Guy Starkey, former chair of the ECREA Radio Research Section passed away on August 2.
There are people whose memory neither distance nor even death can erase. They are people who marked us for a special dedication to a cause or to the others. Guy Starkey is such a person. So, it would always be too soon to lose people like him. This is why the news of his death at the beginning of August 2018 was so shocking for his colleagues and friends.
Like many other scholars in the radio studies field, Guy Starkey started his career as a practitioner in radio, where he exercised the vibrant, absolutely clear and unmistakable intonation of his voice. Although he has also worked in magazine journalism, radio was his main vocation. In addition to his exciting experience at the Voice of Peace, an offshore radio station broadcasting from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, Guy Starkey also worked for Radio Nova International on the French Riviera. After his graduation, he was employed by the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Gibraltar. His professional credits include several commercial radio stations and BBC Radio 4. He had the passion for radio and knew how mysterious the relationship with the studio can be, as well as understood the imaginative power of the spoken word and the complicity with the listeners, which he was still practising in his morning show—Weekend Breakfast Club—every Saturday and Sunday, from 7 to 11 a.m.
In 2001, after receiving an MA in Media Education, Guy Starkey was awarded a PhD in Educational Studies by the University of London with a thesis entitled ‘Balance and Bias in Radio Four’s Today Programme, during the 1997 general election campaign’. His first book—Radio in Context (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)—is still (and will be for a long time) a reference for students, as it combines in a truly balanced way theory with contributions for the development of practical skills in radio production. In 2007, Guy Starkey published Balance and Bias in Journalism: Representation, Regulation and Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan), which represented more or less a return to his PhD thesis, based on his concern with the power bestowed on those who have the ability to shape representations in the mass media. In 2009, Sage published Radio Journalism, a book that Guy Starkey co-authored with Andrew Crisell. Exploring what makes radio reporting distinctive, this book results from the magnificent harmony Starkey had with Crisell in acknowledging how radio transformed the character of the news and how radio journalism is worthwhile. His last book, published in 2011 (Palgrave Macmillan) —Local Radio, Going Global—explores the impact of globalisation on local radio stations. In a way, it is a book on the economy of the radio sector, putting into perspective themes like regulation, localness and ownership. Well-informed and visionary, this book also shows how Guy Starkey was an intuitive researcher, taking seriously the risk local radios face of falling into the hands of big media groups.
Between 2000 and 2017, Guy Starkey published several book chapters and articles in scientific journals on radio, regulation, journalism, localness, democracy and citizenship. He coedited two other books: Radio Content in the Digital Age: the Evolution of a Sound Medium (with Angeliki Gazi and Stanislaw Jedrzejewski, 2011, Intellect) and Radio: the Resilient Medium (with Grazyna Stachyra and Madalena Oliveira, 2014, Centre for Research in Media & Cultural Studies). A regular participant in scientific events, Guy Starkey has also acted as reviewer and consultant in scientific journals, events, projects and industry awards (such as the New York International Radio Awards, the Radio Academy Radio Production Awards and the Frank Gillard BBC Local Radio Awards), not only in the UK but also in Portugal, Spain and France. He was a member of the Steering Committee of the Radio Studies Network within MeCCSA and of the Scientific Committee of the Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes sur la Radio (GRER).
Guy Starkey’s legacy is however much more than pure science or countable outputs because in his discreet way he was a kind of ‘communities maker’. Unpretentiousness and humility do not apparently combine with leadership, but his modest and welcoming temperament was the source of his tremendous talent when leading groups. He was the Associate Dean (Global Engagement) for the Faculty of Media and Communication of Bournemouth University since January 2016. Previously he was Professor of Radio and Journalism at the University of Sunderland, where he had the role of Associate Dean (Media) and Head of Department (Media). In 2008, he was appointed chair of the ECREA Radio Research Section, a position he held until 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, Starkey was Sections Representative on the ECREA Executive Board and member of the Advisory Board.
In 2013, as chair of the section, Guy Starkey organised the 3rd Radio Research Conference at the University of Sunderland in London. Like other events of the ECREA Radio Research Section, it was an outstanding event. But besides the high quality of the scientific programme, there was a particular detail that made this conference such a unique event: as accommodation is very expensive in London and usually breakfast is not included, participants were provided with a breakfast every morning in the conference hall! Only a sensitive man like Guy Starkey was would have thought of offering this!
Among other scholars, Guy Starkey was always between equals. There were no signs of any superiority or vanity. His words were always warm and kindly. Scientific meetings with him were always like a circle of friends, where he used to ask about our families and update us on his own children’s achievements (just like proud fathers do). Guy Starkey was one of the most gentle people many of us ever met. For those who are not native English speakers and express words with some difficulties, Guy was the most delicate and pedagogic interlocutor. Speaking Spanish and French as foreign languages, he knew very well how non-native speakers were experts at ‘inventing new words’! And when chairing conference sessions or presenting his own work, there was a melody in his voice, intended to make his words totally understandable and to create the same empathy radio practitioners reach with their listeners.
Guy Starkey was a one-of-a-kind man. In the hours that followed the announcement of his death, many colleagues wrote messages praising the person he was. There will be no fairer tribute nor better words than those posted on Facebook and sent by email: ‘a brilliant man’, ‘the finest friend’, ‘a wonderful and generous scholar’, ‘kind, generous and extremely professional’, ‘a great colleague’, ‘an amazing tutor’, ‘a wonderful man’, ‘an excellent scholar, researcher and a big inspiration for students and co-workers’, ‘a leading, caring and inspiring colleague’, ‘one of the most genuine, caring, sincere people’, ‘an amazing gentleman’, ‘such a humble and approachable human being’.
If radio studies are now a vibrant, vivid, emotive and passionate scientific area, it is to a great extent thanks to Guy Starkey, with whom many scholars learnt how science is simultaneously a matter of thinking and affection.