Exclusive Interview: Jacqui Oatley

Jacqui Oatley is a sports broadcaster for the BBC- mostly commentating for radio 5 live on football matches and reporting for Football Focus.

She was the first female commentator on Match of the Day back in 2007 and has since been a vital member of the BBC’s coverage. I caught up with Jacqui for a quick chat about all things audio……….

Route into broadcasting/radio work……

I was doing something else I wasn’t interested in and so I decided to change career, scoured the internet for journalists and have a look how they got into it. I studied print journalism and radio production at evening classes while broadcasting on hospital radio. Then I gave up my job and flat, spent a summer sleeping on friends’ floors whilst doing work experience full time. 

I then undertook the Broadcast Journalism Diploma at Birmingham. While I was there I worked doing non- league football for Radio League so when I finished my course I then had some freelance work for them.

First professional broadcast for BBC Radio Leeds…..

It was a scary moment. I spent the day frantically researching Wakefield and Worksop which almost impossible.  It was a really steep learning curve and even though it was very difficult I really enjoyed it and showed me I was in the right career, you’ve got to start somewhere!

Advice on getting into commentating/broadcasting….

Be prepared to work extremely hard and to to work on subjects that aren’t your ideal and don’t narrow your options down too much. As a sports journalist you should be able to be sent to anything and so the more employable you are the more opportunities you’ll get. You work your way towards your ideal by getting to know people and taking any opportunity. Be prepared to work anywhere in the country or even abroad. Be prepared to put aside your social life because I think the people that idealise that narrow down their options. You’ve got to be willing, keen, able and hard working for any amount of hours and on weekends.

What makes a good commentator/broadcaster….

I thing when it comes to radio you need somebody who is able to paint pictures. You need to have the vocabulary to describe a situation whether it’s dark, light or whether there are thousands of bright red bucket seats left. You need to have a good voice and a good personality because if you’re quite monotonous then that  is very difficult to connect with.

I think you need good banter, we’re not talking about sport which ultimately is about entertainment and that is why we are all so obsessed with it. Especially in radio commentary I think if you can have some banter, which I love doing, and have a good rapour with whoever you’re working with then I think it makes it much easier and more enjoyable for the audience.

Technical howlers…..

Yeh the worst was with Arsene Wenger when it was the final interviews before Highbury was closed down. I sat down in a room with him, he gave me the loveliest interview, just the best interview I’ve done with him as he was wax lyrical about marble halls. Then afterwards I tried to edit something directly on the mini disk and pressed delete all instead of delete clip. It was supposed to go out for the whole of the BBC, not just 5 Live but local radio were relying on it.

I was absolutely devastated but bless Wenger, I had to wait another two hours for him to finish other interviews, but I managed to grab him at the end for a couple of minutes but his answers were much shorter and I’ve never forgiven myself for that. I certainly learned my lesson!

Highlight so far….

I would say going to the World Cup in South Africa last year as a commentator for 5 live was awesome. My mum is South African so it was a real thrill to be there and briefly see my relatives. It was amazing to go back to a country I know so well and see them put on such a good show. Unfortunately the football wasn’t always the best actually the football was probably the downside of it. You had people partying all over, it was wonderful and a real privilege to be there. Also to work with summarisers such as David Pleat, Graham Taylor, Danny Mills it was really enjoyable to spend time with these colleagues

Into the future…..

I would love to work at the Olympics, I think it is going to be absolutely amazing, certainly for the football but for anything else that comes up.

Tweeting away….

I do it mainly because I enjoy it, I’m a bit of an information junkie. But it is quite addictive. It is an important way for networking, journalism is all about information and contacts so it is a very useful tool.

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Theatre – more than just a feast for the eyes

Louis de Bernières’ Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World at the Southwark Playhouse

Some of what I didn't see... courtesy of Jane Hobson

Some of what I didn’t see… courtesy of Jane Hobson

Some of what I didn’t see…

“A play for voices” say the marketing leaflets for theatre company Bad Physics‘ performance of Louis de Bernières’ play – ripped from the radio and put onstage for the first time. I went to the gala performance, curious to see how a radio play can be adapted for stage – and was in for a surprise.

When you enter the freezing Southwark Playhouse,  cast members give you a blindfold. Immediately you are deprived of the sense of sight. You don’t have to wear it all the time – or at all – but I chose to keep mine on (I’d taken off my glasses anyway and am totally blind without them).

If you do choose to “peek” or to refuse a blindfold – and there’s a lot of activity to watch if you do, as the cast haven’t given up on the acting side of things. Not that I’d know of course…

I was ushered blind to my seat, while voices chattered around me. It was very disorientating. Occasionally a “cat” miawed in my ear, there was the sound – and the smell – of bacon sizzling in a pan, a woman sang in the shower (later I discovered she was singing into a plastic cup), and a “dog” brushed past my legs.

Everything conjured up the “image” (for want of a better word) of Earlsfield, London, on a Sunday morning. There wasn’t much of a storyline, but in classic de Bernières style, you got a real sense of a place, a time, an atmosphere and above all the characters who were integral to creating it. And sure enough, I began to imagine the whole scene in my mind’s eye.

“When you listen to a radio drama or read a novel everything is in your head,” said director Amy Draper.

Seeing the actors afterwards in the post-show discussion was very peculiar. One woman who had “peeked” from under her blindfold said that although there was some great acting going on onstage, she had been faced with that bitter disappointment akin to watching a film after reading the book, where “in the flesh” doesn’t quite match up your imagination.

However, an American in the audience did say she had to give up on the blindfold, as she had been unable to fathom the “British accents” onstage.

I came away realising how much productions can skimp on the other senses when they get sidetracked by flashy costumes and complex actions.

“People always talk about going to see a play,” said Louis de Bernières (of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin fame). “But I think it’s so much more important to listen and to feel the play too.” And my goodness, we did.

The show runs at the Southwark Playhouse from 22 March – 16 April. Tickets £6-£16. Call 020 7407 0234 or visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

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A great little app – iTalk and Karen Buck’s faux pas

Maybe I should get a fee for this plug...

No, I’m not being paid to advertise this. I genuinely, genuinely think I’ve stumbled upon a great free recording app that all journalists should know about.

I found iTalk by literally searching for “free voice recording” on my iPhone, after my ridiculously budget, battery-powered, non-plug-in-able dictaphone kept packing up on me at the most inconvenient of moments.

It’s essentially a dictaphone hidden in your phone.

The first time it saved my bacon was when my dictaphone packed in at a public meeting at Andover Estate on 12 March.

Coincidentally, it was at this meeting that MP Karen Buck made some fairly forthright comments suggesting “the Tories want Muslims out of London”.

Thanks to that little app, my colleague Joe Dyke and I could get the news out to the Independent – see the article here.

Now I have discovered that I can download another piece of software – iTalk sync – onto my computer, and share this quote with you online.

You need iTalk on your phone first, then visit the iTalk website, sign up, then download iTalk Sync onto your computer. Then link your iPhone up a WiFi network (probably the one your computer is on), make sure iTalk is switched on on your phone, and away you go!

It downloads it as an AIFF , so I tinkered with Audacity to select Ms Buck MP’s punchiest quote. Unfortunately youconvertit.com couldn’t cope with a file this size to make it an MP3, so I downloaded FoxTab, which was really fast and efficient – highly recommended.

So here we go – thanks to iTalk and a spot of tinkering – Karen Buck slates the Tories.

And on another plug for iTalk – depending on your moral stance towards secret taps and recordings – it could be a useful little device for  undercover recording…

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Get Back – EMI cracks down on illegal Beatles songs

Here’s a lesson to be learned about the legal issues of using other people’s music online.

I’ve just read in this somewhat cornily-worded article in The Inquirer (and the prize for the most Fab Four puns goes to…) that a website called BlueBeat.com is having to pay $950,000 to EMI Group for selling Beatles songs illegally.

The webiste, owned by Santa Cruz company Media Rights Technologies, was charging 25 cents per song. But they don’t own the copyright – EMI does.

They were making a quick buck – but this isn’t all that dissimilar from the treatment you’ll get if you’re caught putting free copies of tracks online – or downloading them  – as we saw when the free music giant LimeWire was finally taken off the Internet in 2010 after a court ruled it had committed copyright infringement.

Yet another lesson about how easily you can trip up with audio online.

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Time for a quickie

Just like in audio – short and succinct can be so much better than a long old ramble, so here’s a wee post to tell you about radio advertising.

It’s one of the most successful forms of advertising, going to show the sheer volume of people who listen to the radio, and the power of the subconscious in picking up on messages without you realising.

Have you ever noticed that podcasts begin with ads and any ad breaks cannot be manually bypassed? It’s all part of the master plan. Almost like a deal, really. ‘We’ll let you stream our stuff for free but you must listen to adverts that generate our revenue’. Clever.

This website is all about radio advertising.

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Milliband attempts to make his mark at the march

Last weekend’s cuts protest were over shadowed by a minority using the march as an excuse to create havoc.

All the headlines focused around grubby ‘anarchists’ attempting to make their voice heard however an aspect ignored was Ed Milliband’s speech.

He has now been heavily criticised for his involvement and bizarrely used a Martin Luther King quote! Have a listen below to his speech on the BBC News Channel…..

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Caught in the act

This is a YouTube video Oculis Labs oculisinc sent me on Twitter. It is of someone being caught at work watching the Royal Wedding.

If only they’d been listening instead and then they could multi-task and be working at the same time!

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