How to Make Great Radio

  • May 27, 2015 13:00
  • David Lloyd

Biteback author and radio broadcaster David Lloyd has produced a brilliant new how to guide. Here's what he has to say about the project:

Over dinner in my favourite Indian restaurant in Nottingham recently, I was rambling intolerably about 'my book' to one of my cynical but lovely radio friends.  I told him I'd learned loads whilst writing it. 'What like?', he asked, as he stuffed a naan bread in his face.

So, when the Jiffy bag finally arrived from the publishers last week, bearing ten lovely-smelling first copies of my humble publication, I thumbed gingerly through the pages, to remind myself what I hadn't known when I started to write it.

Every day in radio is a school day, not least when you're trying madly to justify, or disprove, those 'radio assumptions'.

I thought I was the only competition cynic until I stumbled across the words of legendary American programmer, Bill Drake: 'We did a lot of on-air promotions at KHJ, and we did almost none at KFRC in San Francisco. Both stations were successful'. In his opinion, 'most contests are garbage'.  He's surely right; far too many offer little in the way of witness value. They are either too demanding, too dull or too exclusive; with prizes seen as unattainable and mechanics focused on the minority taking part, not the majority listening.  Gone are the days when the radio station was the only place you could win a decent prize.  BBC Local Radio, which suspended contesting in the days when it was discredited, would likely concede that their stations are better without  many of them.  Cheers, Bill. Nice to stumble across substantiation for my prejudice.

Isn't it annoying when 'major names' pop up on radio who fail to grasp the 'one listener' thing.  That 'You' thing. They drone on about 'anyone out there' and getting my 'thinking caps' on.  For goodness sake, anyone who knows anything about our great medium knows that the most important word is 'you'.  If it's good enough for Ken Bruce: 'People respond to one person – talking to them as one person'; and Wogan: 'Radio engages because you talk to an individual', it should be good enough for the rest of us. I also cite some early crackly recordings from the 'first' disc jockey, Christopher Stone, from 1927 who said in his show: 'I know you'd like to hear some more of that, and so would I'.  Almost a century ago, and at the very beginnings of our medium, he'd nailed it.

Few candidates in the last General Election stood up to make a speech without offering an anecdote about the chap they'd 'bumped into' the night before.  We know that story-telling works.  The greatest presenters master the art on radio.  The greatest ads call upon it.  Vocabulary, pace and detail create colourful pictures.  In researching the book too, I was drawn too to the words of John Cleese, who spoke of the mental 'skip' the listener makes from the start of a tale to the punchline.  In that skip lies the pleasure and amusement. Too large, it fails, Too small it offers no satisfaction.  One word can make a difference.  Even if just a  swear-word: 'You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!'

Why do some newsreaders whine every sentence and inexplicably draw out the last word, regardless of its significance?  Accomplished voice coach, Kate Lee, suggests that great reading is often about 'sounding even more yourself'. She observes how some readers appear almost intimidated by the importance of the material. Once they say to themselves 'this is news', she believes their brain then promptly ignores all all the natural nuances of conversation. Contemporary, conversational news delivery is a real art.

Fascinated by the way the 'mood' in a studio can change what comes out the speakers the other end, it was great to hear the anecdote about a leading performer who used to play the Cagney & Lacey theme tune before starting his show.  Off on that tangent, I then stumbled across how both David Cameron, and indeed Enoch Powell in his time, observed that a full bladder kept their mind alert and their speeches powerful.  Maybe not one to try.

I stumbled across some fascinating material about the voice and how it engages so well on radio.  Including the theory that the 'disembodied voice' on the radio connects with the listener as does a mother's voice to a child in the womb.

And who would not want to know the story of the birth of tight, Top 40 format radio in a bar in Omaha, Nebraska.  Next time one of your listeners complains about hearing the same song over and over again, you'll want to know that tale too. 

And so the list goes on.  I learned a little more about mic technique; commentary; interviewing; the psychological response to words; and getting callers on-air.  I mused about dealing with over-enthusiastic listeners; spoke to some great producers; and delved into the use of social media.  I stumbled across some brilliant old research about the relative merits of male and female voices; and I counted the words per minute which Wogan deployed as he said his last breakfast farewell. 

I was persuaded to add a chapter about how to get into our medium; and I volunteered another about how to keep your job.  And some necessary caution on risk-taking, 'stunting', research, law and compliance.

Given that text books are boring and the chances of any publisher agreeing to my autobiography are slim, I've littered the book with anecdotes from my lucky time in the business.  Lest I forget the two occasions when the police have called into reception; Dale Winton's interview techniques; or the words of advice Mrs. Thatcher's daughter proffered on programme preparation.

Many thanks to the likes of Matthew Bannister, Christian O'Connell, John Myers, Ben Cooper and Nick Ferrari for offering generous early reviews.  What's useful is that they suggest it's by no means just a book for beginners. 

Radio is rarely a matter and wrong. Some of the greats break the rules brilliantly.  And those who disagree with my mad assertions or theories will hopefully concede that the debate itself is likely helpful. Or they can write their own book.

Please grab a copy (on offer at £10.49 PB, £7.47 eBook) from my friends at Biteback Publishing. Proceeds to the Radio Academy. 



Pitch Black - The Book Making Headlines Today

  • May 07, 2015 10:15
  • Sarah Thrift

Pitch BlackThe Story of Black British Footballers
By Emy Onuora

Hardback RRP: £16.99 Our Price: £13.49
eBook RRP: £12.99 Our Price: £9.99

As seen in The Guardian, Sky Sports News, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Mirror and the Liverpool Echo.

An alarming account of the racism experienced by black footballers, from the 1970s to the present day. With unprecedented access to former sportsmen –from Cyrille Regis to John Barnes – and a thorough consideration of contemporary players, FIFA's attitude as well as media coverage, this book is a fascinating read. An important, controversial look at the ugly side of the world's most popular sport. 

Read the preface to Pitch Black here. 

Find the book on twitter: @pitchblackbook

Event: The book launch takes place in Liverpool on Friday 8th May as part of the Writing on the Wall festival. Click here for details.


May Releases from Biteback Publishing

  • May 06, 2015 16:30
  • Sarah Thrift

What on earth will we do after the election...? Here's a few titles that will keep you entertained after May 8th.

Standing Down: Interviews with Retiring MPs
By Rosa Prince

Following on from her fantastic series of Telegraph interviews, we publish this eBook-only exclusive from journalist Rosa Prince. Prince has spoken to 26 retiring MPs about their highs and lows in Parliament, their predecessors, opponents and future plans. An insightful read for keen politicos. 

Extradited: The European Arrest Warrant and My Fight for Justice from a Greek Prison Cell By Andrew Symeou

As featured in the Mail on Sunday

Eighteen-year-old Andrew Symeou travelled to Zante to celebrate the end of exams. Whilst there, Andrew was falsely accused of another man’s tragic death in a Greek investigation beleaguered by errors and misconduct. This honest, moving account of Andrew’s fight for justice examines the controversial EAW, a law allowing Andrew’s subsequent extradition and almost a year awaiting trial in a Greek prison, a year comprised of shocking encounters with violence, drugs, racism and rioting.

Tabloid Secrets: The Stories Behind the Headlines at the World's Most Famous Newspaper
By Neville Thurlbeck

As the news editor for nearly two decades at the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck served up some of the most famous, and notorious headlines in the history of tabloid journalism. In this revealing memoir, he describes the diverse and often shocking experiences of his career. Neville Thurlbeck is uniquely placed to give an insider’s view of life at the world's most famous newspaper.

How to Make Great Radio: Techniques and Tips for Today's Broadcasters and Producers
By David Lloyd

In this book, David Lloyd, a thirty-year radio veteran, shares his advice on presenting and producing fantastic radio. Authoritative, accessible and entertaining, this is a unique guide for anyone considering a career in radio, and a brilliant refresher for those already in the industry.

The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2015: Profiles of the New MPs and Analysisof the 2015 General Election Results
Edited by Tim Carr and Iain Dale

Published as an eBook in May, Paperback edition published in June

For all those who enjoyed The Politicos Guide to the 2015 General Election, this comprehensive results guide is the perfect follow-up. Packed with facts and analysis, as well as profiles of the new parliamentary intake, this book will be the ultimate post-election companion.

All these titles will be available on our two week price promise, so don't miss out. 


Biteback Acquires Gambaccini Memoir

  • May 05, 2015 11:20
  • Vicky Gilder

Jeremy Robson has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to Paul Gambaccini’s book Love, Paul Gambaccini for Biteback Publishing from Caroline Michel at PFD. The book will be published by Biteback in September this year. 

Love, Paul Gambaccini is a first-person account of the twelve months of trauma that Gambaccini suffered after being falsely accused of historic charges of sexual assault. He was traduced in the press, made unemployable and forced to pay thousands of pounds in legal fees during a year in which he had no income. Finally, inevitably, he became the latest celebrity to be exonerated of all the allegations against him.

Love, Paul Gambaccini is the no-holds-barred story of that year. Publication will be supported by a major press campaign. 

Paul Gambaccini said, ‘When I was sitting in a jail cell waiting for a solicitor, I made myself three promises.  I would lose weight, become a better piano player and write a book about whatever was about to occur.  I am glad to say I shed a stone, learned several of Mendelssohn's ‘Songs Without Words’ and wrote Love, Paul Gambaccini.’

For more details please contact or 020 7091 1260.


Lord Ashcroft: Presenting my unauthorised biography of Cameron – “Call Me Dave”

  • April 13, 2015 09:30
  • Lord Ashcroft

Today I have released details of the title and cover of my forthcoming biography of David Cameron – but the book won’t be published until the autumn.

Call Me Dave, the title of the book, will have to compete with another book about Cameron by the respected historian Anthony Seldon. He has a long track record of producing detailed tomes about modern prime ministers, usually with a great deal of help from the top. His forthcoming volume on Cameron at Number 10 will be no different.

I understand Seldon is rushing his book out to avoid a clash with mine. Apparently he is being encouraged to do so by Number 10. Having originally planned to publish during party conference season, I am told that he now intends to publish at the end of July. Number 10 is so eager to assist that aides have been reading and correcting draft chapters. It will be a pleasant surprise if his book is not merely a sanitised account.

Setting aside the wisdom of publishing a political book when even Westminster is tired of politics and packing up for summer recess, Seldon’s haste to “get in first” is curious. After all, we are not trying to do the same thing. Like a number of his previous books, his is an account of Cameron’s administration, which begins when the Tory leader takes office in May 2010. Mine is a life story. I do not intend to give a blow by blow account of what has been achieved in every Whitehall department, though of course I will take some account of policy delivery. However, my focus is on character: what made the man; how he got to the top; and how he used his power.

I have made it clear that my book, a collaboration with former Sunday Times Political Editor Isabel Oakeshott, will be objective. Nonetheless Cameron is suspicious. It is no secret that he dislikes the prospect of what he dismissively labels “the Ashcroft book”. We have tried, and failed, to persuade him to talk. While Seldon has had full co-operation from Number 10 (I am told “everybody” – from Ed Llewellyn, Cameron’s chief of staff, down – has been encouraged to make time for the historian) the Prime Minister has shut the doors to us. Letters to relatives requesting interviews have gone unanswered, and senior aides know he does not want them to help. Some individuals who were willing to talk to us in principle but wanted Downing Street’s blessing were repeatedly stonewalled. Cameron’s strategy appears to be: put up the shutters, then rubbish the book on the basis that we have had no access.

Happily, many of his friends and colleagues disagree with this approach. For all his disapproval, the vast majority of those we have approached have agreed to talk, including a number of Number 10 insiders who have assisted amid utmost secrecy. Some of those who like and admire the prime minister struggle to see the sense in blocking positive contributions.

Call Me Dave will be entertaining, revelatory and insightful. The prime minister may not like some things, but I hope he will acknowledge that it is fair. It is intended to be. It will be published this autumn. We eagerly await Seldon’s account, and will incorporate, where relevant, any interesting highlights. Meanwhile, follow this link to order a copy of Call Me Dave – the unauthorised biography of David Cameron.