Roger Phillips with LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill and Sir Jon Murphy
Roger Phillips, LJMU Honorary Fellow and BBC Radio Merseyside broadcaster recently presented a lecture entitled The BBC and Local Radio - the People’s Voice? This looked at the changing face of the BBC over the years and, in particular, the development of local radio with particular reference to phone-in programmes such as the one Roger has presented for almost 40 years.
He discussed the core ethos of the BBC to ‘inform, educate and entertain’, and reviewed the positives of how it challenged political parties when it first started out in 1926, but also the initial class divisions and how that has changed over the years, despite some issues still existing today.
Praising Frank Gillard, who founded Local Radio, he told the audience:
"Gillard created a great chain of local broadcasters, and in particular Radio Merseyside has always been amongst the best of them – not just in terms of its audience figures – we’re the most listened to of all the BBC local stations, including London, by a significant margin – but in the quality of our output. It’s more of a triumph than Gillard ever imagined."
Reviewing what makes local radio, ‘unique and distinctive’, Roger talked about the changes to management styles over the years and the effect this has had, in addition to the impact of budget cuts.
He addressed the importance of phone-ins and why they work so well on BBC Radio Merseyside, stating that “scousers are great story tellers – and without that talent, the phone-in would be far less enjoyable for myself and for our listeners than it is.”
Roger also talked to the audience about how local stations respond to the social and community needs of their localities.
"Think back to the way Radio Merseyside broadcast the Giants event, the Tall Ships, and our year long coverage of Capital of Culture, which included the Liverpool Saga, written in large part by our listeners. In the past 12 months alone, Radio Merseyside packed out Liverpool Cathedral with a major cultural event, ‘Merseyside Blitz: An Unconquered People’, marking the 75th anniversary of the May bombing of the city. And packed out the Cunard Building when 200 couples renewed their wedding vows in a moving ceremony the station organised on Valentine’s Day.
"That, for me, is what Local Radio is about – it’s at its best when it’s your voice."