In praise of Ken Bruce

Ken Bruce- Bauer Media UK

I’ve drafted a few posts from time to time about individuals who grace our communal airwaves. Steve Wright, John McCauley and now Ken Bruce. I mused over posting this for some time, after first sampling Ken in his new home on GHR and thought at the time, “I’ll come back in a while and see how it sits”.

Much as been said and posted about the move from Radio 2 to Greatest Hits Radio and indeed I have also posted something along those lines in the past. This though is a bit different. I wanted to give the show in its new home some time to bed in, knock the rough edges off and gets used to the surroundings. (I should add that from the initial listen there weren’t any noticeable rough edges!) Anyway, there is so much change… BBC National to Commercial. Ad-free to having ad breaks. Single output national network on Radio 2 to multiple split complexity at GHR. BBC Studio to commercial studio and operation. Let alone thing like a playout system change, desk change, mic change, how it sounds in your headphones change (seemingly insignificant but can make a world of difference to any presenter- just ask one!).

Ken began on GHR at the beginning of April and so nearing two months later, its enough time for the raw “newness” to have worn off, new habits to form and any idiosyncratic habitual errors and slips to have been largely ironed out. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it is still very NEW. By now though the new car smell should have started to dissipate a tad.

Firstly, worth noting that the old show at Radio 2 was no easy ride. It was the biggest show in the UK if not Europe, and so had a lot riding on it. This new home and show is also no walk in the park either. Just from listening around, GHR does some complex and well thought through splits. I am impressed by the volume and the localism. Sitting in Derbyshire listening to DAB, getting Derbyshire travel and hourly news on the local multiplex and this replicated around the UK is pretty heavy lifting. I’m reminded of my days in the Smooth network when switching the former Gold AM and Local DAB outputs to Smooth and most significantly NOT doing all of those local splits. Local traffic was a thing for sure (provided by Inrix) and that existed previously, but the AM and local DAB took the London output feed and so you could sit in the West Country, or more annoyingly Wales and hear, “London’s Smooth” spoken from presenters in non-split and the London News bulletin. GHR is a different to that and a level of effort and production that makes a big difference- to a demographic for whom localness is more important too. I know from experience that this effort takes a lot of time and careful planning, accurate timing from presenters and journalists spread across the country- which takes a LOT of buy-in. There are many moving parts and much can go wrong, but boy when it goes right!

So right from the off, the show has a local feel and accent to it which wouldn’t have been there with Ken’s former home. It’s not pretending to be local though, but an added benefit and extra relevance for a regional listener. Sitting in the middle of that tech and timing complexity, is the voice of Ken Bruce- sounding effortlessly at ease. It is a compelling combination for the demographic.

It takes a supreme professionalism to make it sound so effortless. A swan looks elegant above the water, but beneath it they are paddling like crazy. There is a deftness of touch, a confidence and surety that there is no need to overdo anything- provide just enough, and then move on. Listener interaction via messages and what could be described as “dad joke” type comments build a sense of an inclusive team with listeners and Ken. It’s not an exclusive listen, but welcoming and open and you don’t feel left out of the joke. There are of course echoes of Wogan here- the same feeling of being in a “club of listeners” (TOGS).

There is an overwhelming feeling of having fun too- Ken sounds like he is enjoying the experience and sharing that with the listener who responds in kind. His style never takes himself too seriously and it brings with it a sense of charm.

What also strikes me is that this massive change- everything that has altered with the fabric and workings of the show previously, has happened with a presenter who is- well… not in the early bloom of his career. Age is not, and should not be a defining factor, and I don’t see age- what I see here is immense EXPERIENCE. It’s still impressive though!

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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