Radioinfo’s Manager’s Special: GM of Coastal Broadcasters Rod Henshaw

This year Radioinfo will go across the country and networks to catch up with General Managers on the state of the industry, their role within it and where we are headed.

Rod Henshaw is the newly appointed General and Sales Manager of Coastal Broadcasters Pty Ltd which includes Far North Queensland stations 4KZ, Kool FM, 4AM, KIK FM and 4AY. Prior to that he spent nine years with 2CC in Canberra, was Director of Media in Nauru and more than thirty years on Brisbane television and radio.

What are the biggest differences moving from a cold climate to a tropical one?

Besides the weather? I certainly won’t miss the 5am freezing cold starts but I do miss the people in Canberra.

I love the lifestyle here in Far North Queensland and the attitude to life.

We’re in one of the cyclone vulnerable areas. You get used to it. It’s part of the world that we love and part of the world we’ve learned to live with. When Cyclone Kirilly came it was my second day, and we had to put some emergency broadcasting stuff into place.

I got the Mayor on the phone from my office for an update. I said to him that I’d jump into a studio for a quick interview. He said, ‘Yeah, sure. No worries.’

I hung up the phone and said, ‘How the hell do I set up a studio?’

Anyway it happened, we recorded it so we could play it back a few times. I was walking around the building later and it was playing in the background. 

One of the staff said, ‘Hey, Rod, your first interview is going to air!’

I said, ‘Mate, my first interview went to air 58 years ago’.

What’s been your favourite part so far?

The variation. We’ve got two main stations and five all up.

You get to do a lot of travel. We go from Townsville in the south, right up to Cape York, and all points in between. The listening area for the stations is bigger than the state of Victoria.

Do you think it’s easier or harder working in radio in a capital city or a regional or remote area?

I’ve spent a lot of years in Metro radio, but I’ve always had a soft spot for regional. It’s more personalised. You’re more part of the community than you are in a big city. Not that there’s anything wrong with the big city radio stations, but I think as you mature it’s not that you like the easier life, but you do like the more relaxed lifestyle which you certainly get in Far North Queensland.

Mind you, having said that, I haven’t worked so damn hard for quite a lot of years since I’ve been up here!

I’ve gone back to where I was for most of my career and it’s not the first time administratively I’ve done this.

In Nauru I had to reestablish defunct radio and television stations under an AusAid program, through the Australian government.

Then, I had 32 people on the staff who didn’t have jobs because the stations weren’t working. I trained them up in radio and TV, from radio presentation, radio production, programming. Then on the TV side, to writing, to reading on TV and presenting.

I think it’s one of the proudest things I’ve done, a legacy. They’re still both operating and going great guns. I don’t like blowing my trumpet, but that’s something I achieved and I was so proud of the people who helped me achieve that.

What advice do you give to a newcomer to the industry?

Try and get as much experience in a radio and radio stations as you can.

If you have to move around to get that experience, do it. Get yourself well and truly experienced in all facets of the industry. Be a sponge for information.

The other advice is to be yourself. Don’t try and be anybody else.

What was the best advice you have been given?

You’re going to have highs and you’re going to have lows. And hopefully the highs will outweigh the lows by a long shot.

It won’t be a beautiful, smooth ride right through your career. When you cop one of those lows, and we’ve all copped them, dust yourself off and start over.

You learn from your mistakes and you’ll find new mistakes to make. It’s all a learning game.

Somebody said, “You seem to know everything in radio.”

I said, “I never will!”

What are the advantages of your (many multifaceted!) skill set and experience as a General Manager?

It makes all the difference.

I think of all of the things that I’ve done since I’ve been here. I’m not just the General Manager, I’m one of the team. I can read news, go on air, write copy, sell – all the roles you pick up along the way over 50 odd years of media.

You get to employ all of those facets of the industry in this particular job.

And that’s what I love so much.

Radioinfo’s Manager’s Special in a series that we will run throughout 2024. If you’d like to chat, or to nominate your manager, drop me a line.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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