Spark a debate on the radio – go on, I dare you


Some of our best shows are the ones that contain controversy. When listeners get involved in the conversation and specifically when they disagree with us, it makes for interesting radio where everyone learns something.

Different angles around a topic can be discovered and new information is presented. The hard part, the part I actually really enjoy, is deciphering the right way to present a disagreement. The worst thing you can do is ignore that listener who has taken the time to text in their views.

The one-sided nature of being on the radio means you ultimately have the voice and control over the discussion. That comes with responsibility. The listeners are often silent partners but as a DJ and presenter you want your silent partners to speak up and get involved – we shout the text line out multiple times during a show and are often surprised by which topics get the people talking. As a DJ you have a responsibility to represent your listener’s views as the listeners intend them to be represented. If you’re not sure what the listener means by a text, ask them to clarify before making assumptions that could aggravate them. It is also important to note that no opinion is wrong, and you shouldn’t present it as right or wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective. From parliament, all the way down, the art of debate is being lost. We may say things that are wrong factually or wrong in other’s eyes but that doesn’t define them and doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard.

You have to be respectful but also, if you’ve done your research, it is OK to stand your ground. If you have presented facts that a listener disputes, reassure them of the source and make it clear that these are facts, not your own opinion. When you do present research to back up a point make sure it’s solid and from a good source. Don’t go shouting off statistics you’ve seen on Facebook – that really is a recipe for disaster. McKinsey reports are a good source.

On Kane FM, amongst the music, only 25% of the show should be chat, but that 25% is the perfect opportunity to spark a debate and get the listeners involved. Talk to your listeners as if you are speaking to individual people and invite them to join in. Obviously getting them to join in is easier said than done which is why your topics are so important. Pick issues in the news agenda but be careful, political discussions are not aligned with the ‘Kane way’ and you might be mistaken for presenting the political standpoint of the whole station, which could be a huge mistake and ultimately lose you your show.

We avoid politics completely. Mostly because it’s the Wake Up Happy Show and politics, particularly at the moment, is not a happy topic! But the other reason is that we really don’t know enough about politics to make up our own minds, never mind broadcast them articulately. Which brings me on to my next point…

Know your topic. Don’t talk about things you don’t know about. We’ve slipped up here a few times and the listeners can clock a fraud instantly. If you want to talk about something you don’t know much about, get an expert in and interview them. It’s good to shake things up a bit and get new people on your shows. Plus, you’ll learn about the subject so can go back to it at a later date.

Some subjects are timeless and you can return to them. There are also calendar events you can lock onto to incite topical discussions. International Women’s Day and mental health month are good examples and show you to be up to date with what’s happening in the world, giving you credibility.

Most importantly, respect each individual listener, stay calm and don’t get offended by opposing views. And if you do, for god’s sake don’t show it. It comes across as very unprofessional.

Well that’s it for now. Good luck sparking those debates kids!