Joining the Radio Independents Group

12 Apr

It’s been a few weeks since my last blogpost – we’ve been moving house and without broadband for a few weeks – but I haven’t been idle on the radio doc front. Creatively I’ve been recording material for this year’s Third Coast Short Docs Challenge, which this year is all about interacting with our neighbours. And what better time to get to know your neighbours than when moving house? It so happened that one of my neighbours saw us loading and unloading the van, and asked us to help him out – moving his beehives. More about that story later.

On the practical front, I’m continuing to develop my knowledge of the BBC radio commissioning process, and getting as much advice and input as possible into how it works, what the different stations are, and the best ways to start pitching and producing as an independent. You may recall that a few weeks ago I met with Nick Lowe from Demus, a Glasgow based production company. Well, one of Nick’s pieces of advice was to join the Radio Independents Group, or RIG.

RIG is a kind of trade body representing independent radio production companies large and small. They don’t allow freelancers to join, but since I am moving from a freelance role to a production company, I emailed to ask if I could join, and got into a very positive correspondence with the RIG chair, Mike Hally. He not only encouraged me to apply as an associate member (which I did), but agreed to meet up the next day. Mike is based in Kinross, which is not far from Edinburgh, and he is often in town.

Mike runs his own production company, Square Dog Radio. He and founding partner Mike Whitaker have won a string of awards, and produce lots of BBC programs, principally for BBC Radio 4. So it was very encouraging for Mike to not only give me a detailed breakdown of some of the Radio 4 slots that I should think about pitching to, but also to be open to working together on some projects.

One of the most interesting things I learnt from Mike was a little of the history of why RIG came into being.

RIG was formed in 2004 in the wake of the Communications Act 2003, that returned copyright to television indies and greatly improved their terms of trade with the BBC.  RIG’s main task in it’s first year was to get the same deal for radio indies, which it managed to do.

RIG then lobbied for a increase in the production quota for radio indies from 10% to 25%, which was the deal that the TV indies had managed to secure. They didn’t manage to secure this, but did get access to the new digital networks, such as 1Xtra and 6Music, and access to some new genre categories. These are small victories, but the real prize for the future is clearly an increase in the quota that indies produce for the stations, and one that would dramatically transform the highly competitive market for radio production companies in the UK.

So RIG partly works to promote the interests of independent radio production companies, but also provides a set of useful services and contacts for members and non-members. It has a database of recommended sound designers, composers and executive editors on its website, which anyone can access. It has a recommended media insurance agency, and a offers a good value media legal advice package which new members can join.  Membership, which starts at £100 a year for associate membership, includes free membership of The Radio Academy too.

Above all, it’s great to start feeling like, creatively and professionally, I am starting to be connected to different groups and interesting individuals – partly through events like the Lights Out Listening Group, organisations like the Scottish Documentary Institute, and now RIG and Mike Hally. Of course, with the internet, it’s possible to connect with people and organisations far beyond the city or country you are living in, but there is nothing like meeting people face to face to create a connection. One of Mike’s pieces of advice, in fact, was that I should try to get to know and meet the commissioning editors I would be pitching to – clearly a trip to London is on the card at some point soon.

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