Radio - not just AM and FM | radioinfo

Radio - not just AM and FM

Tuesday 16 July, 2019
4KQ Breakfast Team: Laurel, Gary & Mark

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

The radio ratings in Australia come out every six weeks, which I still find slightly amazing. I’m much more used to the UK’s sedate pace of a set of figures every quarter.

The local TV news bulletins report on the figures, too - something fairly unheard of in the UK. Indeed, relations with local media in the UK were rather frosty: I remember colleagues having the station logo on their t-shirts painted out before their pictures appeared in the local paper.

This time around, in Brisbane, an unlikely station has made an appearance in the top of the charts. It’s saddled with a name consisting of a listener-unfriendly set of call letters; it broadcasts oldies; and - for goodness sake - it’s on AM.

4KQ, I’m reliably informed by people who know better than me, is one of the world’s best programmed oldies stations. It first went to air in 1947, owned by the Australian Labor Party, but is now owned by ARN and broadcasts from gleaming new studios on the banks of the Brisbane River.

AM radio - there’s no doubt about it - is dying: certainly for music. Brisbane lost its other big commercial AM music station, 4BH, a few years ago: it now relays sport from Sydney. An AM community radio licence - meant to be formatted for young listeners, would you believe - hobbles on.

Yet, 4KQ is now the #2 station in Brisbane. An AM station.

The reasons why? It isn’t just an AM station. 4KQ is, of course, also on DAB+ and on a number of apps including RadioApp, Australian commercial radio’s aggregator app, and on iHeartRadio, which is licenced in Australia by ARN and does particularly well on smart speakers in the country.




I’ve absolutely no doubt that the station’s current high results in the ratings is because they’re not just an AM station. They’ve worked hard to make themselves available in as many places as possible.

They’re also one of the most visible stations for local events - sponsoring various activities like the annual festival, and even appearing on the Brisbane edition of Monopoly.

The “platformists” believe that AM and FM is what makes radio work - and that we can force our audience to tune in. But I side with those in radio who believe that its future is multi-platform: and that we should meet our audience wherever they are - on digital radio, on apps and on smart speakers.

So good on 4KQ for their ratings success. Listeners will seek you out - as long as you use new platforms wisely.


About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland


Related report: New platforms key to 4KQ's resurgence


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17 July 2019 - 2:47pm
as someone not in the industry (but with an interest) the first rule should be availability. I have a house full of smart speakers i use to listen to radio (I don't even know if i own an am radio any more)

If i ask my alexa to play a station and it can't - i don't keep trying. I'll find another station or play spotify.

it's also smart to be on these devices for an older skewing station because a lot of older people are now getting these smart speakers (generally as a gift) as a health and safety measure. we recently got one for my 98 year old grand father in case he has a fall he can contact me through my speaker, or the one my mother owns.
18 July 2019 - 1:05am
Maybe I'm missing something here but if 4KQ is so successful on different platforms, how do the ratings show it #2 station when the survey is for AM listenership? Or does it add results of AM and DAB?

As a younger person interested in media, I don't listen to AM stations or use a radio the way I used to. My other devices connect to everything I want from anywhere I choose.

I think AM could have had a few more years left, but the transmission power in Australian cities like Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne is far less than in the US, for example. Signals that once got through the less cluttered airspace, don't penetrate like they did.

Radio generally would have had a better future here with more stations on FM, but industry is too protected and the choice isn't there as in other countries.

DAB may help replace AM with better sound but signals are often patchy and newer technology has overtaken the old.

EDITOR: Good points, thanks for your comment.
On your question about the AM/FM charts including DAB listenership - the answer is, yes they do.
The orange charts in our ratings reports list stations that are on either on the AM or FM bands - the figures quoted incorporate their digital listening (DAB and online). The purple charts in our reports list additional stations that are only on DAB+, but not heard on the AM or FM band.
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