An Interview with Award-Winning Producer, Ian Pinnell

“There is a lot more to hospital radio other than just pressing play on music and talking through the microphone”

Ian Pinnell is a regular face to be found at Radio Cherwell in Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Programmes Controller, presenter, and most importantly a producer- Ian put together the stations entry for HBA station of the year 2012 and it won the bronze award! And on top of all this, Ian runs his own production and radio imaging company!

With all Ian’s wealth of experience as a producer, we at Community RA+Edio thought we might ask him a few questions about what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ at Hospital Radio and about all the work that goes on whilst the mic faders are down.

Ian Pinnell
All images in this article used with permission of Ian Pinnell

The road into radio production……

Ian started off on an internet radio station called “Off the Chart Radio” in 2006. After seeing an article in his local paper about Radio Cherwell he decided to apply for membership. During a 6 month probationary period with the station he co-presented shows and visited the wards, and the rest is history.

The passion for production itself came from a number of different sources for Ian. It was a combination of learning production skills at college, and producing jingles promos and features for his internet radio show and for Radio Cherwell. He also studied radio production at University and produced programmes for the student radio station there which fed into his experience as a Hospital Radio producer:

“As a programme producer on a Uni station, you’re given a lot of freedom (so long as you abide by the station rules of no swearing, etc!) to produce great quality programming. And this in turn has allowed me to produce programmes for hospital radio, always with the aim of interesting the listeners, and getting them involved.”

At Radio Cherwell, Ian presents a show called ‘The Weekend for Everything Show’ which is broadcast live from The Oxford Children’s Hospital weekly. He also works on music based shows as well as presenting and producing special broadcasts for events such as ‘The Abseil’ (when people abseiled down the side of the Women’s Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital to raise money for local hospital charities).

How presenting and producing work together is something we wanted to ask Ian about. He told us that it improves your presenting ability because you know what is happening which helps with having more editorial and creative control over your programmes. But he also told us about some of the plus points to producing a show that you don’t present:

“It’s great producing shows without presenting them too, knowing you’re playing a part in the broadcast without being heard by the listeners. Team working in these situations is also great fun, and you can really bounce ideas off other members of the team, from presenters, broadcast assistants to technical operators.”


Behind the scenes of Hospital Radio……

There is more than meets the eye…. or ear…. when it comes to running a hospital radio station. What you hear on the radio has a complex operation running behind the scenes. With Ian’s job as the Programmes Controller for Radio Cherwell, we asked him if he could tell us a bit about what goes on ‘behind the scenes’.

“There’s a lot more to Hospital radio than just presenting. It’s all about meeting the patients on the wards, and making their stay in hospital a little easier… behind the scenes roles includes technical operators, those are people who press all the buttons for presenters and ‘drive’ the desk. Other off air, ‘behind the scenes’ roles include Ward Visitors, these are people who will spend a couple of hours a day visiting the wards, talking to patients, explaining how to use their bedside equipment to listen to your station, make calls, watch telly and get online. You will also have people who raise money for the station and help out on outside broadcasts, and those who manage the everyday running of the station too.”

But what about the role of the radio producer specifically? What exactly do they do behind the scenes? There are two different angles- producing a live show and producing general station content.

–          A Live Show

We asked Ian what the main responsibilities of a producer were in a live show….

“I’d say the main responsibility is to make sure everything runs smoothly. If you have announcements that need to be said in a particular time frame, you would be responsible for making sure these times were met. You would also be responsible for the content during the live show, making sure it is fairly balanced, and overall making sure the presenting team are happy in what they are doing.”

But a live show involves preparation too. Ian told us that before the show goes out you have to think about the music and content in terms of whether it appeals to the listeners. Not only that but you have to makes sure the presenting team are happy with the content that’s coming up and on a more administrative level, making a running order and playlist.

–          General Station Content

“I guess a typical ‘day in the life’ of a producer would be making sure programmes are presented to a high standard, making sure the presenters of programmes know to promote various events throughout their show”

Editorial production is only one side of a producer’s job. There are technical tasks too..

“In terms of audio production, I would normally spend time recording items that go at the end of recorded programming before the news, as well as freshen up the station sound package with new music montages, idents and other pieces of audio for programmes, sourcing audio clips for shows and other sounds.”

And the winner is…..

The Hospital Broadcasting Association award ceremony 2012 was help in Northampton on March 30th. Whilst the ceremony was talking place Ian was broadcasting it live on Radio Cherwell, which meant that when they won the bronze award for station of the year Ian got to celebrate on air (despite a few technical difficulties which meant they weren’t even sure it was their name that had been called!)

“I had a big smile on my face. Literally! It was a great feeling, knowing that something I had produced had won an award, but the award for the station its self, the hard work of everyone who volunteers.”

The entry that got Radio Cherwell the bronze award was produced by Ian so we asked him how he put together this award-winning package…

“I spent a good couple of weeks producing the 15- minute piece, but prior to that I was already sourcing a wide range of clips from the station, and working on the narrative of the piece. I wanted to make sure I got a large majority of what we do as a station in there, and also whom our station reaches. So having patients feature in the piece is of course a main part of our listening audience.”

“When the categories were announced for the awards, I was already thinking what the station could enter, and it was my aim to enter Station Of The Year. Although I had not actually cut clips from shows, or written anything down, anything I was presenting/producing, or shows I were listening too, I was always thinking ‘Ooh maybe that would be good’ or ‘now that’s good!’ The final thing to do was to put all these creative ideas down on paper, and get editing.”

And finally a bit of advice……

Maybe after reading about Ian’s experience and about what a producer actually does has given you a flavour for the role, so we thought we’d end with some tips from Ian about how to be a good producer…

  •  Always work with your presenters and other members of the radio station. Working well as part of a team is a must. You team that most likely want the same outcome as you – to produce a really good quality piece of radio.
  •  Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts or ideas of how things could be done differently, or even if you have a new idea for something.
  •  It’s always a good idea to grasp the different roles within hospital radio; and the best way to do that is to undertake the roles. So if you find being a presenter isn’t your thing, then maybe being a producer would be. If you try and work in all aspects of hospital radio, or in radio in general, when it comes to being a producer you know the stresses and ways in which those other people work.
  •    Believe in what you produce, however big or small the production is, whether it’s a piece of audio, or a show. And mainly, try and produce something that no one else has produced, or produce something with your own unique takes on it, and make it stand out from the crowd. But overall, hard work, dedication, creativity and enthusiasm for what you produce.

If you’re a hospital radio producer and you have some tips for those aspiring to do the same then let us know.

You can follow us on twitter  or for other ways to get in touch, see our contact page.

Community RA+Edio want to thank Ian for taking the time to tell us about being a hospital radio producer. You can follow him on twitter too!


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