Murdoch University re-images a career in ‘Radio’

Dr Simon Order – Senior Lecturer in Radio and Sound at Murdoch University – reflects on the future of the medium. 

There seems to be a lingering conception from some quarters that as a medium FM/AM local radio has somehow been demoted; that the Internet and associated diverse media have outperformed the audio medium with far glitzier offerings.

As a radio academic I often encounter this presumption, as though it’s all over for radio and I’d better find another job. On the plus side I also encounter an equal number of radio and audio enthusiasts who believe that radio is evolving and blossoming with new delivery technologies. The latter group points towards expanding new careers in radio. These are of course, my anecdotal reflections, what do other radio folks think?


I was fortunate enough to attend the Radio Research 2013: Radio, the Resilient Medium conference in London last September. There were a range of senior UK industry FM radio figures, international radio academics and online radio industry developers who all gave presentations on their perceptions of the future of radio. One memorable commercial radio professional suggested that the current evolution of the radio industry was like, “the crew of a Boeing 747 trying to replace an engine whilst flying at 30,000 feet”. Radio is still flying but the technology and audio delivery landscape is changing so fast that as soon as one new technology/app/portal is integrated alongside FM/AM radio formats another had arrived to take its place. Radio as a medium is expanding and evolving beyond previous industry borders.

There was a general consensus from FM/AM radio presenters at the conference that swiftly- changing audio delivery modes were indeed challenging. This may also account for the significant radio future doomsayers I meet in my work, simply because FM/AM local radio may be less obvious in the now crowded audio delivery market place. One thing, however, that all presenters at the same conference agreed upon was the resilience of radio as an audio medium. The age old cliché “audio content is king” was a rallying call for all presenters. While audio delivery portals may come and go the listener still wants to hear good quality content in whatever format they chose to access.

Industry figures at the same conference where also asked by one academic “what should we as educators be teaching our students in this fast evolving audio delivery paradigm?” There was a resounding response: “Teach them how to produce riveting content. Teach them how to tell stories, to entertain, to educate and do this with powerful audio content.” The various new radio platforms are fascinating but they continue to rely on quality audio content providers. I was heartened by this coherent response and it may be a signpost for us, as radio educators, to re-focus our thoughts on what constitutes a career in radio.

Radio need not be primarily defined by its mode of delivery, be it FM or iTunes. The transmission medium certainly has some impact, but what continues to keep me positive is that students spend 95% of their time talking to me about radio people, stories, presenters, shows, voices, SFX, audio grabs, music, journalism and probably 5% about the format. Our students are digital natives; their propensity to be impressed by the latest radio portal gadget is small but their positive response to quality audio content is consistent.

It’s a small step to extrapolate the primacy of audio content to make a strong case for the re-imaging of radio education and expanding career options for our students. Visiting parents and potential radio students who attend Open Day at my University often query the relevance of traditional FM/AM radio and the reality of career prospects in “radio”. For example, “what are the real chances of my son getting a job presenting on Triple J or Nova?” I have to be honest with them. However, once the definition of radio is expanded to include audio content production and using sound to communicate in the newer audio delivery industries plus other related industries, their career options begin to multiply. They may start out wanting to work in traditional FM/AM radio when they arriving at university but the audio job market is far wider than purely radio. Let’s make sure they are equipped to make the most of these other opportunities.

Our Radio and Sound degree programs at Murdoch University are synergised with this very objective; central to the way the courses are designed. Our Radio and Sound graduates have the potential to work in any industry where quality audio content production is required and the list is ever-increasing: Radio of all types and delivery methods, film/TV of all types, journalism of all types, game design, live music production, web communications and advertising.

I strongly believe that promoting a career in Radio to potential students and parents is an enviable task when viewed in this light. Let’s expand our notion of a career in radio. If we have educated our students to use their ears to the highest degree as radio/sound content producers, those same ears can also offer an expert service in a wide range of industries other than the potentially outmoded perception of the radio industry. We owe our students the best chance of securing a job when they leave university. Let’s make sure our Radio and Sound programs facilitate that chance.


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