The real tragedy is LIVE radio news

Dave Charles is a global broadcast and creative media strategist with over 4 decades of radio, talent development, and new format creation.

He worked for Austereo in the 90’s and formed ESP with Greg Smith.

Dave is now the President of MRI (Media RESULTS International) based in Canada.

Last week on Radio Today, Eriks Celmins wrote about whether radio news is now just a commodity (here). Today, Dave shares his thoughts on radio news…..

Radio has all but lost its ability to cover live news. The reason is mainly because of voice tracking across prime time weekends and mid-day zones. As a result of this reality, important breaking, local and international news doesn’t get covered. However, the truth is that it’s mainly because of budget cuts. This is a mistake that needs to be fixed!

Twitter is the number one source for breaking news in the world, not ABC, CNN or BBC. Twitter!

Radio doesn’t get it. The big broadcast groups are now seeing how quickly the tides have turned. Radio news has almost become an oxymoron. I certainly don’t go to the radio for breaking news anymore. Do you? I now get my news on my iPhone first. I check my Twitter feeds. I’ve got three separate feeds providing me with all the new news I require. I never thought I would say that I don’t use radio for news.

Later, I might go to the leader in TV News because once the story has broken, TV has the resources to background and context the story. Twitter does not. Nor should it. Twitter gives you the raw story. Uncensored, uncut and without commentary usually. Just recently the Boston bombing story hit Twitter seconds after it happened. It took CBC Canada 35 minutes to respond. My local news talk station 680 NEWS took 20 minutes. They specialise in live 24/7 news.

We used to say that Radio news can deliver a breaking story faster than TV and certainly Print. Not anymore. Radio is under huge economic pressures. Revenues  remain high because of programming and operational cut backs. Radio is now being out flanked by social media. Today our world is completely connected by social media. Breaking news gets to consumers faster now than ever before. And radio loses one of its most important attributes. LIVE REPORTING.

I remember being at ESP with Greg Smith when the 9/11 story broke at 9:30am New York time (12:30 am) Brisbane time. Greg called all the PD’s and instructed them to let the morning teams know how to handle this story. As I recall, he threw out the traditional format and opened up the phone to allow listeners to express their feelings. It was compelling radio. It was real. It was live radio at its best.

There’s not many qualified radio programmers of Greg Smith’s experience to call the shots and direct the troups on how to handle such an event. Radio was very real that day. It served its audience and they responded in kind. It was compelling and relevant.

9/11 became our generations ‘Pearl Harbour’. The effects of this event went global. Our world changed forever. Don’t believe me. If you haven’t gone on an overseas trip lately, you’ll know what I mean. You are processed like a piece of meat. You are guilty until you’ve jumped through all the hoops and passed all the screening tests. Radio could have challenged these security methods. It could have raised its collective voice. Power to the people. It never did. So, what we have now is what we deserve.

I’ve seen live radio achieve some amazing things. Flood fund raisers. Radio to the rescue. Help for the homeless. Countless food drives. Create the Amber Alert system for missing children and heaps more.

Radio is magic when it is live.

We need good live radio and LIVE Radio news don’t you think? It’s just as important as the music you play. Radio also needs new media journalists to sort through the information required to make radio stronger and more relevant. Who’s watching Twitter, Facebook and YouTube at your station? How is your station interacting with social media?

To all the group owners and general managers who read this…  It’s time to talk about what makes great radio special. Live news coverage is no longer a budget expense, it’s a necessity. I would suggest that your news departments be involved in reviewing social media for those important local, regional, national and world stories. Add value to their work. Redefine their news gathering methods.

Most good news people that I know are curious and hard working. Give them a new purpose and retask their focus. New media sources should be a part of our live news gathering. It will make a difference. If you don’t, radio will continue to lose its point of difference to social media. It’s already happening.

Dave Charles can be contacted at or on email [email protected]

Comment Form

Your email address will not be published.

Recent comments (0)
Post new comment


See all