ll also notice there is absolutely no benefit sold. Nothing about improved sound quality, not a word about stereo or nighttime coverage. There’s not even an implied threat that you’ll lose the station if you don’t comply.

It wouldn’t pass muster today but perhaps in 1990 people still did what they were told for no reason at all. Derek Jamieson, all cheeky grin and checked suit, was the nudge unit of his day.

I’m glad the switchover worked because it allowed the original Radio 5 to launch on which I learned my trade, produced some dodgy shows and discovered that I should never attempt newsreading until scientists could find an abbreviation for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

But any digital swichover will require a different strategy.

Thanks to Matt Deegan for spotting this gem somewhere on YouTube.