Regional Radio “strong as ever”
One of the afternoon sessions "Lifting the lid on regional radio" has just completed. On the panel were; Glenn Wheatley from EON, Guy Dobson from SCA, Kevin Blyton from Capital, and Rowly Paterson from Ace.
So what did these powerbrokers have to say;
The panel held the view that regional radio has formed exceptionally strong bonds with their listeners. The smaller city sizes and smaller number of stations allows regional radio to be the big fish in their media markets.
Guy Dobson referred to regional radio as;
"the heartbeat of country towns, in some cases radio may be the only media that they have. You become the the epicentre of rural life".
In Victoria, Rowly Paterson's Ace Radio has instigated local awards ceremonies in their markets to give back to the community, in addition they donate a lot of airtime to raise funds for local causes.
One of the best things about regional radio is meeting local people, it's much different than making deals in the city. Rex Morris ( former SCA PD) is partners with Dobson in Resonate; Rex struck a deal last week on new rental costs of a transmitter site over lunch and a chat. Taking the time to meet the local mayors is vital to the local involvement in communities of radio.
Glenn Wheatley, part-owner of EON who operate Sea FM and Mix FM Sunshine Coast, says that he is always happy to meet up with locals, especially if they own a Harvey Norman franchise.
Staff retention was identified as a major issue, Wheatley said it is a massive issue for regional radio, however the panel agree it is getting better. Only 11% of regional employees left last year, and a number of staff who do leave to go to the city often come back to regional areas to start a family, often asking their old bosses for their old jobs back. That's the kind of loyalty regional radio is now embracing.
Dobson believes that we all have a transmitter and a CD player (maybe in emerald – laughs), but it's the people, your staff that make the stations sing. We do what we can to retain staff and maintain their happiness and life balance.
Regional markets are excited at the roll-out of regional phone surveys in 2014, to use as another asset to sales teams, especially for national revenue. Radio is very competitive , whether regional or capital city, and every station likes to be measured.
Recently Grant Broadcasters pulled the plug on their online streaming over the court ruling in favour of the PPCA. What did the panel have to say about that?
There has been strong growth in digital streaming of regional radio online, but there are troubled times ahead. They referred to the recent ruling as 'double-dipping' by the PPCA in their interest in charging royalties for online streaming of the terrestrial signal. "A listening device is a listening device, whether it be online or from traditional radio."
Dobson made the comment; "you know what happens to those who double dip, you get hepatitis"
Glenn Wheatley is on the side of radio, not the artists. He noted that he appreciates that may be a conflict as he still manages bands, but Bob Dylan said; "singers should pay radio, it's the ultimate form of promotion".
Kevin Blyton commented that "Regional radio is not broken, it is as strong as ever".
Paterson (Ace) said that they are from the land, the owners have a farming background and they get people on the land, they enjoy what they're doing.
Wheatley commented; "radio is never going away. The songl's etc will have their place, but won't affect the listeners knowing that programmers know how to program, they don't have time or want to program their own stations, why would they, when it can be delivered for them"