Arbitron Highlights Program Directors’ Achievements

This year’s Commercial Radio Australia Best Program Directors Award is again sponsored by Arbitron, which has provided these background profiles of each of the finalists from Arbitron’s “Beyond The Ratings – Australia” e-newsletter.

Non-metropolitan Nominees

Phil Brandel—The Edge 96.1

Phil tells us he loves a challenge, and thrives in radio’s world of increased competition and fragmentation. It’s that competitive edge and “trying to build cume when competing against giant marketing budgets” that brings out Phil’s best ideas, helping him gain a nomination this year for the best PD Award.

That “never say die” attitude was the driving force behind Phil breaking into the world of commercial radio. As Phil says, “sending tapes and harassing PDs for six months” helped him to land his first radio job in Mt. Isa. His enthusiasm for radio continues, meeting with clients as often as possible, while participating in morning discussions with his enthusiastic team of on-air personalities to decide on the day’s important topics and issues.

And the strangest thing Phil has ever been asked to do in his role as PD? “How about being asked by sales if they could have a credit line going into every song…Surprisingly, I said no”.

Mitch Braund—TTT FM/Sea FM 100.9, Hobart

Mitch capped a great rise in the radio world with the Best Programming Director Award, Provincial category, in 2003. This year he’s back for more, with more. Mitch added Sea FM programming to his duties with TTT FM in Hobart and has now moved on within the company to a larger market.

Mitch considers himself one of the lucky ones. “I went to work experience at the end of grade 11…did mid-dawns on weekends through grade 12…much to the horror of my parents, deferred Uni to do a night shift, yada, yada, we’re here”.

Mitch works with on-air personalities to find the topics of the day that “give us an emotional connection”. He reports that ”balancing time to spend the right time with the right people is what helps share the vision and brainstorm better radio”.

Mike Byrne—NX-FM, Newcastle

Mike has the good fortune—and great challenge—of keeping his top-rated team enthused and vibed to perform at the top of their game. It starts in the daily meeting. “We generally discuss the issues like you would around a kitchen table”, says Mike. “If it’s got legs in the meeting, chances are it will have legs on the air”.

Mike’s greatest challenge over the past 12 months—”keeping up with the supply of quality talent to Austereo’s metro stations”—is one that shows the high respect and esteem his Newcastle-based stations hold in the company’s fold.

Connecting with the local media and business community is another big part of the NX-FM and KO-FM PD’s mission. Mike cultivates strong relationships with local television stations and the Hunter region’s newspapers, inviting their reporters to station events.

To Mike, the great thing about radio is that no two days are ever the same. “A team building experience once ended in most of us in the hospital, and I was once forced to spend all night watching people kiss a car in the rain,” he claims. “There have been plenty of other strange requests, but I haven’t always said yes!”

Mark Littler—Sea FM, Fraser Coast

One way to get a Best PD nomination is to think outside the square when approaching a new and challenging issue.

Mark Littler, challenged with building a breakfast team capable of embracing the entire Wide Bay area, constructed a studio in the Bundaberg sales office. Now, one of the breakfast team broadcasts from Bundaberg, linked to their two Maryborough breakfast personalities 100 km away. With the use of technology the solution now delivers listeners one Wide Bay breakfast show.

Mark got his first start as an announcer in Western Australia. It was sheer dogged determination that got him there, after applying for more than eight on-air positions over a 10-month period. Since then, he has been immersed in the usual and unusual details of making a radio station run. As Mark tells it, he even worked at one station where the PD “was in charge of putting out the wheelie bin”.

That quirky sense of community duty has seen Mark liaising with local businesses, while also being an active member of the local Rotary Club. “We also have a great relationship with other local media, and have had excellent results from many cross promotions with the press and television,” says Mark.

Metropolitan Nominees

Clark Forbes—1278 3AW, Melbourne

Clark’s entrée into commercial radio came after he was recruited out of newspapers. He has used his cross-media background to maintain strong relationships with other Melbourne media outlets. Building compelling news and talk responses to Melbourne’s day-to-day topics and issues sees Clark working with on-air personalities to choose which topics and issues to focus on. In true, cut-through style, Clark says, “We work it out through discussion, debate, and if that fails, sheer bloody mindedness”!

Dealing with the human side of radio regularly rises to the top of issues to resolve, making it one of a number of daily challenges to juggle in the PD role. Rarely, though, does a PD have to deal with the tragic loss of a much-loved station personality who is also a national sporting hero. As Clark explains, “The biggest challenge of the last year was dealing with the traumatic and tragic death of Sports Today presenter David Hookes”. It just shows that the role of today’s PD goes far beyond being the traditional role of program maker and producer.

Rex Morris—B105, Brisbane

Rex Morris now leads twice the team he used to in his Program Director position at B105. He takes the time to coach and plan with every team member, and the results show in B105’s consistent performance.

Rex believes in a high-level of communication with the business world and other media partners. Between his inside team and his outside activities, Rex delivers on an effective PD’s need to relate to people.

Leadership sometimes also means letting other people decide for themselves. Rex provides an overview when the station picks topics for the day, “But at this level our people on the air and their producers decide for themselves”.

Scott Muller—Nova 96.9, Sydney

We’re not sure if Scott started his motto, “The Wrong-est PD for the Job,” or if it came from somewhere else. But we do know that Scott is actually one of the “Right-est” PDs for Nova 96.9, as he leads his station to increased results year after year.

“As a feral bush kid from the Great Sandy Desert in WA, I grew up wanting to work in a big city recording studio—not because of the drugs but because I really like loud noise”, says Scott with a wry sense of humour. Scott was hired at Channel 9 in Perth, and shortly after took on the role as cart boy at 6KY Perth (now 94.5).

Since moving on to PD at Nova 96.9, Scott adds that, “I have been to meetings with clients and agencies. Why anyone would want to willingly spend time in the same room as a PD (especially this one) is beyond me. That said, it’s always interesting to hear their feedback and get their perspectives. Usually they’re well-informed and have some great ideas for us”.

And Scott gets his chance to have the last word on working with the highly talented and creative breakfast team of Merrick and Rosso over the past 12 months. “Trying to get Merrick and Rosso to embrace ‘Battle of the Sexes’ as a daily benchmark feature has been my greatest challenge. I still haven’t succeeded!”

Arbitron will be at Booth #8 in the Radio Fest Exhibit area of the commercial radio conference on the Gold Coast this weekend and will also contribute to the general session on Electronic Measurement Devices.

Click below for Arbitron’s website.