Written by Bernard P Achampong
Earlier this week Reggie Yates, broadcaster and documentary don, released a statement on Twitter. He was stepping down from hosting this Christmas’ Top of the Pops. Shock! Reggie… why? Well, it was his response to the reaction to some comments he made on a podcast a few weeks ago. He stereotyped some men in the Jewish community and when the press got hold of it… well, you probably heard about that bit.
Firstly I’m not going to get into what he said, why he said it, what it meant or who it offended. From my perspective, that’s not the point. My perspective is one of an experienced audio producer. As a producer, I understand that my role is greater than just recording and editing good audio. The producer, and ultimately the executive producer, is responsible for every aspect of each episode – whether that’s good, bad or ugly.
Podcasting has become like the Wild West. There’s a sense that anything goes. So when things go wrong, who takes responsibility? That is my job. I am the producer. I create, mould, shape and basically own this podcast. I’m the daddy in this production. I have to look after the well-being and integrity of everyone involved. Everyone involved has got to feel that I have got their back, especially when the stuff hits the fan.
SENSITIVE, NOT SENSATIONAL
So for example, if my presenter says something that’s not factually correct, I have to check to make sure the information is right. Otherwise, edit it out. Sometimes in the flow of conversation, a guest will say something that’s inappropriate. Fair enough. It was in the heat of the moment and things can get a bit loose and lively in the studio. When you’re editing though, my producer’s brain has to be sharp to make sure that as well as good sound quality, I am also being fair to individuals or groups who aren’t in the studio with us to stand up for themselves.
It’s not easy. There’s a balance to be made between getting something exciting, maybe even controversial, and protecting the people you are working with. When I recorded with Cherlene Wilson for Purity Talks Podcast, my question for each line during the edit was ‘if Cherlene were my younger sister, how would it make her look if I put this word or sentence out there?’ You will hear that although we go there in all three episodes, it was about being sensitive to the authenticity and accuracy of her story; without going all News of the World sensational. As a producer, I am responsible for the integrity of the podcast as well as caring for my presenter and its guests.
My biggest problem with Reggie Yates’ comment is that we got to hear them from a podcast. Even if the point of the podcast was for banter around stereotypes, it needed to be clear that this is the context in which the podcast exists – otherwise, it should not have made it past the editing process. I do that kind of thing every episode with Nothing To Declare podcast. Teef , Kojo and Amarie push the limits because that’s the tone of the podcast. However, I have to be 100% certain that all their bases are covered. Things like warnings on the artwork and very clear episode descriptions also help. We have even thrown complete episodes out because we didn’t think it was fair to someone or some group.
HOW DO I PRODUCE A PODCAST
The BBC’s editorial guidelines have become an industry standard producers handbook. It covers everything from working with children to undue prominence of brands and sponsors to libel, defamation and copyright advice. This kind of diligence makes the difference between being on my A-game and trying a ting. For me, this ‘producer thinking’ is similar to a chef knowing what to do so his customers don’t get food poisoning.
This is my opinion though. What do you think?