Harmonious atmosphere ; Wellbeing / Music [Western Morning News (England)]
(Western Morning News (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Hospital radio is a training ground for new broadcasters and, more importantly, a friendly voice to those that need it most.
I recently went to the Hospital Broadcasting Awards in Bristol. There were hundreds of people from across the country - all presenting, producing and ward visiting and none of them getting paid to do it. I'd question what was the matter with them but it seems, whatever it is, I've got it too.
I volunteer with Hospital Radio Plymouth. Every week for two years I've been presenting shows and producing. Compared to some, I've barely begun. Presenter Connal Cather, 90, has been with the station since 1970.
I'm studio manager on Thursday nights and play Mother Hen to a group of fresh-faced teens and seasoned presenters. My evening starts with housekeeping duties while Jamie Hughes produces Connal Cather's Nostalgia Time and then I'm straight in the studio for 90 minutes. The show takes requests and messages from staff and patients and I tend to ramble about an especially stupid thing I've done that week; this often features falling over and spider encounters. Then it's back to the desk to produce Sally Box's Poems for Pleasure.
When technology began to race ahead of traditional FM radio it was time for HRP to step up its game. Working from donated radio equipment and charity donations and competing with free wi-fi and commercial radio, the station consistently ranks amongst the highest in listener figures at Derriford. Add the numerous awards they've picked up, including four-time winner of the Gold Station of the Year Award, and the ever-positive comments of Derriford patients and staff and you begin to get a sense of the direct impact this kind of radio has.
Station manager Andrew Hill explained how Hospital Radio Plymouth is moving with the times to keep listeners happy: "The use of computer technology has enabled us to record programmes and broadcast them during the day without anyone having to be there to press a button to set them off.
"We've now had programmes on the air from 8am to midnight every day for several years. Listeners can hear a friendly voice between songs, or be entertained with story narrations, plays and discussion programmes rather than listening to endless back to back music.
"Audience figures show listening to be up tenfold on what it was a decade ago and we are regularly now the most listened to radio service within the hospital. On occasions we even beat the two main TV channels." With Derriford's new free wi-fi policy and a need to keep up with the internet age, Hospital Radio Plymouth created an online database of pre-recorded shows which people can listen to at any time.
Andrew adds: "Listeners can log on to a site we have on Soundcloud and choose from more than 170 interviews and programmes at their leisure. All that's needed is a means of connecting to the internet."
Like all hospital radio stations, Plymouth has the freedom to broadcast shows that cater directly to a broad range of listener's interests. You want Chopin? No problem. Adele? Absolutely. Jedward? If you must. In one night the programming flips from one decade to another, poetry to prose to pop.
Andrew believes this has also contributed to the station's popularity: "While the professional stations have had to move to a more formatted style to maintain their commercial viability, we have been able to find our niche with the variety of different programmes we offer. Our audience figures show this has struck a chord with those who listen in.
"Indeed I remember being on the wards not so long ago and one chap said to me he'd heard one of our specialist music programmes earlier in the day, he said it wasn't normally his type of music but he'd found the programme informative and interesting."
Assistant station manager and programme manager Keith Jolley, puts the station's success down to its personal touch.
"Hospital radio is unique in that we meet our listeners. It can be quite a shock for them as I have a great face for radio," jokes Keith.
"There are lots of radio stations that play one particular genre - we are able to present a broad section of programming giving something for everyone. "In our request programmes the listener can alter the structure of the music played making it more personal to them. "We include programmes in our schedule which commercial stations wouldn't have the time or resources to do. Many people in hospital want to hear a friendly voice and they get this with Hospital Radio."
The judge's comments at this years Hospital Broadcasting Awards sum it up nicely - Hospital Radio Plymouth is "in a league of its own. The ultimate in local, community radio - that community clearly being the hospital. A credit to Hospital Broadcasting".
Hospital radio is a proven training ground for journalists and enjoyed by scores of patients, reports enthusiastic volunteer Rachael Dodd Many people in hospital want to hear a friendly voice and they get this with Hospital Radio
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