Ron Camplin: 65 years & still going strong

Last month, 2BS and B-Rock owner Ron Camplin celebrated 65 years in radio. The two Bathurst stations also have cause for celebration as they are finalists for 14 ACRA's this year.

Ron was awarded an OAM Order of Australia for services to Commercial Broadcasting and the Local Community in 1995 and was inducted into the Commercial Radio Australia Hall Of Fame in 2002.

I recently spoke with Ron to find out the secret to his success & longevity. He also reminisces about some of the people he's worked with over the years, and we find out what other jobs he did before radio. You'll be amazed at how many different jobs he had before he was 16 !

Mark: Firstly congratulations on your 65 years, it must seem like a long time ago that you began your career ?

Ron: No it doesn’t. It’s been too much fun.

Mark: When you go back to the beginning, what do you recall from radio in those days ?

Ron: I was 15 years and 8 months old when I first walked through the doors with my guardian at 2CH in Sydney and we went up to the 10th floor and it was the tallest building in Sydney would you believe, the old AWA building in York Street. We were interviewed by the assistant General Manager and he had a very, very bad cold, he looked over his glasses at me and he coughed a lot and he said, “one of these days son if you’re diligent enough and hard working you could end up just like me” and I felt like walking out. We stayed and that was the start. I was the office boy at 2CH and my first announcing job was at 2XL in Cooma in 1952. The Snowy Mountains Scheme was just about to get underway and then in 1953 I went to 2MG and of course 1955 I became manager at the age of 22, bought it with a group of local businessmen when I was 25 in 1958 and I’ve been pretty busy but I’ve loved every minute of it.

Incidentally, radio was not my first job., it was my 17th job, I wasn’t much good at the other 16.

Mark: 17 jobs before you turned 16 !!!???

Ron: Isn’t that disgraceful.

Mark: What sort of jobs did you do ?

Ron: Everything from picking cherries to being a dish pig. I had run away from where I was living and I spent most of my early years in one orphanage or another. My guardian in Orange was the General Manager of 2GZ, Alan Ridley. He said, “I couldn’t give you a job in radio, you don’t have a formal education” which I didn’t have but with Legacy I got the job at 2CH and that was the beginning of it.

Mark: So when did the Bathurst business start for you ?

Ron: My company, Camplin Broadcasters, purchased Bathurst on the 1st of September 1969, so it’s been 44 years. I’ve been a very lucky man, the most beautiful girl I ever met married me and she’s been my partner in business for the last 45 years and we’ve had a wonderful group of people who have helped me build the business over the years.

Mark: Do you think that family support is really important in an industry like radio ?

Ron: Oh absolutely. Stephanie (his wife) is just so talented as well, she does most of the accounts for the radio station and we do a lot of community stuff. We’re probably the only radio station that’s formed a symphony orchestra. The Macquarie Philharmonia (left) is Australia’s inland symphony orchestra and Stephanie and I are passionate about music we don’t play on our radio stations.

Mark: You would have seen many staff come and go over 44 years in Bathurst, any come to mind ?

Ron: I was looking at the list the other day, I had an engineer called Bob Upfold and he started here when he was 15 and he retired when he was 65, it was his one job and he had two brilliant sons who also became engineers with the radio station. I’ve had people like Phillip Cole who came to do some work experience in 1979 and is now our General Manager. Nola Sikora came for a week in 1972 and we’re going to make her permanent soon (laughs).

Kerry Peck was waiting to greet me when I walked in the door in 1969 and he’s only just retired from doing breakfast on 2BS. He came in the other day and said ‘I’m missing it so much boss can you find me something that doesn’t tie me down but still gives me an association with the radio station’ – lovely, wonderful things. We’ve had a wonderful relationship with some great people over the years.

When I look back at some of the old faces like Ken Sutcliffe on Channel Nine or Andrew Buchanan, he became regional manager of the ABC.

Mark: Were there any moments you look back on that were important lessons for you ?

Ron: Everyday. I learn from new people that join the staff that have just come from Charles Sturt University. These kids with bouncing enthusiasm keep me enthusiastic.

Mark: What do you learn from those newbies ?

Ron: I learn a lot about computers (laughs) and new ways of doing old things.

In 1948, there was a breakfast session announcer on 2UE called Eric Wright. He was the first person I can ever remember telling me that I did something very well. That gave me confidence to go on and do other things. When I first went to 2MG Mudgee I was 19 years of age and the manager was Bill Marsden, who eventually managed a TV station. He said to me ‘you teach me about radio and I’ll teach you about business’, which he did.

Mark: Do you have a piece of advice that you give to the new staff members when they begin ?

Ron: Management’s most important task, I think, is to make people feel great about what they do. If you’re successful in doing that you don’t have to manage people much at all, they manage themselves. I’m a very lazy manager I guess (laughs).

Mark: On the 'Local vs networking' debate, what is your stance ?

Ron: Nothing over-rules localism but you got to give what the locals want. Sometimes the locals want more than the pothole on the corner. You’ve got to find out how you maximise your audience locally and provide a service for that. We’re very keen to get into digital radio because this will allow us to diversify our programs even further.

We’re hoping we can make it happen by 2015 which just so happens to be the bicentenary of Bathurst.

Mark: What do you think is the secret to your success and longevity in radio ?

Ron: Having great staff and I’ve always been lucky with the people that I’ve had. I’ve always believed in giving kids an opportunity who are enthusiastic about what they do and love what they do. I also think working on positive recognition. I read a book years and years ago that said ‘catch them doing something right’ and if you find somebody doing something well you got to tell them about it. Make people feel good about what they do, it’s the most important thing in business.

Mark: Thanks so much for your time today.

Ron: Nice talking to you and thanks for thinking of us.

Mark: We'll speak again at your next milestone.

Ron: Call me in another 80 years (laughs)

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