Game on for radio in Perth

Perth holds a unique place in Australia – far away from the cities of the east. And most of Perth’s denizens prefer it that way.
Indeed, those in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane can visit exotic overseas destinations such as New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia that are much closer than our western most capital. From Perth, though, you can reach Bali and much of Asia quicker than from Australia’s east or South.
Like the surf that rolls in from the opposite direction, the local radio market is… well, different.

For example, in Perth, triple j sits high up the ladder at #3 – well ahead of stations that it would normally trail in the eastern states. Its 11.5 share is almost triple that of its branches in Sydney and Melbourne.

For a long time, though, things were stable in Perth with Mix94.5 cemented to the number one spot. That is until last Tuesday when Cyclone GfK hit.

The table on the left is the Survey 3 result with Mix on top. The one on the right is the new Perth Order in the aftermath of Survey 4…

Of course, as seasoned programmers such as ARN’s Duncan Campbell will tell you, a single survey should not be taken too seriously on its own – especially if there were some frekishly large swings of 2.0 or greater. “It’s a Game of Trends,” he tells us with a straight face. “This one-off book is just that. It may be validated next survey and actually solidified the survey after.”

The worrying part for Mix is that the massive -2.2 plunge in Survey 4 is on top of a -1.1 dip in Survey 3. One might expect some hand wringing and gnashing of teeth from SCA executives if Survey 5 fails to show an improvement.
Yet cyclone season in Perth radio is not over yet. There’s a storm brewing between Nova93.7 and 96fm. The latter has been anchored to the bottom of the FM ladder ever since ARN purchased it four years ago from Fairfax.

​Now ARN is ready to make a full onslaught against its rivals and restore the station to its former glory.



“It’s getting ready for a resurgence,” say Campbell. “So watch this space.”

The resurgence started in April this year when they brought Gary Roberts (left) out of retirement and installed him as Managing Director. Prior to that Mr Roberts was boss of Nova for 16 years. Before that he’d been with 96FM since 1980. during which time he led the station to a record 34 consecutive number one surveys. Then, just last week, 96fm poached Nova’s long-time Content Director, Daniel Underhill (right).

After four years in the “wilderness,” ARN realised that Perth was not the same as other metro markets.  “It’s very different for a number of reasons” admits Campbell. “Isolation being one of them. If you have had experience in the marketplace and you’ve had success there then that adds a real value to that individual. And Dan had been in the Perth market for many years and he’s worked with Gary Roberts as well. So, having that level of Perth radio experience under one roof is beneficial. Dan was naturally the kind of person that Gary wanted to approach to bring across with him. So, there’s a fair bit of trust already built. Because otherwise walking away from a top rating station is a huge risk.”

In the Nova camp,  Paul Jackson (below left) is quite philosophical about losing his PD/CD to the opposition.

“In life people will always come and go,” he says. “At the end of the day it’s a privilege to hold any of these positions. Looking forward, this is a wonderful opportunity for somebody else to come in as the next  program director of Nova 937. If you get a job like that you have to appreciate it for everything its worth.
“But Dan’s been in the business for 16 or so years and done the Nova job for the past six or seven. Maybe that’s a cycle for him. 96fm is a different challenge. And he’s worked with Gary Roberts over the years. They’re likely to do something quite different to what Nova’s doing. And if they do a really strong job, then I would imagine that it’s more of a threat to someone like Mix. It could actually end up being beneficial to us all round. So, it’s better to be philosophical about other people’s decisions, wish them well and move on.” 

Still, there must be a twinge of concern that a long time employee might take some of your trade secrets to the opposition…
“It’s not really possible these days because everything changes so quickly. What we’re thinking in January, by April we’re not thinking any more. Our music systems at the start of the year aren’t the same as we use today. Life moves so quickly you just make decisions and judgements based on the knowledge you’ve got on any given day.”


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