Freelance Radio Practices: Producing Music Documentaries for Commercial Radio

Coley, S. (2018) Freelance Radio Practices: Producing Music Documentaries for Commercial Radio. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

COLEY, Sam - PhD Thesis.pdf

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This study considers the practice of freelance radio producers creating music documentaries for commercial radio audiences. Commercial radio is an underexplored field of study, while investigations into music documentary content for commercial broadcasters are even more uncommon. Previous inquiries into radio documentary production have focused on public service models of broadcasting. These studies often view the subject from a journalistic agenda, overlooking technical approaches and ignoring the commercial imperatives that inform freelance practices.

I explore how advances in digital production tools and online technologies shape the work of radio producers. I address wider issues of debate surrounding freelance activities and question whether autonomous producers are capable of creating music documentary content of a calibre consistent with traditional team approaches to documentary production. As an experienced practitioner in the field of commercial radio, I use a practice-based approach to reveal the practices a freelance radio producer adopts to make music documentaries for commercial radio. I argue that this method is essential in order to capture an accurate, first-hand perspective of contemporary industry practice. It draws on a combination of data collection methods including iterative production research, industry interviews, and auto-ethnographic observations as a freelance radio producer across a five-year period of production. This data is interrogated using a theoretical framework that incorporates ideas of political economy, commercial broadcasting and documentary production.

I find that the advances in digital production tools and online technologies have streamlined workflow processes and enabled the merging of a various duties into a single production role. I argue that political, economic and commercial considerations impact on the work of radio freelancers in the field by shaping their production output. I acknowledge this is a highly specialised field, as music documentaries are not commonly heard on commercial radio. Yet I assert the industry is favourable towards this form of programming, and recognises its ability to attract new audiences, strengthen listener loyalty and reinforce a station’s brand.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: I would like to acknowledge the support of several important people, without whom this thesis would not have been possible. Firstly, thanks to my supervisor Prof. Tim Wall for opening the door to my academic career and for his guidance throughout this study. I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of practitioner / lecturer David Corser, who passed away in 2015. I hope he would have approved of this final submission. I would especially like to thank my director of studies, band-mate and ‘214’ veteran, Dr. Oliver Carter, for his role as ‘executive producer’. I am indebted to your astute direction and for being so generous with your time. I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues at the Birmingham School of Media, in particularly Sue Heseltine, for managing to balance my production research alongside my teaching commitments. I am grateful to radio programmers Mike Regal, Andy Ashton and Paul Sylvester who commissioned the documentaries featured in this study and kindly agreed to share their insights into commercial radio. Thanks also to the producers and DJ’s who inspired my practice - and to any listeners who tuned-in to my production work. To my family, John, Fay, Simon and Jason, thank you for your ongoing encouragement and for keeping the radio on. Finally, merci beaucoup and much love to Emilie and Thomas for all their patience and support.
12 June 2018Completed
Subjects: CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-01 - information services
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-02 - performing arts > CAH25-02-02 - music
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2019 16:27
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:54

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