Woman’s Hour – Review

 

Woman’s Hour is a radio magazine programme with a target audience of women over 50. In 2006, 2.6 million people tuned in to listen to the show, 40% of whom were men meaning that it does in fact appeal to a wider audience. This listenership means that the programme is structured with: politics, debates, interviews and discussions to appeal to their desired age bracket.

The show opened with Presenter, Jenni Murray announcing the shows menu straight away. This did not appear in the order that it was played out however, which may have confused people tuning in wanting to listen to one particular segment. Jenni Murray also sighed as she read this out, making her come across as disinterested which could have been off putting to a potential listener as it suggests the programme will also be uninteresting.

The first topic of the programme was “Caring for the Elderly”, and was introduced with statistics and figures making it very information dense and therefore hard to take in. The piece began with a reporter on location discussing problems with this topic with a group of ladies who had relatives in care homes. The sound during this report echoed and so came across as amateur. Despite the nice variety of voices breaking up the report, it ran for five minutes causing interest to lapse.

This report ended suddenly and the presenter straight away introduced two interviewees, Newsnight’s Political Editor and a Chief Executive of a charity helping people care for elderly relatives. This segment included: political policies on the issue, advice for listeners and case studies. This range made for a well-rounded piece, yet it would been more interesting if there was a wider range of opinion in a debate style, rather than a discussion where all parties involved seemed to agree. This in studio interview was ten minutes long which, again, caused disinterest in listeners.

The next segment was transitioned into quickly, despite having nothing to do with the first. This connotes the variety in the show, ‘it’s a mix that maddens some’. (The Guardian. 2013. The Woman’s Hour Mix). The piece was an archive interview from 1981 of Meryl Streep discussing the beginning of her career. This was made relevant by her Oscar nomination, as the awards were taking place the week the show was broadcast. This interview was informative yet the sound quality was noticeably very different to the studio. The open questions asked made for long answers which kept the pace steady, and therefore easy to listen to. Meryl Streep even remarked, “that’s a very good question” at one point, reassuring the audience that the interview was of a high quality. The interview topic of the start of her career meant that it wasn’t out dated and still relevant to a modern audience. The promise of hearing from Meryl Streep encourages listeners to tune in or continue to listen, as she is massively famous and so pulls in a wider audience.

The only mention of other media platforms was done so by the presenter as this piece ended, suggesting that listeners can access more archive pieces by visiting the website. This also marked the half-way point of the programme, and so there was an update on what was still to come in the remaining segments of the show.

The next item of the programme was an in-studio interview with an ex-Head teacher discussing the pros and cons of the profession. This piece was kept very personal, engaging interest from the listener as it was hearing someone’s experiences directly from them, “every teacher I know…’.  The presenter kept the piece relevant to the target audience of women and ongoing topic of feminism by asking, ‘are more women suffering than men?’ Frequent listeners would have been interested by this, as the show is based around women in society and possible challenges they face in the modern world.

The final segment of the programme was an in-studio interview with a 15-year-old author. After the presenter introduced this, there was a reading from the book done by the author herself. This was a nice initial use of the author’s voice, as it showed her emotion as she read, as well as a good indication into the style of the book that was being discussed. The initial reading also made it feel more personal to a listener and was good use of radio being ‘a means of talking directly to the individual’ (McLeish, 2005, Radio Production, 5th ed, Burlington: Focal Press, 4). This topic was lighter than the previous ones and so was well placed as to leave the listeners positively, encouraging them to tune in again. There was no goodbye to round off the programme, only a short drama clip making the sign off feel slightly sudden.

The show had a good mix of topics yet was extremely interview heavy. The first in-studio interview would have held a lot more interest if done so as a debate, or had included an audience phone in. This would have created more involvement of the listener as they would have felt they had a voice and a platform to express it on with in the show. The sound quality of the report on elderly care and the archive interview was noticeably not of a good quality which is off putting to listeners, as it distracts from the content of the segments.

To improve the show there should be more audience involvement potentially through social media, as many of their target audience of over 50s are now literate online and so this would appeal to them. The first piece should also have been shorter to make for a better programme, as much of what was discussed was the repeated causing the listener to lose interest. The pace of the show was good despite the transitions from different items sometimes seeming to be rushed, the overall quality of Woman’s Hour was high as knowledgeable guests and an articulate presenter ensured a well-executed programme.

(Broadcast – .18/02/15.)

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