Friday, 13 June 2008


Many people believe that radio is the most personal form of mass communication, whether it be delivered over the air, via the internet or even by loudspeaker. In the case of Manx Radio's coverage of the famous Isle of Man motorbike TT races, it's all three. I've just returned from a lively fortnight anchoring Manx Radio TT's commentary team, for whom the challenge is probably unique in the field of sports commentary. It is hardly the norm for commentators to be expected to keep talking when there is absolutely nothing taking place in their field of vision - or to have a proportion of their listening audience in clear line of sight while they do their stuff.

At the TT, a time trial in which competitors set off at 10-second intervals, the usual rules of broadcasting go out of the window. The commentators - in this case Maurice Mawdsley, Roy Moore, Chris Kinley and myself - have to fill the gaps, which can become quite lengthy as the field spreads out over 200 miles of racing. And the knowledge that eager aficionados are monitoring your every word while listening just outside the commentary box does wonders for your concentration. The time when I got the name of the Isle of Man's Lieutenant Governor horribly wrong at the very moment that I decribed his appearance in front of 2000 people in the Grandstand is not an episode I want to re-live!

But if you can rise to the challenge, the TT is the most rewarding broadcasting gig imaginable. The reason is that the radio service is an integral part of the event. No-one following the TT, even if they are there in person, can do so without listening to the radio commentary. When the course stretches 37.75 miles it is impossible for fans to keep up with the action any other way.

The other big bonus is that the TT has a worldwide army of intensely loyal, knowledgeable supporters who, thanks to the internet, follow the races from all over the globe. This year we were intrigued to receive an enthusiastic email from a NASA engineer who had our commentary feeding into his earpiece at the Kennedy Space Centre! It was also a great moment for me personally when Australian rider Cameron Donald, who won his first two TT races this year, thanked me for the commentary which his family had been following at home in Melbourne.

For those who are not of the two-wheeled faith, TT 2008 was a wonderful, dramatic, vibrant success producing wins for Bruce Anstey of New Zealand and Steve Plater and John McGuinness of England, in addition to Donald's double. Nicky Crowe of the Isle of Man and his pasenger Mark Cox won both the sidecar races.

McGuinness is a fabulous rider who took his total of TT wins to 14, the same as the legendary Mike Hailwood, leaving him behind only Joey Dunlop as the most successful racer over the Mountain Course. McGuinness is also a great guy who always has time for the media and even popped up alongside me in the commentary box after his bike packed up in one race. I gave him the mic to have a go at commentary and he was worryingly good at that as well.

The TT is a great buzz from start to finish and not just for the riders - in the commentary box too.

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