The Audio Conference
Dayna Clarke Last Thursday saw a gathering of world experts in the field of radio at the Mediterranean Conference Centre for the much anticipated International Radio Festival conference. The daylong event included a series of lectures, debates and analyses from industry leaders, as part of the weeklong festival, held for the first time in Malta. Now in its ninth year, the conference focused on the importance and future of radio, notably with the rise of technology such as smart speakers and blockchain.
The conference began with a warm welcome from Festival Director Darryl Von Daniken, who expressed his gratitude to Malta for hosting the event as part of the Capital of Culture celebrations.
The first presenter, Paul Sylvester from Absolute Radio UK, spoke about the success of the station. Paul is an awardwinning radio programmer with over 10 years’ experience in radio production and talent coaching. He has led the team at Absolute Radio to record ratings and revenue, with the station winning four prestigious gold awards at last year’s Radio Academy Awards.
We caught up with Paul after his well-received presentation. “It’s a pleasure to be here in Malta”, he said, “and to share knowledge with other professionals in the field. Malta is incredibly welcoming and tourist-friendly. It’s crucial we shout louder about the success of radio – with thousands of people listening to the radio every day”. The acclaimed station has been among the first for breaking in new artists such as George Ezra and Rag N Bone man.
Following Sylvester, music composer and producer David Lowe presented Creating the BBC News Theme, The Art of Audio Design. As his area of expertise notes, his speech was about the components of building a successful theme tune. Lowe famously created the BBC World News theme tune and told his audience how he had developed one of the most recognisable audios worldwide. “Music is synonymous with emotions and passion, but it is vital when composing a new theme that the music remains neutral and does not influence the listener in any way” he pointed out.
The next presenter was Trevor Dann, Creative Director and Paul Smith, Head of Editorial Standards and Commissioning Policy for the BBC, who presented “Re-inventing and Growing BBC Radio”.
Following this presentation, there was a discussion entitled ‘Island Life – Broadcasting on an Island’ led by Andrew Zammit, General Manager of 89.7 Bay FM Radio Malta and James KeenPan, Station Manager of Island FM in Guernsey and Channel 103 in Jersey. The discussion analysed the challenges of broadcasting in an island context and the importance of keeping up to date with listeners.
Andrew said: “The festival has provided 89.7 Bay FM with an integral platform to showcase Maltese radio to the rest of the world. Our flagship show, Daniel and Ylenia’s Bay Breakfast, has been aired twice this week, reaching audiences all over the world. In Malta, radio is still an exceptionally popular medium and it is important that we respond to the needs of our listeners and reach out to the local community. In this sense, it is what makes Malta very unique.”
Next on the stage, John Simons, Matt Deegan, Nick Pitts and Lindsay Wesker discussed ‘Niche radio is the New Mainstream’. They explored the importance and relevance of niche stations such as Jazz FM, MISOUL and the popular children’s station Fun Kids.
One of the most highly anticipated presentations of the day was given by Cliff Fluet, partner and blockchain champion, Lewis Silkin LLP on Block Chain in Audio who described the concept and rise of the medium. The busy day saw a wide variety of both local and international speakers who shared their particular areas of expertise and research in a plethora of fields with hundreds of delegates.