Radio silence is no joke

Radio silence is no joke

In his latest “One Vale View” column, Rob Fielding expresses his disappointment that BBC Radio Stoke won’t be offering full match commentary of Port Vale’s FA Cup first round game against Grimsby Town.

He explains how the commentary is essential for exiles like himself and gives five reasons why he thinks the decision should be reversed.

Radio Stoke is essential listening for exiles like me, who are simply unable, due to work and family, to attend every Vale game. So, it’s with some disappointment that I have learnt that BBC Radio Stoke will NOT be offering full match commentary on the Port Vale v Grimsby Town FA Cup game.

The first hint that Vale’s game would not be covered came via this news article on the Nantwich Town website:

“We have just received notice that BBC Radio Stoke have designated Saturdays historic FA Cup fight as the full live commentary game of the afternoon and will be broadcasting the build up and the entire game on all frequencies starting from 2pm on Saturday.”

With the key being the phrase “on all frequencies.”

A quick glance at the online BBC Radio Stoke schedule confirmed the worst with the news that Sport on Saturday has “full match coverage of MK Dons v Nantwich Town, and updates on our other local sides.”

While I understand that BBC Radio Stoke have budgetary issues, I cannot understand this decision and here are five reasons why the station should reconsider:

1. Staffing: If they are producing “regular updates” then a commentator will be at Vale Park anyway. I realise that they may have to do sole match commentary without a summariser, but surely the radio station (and viewers) would get more value from their employee broadcasting for 90 minutes than for a couple of minutes every quarter of an hour?

2. Multiple frequencies: By all means keep Nantwich’s big game as the key match and broadcast on the showcase frequency – FM, but does it really need to go onto the medium wave and DAB frequencies too? Cannot other matches be covered on there?

3. It’s the FA Cup: while some say its impact has been eroded (and that may be true for the Premier League big boys) it still remains one of, if not the, highlight of the season for lower-league and non-league clubs. An FA Cup run can transform a season. It deserves the same level of coverage as our League Two fixtures.

4. Balance: what an odd game to pick when you consider BBC Radio Stoke didn’t baulk at having full-match commentary of that other “big” cup competition – the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy? I understand that Radio Stoke pretty much has to do full commentary of the League games to fulfil a contract and probably wants to cut costs for Cup games. But if it’s about cost cutting… why did Radio Stoke offer full commentary of the JPT but not of the FA Cup? If one game had to go, surely fans would have picked the JPT tie.

5. Remit: this is the BBC we are talking about, a national broadcaster whose local stations have a remit to serve their local population. In my book, it’s fairly black and white (pardon the pun) that you either commit to cover all Vale’s games or if you can’t you hand over to another station who can. You do not cherry pick games – certainly in such a random way that suggests live commentary of a JPT tie takes preference over the FA Cup first round.

To sum up, I’m really disappointed by this decision and I hope that BBC Radio Stoke either explains exactly how this decision was made or even better, sees sense and reverses it before kick-off on Saturday.

Otherwise, the following “Praise and Grumble” phone-in programme may not make happy listening for Radio Stoke executives…

About the author: Rob Fielding has been a Port Vale fan for thirty years. He founded the award-winning website in 1996. These are his personal views and he welcomes your comments on them.

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