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The Bishop Who Isn’t Afraid To Chat Back

RULING THE AIRWAVES: Bishop Dr Joe Aldred

ACROSS THE West Midlands people who want to chew the fat about something good or bad know just where to go – Joe’s show.

Chat Back with Joe Aldred on BBC Radio WM has become something of a surprise success for Bishop Dr Joe Aldred who calls himself “a bishop without portfolio.”

And no-one is more pleased that his one-man show has just had its contract renewed with the BBC for a fifth year this month.

The weekly show is aimed at the African Caribbean community but is open to anyone who welcomes a chance to indulge in a bit of plain speaking across the airwaves.

The eighth of 11 children born in St Catherine, Jamaica, Joe grew up in Smethwick and studied theology at Sheffield University where he completed his PhD. He is currently secretary of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs for Churches Together in England.

Bishop Joe, aged 58, is no stranger to the media spotlight having been a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought slot and Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, along with TV programmes such as the Moral Maze.

FAITH

When any crises affects the African Caribbean community, Bishop Joe has always been one of the first ports of call for both local and national media. Many times he’s been the voice of calm in tense post-riot situations or notorious murders, often liaising with other faith leaders at press conferences.

Before his move to the BBC, he hosted a weekly Saturday night gospel talk show onNew Style Radio based in Birmingham’s Winson Green at the Afro Caribbean Millennium Centre.

“I approached New Style with my community hat on and Martin Blissett who was running the station at the time was looking for someone who would do a one-hour gospel talk show,” says Joe, a former associate pastor of Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Soho Road, Handsworth.

After several years at New Style and with the media bug growing, he approached Keith Beech, managing editor of BBC Radio WM, who at the time was struggling to get the African Caribbean community across the region to engage more on-air.

In 2007 Joe began his BBC career with a weekly Saturday night show, but has now changed to Wednedsay evenings between 10pm and midnight. Changing the slot has been key to the programme’s success, which is reflected in the Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) figures – a measuring tool for listener ratings.

SIGNIFICANT

“Traditionally, minority shows are usually broadcast at weekends, so this change to a weekday was quite significant,” adds Joe. “I was told not to worry about these RAJAR figures because being a specialist show it was unlikely they would be able to measure such a programme, but the figures have gone up steadily over the years.
“Then when major issues happen such as the disturbances in Jamaica over Dudus Coke last summer, the programme was in the top two for hits online at the BBC that evening.”

There has been a similar response during the recent rioting in Birmingham and London as listeners queued up to have their say.

“We don’t shirk the issues – that’s why it works, says Joe, who has also written or edited six publications including The Black Church in the 21st Century, which he co-edited with Keno Ogbo.

“During the Chat Back Special after the riots I had scores of emails that night. One of them said I had reached audiences that no other show can.”

But he’s not a one-man band – he has support from producers Carole Forde Garcia and Mandisa Gordon and he’s pleased that the BBC has invested significantly in the show.

Beech said he sees the show “as an important part of the BBC” and realises its value looking at topical issues from a black perspective.

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