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British Broadcasting Vets beginning to make the jump

Another way the UK is mirroring the US scene.

Here’s another way in which the UK podcast scene mirrors that of the US: for a long time in the UK, podcasting was the medium of choice for people near the start of their careers, hoping to make a splash by circumventing the more cautious gatekeepers at establishment outlets like the BBC. In recent months, though, I’ve been keeping a little tally of the new shows launched by middle-aged men who already have a substantial profile in broadcasting, who are turning to podcasting either because their usual broadcaster doesn’t want their stuff anymore — or because they’d rather talk straight to their audience without any layers of bureaucracy in between.

One such show that caught my eye was I Like Films, hosted by Jonathan Ross (erstwhile king of Friday night interview TV shows and one-time host of the BBC’s flagship film programme). It’s made by Radio Wolfgang and hosted by Audioboom, and looks — unsurprisingly — to be an interview show with film-related subjects (the first episode features Spike Lee).

Stephen Fry also recently made a return to podcasting proper for the first time in ten years with Great Leap Years, a narrative documentary series about tech that I think is notable mostly for its original music, recorded by a 75-piece orchestra at Abbey Road studios in London. I can’t imagine the BBC shelling out for that kind of elaborate scoring; the sponsor Hyundai seems to have provided resources more in line with Fry’s vision.

The film critic Mark Kermode, one half of the BBC Radio 5 Live show Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review (which has twice won the Listener’s Choice award at the British Podcast Awards and claims to be the UK’s most popular source of new film reviews), is also breaking out to lead his own standalone independent podcast. The trailer for Kermode on Film just dropped, and the launch details suggest that the show grows partly out of Kermode’s sell-out live film events. Basically, he has a profile that is outgrowing his gig at the BBC, and his own show will allow the fee he takes home to grow as the audience does.

Sometimes, the connection between an established broadcaster’s old radio gig and their new podcast is crystal clear, as in the case of Simon Mayo (the other half of that duo with Mark Kermode). The monthly Book Club element of his BBC Radio 2 show was axed in April owing to scheduling changes, so he turned the segment into his own independent podcast: Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year. This is the purest example of this trend I’ve identified: the BBC didn’t want a show for radio anymore, so the longstanding broadcaster behind the production signs up with Acast to deliver ads and bring it back on his — always a he — own.

Podcasting: it’s not just for the kids anymore, apparently. Mid-career broadcasters want a piece of the action too.