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.