Ronan O’Rahilly and Radio Carlione: Radio Entrepreneur and PR Genius 

By James Knight.

If you are old enough to remember when there was no Radio 1 and the Light Programme was around, you will know a great change has happened and how PR has influenced the change in the radio industry. 

After the Second World War we in Britain were crying out for the latest music from America, through good PR and a market of listeners we had the pirate station Radio Luxembourg through the crackle of a signal with Barry Alldis and Uncle Pete Murray. 

Then came along a brilliant PR man, Ronan O’Rahilly. An Irish businessman who through clever marketing brought us Radio Caroline. He transformed listening overnight with PR about the music and advertising and captured a ripe audience. 

Then Radio London arrived, both of them floating just outside territory waters off Clacton and Walton-on-the-Naze. The two made stars of Tony Blackburn and the legendary Johnnie Walker, and the late great Kenny Everett, innovative PR to create an audience of listeners and the best PR word of mouth. 

Well, in the end the Harold Wilson Government closed them down and the sound waves were filled with national radio. The emergence of Radio 1 showed the determination of the public and music people to create national radio that catered for a young audience. 

But where has it gone wrong? Originally Capital Radio came along in London, with Richard Attenborough has chairman. It had great jingles to add to its PR to push commercial radio with legends like Roger Scott and the Three O’Clock Thrill, Graham Dean Breakfast presenters and Mick and Pat, who opened my business, were household names with their own PR. 

Now we have celebrity presenters on radio, very few with music knowledge, BBC local radio lacks personalities, shows are in many instances are bland. ‘Personality’ radio is the new norm.  

Where do we go now Pop Pickers? We need more DJ presenters who have a loyalty to the listeners and who listeners could associate with. 

Talk Radio concept seems to be fine with LBC having diverse presenters and Classic FM with its specialists shows they have found their niche. 

Older listeners are a crucial market who have spending power. We need slick advertising and positive PR to entice them to stations more for them, like new station Boom Radio playing music older listeners can associate with. 

PR entrepreneurs we need you now in radio.

Professor James Knight is an international businessman, public relations practitioners and academic. He was Fellow of Bournemouth University Public Relations School, guest speaker at Judge Cambridge, Surrey, Bath and Reading, International Mentor for Oxford Brookes on Hospitality. He is a Fellow of CIPR and the Society of Public Relations of America, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Directors. 

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