My radio career began at University doing a student radio show. Today I was back there giving a talk to a small collective of young folk who are interested in radio themselves. It was a reasonably small turn out of people which had been beefed up with people from other student stations who wanted to learn as well. It was an odd experience on many levels.
Firstly I was asked to talk about speech radio, something no student in their right mind would attempt on a student radio show. I bumbled on about speech radio for a while in my unbelieveably scatty style, unsure if the audience was either bored or confused or both. I ended up going into - in parts enormously technical - detail regarding the minutai and mechanics of putting together good phone in topics, judging the zeitgueist of the mainstream media and balancing the public collective conscious. I remember checking myself and thinking, hang on, there's no way I'd explain some of this stuff to a potential rival. What am I doing?
I also raised the somewhat contentious issue as to whether or not what you do on air is 'an act' or not. I've always thought the honest answer to that is yes, yes it is. It has to be. It's a projection of yourself obviously but in "real life" there's no way I'd do half the stuff I do on air. I don't think that means it lacks sincerity or realism. It just acknowledges the fact that there's a microphone there and not a person. You're performing. This is true for anyone who has a camera/microphone on them. This is a very unfashionable viewpoint for someone like me to have and it was soundly smacked down by another speaker who was there, Chris Moyles' co-worker Will Kinder*.
I'm not a particularly big fan of Moyles these days, I used to be when he was on Capital FM and in his very early Radio 1 days. I sort of got dissillusioned with him when I heard him ripping off a Howard Stern bit almost word for word, then came to the realisation that a lot of his stuff was actually "borrowed" from other talents. The John Peel quote that Moyles was "another DLT in waiting" has proved to be remarkably prophetic.
Apparently Moyles' on air personality is not "an act". He's "just being himself" when he's on air. Utter b#llocks. That's what I say to that. A few years ago Chris slagged off my phone in show on his breakfast show, calling it the "worst talkshow" he'd ever heard. When I met him in person later that year he had nothing but nice things to say. Why's that? Well, I'm not a physically imposing bloke, I think it's 'coz we all know it's an act. It's not "real" in the same sense as it would be if he were to accost me in the street and have a go about something.
I will always maintain that nothing in the media is "real" in the sense that you can actually trust it. The whole thing is a game. An advert for the truth concocted by people who'd rather do something they love for a living than something that resembles work.
Like I say, not a viewpoint that has ever made me any friends in radio.
* Without doubt one of the most talented producers in the industry.