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Intellectuals in the media

Posted by lostincci on November 12, 2007

One of the year’s major events in the MA Cultural and Creative Industries calendar took place on Friday 2 November – the conference
I’m An Intellectual: Get Me Out Of Here!, jointly hosted by King’s College London and the Radio Academy.

The day-long conference, held in a plush BBC conference room overlooking Marylebone High Street, considered from a variety of angles the basic question of how intellectuals and academic research figure in today’s media. The keynote speech was from the current Controller of BBC Radio Four, Mark Damazer, who is pictured below, centre, with the conference organisers (L and R) Dr Richard Howells (King’s College London) and Trevor Dann (the Radio Academy).

Howells Damazer and Dann
(Photo: Greg Funnell)

Damazer gave his vision of Radio Four becoming what he called an ‘oral encyclopedia’ – an online archive of both sound recordings and text. On the intellectual-ness of the channel and its listeners, he commented: ‘What matters is to be intellectually curious rather than to be an intellectual’, adding that Radio Four had ‘the best mass audience’ in radio. Damazer was asked some searching questions including why there weren’t more northerners on Radio Four, and on why the station seemed to appeal so little to younger listeners. Damazer admitted that Radio Four had not done enough to engage what he called the ‘second wave of higher education’, and that there was work to be done.

Other highlights of the day included a talk from the sociologist Professor Frank Furedi, who pointed out the extent of the media’s dependence on stories about new research (for example in medicine and social science). There were also entertaining interviews with the film critic Mark Kermode (who holds a PhD and is visiting lecturer at Southampton University), and the Cambridge-educated comedian Hugh Dennis. Kermode (top) and Dennis (bottom) are pictured being interviewed below.

Kermode
(Photo: Greg Funnell)

Dennis
(Photo: Greg Funnell)

A panel entitled Radio Ga-Ga and chaired by our own Dr Harvey Cohen discussed how far there can be a mutually beneficial collaboration between academia and universities, and how academics can get their research and scholarship on air. Maria Balikska of the BBC World Service spoke of the explosion in demand for publically-accessible information, and reminded academics that they ignored this at their peril. A further warning came from another panellist who pointed out that the broadcaster has to take into account how the academic sounds. Eve Salomon of Channel Four Radio (a newcomer to the radio market) emphasised the responsibility of commercial radio stations to their advertisers. Another panel was entitled Red Light Spells Danger, and discussed how academics cope with the sometimes alienating media environment. The question of whether the BBC was northern enough was again addressed by Dr Paul Taylor of Leeds University in his speech.

After the event guests stayed behind and chatted over some much-anticipated cold lagers. Help throughout the day came from current MA CCI students Jonathan Kluger, Saskia Neuman and Kathy Williams.

The photo below shows (L-R) Trevor Dann, Will Saunders (Deputy Head of Entertainment, BBC Radio Four), Dr Richard Howells and Hugh Dennis posing beside a vintage advertisement for the BBC’s listings magazine, the Radio Times.

Dann Saunders Howells Dennis
(Photo: Greg Funnell)

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