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Long Live Radio

Every week still it seems that I hear that something new will "kill the radio star". Spotify will kill off radio, Pandora streaming will kill off radio, Nick Grimshaw will kill off radio. It won't. Technologies change, but radio isn't a piece of technology. It has a soul, it's a connection... it's my friend.

Video Killed The Radio Star, proclaimed Buggles as they were the first song played on MTV's launch in 1981. For the first time, music videos were part of music, instead of bands miming to their hits of Top Of The Pops and this revolution was threatening to bring down the dated trusty old friend the wireless which had seen this country through the war years.

That was over 30 years ago, and today more people are tuning in their radios than ever, with over 91% of the adult population of the UK listening to the radio each week.

I fell in love with the radio as a teenager bullied at school. Without friends in the classroom, I found my best friend and good company listening to late night radio phone-in shows which I'd hide under my duvet and tune in to. When I eventually either got caught or fell asleep, I'd set a cassette (yes, a flippin' cassette, remember those?) to record the rest of the show and I'd listen back to it in the morning. I wanted to be a part of the magic (small "m", not the radio station!) and started hanging around radio stations until they gave me a job. I joined Capital FM when it was at its peak in 1995. I was just 18 years old. Radio was supposed to have been dead for 14 years by then, so it was defying doctors with its strong pulse and vital signs.

Every week still it seems that I hear that something new will "kill the radio star". Spotify will kill off radio, Pandora streaming will kill off radio, Nick Grimshaw will kill off radio. It won't.

Technologies change, but radio isn't a piece of technology. It has a soul, it's a connection... it's my friend. Saying that it will die out is like saying that talking to friends will die out because of the introduction of texting or Facebook. Or that reading will die out because of Kindle. Whilst we might not want to buy books that take up space, we still like to read. Talking didn't and won't die out because of texting because we still like talking. Texting has actually made it easier to meet up and 'do talking' so technological advances have, in fact, facilitated the things we strange humans like to do so we are probably doing MORE talking because of the technological advances. (We may of course evolve with over developed thumb muscles but that's a whole other column.)

Before MTV, came TV (obviously) - not the multitude of channels we have now but it brought that same notion... this will now spell the end for radio as a medium, it has been surpassed by pictures dazzling us. Of course it didn't either. TV simply became another aspect of our lives, and the two exist in tandem. Now when you're listening to the radio it never occurs to you that the two are rivals or that one could spell the end for the other as they have managed to co-exist well.

The most critical part of radio, of course, is the intimate connection to the audience. Think for a moment about how and where you listen to your radio. Possibly on your mobile phone on your commute (I think I'm supposed to say cell phone now that I live in Los Angeles?), or maybe in your car? But nearly always... you listen to the radio by yourself, for yourself, because radio is mobile and comes WITH you where you are going. And we are going more places than ever.

Television is completely different, how do you watch the X-Factor? In your lounge. From your sofa. The TV can't move, so you go to it. It can't come with me on the tube. Imagine lugging that thing up the stairs because the escalator is bust, besides the power cords would never reach. So you go TO your TV, and sit around on furniture watching - well, furniture. If any medium has a battle to keep audiences right now, it's television. Radio has always been TV's poor cousin but it's evolved from its damaging 'Smashy and Nicey' image to become fashionable again and going from strength to strength.

Radio is my friend. Not leading me, but enjoying the things we have in common. It holds up a mirror to our lives to reflect where we are at, not to drive it forward. In the way that television didn't take anything away so too with other advances. They actually give more content for the radio - what better to hear about from a friend on the radio who saw what you saw, or felt what you felt? Spotify or Pandora and whatever marvellous thing is invented next can't do that. Radio can - if it's a part of life it can be reflected back to make a lovely view.

BBC Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans has always been a 'must listen' for me, and the ups and downs of his life and career somehow make him all the more real and engaging. I'm thrilled that he has won over 9.8million of us to tune in to him. He understands the beauty and privilege of radio broadcasting, and the rewards are shown for him in his successful audience figures. Whilst I couldn't be more thrilled for Chris, I'm thrilled for the whole radio industry, and more importantly I'm thrilled for the audience who have something they really want to listen to. It's not just Chris, radio listening in general is on the rise so the audience are clearly liking it.

My old London based talk radio station was confident enough in the future of radio to launch to a national audience last week, whilst Tony Blackburn - the first Radio 1 DJ - was on Piers Morgan's ITV chat show and proved how much of a spot close to the nation's heart he still holds. We wake up every day with our radio stars, it's an intimate relationship to start the day with someone so you build up a bond.

While technologies have changed - WE as people haven't. We are the same as we have always been, with ears that are keen to listen and a brain and body with the same needs we have had for years. We didn't evolve, our world did. We still want to be informed, entertained and to start and finish our day with our best friends, and in an ever changing world we probably need a familiar voice to guide us through more than ever. Radio shows like Chris's remind us what a wonderful medium radio is, and I just hope the industry will continue to develop the stars of tomorrow.

Video didn't kill the radio star, it didn't even give it a Chinese burn. Radio is dead? Long Live Radio.

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