Mick Ord: Managing Editor, BBC Radio Merseyside is a former SFX College Woolton and De La Salle Grammar Croxteth boy (“I was ‘sort of expelled’ from the former school. Long story but the Jesuits were to blame”). Ord launched the successful BBC Capital of Culture website – in SevenStreet’s opinion, a far site better than the ‘official’ one, but hey ho.
Curator of the first of our Summer Spotify Sessions, Ord (left of Dalek) has been at Radio Merseyside for 25 years: “I started off as a reporter and then gradually slid up the greasy pole”. On his watch, BBC Radio Merseyside’s become Britain’s most-listened to local station, outside of London.
We caught up with him, to take the temperature of local radio, Liverpool-style. The seasonal soundtrack: Mick’s favourite 7 inch slices of summer from the past 25 years.
Click the link at the foot of the interview to open a Spotify playlist. Crack open something cool and sparkly, and enjoy a blast of summer. Oh, no, click it here too: Mick Ord: Summer Playlist
Podcasts, internet radio, 6Music’s uncertain future: it’s a volatile landscape out there. How’s local radio faring?
The radio market place is more competitive than its ever been, with most cities having three or four radio stations all fighting for your attention. And that’s before you get to the host of national stations.
Most individual audiences have seen a decline over the years but Radio Merseyside’s audience remains the highest in the BBC local chain outside of London. We’re always looking at ways to improve our programmes and reach out to people who may not have tried us for a while or who think we’re not for them.
What BBC Radio Merseyside offers is local, national and international news, sport and entertainment, and that’s a unique mix in this city.
What are the topics that turn Liverpool on?
Most of our listeners are over 30 – the theory is the older you get the more interested you are in your local community – and I’d certainly agree with that proposition although people of all ages tune in, especially to our sports coverage which is wonderful.
Our listeners love to debate political, religious, sporting issues – which is why Roger Phillips’ phone-in is such a hit. He’s been presenting the show for more than 30 years and he’s more popular than ever so he must be doing something right.
People on Merseyside love anything to do with local history. Our heritage is amazing, but if we go on about it too much, people get fed up. We’re interested in what’s going on today and in the future – I think the days when Liverpudlians were accused of dwelling in the past are long gone, and Radio Merseyside reflects that.
People in this area are enormously proud of the musical and wider cultural heritage – we held a heritage weekend at St George’s Hall in March and there were queues down William Brown St with more than 5,000 people turning up. I don’t think you get that passion in other British cities.
It’s not just the B**tl*s either – Dave Monks and Roger Hill do great new music shows on Sunday nights, and our schedule is peppered with gems at all strange hours of the night that are a real delight – especially if you think modern radio only plays music chosen by computers and focus groups.
BBC Greater Manchester changed its name to BBC Manchester. Any plans to ditch the ‘Merseyside’ tag?
We have a total survey area (TSA) of 1.6 million people and the majority live outside Liverpool! We cover Wirral, North Cheshire, Southport and St Helens, Runcorn and Widnes. Local identity is important—ask anyone who lives in Widnes (or Rochdale, for that matter). ‘Merseyside’ covers most of the people who live in this area so the radio station will remain BBC Radio Merseyside as long as I’m in charge.
Where can we find you, on a sunny afternoon in Liverpool?
St John’s Gardens of a lunchtime —- relaxing in a little bit of heaven right smack bang of the city centre. And, since Liverpool One has come along, Chavasse Park – a real surprise. I was worried that Grosvenor were going to cock it up but it’s better than I could have imagined. Needs a statue of the man himself there, however.
What’s the future like for Radio Merseyside?
We’ll continue to develop our programmes ensuring that people get the best possible local news and information. I see ourselves as the people’s radio station – we are accessible. Sometimes the BBC is accused of being out of touch but I certainly don’t think that’s true of Radio Merseyside.
I’m keen to develop our links with communities – we’re improving our social action service (The A Team) and we’ve just embarked on a year-long charitable partnership with Clatterbridge hospital.
Loads of people listen to us on the internet and many of our programmes have Facebook pages so we are reaching out to areas where you might not expect us to be. You can also hear our programmes on the BBC iPlayer so if anything we’re reaching a broader range of people than we did in the old days.
(pic of Mick, © BBC )