ANONYMOUS: Confessions of a disgruntled coordinator
First up, in the interests of transparency, I admit that I’m a disgruntled employee. That fact, however, doesn’t make my words any less true.
After more than 15 years working ‘behind the scenes’ as a receptionist, content coordinator, marketing assistant and producer in community radio, AM talkback and FM commercial radio, I believe my experience gives me the right to speak up.
It may come as a surprise to most listeners to learn that there are more than just radio announcers working in a station. I get that. They only hear the voices of maybe ten people (including journos) each day on the wireless and have no reason to think about the hundreds of people who work behind the scenes.
What is more disappointing is the fact that a large number of people WITHIN the industry also seem to forget that it takes more than just the guys behind the mic to make a radio station successful.
The recent allegation that the person who leaked the infamous Channel 9 ‘Jacketgate’ video will escape reprimand simply because they are an ‘on-air talent’ is another example of the double standards and extreme bias toward so-called ‘talent’ in the media industry.
One doesn’t need to think very hard to come up with examples where producers or panel operators became scapegoats, while the people that were primarily responsible for the transgressions – usually the jocks – got off scot-free. In some cases even being rewarded for their appalling behaviour by being poached by other networks for even greater sums of money.
On a personal level, I recall one occasion where an announcer, during an enormous tantrum, smashed a computer on the ground. Instead of the announcer being told off, I was reprimanded by the PD for ‘not keeping him under control’.
In my career, I have also been denied the opportunity for promotion because I had dare argue with a ‘talent’ when he had made sexist comments towards another staff member. Apparently speaking my mind and considering my opinion as valid as an announcer’s meant that I was not the right personality type for the role.
I’ve even heard an announcer call a producer a c*#t with no adverse consequences.
I expect anyone who has worked in behind the scenes positions at a radio station can recount a situation where they have been expected to treat an announcer as someone who is superior to themselves.
I do not deny that announcers work hard. Many of them, particularly breakfast jocks, get up silly early and they put their personal lives up for scrutiny every day. That’s a tough gig.
But they get paid well to do this. Usually in the six figures and sometimes, if they are considered to be extra special, in the seven figures. But do you know who else gets up silly early and is still working well into the afternoon, several hours after the breakfast announcers have left? Breakfast producers.
I know of one Breakfast Producer who was working on the number one rating radio show in a metro market, and he was earning just over $35 grand a year.
If rumours are to be believed, one high-profile announcer stipulated in his contract that he have a personal barista – and that coffee-maker gets paid nearly double the amount of the breakfast producer.
That is appalling.
How can you expect someone to get up at 3am, work in the office until at least 2pm (not to mention the hours they work from home) and then pay them just over minimum wage? When the announcers on the same show are earning at least three times that amount?
And most presenters have a clause in their contract stating they get a bonus if their show is number one. None of the producers I know gets that perk. And it’s not just Producers who get a raw deal.
I know of at least one sales team (although I suspect it’s a common problem in the industry) that is continually losing sales coordinators. It’s not because the job is bad, or the team is unpleasant – in fact, most of the sales reps are amongst the nicest people around and the station environment is great.
The reason these coordinators tend to leave is that they soon realise that they can work shorter hours and get better pay in a different industry. There is absolutely no financial incentive for them to work hard, the way there is with the sales reps’ commission.
If the team makes budget, the coordinators receive nothing in the way of a reward. Barely even a thank you. So they leave. And then the whole team suffers because they have to hire and train a brand new person. Mistakes are then made, clients are unhappy and money is lost simply because the station refused to spend a few extra thousand dollars compensating the support staff for their long hours.
Can you imagine an announcer was treated this way?
I have worked for a network for four years, and the national content director wouldn’t know my name. Whenever he’s in the market, he spends hours with the announcers, but I don’t even get a ‘hello’. This kind of inequality doesn’t foster a positive workplace environment.
I could go on forever singing the praise of the unsung heroes in a radio station.
The street teamers and receptionists who are on the frontline with listeners every day. The EAs, who makes sure the sandwiches are delivered, and the office doesn’t fall apart. The HR guys, moderating disputes and recruiting staff.
The techies who manage to keep the station on-air while juggling an infinite number of other technical problems. The legal folks who are arguing the case after some tosser has gone and breached the codes again. The digital, news and social guys who ensure we are on top of the biggest celeb gossip and stories. The Payroll and AP teams with the most important job of all – making sure everyone gets paid.
We all work long hours, most of us for mediocre wages and yet we all find the time to visit other departments, clean up after ourselves in the kitchen and attend the regular team catch-ups.
We are all held accountable for our actions and are expected to keep our promises. If any of us went and deliberately leaked confidential behind-the-scenes audio of announcers berating each other, we’d probably be fired.
It’d be nice if ‘talent’ were held up to the same standards.
Anonymous Confessions is a new Radio Today series based on one simple idea: We trade anonymity to people working in the media industry, offering a platform to start important conversations, in exchange for complete honesty. If you’d like to contribute, contact the editor.