Barking mad – radio for dogs

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

BBC Radio London is one of the BBC’s local radio stations, and every Thursday afternoon you can tune in to something called The Barking Hour.

There is a tedious joke here for non-Londoners, so assuming you are one, let me just tell you that Barking is an area of London, just north of London City Airport, and close to beautiful parts of London like the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works.

However, The Barking Hour on BBC Radio London is nothing to do with Barking the place, and everything to do with Barking the activity, because it is, so they say, the world’s only radio program for dogs. And, presumably, their owners.

The Barking Hour is presented by Jo Good and Anne Webb, who go by the name The Barking Blondes. Philip Brannon also brings dog news to the programme, and calls himself “the only international radio dog news reporter in the world”.

It isn’t quite as frivolous as I’m making it seem. When I tuned in, the programme (two hours in) was discussing dogs helping to treat Alzheimers. But they do also do doggy-shout-outs: you need to give the station your dog’s name, breed, and age. Had I ever owned a dog, I might have been tempted.

Dog owners are quite a large potential audience, it turns out. 40% of households in the UK have pets, and dogs are the most popular at 24%. So there is quite a bit of potential in this idea.

Niche-targeted output like this in a radio station can work quite nicely, at the right time and with the right presenters. For The Barking Hour, I’d personally present it separately in the schedule, so the audio becomes a little more shareable and discoverable; and I’m sure there are items in it that could make quite a decent podcast – though I’m sure the BBC has a Policy about such things.

It isn’t the only radio for dogs, though. In New Zealand, there was a dog radio station for a short time in 2014. K9FM – see what they did there – was a low-power FM service run as a bit of a laugh by Pedigree Chum’s advertising agency BBDO. It won lots of awards, which is nice, and was quite nicely done. Anything that makes ad agencies take audio a little more seriously is good with me.

Noel Edmonds, a British TV and radio personality, is apparently also launching his own station for “our animal chums”, called Positivity Pets – which “factmag” calls a world first, thus proving that “factmag” isn’t, quite, full of facts.

And at you’ll find All Dog Radio, a network of eleven online 24-hour radio stations for your furry friend to listen to. There always has to be a show-off, doesn’t there?


About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK’s ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio’s future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.