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Picture this, a young looking nineteen year old trying his pair of faux leather headphones on for the first time as he settles in behind the mic in a padded blue, sound proof booth to read his first travel bulletin on the local airwaves across the Midlands. With a tinge of campness (although more excitable young man breaking into radio) I read my first traffic news, and I’m pretty sure it involved cows blocking the M6 southbound between J3 for Coventry and 4 for Coleshill.
The then Programme Controller of BRMB in Birmingham, responsible for station output, referred to me as the campest thing he’d heard on radio. From then on it was imposed on me to ‘man up’ as it were. Apparently there wasn’t a place for an openly gay man on the school run. Heaven forbid little Samantha on the back seat of mummy’s Toyota Yaris should lean forward and ask why the man on the radio is talking about his boyfriend! At the time this felt very strange to me, especially as most of the men I worked with were openly gay behind the mic, and so were some of the bigger stars on shows produced for national output. Sadly locally produced commercial radio is not the forum for them to be themselves. After all, commercial radio these days is less personality driven and more finding the most generic mix of music to play.
Fortunately for the gay communities of the UK and beyond, the increase of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) licenses and growth in internet radio, means we no longer have to hold out for a queer perspective on life from our once much loved local station. Gaydar Radio, which has now handed its DAB licence to Manchester based Gaydio, pioneered the way for LGBT broadcasting, with its origins in internet broadcasting before expanding to Sky and DAB in London and the South East. Gaydio itself being the first LGBT station to broadcast on FM and so is responsible for breaking new ground.
Already in just the few opening months of 2013 we have seen a growth in the offering of online stations geared towards engaging LGBT communities with conversation and music. Showcasing fresh and exciting personalities other stations don’t offer, talking openly and frankly about gay issues, they bring to the forefront news and stories that would otherwise slip from mainstream broadcasting.
One of those online stations getting our gay voices heard is Jemm One, offering a perfect mix of personalities on their breakfast show, incorporating gay news, banter, latest releases and remixes in its Jemm Top Ten countdown, along with a daily coming out story. The station is also accompanied by the creation of an online community in its chat room, encouraging users to get involved with on air activity and chat to each other. Another is Sauce FM, LGBT radio for the South, broadcasting from Brighton. It is in a sense local radio but for the gays! So with internet stations making gay culture more accessible and more widely represented, do we now feel that there is an influx of choice for LGBT listeners?
I chatted to Simon Le Vans, daytime presenter on new station Sauce Fm who suggests not: “The fact that there is now a myriad of stations aiming their output towards LGBT people in Great Britain shows that it’s an expanding field and the recent successful launch of the Brighton based Sauce FM proves that a more local approach is another way forward.”
Simon, who previously presented such features as The Threesome on Gaydar Radio, adds: “As important as it is for LGBT people to have as many voices as possible on the air in the UK, it’s more vital than ever that our presence is felt internationally. The internet means that those who are suppressed throughout the world can hear out LGBT broadcasters talking about their lives in an open and honest way and can feel part of a global community.”
It seems that there is indeed a place for the gay voice, with an ever increasing presence too. Most importantly, these stations bring together like-minded listeners through the much loved medium of the modern day wireless, and represent those communities by positioning themselves as amazing radio stations in their own right. So let’s hope for a move in the future, where the next generation of young gay men and women, donning their faux leathers behind the mic for the first time, don’t have to suppress their sexuality on mainstream commercial radio, but can discuss their lives as naturally as presenters do on LGBT specific stations. The rise of the gay voice is upon us and it looks like it’s here to stay.