National Radio Conference session reports

Clive James says fame breeds envy when its unearned, Joe Hockey wants radio to lobby harder to get more share of government ad campaigns, Nick Piggot doesn’t think iPods are killing the radio stars and Siimon Reynolds says charge more to get good radio creative. These are just some of the highlights of the National Radio Conference on the Gold Coast.

Opening speaker, Clive James, delivered a well crafted and amusing speech about the cult of celebrity, blaming reality tv for many of the woes of untalented celebrities who have not earned fame. He says the media “makes and breaks celebrities at will” and the pressure of fame often becomes too much for those who have not earned their status by actually doing something to deserve fame.

“Tv ruins everyone who appears on it, but radio has much less of this madness,” says James. “Australia has avoided the worst excesses of this phenomenon… because Australians respect achievement but are sceptical of fame and glamour… Australians will lead the charge against this.”

Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, who officially opened the conference at the brand new Conference Centre overlooking the Gold Coast, told delegates that he respects the commercial radio medium because he understands how hard people in commercial radio work to keep the business healthy. Beattie was a former board member of 4KQ when it was previously owned by the Labor Party.

Beattie says politicians should appear regularly on radio because it gives them a chance to expand on their views better than other media, and gives their constituents a chance to question them.

“Politicians should be across all the issues and make themselves available… even in a difficult week like I have had it is important to front up and explain yourself to your constituents, who will judge you fairly,” says Beattie, who makes himself available for interviews every Friday morning on both B105 and 4BC.

Federal Tourism and Small Business Minister, Joe Hockey , talked about the importance of radio to both areas of his ministerial interest – home based small business people and the tourism sector. He also revealed he listens to Sammy and Jason on Mix 106.5 breakfast when he is at home in his Sydney electorate.

“We are developing an enterprise culture in Australia and home based small business is the engine room for that… it is a whole new business demographic.”

To illustrate the significance of radio for politicians, he told a story of two interviews with the BBC. When talking to people who had heard his radio interview, Hockey said they remembered what he was talking about and were eager to debate the content of what he had to say. But, when talking to people who had seen his tv interview they remembered what he wore, but not so much of what he had to say.

From the politician’s point of view, he urged radio stations to make it easier for politicians to get their message across by having some kind of ‘Reuters-like’ radio news pooling system so that politicians don’t have to talk to dozens of radio newsrooms to get achieve national coverage. He contrasted that with tv, saying politicians can talk to just three commercial tv newsrooms and get national coverage.

He also urged the commercial radio industry to lobby politicians and government better so as to get a greater share of the advertising pie (see other story).

When asked about whether the electronic media advertising ban three days before an election would be reviewed, he was not optimistic that there would be any changes to this legislation in the near future. “It’s archaic isn’t it, but it probably won’t change,” he said.

In a session on new media competition, American programming consultant, Jason Kane, discussed marketing strategies and UK Digital Radio engineer, Nick Piggott, said the development of digital radio will stop iPod from killing the radio stars.

Piggott says people are buying iPods and legally downloading music from the associated iTunes website because the iPod is “cool.” He then discussed studies of digital radio which found consumers thought digital radio was also cool.

“In the UK, we love digital. If you stick the word digital in front of anything, you will sell more if it,” Piggott told the conference.

He said younger audiences are listening less to radio and are choosing to become their own program directors and compile their own playlists in devices like iPods. They are also willing to pay for the privilege and Piggott urges stations to make it possible for listeners to buy the music they hear on the radio through digital radio downloads.

Young listeners still value radio for timely information, personalities (only the good ones), thoughtful properly targeted speech content, and the chance to be introduced to new music.

“This is where digital radio can help us. It gives us a defence against new competition for our younger listeners’ time. We can use it to hold ground on things that radio is well known for. If we don’t, our consumers will get that content digitally elsewhere.”

Research about consumer reaction to digital radio, conducted by Piggott’s GWR Bristol station, shows there is a big ‘so what’ reaction to promoting better quality as a reason to buy digital radio. But what consumers do like is the screen based data services that digital radio can supply, which can potentially stop them flicking stations and can given them instant ‘value added’ content that will make them more loyal and happy to continue to use radio. “Text is powerful, just get it off those crappy small screens.”

“With digital radio, we’re back in the game,” says Piggott.

In a session on managing difficult talent internationally renowned film director Bruce Beresford addressed the question of how to manage difficult talent and told a series of amusing stories about stars who have worked in his films. His depressing advice for managers: Don’t try and manage them, they will manage you if they are big enough stars!

Also see earlier reports on radioinfo about Tourism Dollars and 17 Second Tags: