Kiah Tucker on working in Canadian radio
“I’ve always wanted to work in radio overseas, how did you do it?”
I’ve been asked that question countless times since departing Australia’s sunny shores twelve years ago. It’s a terrific adventure and one worth pursuing if you have a strong itch which needs scratching.
I landed in Vancouver, Canada, for what was only going to be one year after 18 months in London working mainly in TV production. As luck would have it, I’ve never had to leave Vancouver, crazy, I know! It’s an absolutely stunning city. I’ve done Evenings, Middays, Drive and Breakfast here.
A decade later I often get asked what the differences are between the two countries from an industry perspective.
There are jobs in Canada
Syndication is almost non-existent here. FM music stations are almost all live locally from 6am to 10pm or midnight. Only now are packaged shows from other markets being used on some stations during prime hours, save for the weekend packages like AT40 and so on. Same goes regionally, although more voice tracking is used, it’s mostly done locally.
You have to do everything yourself
I did a breakfast show (called ‘Mornings’ here) for five years in Vancouver, a market of 2.4 million people. Our team consisted of three people, total. Two main on-air hosts and a junior producer. Content? Us. Audio production? Us. Panel operator? Me. Phone scanning? Us. Promo ideas? Us. EP? Ha! Web/Video/Podcast guy? Us/us/us. You’ll work your ass off, it’s fast and furious, but it’s rewarding and a lot of fun. Most shows are four hours too.
To balance all that effort, I feel I was paid well plus shows are given more time to settle and, hopefully, find their audience. I would say the industry here is less cut throat. Only a little.
Currently, I’m on Drive again on a CHR and it’s just me. No news/traffic person even, just me. It turns out being a kind of hybrid music/content shift/show.
You won’t compete with reality TV talent
Zero. That’s the number of people from Big Brother, Masterchef, Bachelorette etc etc who are on air in Vancouver in prime positions. Everyone has worked their way up, learnt their craft and, in most cases, studied broadcasting. I’m not saying that no great talent comes from these shows and areas of media – they absolutely do – I’m just saying you won’t be competing with them.
In my opinion, the main reason for this is that the local productions of these show don’t have the profile. Vancouver is a 45 minute from the US border, we all get dozens of US channels, most people have cable, plus Amazon Prime, plus Netflix and more. If you had a room of 100 people and asked those who watched the last series of Bachelorette Canada to raise their hand, you might get one in ten. Might.
Different Breakfast show content
I’ve always felt the difference in TV viewing choices represents one of the big differences in show content. Married At First Sight was a daily talking point for so many shows throughout Australia, however, if you concentrated on something similar here you risk it being a tune out due to the large percentage of your audience who haven’t been watching.
Breakfast shows don’t get the Summer off!
Remember that non-existent syndication thing I mentioned?! Well, same goes for the Summer. There’s no national Summer show ready to come in and give you your two months off! Canadian employers by law only have to give you two weeks vacation. Most will start at three, but you can negotiate. I had six weeks as part of the Breakfast show, which often meant working through Christmas if I’d burnt those weeks up!
Do it while you’re young!
Visa’s are way easier to come across if you’re under 30. You might even want to pack up, get yourself here, start your visa and then find a job. Go see the sights while you’re job hunting!
The Oz industry prepares you well
Australian radio is highly admired and, I would argue, the best in the world. Even if you’re in a smaller regional market, you’ve had some good direction and coaching to prepare you with a good demo, good skills and that strong Aussie work ethic.
I love it when I read of another person from the industry following the dream of working abroad! It’s a decision you’ll never regret, it’s jam packed full of adventure and personal growth.
Just don’t tell your mum you’ll, “be back in a year..”, cos you never know how long the journey will go for!