Bill Heine: “I ask the questions that people talk about”

 HE’S THE American who was let loose on BBC local radio and has now become known as one of the more controversial radio personalities and interviewers. Bill Heine spoke yesterday at Coventry Conversations about how he went from studying to be a lawyer to living in a leafy Oxford village hosting the drive time radio show.

“I don’t have a clue” was Heine’s response when asked what he’d be talking about in his radio show later that afternoon, adding: “That’s the fun of it, you have a blank sheet of paper and you don’t know what’s happening”

Considered a “loose cannon” Heine spoke about what’s given him this reputation with a story about the Thames Valley police and a wandering firearm within the studio an example of how he causes “waves” within the BBC. When asked why his style makes him a good broadcaster he said: “because I ask the questions that everybody talks about… I will go that extra bit and ask the tough questions”

Heine said: “It’s absolutely crazy, who’d have thought you could have a yank at Oxford talking to the people of Oxford talking about the things that are important to them … something of a folly for the BBC to hire me” when talking about his drive time show on BBC radio Oxford. Local radio can only be successful when it’s actually local and Heine questioned what the BBC had seen in him.

A lot of the questions from the audience focused on censorship and how the BBC’s fear of offence has restrained his style of interviewing, particularly PR peoples influence: “I treat them like rattlesnakes” he said he treats them with respect, he’s aware of their toxicity and to avoid them at all costs.

Heine was quick to dismiss the assertion made about local radios future or lack of it saying, “Local radio has a good future” however he went on to recognise the flaws of commercial radio: “you have a newsroom that could well be a corridor… its not going local or to the uniqueness of the area”.

Heine spoke about how hitch hiking had developed his interviewing technique learning what “buttons to push” and how to get people to talk. For the students in the audience Bill had this advice:

“You bring something that is really special because you’ve been brought up in the digital age … but no ones going to ask you for it and nobody’s going to say ‘oh your wonderful’ so go out and give them a right to the jaw and then an uppercut”


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