Here’s the link to the final radio show.
^ expenditures of UK radio stations
Welcome to night vale is a podcast presented as a radio show for the fictional town of Night Vale, reporting on the strange events that occur within it. The series was created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and is published by Commonplace Books. Cecil Gershwin Palmer, the host, main character, and narrator, is voiced by Cecil Baldwin, while secondary characters are sometimes voiced by guest stars, such as Carlos, voiced by Dylan Maron. The podcast typically airs on the first and fifteenth of every month, and consists of “news, announcements and advertisements” from the desert town radio station. Joseph Fink said that he “came up with this idea of a town in that desert where all conspiracy theories were real, and we would just go from there with that understood.
The Ricky Gervais Show is a comedic speech package consisting of a trio of personalities, Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington. I remember listening to the first seasons when I was younger and being in hysterics, it’s the only speech package that impacted me. This is why we’re going down a comedy route with ours, we live our lives looking at things that amuse us so why try to create something else? My research told me that the show was the most downloaded podcast until it was overtaken by The Adam Carolla Show. This is even more significant because the Gervais and his co-writers are British, proving the richness of British humour which is often entirely satirical, sarcastic or designed in order to observe and mock questionable behavioural traits.
Above is a (badly taken) photograph of a rough script, that matches our style of working well. We prefer to ad-lib most of it as scripting can choke people up and take the focus away from the acting.
When we were briefed on outcome four for this unit – making our own speech package – an idea sprang to my mind; ‘Bovine on the Grapevine’. The idea is to have an entirely satirical radio show dedicated to the nature of cattle; feed, bedding, breed and every other nook and cranny of animal welfare. The show would capture the hilariously awkward nature of the Cumbrian hill-farmer when put on camera, or in this case – in front of a microphone. Words will not be of much use when trying to analyse the humour behind the idea, as the subtleties behind a satirical piece are so great (and so decisive when commanding the effect of the idea when put into practice) that they can’t be summed up briefly and if they were summed up in life it would sap the humour from the piece in question entirely.
I wanted to make this three years ago when I worked on a farm because it’s almost too plausible of a Cumbrian radio station to go at the idea with serious intention, like the desperately uneventful local ‘lambing live’ shows, they provide so little food for thought and make such a spectacle out of the farmer themselves that you end up seeking humour regardless. The only drawback that I can see is the difficulty of pulling off comedy, it takes a genius to make a wide audience laugh, however this wont be heard by a wide audience, it would be to amuse me, my friends and those that find it funny.
My second idea was a book review show called ‘Rough Binding’, where I talk about recent books that I’ve read, boil them down to the key philosophies, ideas and teachings that I took away from them and put them into a language that will help people overcome issues in their own life, by taking a look at a situation from another person’s angle and normalising problems that people feel are unique to them. I would like to make this a radio show for those that don’t read, more than those that do. Books contain thousands of years worth of the most valuable knowledge and are available so cheaply, yet constant reading is becoming a rarity in young people due to the nature of this age. I want to be able to make all of the things that helped me available to everyone, in five minute radio clips. I thought about the idea of conveying the way each book made me feel through sound effects and music beds, for example, if a book influenced my head-space positively and shone with optimism, or a relaxed nature towards life – an ‘everything will work out as it should’ gist – this would be mimicked by the music, such as soft, mellow jazz. I want the listeners to be able to smell coffee and mahogany and see the colours of the books on the shelves depending on what I’m covering. There are so many routes to go down with this, and I’ve even thought about making a YouTube channel dedicated to it, though I felt as if it would be truer to the medium of a book if everything was felt through spoken word.
My third and most undeveloped idea is entirely influenced by Russell Brand’s ‘The Trews’. I don’t feel that his approach to butchering politics, the upper class and capitalism in general is productive or healthy. Brand’s show takes only evidence of capitalism going wrong, and politics going wrong, ignoring the good that has come of it. There’s an element of hypocrisy in preaching ‘true news’ and encouraging blue-sky thinking whilst only ever telling one side of the story. I share a lot of his views which would come across in my own show, but in order to allow people to think for themselves and minimise the risk of sweeping statements and canned thinking I would offer both sides to the story, the benefit to western ideals – even if I disagree that it is the healthiest way of life. We need a more grounded, less sensationalised/extreme view of the world which would come from this approach. Russell shows up at protests and tries to talk violent demonstrators out of their frenzies after using a blood-red Che Guevara inspired logo to promote an internet non-revolution. Nothing extreme about that.
In the earlier decades of the 20th century media producers worked with the government of the country to raise morale and spread propaganda throughout times of war. This was done via pre-recorded radio broadcasts that followed a non-fiction format, known as speech packages. Since that period the medium has remained the same in the way that mass media companies still pre-record content in order to address an agenda, though the decreasing price of equipment makes it a more accessible platform for independent companies.
The purpose of a speech package depends on a variety of things. To list a few; the production company, the target audience and the style of the package. By style, I mean whether the show in question is informative, entertaining or explanatory etc. Essentially, the genre equivalent to non-fiction. A BBC Radio 1 news report is the perfect example of a speech package. They’re put together in a way that feels live, although (unless it is breaking news) they’re often recorded the afternoon before the broadcast. Such news reports are targeted at a young demographic – ages 15-29, according to the BBC official website – and therefore cannot be too heavy or meaty, it would stray far from the vibrant, uplifting energy that the rest of the show attempts to build whilst being hard to interpret for the younger audience. FOX News Radio is dedicated purely to ‘news’, however given the American approach to turning most things into entertainment (with England following suite closely; the introduction of television programmes such as ‘Benefit Street’ and ‘One Born Every Minute’) it’s harder to pull worthwhile information from such programs. I make this comparison in order to exemplify how speech packages are still used by mass media companies in order to subtly deliver an agenda to our ears, as was the case in the 1940’s. The hybrid between a magazine type programme and a current affairs programme is a dangerous tool when heard by an unobservant listener as it makes the spoon-feeding of information easier, the digestion of such information more so.
Speech packages are made up of a range of components – all just as important as each other – of which I will go into detail here. A music bed sets the entire feel of a speech package, heavily reflecting the demographic. Usually somebody that listens to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archer’s’ would not be prepared to sit through a news broadcast with an underlying Rihanna song, thankfully this would be improbable due to copyright laws, but we’ll touch on that later. A generic mark of a speech-package is what’s called a ‘Vox Pop’, or Vox Populi, translating literally from latin to ‘voice of the people’, the irony being that these interviews will only be used if it fits the guidelines of the content producers – even more ironic is the fact that the original intention of a speech package was to make the voices of the people sing the same song. Vox Pops are interviews conducted with the general public in the street, you may even have been asked questions yourself as it is a common, practical way of accumulating data.
Picture a news reporter announcing, ‘We’re about to head over to my colleague in Central London, where we’ll get more on the subject’. Picture the subsequent dialogue being spoken with no sound of business, horns sounding or frantic crowds rushing past – need I say anymore on the importance of sound effects? They are the only clue that sets a scene on radio, apart from the effects applied directly to the sound file in post-production which I talk about in a previous essay.
The final thing I’m going to mention, as promised, is legal and ethical boundaries. Copyright Law is both a hindrance and a blessing for content creators as it safeguards your own material but makes using the creations of others a challenge. Acquiring the contact details when seeking permission to use something is difficult in itself and you would expect to pay a fee (dependant on the time of usage, placement of coprighted material within the show) to the publishing company. Ethical issues can be avoided by displaying sensitivity towards all cultures, races, sexes and sexualities as well as being aware of acts such as the ‘Under 18’s Act’, specifying that a child needs written consent from a parent or guardian before being used in a speech package, or indeed most forms of media.
Despite my observations appearing bleak and cynical at times throughout this essay, I am of the opinion that speech packages are an efficient way to present content in the information age, requiring initiative to pull off to a high standard that is considered serious.