Tune in to the issues

MACH FM is back with its mix of music and live debate to help delegates and visitors get the best from the show. HELEN BEASLEY reports

A manufacturing industry exhibition seems an unlikely home for a radio station, but after its successful launch in 1998, MACH FM will again be taking to the airwaves to accompany the MACH 2000 show.

Organised by the Machine Tool Technologies Association and the Milestone Group, the station will broadcast a range of programmes 24 hours-a-day throughout the exhibition, to provide delegates with information on the week’s events.

From a studio outside Hall 5, it will broadcast a mix of music and live debate. The signal will be fed to each room at the Metropole and Jarvis Hotels on the NEC complex, to the shuttle buses heading into the exhibition, and over the PA system within the exhibition halls themselves.

`So from the moment someone gets up in the morning and switches on their radio, they can hear exactly what’s going on, what the big product launches are, and who the key speakers will be,’ says Jeremy Dry, project manager of MACH FM at the Milestone Group.

Even those not able to attend the exhibition can tune into MACH FM over the internet.

Running a radio station is a considerable undertaking, and planning began as the doors closed on MACH 98. Sound engineers searched the region for suitable sites to house transmission equipment, and clambered on to the roof of the NEC to rig cables. From here the signal is sent to the transmission site two miles away, where it can be beamed across the West Midlands. An entire studio’s worth of sound and recording equipment has been moved to the conference facilities in Birmingham, accompanied by a team of producers.

Dry compares the format to programmes such as the BBC’s Jimmy Young show, and says it provides industry with its own talking-shop.

`The subject matter is engineering, so it covers everything from why Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world in training the next generation of engineers, and why engineering is not as popular a university subject in this country as it is around the world, to the benefits of graphite tooling as opposed to silicon tooling,’ he says.

The breakfast show will be presented by BBC Radio 4 and World Service announcer Jim Lee, who once worked in the engineering industry with Coventry-based railway buffer manufacturer Oleo Pneumatics. He and his fellow presenters, from the BBC and commercial radio, will be running music-oriented programmes, interspersed with live debates about the state of the industry. Issues covered will include the high level of the pound and exporting, featuring guests such as government ministers and key industry people. Guests in 1998 included Peter Lilley, the then paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson, and the 1996 England football squad.

The presenters will link up with experts in the US and the Far East to discuss the state of their particular markets. The organisers have also installed ISDN lines to enable them to link up with different radio stations around the country.

An events diary will detail activities and competitions and any visiting celebrities due to make an appearance. Listeners can even get tips on the best restaurants in the area.

Former Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin will be conducting personal profiles of the managing directors of various companies attending the exhibition, getting their perspective on how they have grown their businesses.

Dry says: `It gives them with a platform to say that the UK engineering industry is pretty cutting edge, with a lot of innovative ideas. By breaking the myth of what manufacturing is like to the outside world, it can help attract graduates to a career in the industry.’

MACH 2000 is broadcast on 87.7MHz FM in the Birmingham area, and on the MACH 2000 website, www.mach-2000.com