AFR Radio Summit – industry roundtable

In a ’roundtable’ panel session at the Australian Financial Review’s Radio Summit in Sydney, four panel members identified sales, marketing and digital radio as some of the main issues the radio industry should focus on in the near future.

Austereo CEO Michael Anderson told the audience that commercial radio must concentrate on growing its share of advertising beyond what has been around 8% for many years. Anderson also believes proposed changes to media legislation may weaken radio’s ability to control its own fate.

Taking a regional point of view, RG Capital’s group sales director and Gold Coast General Manager Nick Scott stressed the importance of growing advertising share, giving the example of his Gold Coast stations, which have 78% direct sales business. Nick Scott also said his other key concerns included talent development.

Newly appointed 2UE general manager Bob Miller says “it is all about the customer.” Miller would like to see growth come from the television sector to radio, and says that radio must focus on the customer and become “remarkable” by adopting innovation.

ABC Radio’s Head of Radio Development Russell Stendell named Digital Radio and Convergence as the key issues from his point of view. He compared the audiences of radio with other media over recent years and concluded that radio listening has been healthier. He said radio’s reach and TSL were similar to years ago, while newspaper reach has declined. Comparing radio with tv, Stendell says radio has learnt to adapt successfully to a medium that is often background listening, but that tv, which is facing the same issue now, will struggle when its consumers regard it as background viewing.

In an earlier session Communications Minister Daryl Williams spoke by video about the new media bill, which the government plans to introduce to parliament again. He says the bill “will not reduce the diversity of radio services.”

“Radio is not exempt from the current challenges in the media, but it is a healthy industry. It is embracing new technology and adapting,” says Williams.

He says the challenge for radio is to define what is compelling enough about the medium to continue to drive the industry effectively into the future.

Broadcast Australia’s Clive Morton told the summit “digitisation is inevitable.”

He said “holding back the tide will risk competitive marginalisation… we should embrace convergence opportunities and create drivers for takeup.”

Russell Stendell agreed with Morton, reminding summit delegates that the radio industry has been talking about digital radio for many years and nothing much has happened. “Let’s get on with it,” said Stendell.