BCU alumnus returns to celebrate 30-year anniversary of radio module

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 09 JANUARY

Inspired by Sonic AM, a BCU student radio station from 30 years ago, current final year Media Production students have launched their own station, Redux Radio, this week.

Sonic AM was run by 16 Media students at our predecessor institution, University of Central England, launched in December 1993 and broadcasted from the studios at our former City North campus in Perry Barr.

This week, in tribute to the creators of the original radio station and to celebrate the 30th anniversary, current students are broadcasting 24 hours a day until 13 January, with live programming from 8am to 10pm.

In celebration, BCU Media and Communications Alumnus Steve Wynne, who was part of the Sonic AM team 30 years ago, returned to campus this week to meet with the Redux Radio team, be interviewed live on air and offer advice to those following in his footsteps.

After graduating in 1994, Steve has had an exciting career and is now the CEO of his own TV production company. But before he got his start in the media industry, Steve was getting the skills and experience he needed at BCU.

He said: “I’m from the Wirral, and I was the first in my family to go to university, so it was a huge thing for me to do. I almost studied Politics at Essex, but I’d already started working in hospital radio and at my local station too, and I loved it. I wasn’t very academic at school, I wasn’t sporty, and I didn’t really fit in, but when I found radio, I discovered that I was alright at it! So, when I came to BCU for an open day and looked at the TV and radio studios, I just knew it would be great.

“During my time at BCU, I lived in Erdington near Spaghetti Junction, Highgate and ended up in Edgbaston in my final year. I used to drive to the university campus, park at the One Stop Shopping Centre and head over to the Baker Building, and I’ll never forget the Paternoster lifts there!

“I had a great time during my studies. The course was brilliant. It was also amazing to be away from home as I learned a huge amount and I loved Birmingham. I didn’t know the city before I arrived, but it was a great time to be here. Gas Street Basin had just been finished and there were loads of new clubs.

“My favourite spots were Ritzy and The Dome, where it was just 99p for a pint. There were also the spots around Digbeth Coach Station, which had a few underground clubs, where the real clubbers would be until the break of dawn. And of course, The Duck on the Hagley Road was huge. It was a great city to have a lot of fun in.”

Sonic AM featured on ITV Central News, including Steve Wynne.

The alumnus has fond memories of being part of Sonic AM, too. He said: “The radio station was both nerve-wracking and brilliant, because it was the opportunity to put into practice all the things you have learned over the three years, and it was a real practical challenge that was going towards your final grade.

“It also got me prepared for what I’d do in the future, and learning all the different techniques, from interviewing people, how to record, writing the story, formatting it for radio and also make it entertaining were invaluable. There is so much more to radio than just presenting and introducing songs, and the skills I picked up stood me in good stead when I went into the industry.

“The students completing the module now are very lucky to have the same software and technology that we have in the industry. They are using the same things that we use in broadcasts, and that is key, as when they graduate and get a job, they will be able to walk into a radio or TV station and know exactly how to use the software and what they need to do, as they have already been doing it for more than three years.”

After graduating from BCU, Steve went straight into the TV industry, which paved the way for his incredible career so far.

“More than 30 years ago, we didn’t have the internet, so trying to find a job was interesting because we didn’t know where to start. You had to look in The Guardian every Monday, which had about 10 pages of media jobs. I applied for almost every job, and, eventually, an opportunity came about shortly before I graduated. It was for a new TV station called Orbit that would be broadcasting from Rome in Italy. It was an English language TV station and a new satellite network with 28 channels. I went down to interview in London and got a fax saying I’d got the job the day before I did my last university exam. I flew straight to Rome, I was just 20 years old, and I hadn’t even graduated yet!

“I started at Orbit with the programming team, and I would put the advert breaks in all the different channels. The job involved long days sometimes even working through the night, but I learned a huge amount about TV and managed to muscle my way onto the kids channel as a presenter and a producer. As it was a start-up, I was able to learn how to do the graphics, edit, and everything in between. I was there for three years before I came back to the UK, and somehow managed to get a job as a Producer at the Disney Channel. I worked on a show from 3pm-7pm every day. We were on in between the likes of Recess and Lizzie McGuire. It was mad as we literally never knew what we were going to do next! I worked with the likes of Stephen Mulhern, as Disney Channel was his first TV job and we used to get him to do magic all the time because we didn’t know what else to do with him!

“After a few years, I moved to ITV to work as a Producer on SMTV. Back then, no one really knew who Ant and Dec were, and Cat Deeley was brand new too. We had a massive studio to play with, so we came up with the likes of ‘Wonkey Donkey’ and ‘Chums’. We flew around the world to interview everyone from Billie Piper to Westlife. We would have 150 kids in the studio, which we had to swap with 150 teenagers in just a three-minute advert break for CD:UK, where we would have over four million viewers. It was huge, and we had Prince, Mariah Carey and even Britney Spears on the show.

“Disney Channel eventually offered me a role as an Executive Producer where I stayed until 2005, and then I moved to Warner Brothers. I looked after the format at Warner Brothers, and we rolled out huge shows such as 'The Bachelor' to France, Iceland, and Slovakia. Working at Warner Brothers gave me insight into the business side of TV, rather than just production.”

After working for ITV and Disney Channel, Steve decided to go it alone and set up his very own independent production company, Rival Media, which he worked on for five years before establishing Strawberry Blond, which he has run since 2012.

He said: “I’m very fortunate to have a career where I’ve never really felt like I’m working because I just love what I do. At Strawberry Blond, we have been fortunate to win multiple awards and work on so many great shows. We started off doing children’s TV, and eventually moved into creating entertainment shows for Channel 4, BBC One and Dave.”

Steve is now back on radio for the first time since graduating from BCU, after joining the 'Made in Kent' team.

He said: “'Made in Kent' is my first time in radio since I studied at BCU. I got invited to take part by Nigel Mitchell, who I worked with at Disney Channel. We've remained friends and he told me that he was starting a new local radio station. I’m now part of the team running it and I even do two shows on the weekend and an 80s and 90s show on a Wednesday.

“It’s exciting as there are so many cuts happening in BBC local radio, and we’re here to fill the gap and celebrate everything in Kent, from events to local businesses. We’re keen to eventually roll out the format across the UK too. Being back at BCU and around the current radio students has really felt like a full circle."

After 30 years, Steve has a huge amount of advice for current students and fellow graduates looking to get into the media industry.

He said: “My advice is to do your research. It is easy to contact people in the TV industry, just look for names in the credits, find out what they do and search for them online. Choose four of them that you’d love to work for and contact them, but never say ‘To whom it may concern’, as those emails will go straight to junk. Use their name, and ask them if you can take them for a coffee or if you can have just 10 minutes of their time for an online call.

“There is no need to bombard them, but you have to be cheeky sometimes and contact them again if you don’t get a response. There are hundreds of people out there who want the same jobs and opportunities as you, so think about what makes you special and why they should hire you.”

Redux Radio is a 90s and 00s nostalgia station, which is airing news programmes, breakfast shows and a celebration of genres like Britpop, Garage and Club Classics. The project is part of the formal assessment process for students and is designed to give them an opportunity to get practical experience in media production, with them taking on job roles such as Station Manager, Head of Music, Marketing Manager and Feature Producers. Listen here

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