10 Questions: Brad McNally

Staff Writer

In an historic survey 4 result, 96FM Perth edged out Mix 94.5 by 0.1% to end the Southern Cross Austereo's 100-survey winning streak.

Program Director Brad McNally was the man who steered 96FM to the result, and we put him through 10 Questions.

Firstly, congratulations on being the programmer of Perths number one radio station. How does it feel?

Obviously it's fantastic but we still have lots to accomplish! This station has always had a special place in my heart as I was here in the 80’s in its glory days.

It has been a turbulent couple of years for 96FM: you fired a brekky show, lost a GM, lost a couple of high-profile announcers under less than ideal circumstances, repositioned the station, and the company was up for sale. In that context, to grow the overall share from the 7's to the 13's – irrespective of the ranking – is impressive.

Indeed!!…for a long time 96 was totally mismanaged and dysfunctional to the point of the culture being somewhat toxic. 96 was once a great station that had lost its way.  It was a tragedy. Yes, staff came and went but this was just like any other business doing what was right for the station and building the right team.

The company up for sale meant we were all in limbo. It was a difficult challenge to lead staff through that. But it came down to controlling the things that we are the masters of. We could still focus and shape the format and work on being a great well defined station.

With what little budget we had, we did our research, and found that the 96 brand needed a total revamp. I think it will take at least 5 years to restore the brand and right now we are still in the awareness and comprehension phase. I have a great team and we are all focussed on rebuilding the station.

Let's talk about the rebuild. 'Keeping real music alive' appears to be a way of packaging up and contexting 96 as a rock station. What exactly where the changes?

We have changed everything! The music was tested and focused, the logo was designed and tested and most importantly, through production we changed the whole persona of the station.

Our biggest challenge is to change our listeners perception of our brand… 96 was seen as a black tee shirt, bogan station. Our mission is to make the station, classy and more up market and this is a very hard and long road. It starts with creative production and building up images in the listeners minds as to who we are, and what we stand for.

We have created something that is not easily duplicated and clearly different from our competitors.

Each market tends to feel that 'it's different here', sometimes they're right. Perth, as the most isolated metro, has that reputation more so than market. Is it different there?

Yes I think there is a small percentage of people here who would hold Perth back if they could. The development of the Swan River is a great example…( we don’t want a South Bank here !) and perhaps that kind of parochialism is a threat to any kind of progress.

I understand people are proud of their city and state and want to be local. At 96 we have been criticised for hiring from the EAST, and yet 92 and Nova have lots of people who listen to their national drive shows. People will listen if its entertaining radio for them, they don’t care where it comes from.

Having worked in many stations in Europe I became use to hearing “that will never work here… we are different here”… The fact is many things work the world over.

Mix 94.5 recording 100 surveys at number one is a huge achievement, and one that will probably never be seen again. Whilst Southern Cross Austereo were complimentary towards the 96FM result this week, they made it clear they expect to be number one again soon.

The fact they will be working harder will also make us work harder, which can only be good for radio and the listeners. Of course, they are a great station, and we do not under estimate them.

I’ve never been one to worry about the opposition too much… I’m just concentrating on driving 96 to the next level.

Your result this week of 13.3 is at the top end of any recent achievements, whilst Mix's 13.2 is at the bottom end of theirs. Given that, are we simply seeing an overperformance of 96 and an underperformance of Mix, or are the stations in the market finding new 10+ benchmarks for themselves.

Good question! Our own research has had 96 growing since January this year, the time of our relaunch, so we predicted our recent result. Mix has been a very broad station for many years, and the market allowed them to get that way.

Now we are giving them a run for their money and we want to crush them… we are already Number 1 in the workday and number 1 25/54 so that’s a good start.

Within the Fairfax group, 96FM is the only FM music station. Does that mean 96 is left alone?

Yes, I feel like the lone ranger in the group. 96 is left alone and all of our programming decisions are made in Perth. Since Adam Lang (left) became CEO we have had nothing but support from Fairfax. He is a sharp guy who understands our station.

The only synergy we have with the talk stations is if there is big news story we have lots of resources at our finger tips.

Tell us about your history, where you have worked, and your background.

Whoa…ok… I’m Canadian but oddly enough started here… lets see if I can remember the list – 4SB; 5AU; 6PR, CFOR – Toronto, CTFJ – Toronto – CFNY The Edge – Toronto – 3XY; Gold FM Melbourne; Rock 104 Dublin, Jazz FM London; 92.9 Perth, The Eagle and as  Group Programmer Scandinavian Broadcasting- over seeing stations in Sweden; Denmark; Finland, Italy, The Netherlands; and Greece… Gold & Sea FM Gold Coast and 96fm (4 times I think)

You have the nickname 'the Ninja'. Who gave it to you, why, and is it a fair description?

I wondered when you were going to get to that… I have done martial arts for many years –Yau Hawk Tao and Kyokushin karate. I have a black belt and am a qualified instructor.

There is a martial arts code that I try and live by. It is essentially respect your opponent, behave honourably and exercise self control.

The staff gave me the name as a joke and it stuck. I don’t come to the office wearing a black ninja suit and jump through a window on a rope..  although I could… smiley

What was the last station you listened to (that wasn't 96).

The Wolf – Dallas Texas – I love country music and want to work that format next!

Good luck for Survey 5 and beyond!

Yea thanks and to quote one of baseballs greats – Babe Ruth… “its hard to beat someone who never gives up” We never will at 96!


(See our earlier story on the 96FM repositioning here)

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