Since 1980, when the station was born, 96fm Perth’s PD and prodigal son, Brad McNally has come and gone and come again and again. He was the original music director at 96fm in the early 1980’s when his network’s current CEO Adam Lang was still at school and lucky enough to score a week of work experience in the station’s record library. So it seems only fair that we ask McNally the same question we asked Adam Lang a few weeks ago: Is 96FM’s success despite the fact that the “wise men from the east” leave it alone, or because of it?
“The reality is, we are left alone. We are the odd one out, and I do feel like the Lone Ranger, there’s no question about that,” says McNally. But that’s not to say his bosses don’t contribute. He is quick to also point out, “Adam and Michael Anderson (a Fairfax Director) at the beginning of this year gave us the funds that we needed to market the radio station, and seemingly we’re up, up and away.”
With a funds approved by Fairfax Radio despite tight budgets in every other area, the pressure was on. The station spent six months researching the market and hired one of the town’s best agencies, Meerkats. The investment paid off.
“We changed the radio station in January and got to number one last book,” says McNally.
But he didn’t always have such a productive relationship with his bosses. In March 2008 he walked out of the station in protest of a management decision to replace Rod & The Flack with Gary Shannon in the breakfast slot. He was subsequently picked up by Sea and Gold FM on the Gold Coast.
Luckily, he never did get around to selling his house in Perth because by October 2010 all was forgiven and McNally was invited back.
“My feeling on 96 before I came back here was that the brand was well and truly shot. And it’s going to take some time and a lot of money to get 96 back up there so that in the minds of the listeners its not a station that just plays Cold Chisel and AC/DC. It’s not just a station that bogan blue collar men listen to.
“We really did put the radio station under the microscope. We looked at things like, do we change the name of the station? Do we blow it up and start over again?
It is often said in politics that an opposition does not so much win an election as a government loses it. Apply that maxim to the Perth radio market where Mix 94.5 had been in “government” with 100 straight survey wins under its belt, it is worth asking McNally, did 96 win the survey or did Mix lose?
“That’s a really good question,” he replies. “I like to think we won it when you look at the numbers because that’s what it really is all about. I think the radio station has some momentum.”
So, can the self-proclaimed Lone Ranger of a predominantly talk network maintain the lead against a station owned by FM music doyens SCA?
“I think that Mix are certainly a very good radio station,” says McNally. “They are a very broad based station musically – and the market has allowed them to become this way. But now 96 has moved up along side them and is taking a slice of their audience. So they need to circle their wagons and do what they do best – which is be an AC station.
“Whether we will win it next time? Mix will probably get back up there again next time based on the wave. We just have to keep pushing and trying to be the best that we can do,” says Brad McNally.