FM RADIO IN AUSTRALIA THE FACTS
Whilst in metropolitan areas Radio delivered by traditional means is losing ground to the Internet, regional Australia is experiencing a somewhat
slower rate of migration. Often this is due to a lack of economic prosperity, technology choices, technology purchasing priorities or poor delivery
of technology into regional areas. Internet speeds are appreciably slower and less reliable. This means that often people are forced to turn to
traditional media for their entertainment.
The Australian Independent Radio Ratings conducted using diaries through 2006 – 2009 by the non-profit organization IARBA found that
traditional Radio listening had the highest uptake in regional areas. The data showed very poor results for Capital cities suggesting access by
media consumers to better Technologies was the principle reason.
People in regional Australia are close-knit communities. The individual is an important part of each community, much less so than in any city
area. Hence the closeness of the presenter-listener relationship (the “personal relationship between station or presenter and Listener”) to which
Radio is best suited is likely to be more readily organically accepted by a listener in regional communities where closeness between neighbours
is more common.
In 2009 Australian Broadcasting Media developed an innovative world first format for its Stations to make better use of these factors: Local Radio.
Local radio is not community radio. Local radio is not commercial radio. Local Radio combines the best parts of both in a format that meets
commercial advertising imperatives just as effectively as commercial radio whilst preserving the friendliness and sincerity of community radio for
listeners. This means Local Radio can be self-funding; it does not have to meet restrictions in order to keep licenses or get government grants.
It can sell straight advertising without the need to allude to advertisers as sponsors. Local Radio is a commercial enterprise; all of the Stations
are the result of private investment which means local radio needs to be run at least with a view to making a profit. Whilst it can be a hobby or
past time also; because it relies on a business model to run business considerations must be kept firmly in mind. Local Radio relies on relative
programming consistency. Too often community radio stations suddenly program content that appeals to the presenter of the hour and 4 of
their friends, this is because of the open nature of community radio. This doesn't take into account that every time a presenter does this it
alienates large sections of the listening audience. In local radio it’s always the audience that comes first.
This doesn’t in any way restrict what programs are presented on local radio, only that their selection always has the largest possible local
audience predominantly in mind. Unlike community radio all programming is pre-planned as part of an overall station image or sound agreed
beforehand. Some community stations try to do this, but very quickly get complaints made about them to the ACMA along the lines that they
are not encouraging community participation when a tug of war occurs between conflicting presenter tastes, usually across age groups.
Local Radio does not have to encourage community participation, it does, but there is no license requirement for it to do so. Local Radio instead
says “this is what we are doing come and work with us and contribute if you are interested in what we are doing”. This doesn't mean that Local
radio never changes format, like any business it responds to changing audience tastes. But it does so in a careful, gradual and planned way,
format changes are never ad hoc or sudden as building and retaining audience relies upon long term consistency - often in community radio
shows change monthly so other people can "get a go", of course this is what community radio is for.
Local Radio is also managed by individuals rather than committees, therefore does not get bogged down in the trivial disputes or power struggles
that sadly often characterize community radio.
In some ways Local Radio is like Community Radio. On Local Radio people can do shows in a reasonably control free environment (in fact people
that have come from the community radio sphere to us usually comment on how unrestrained it is working with us). We believe personality is a
big thing on radio and we want presenters to express themselves as individuals. We set very minimum standards on live programming (broad
guidelines on music strict guidelines on the playing of adverts) and leave the rest to the presenter.
Local Radio is not Commercial Radio. Commercial Radio does a lot of things right, it can get and keep advertisers and maintains (generally) a high
standard of professionalism with rigid quality controls. The only problem with this is that Commercial radio as a result sounds insincere, takes no
risks on content and tries hard to bombard the listener into a passive state of mind.
Local radio relies upon local voices and local people who have a far less pushy style of presentation. The logic is that the same information can
be relayed in a format that is less controlled (or contrived as it sounds to the average commercial radio listener). The preferred presenters on
Local Radio are competent people who can hold a conversation but have ordinary untrained voices.
Local radio does not want to just sound like small scale commercial radio by employing people with years of radio experience. This doesn’t
necessarily mean Local Radio looks for ex-community Radio presenters either. Often community Radio presenters develop a pretentious style
which is pretty much as bad as the commercial one.
Before it launched in Australia in 2001 the Nova Radio Network found in a survey of Australian Radio listeners that the thing they disliked the
most about commercial radio was that it “talked down to them”.
Local Radio wants to sound down to earth to the audience listening to it. Indeed Local radio often gives voice to people whose voices are
traditionally deemed unsuitable for both commercial and community stations. It operates from the research that an audience will relate to the
voice of someone they would hear in the street in their locality, far better than a trained radio voice or a community radio presenter.
In some ways Local Radio is similar to Commercial Radio. It plays adverts on time every time. It plays them in a professional way and gives them
the importance they deserve, without them no income and no station!
Local Radio is not National Radio. Many National Radio Stations call their programming “Local Radio”. However Local Radio is not just a slick
branding; it is not what is happening in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide etc. as they suggest - its what’s happening right here in the relevant
district or town. It is Radio about the local area, not broad sweeping regions described as “local”.