As bad weather continues to batter the east coast of Australia, ARN stations across the country have pivoted their content to provide listeners with up-to-date information on the unfolding floods.
While still keeping within their usual style, each show has adapted to satisfy the audience’s desire for information by increasing news, weather and live bulletins, balanced with escapism and stories of hope
Ciaran Davis, ARN CEO has told radioinfo: “Over the past week, we’ve seen the power and critical nature of our radio stations in places like Gympie, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Wollongong.
“Our ability to work hand-in-hand with government agencies and emergency services to quickly and accurately distribute life-saving information in exceptional. We truly are the life-blood of the community at challenging times like these.”
In Brisbane, last Monday at the peak of the flood crisis, KIIS 97.3FM’s Robin Bailey continued broadcasting live from her balcony while the Brisbane River lapped at her front door. In the following days Robin continued presenting the show from her home even after the water had caused serious damage and the clean-up had begun (main picture).
News bulletins on the station were doubled across the day and broadcast until 6 pm and KIIS 97.3 broadcast a local drive show with Collective Noun instead of the usual national programming. The KIIS 97.3 street team will distribute care packs for flood-affected areas.
In Sydney, WSFM turned the entire station to flood coverage last Thursday. Jonesy and Amanda spoke to the Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, to get a first-hand update on the worst-hit areas and took calls from listeners affected by the floods. They also spoke to 7 and 9 News reporters and Ben Dillon Smith from his riverfront home at Picnic Point.
After 9 am, WSFM’s Ugly Phil and Steve Fitton took calls and crossed to reporters at the scene of various flooded parts of the city. News Bulletin and Traffic Reports were doubled in frequency, with full updates on the hour and half hour. Bill Weaver took over broadcasting live from 8 pm to midnight with calls, updates on flood levels and time-sensitive critical information.
At ARN’s new regional stations, River949 (Ipswich), Zinc (Gympie) and Hot91 (Sunshine Coast) the newsroom teams added half-hourly local Ipswich bulletins and increased staffing.
At the start of the COVID pandemic, many local newspapers were forced to close, and as a result, radio is more important than ever, particularly in regional Australia where people rely on it for connection to the community. Across ARN impacted stations, news, weather and live bulletins have all been increased and the telling of local stories from listeners has become the priority.
Audio plays a vital role in providing people with a sense of community and connection, with listeners reaching out to offer assistance, food and shelter via ARN radio stations. Staff says they have witnessed “incredible community spirit and used the power of radio to assist where they can.”
Ipswich – River 94.9
- The on-air team aimed to get as many listeners as possible to share their stories and reflect the warnings and information from councils and the SES. On the first day of the flood, more than 200 calls were put to air from the regions affected.
- Increased the frequency of news updates across the entire four days, and flood updates were on-air every 10 minutes.
- Live and local shifts aired to midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and ran emergency information remotely when the team couldn’t be in the studio. The local Saturday What’s On Show and Sports show became all about the emergency. The hours of these shows extended to ensure we always had someone on the air.
- Everything on air was quickly reflected on social media, with more than 300,000 people reached via social media posts over the four days.
- With the water now receding, the focus turns to the clean-up. River 949 has teamed up with Ipswich Council to attend a series of BBQs to help ensure local volunteers and the SES/Firies are fed and watered.
Gold Coast – Hot Tomato
- Live programming Saturday evening from 6 pm to midnight, pushing weather warnings and local council updates.
- Live programming across Sunday, 27 February with extended news coverage on-air from 6 am to 6 pm
- Live programming from 5 am on Monday, 28 February with live crosses.
- Rolling coverage on myGC.com.au with weather updates & road closures from Saturday is ongoing.
- Good Morning Gold Coast, with updates on the rain from various locations on the coast and a special Good Afternoon Gold Coast on Monday, 28 February, with the three receiving 19,385 views to date.
Sunshine Coast – Zinc 96.1 and Hot 91.1
- The team started on Wednesday morning with more than 100 calls coming through to the Hot 91.1 Breakfast show with reports of flash flooding around the Sunshine Coast. The regular show plan pivoted to cover the unfolding situation.
- Mikey from the Random 30 went live across the day to continue taking the huge volume of calls coming through with flooding reports or asking for updates.
- Overnight on Friday, weather updates ran on both Hot and Zinc.
- News bulletins and weather reports were increased to two per hour.
- On Monday, Jade from Zinc breakfast broadcast from home due to being flooded in.
- As the flood impact unfolded in Gympie on Monday, Bilko remained on-air until 1 pm with Hinksy doing an information-based VT shift.
- All shows have constantly had the Mayors of Gympie, Noosa, and Sunshine Coast. This continued into this morning with rain and storms returning to the region.
Some of the coverage from Wave FM, Wollongong includes:
- Caravan park residents in Windang, Warilla and Barrack Point told to prepare to evacuate as high tide approaches
- Illawarra roads and trains affected by flooding
- Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils respond to wild weather – where to get sandbags
- Show us how wet it is at your place.
At 2ST/Power 949, Nowra. staff used Instagram and Facebook stories to communicate urgent information. Breakfast Announcer Abby jumps on those platforms to show listeners why they need to be careful driving through floodwaters.