Radio techs: “The real fun happens behind the scenes”
“Who’s the tech on duty?”
I’ve always thought of broadcast technicians as radio’s superheroes – minus the cape.
They’re the people you call when you rock up at 4.30am, the studio panel’s on the fritz and the emergency back-up tape’s kicked in.
Or your login/password/swipe card doesn’t work.
Or the newsroom computers are dead as doornails.
Maybe the headphones don’t work.
Perhaps somebody’s upended a tub of yoghurt on the keyboard (Guilty, Your Honour).
The three people in this story have been roused from their early morning slumber more times than they probably care to remember, but for Michael Carroll, Sarah Tawse and Scott Rollo, it’s all in a day’s work.
Being a tech is a job they say requires passion … and resilience.
When Michael finished secondary school at Melbourne’s Syndal Tech decades ago, he wasn’t sure what to do next. Seeing Michael was at a loss, his dad arranged for him to sit an entrance exam for ‘Broadcast Technician TV/Radio.’
Michael tells Radio Today “I liked playing with my older brothers’ electronics sets – building radios and such with plug-in components – so it seemed like a good idea to Dad.”
Michael (pictured below) went on to land a job at Melbourne’s 3UZ, remaining there as the station transitioned to Sport 927 and later became RSN 927.
“When I had my interview with the Chief Engineer John Goodall, he took me for a look around the station. I recognised the Transmitter Control System and asked him a question about it. I’m sure that’s what got me the job.”
In his late twenties, Michael was promoted to Technical Supervisor. While loving the job itself, he admits the ‘boss’ role wasn’t a great fit for him.
“I liked being a technician but never wanted to be the Chief Engineer. However, life puts us in uncomfortable positions and you either deal with them or leave.”
Michael says he was fortunate to be trained by amazing mentors such as Goodall, Victor Duffy, Greg Hateley, Kelvin Brown, Neil McRae and former 3UZ Production Manager Max Barringer, who was doing outside broadcasts back in the heyday of Battle of the Bands.
“For anyone wanting to become a radio technician, you need to have an absolute passion for radio or TV, as jobs in the media don’t pay very well. I did alright but it was only due to the circumstance of being placed in leadership roles.”
Sarah – broadcast technician at ARN Melbourne – tells Radio Today she was initially interested in a TV career.
“It all seemed ‘Hollywood’ to me back then and I wanted to be a part of it.”
But whilst studying Television Broadcasting, Sarah was given the opportunity to work at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games on the audio side of things, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“A guy I worked with saw some potential and asked me to come work with him in Sydney as a trainee in radio broadcast technology. The rest is history. I fell in love with radio and have been in the industry for 14 years.
Sarah says there are many avenues into her role, as there is so much involved in getting quality radio content on the airwaves.
“The advice I have for anyone interested in this line of work is that it is a rewarding experience but it also requires passion for making things work and also takes resilience.”
“There are so many exciting parts of working with well-known names, but the real fun happens behind the scenes. The adrenaline that comes when you’re trying to keep a station on air while upgrading a few different systems is what we love.”
Sarah says if you love playing with new equipment and finding new ways of doing things, this is the job for you.
From humble beginnings as an apprentice at 3MP in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Frankston to Sydney’s 2GB, Nine Radio’s Head of Technology Scott Rollo recently brought up forty years in radio.
He says the technology change over that period of time has been nothing short of spectacular.
“Forty years in radio is a long time and were it not for some fantastic people in these stations it would not have been the same.”
Scott recently said “After 40 years, I’m still enjoying it as much as I did as when I was in my early 20’s.
“It’s a different world today to the one that I faced as a pimply 17 year old straight out of school. The way I feel today, I’m aiming for the big 50 years.”
“Radio is not a career. It’s a life!”