In tomorrow’s survey, the most intriguing battleground will be Perth

Survey results now available HERE.

Peter Saxon asks Gary Roberts

Is it super prgramming skills or local knowlege that succeeds in Perth?

On the back of two massive surveys results for 96fm, the station has rocketed from a 7.7 share and 6th place to 12.7, and 2nd place, just 0.8 behind market leader Nova 93.7 and 1.8 ahead of the once impregnable MIX94.5 now relegated to third place. 
Tomorrow morning, we’ll find out whether 96fm can maintain the momentum and perhaps sneak into 1st place. Or will it succumb to the laws of gravity as they apply to radio that ordain it come down as fast as it went up.

Gary Roberts, who has led every FM station in Perth at number one reckons 96fm is on track to regain its former glory.

radioinfo: So, having run out of FM stations to manage in Perth, you’re back to where you started – your spiritual home. You’ve taken the job – the opportunity to fix it. What was wrong with it? 
Roberts: How long have you got?
Wrong talent Wrong tactics, wrong music. A lack of vision. There were so many things that needed to be done.
I told Ciaran Davis ARN CEO and Duncan Campbell, if we’re going to do this, we need the full research job done. So regardless of what I think, it’s what the market needs and what the opportunities are within the market that count.
Most of what I thought was shit, was shit. Some things that I thought was shit were okay. Other things I thought were okay were shit. By the time we got through the full project, we had a very clear idea about what the next steps had to be. 
We also had to test the music, where we were going to focus it, exactly what the target was… By the time we’d been through everything and decided what it was – Duncan and I had some very long discussion about what we’re doing why and talking about talent and  where we would sit as a station – all those things had to be done. We didn’t sit around and procrastinate. We went out and did the work. Then it was a case of next step, next step, next step. That’s what we did.
radioinfo: So, you went out and you did the work… but as we all know, radio is showbiz, some of it’s work and some of it’s “magic”…
Roberts: And timing.  I keep telling people this is just the beginning. We’ve done a lot of work to do it. And like every station we’ll have our ups and downs. But if you look at the trends, we’ll be fine. I don’t pay much attention to one survey result, I look at trends as I always have.
radioinfo: Yes, but they’re two pretty big results in a row that some might think constitutes a trend. 
Roberts: To go up 5 percent in two surveys would be a surprise to anybody.
radioinfo: Usually when stations go up by that much, they prepare to go back down just as fast. But to go up twice for a 5.0 gain is remarkable. Is it sustainable?
Roberts: I was very clear with the staff from the beginning. I said I wanted a 10.0 share and 400k in cumes. And we were sitting on a 7.0 share and 300k. And they look at me and go, really? You’re kidding. We haven’t seen 400k ever in our history.
And I set the goals and made it very clear about what we were going after. So, everyone understands now. Moving staff into that mindset is a challenge, no question. But for me it was clear what I thought was achievable. I thought we’d maybe sneak across the line by the end of the year. We did it a bit quicker than that.



radioinfo: How much of that rapid turnaround is due to local knowledge compared to basic programming knowledge?
Roberts: I think I know a little bit about this place after four decades in the market. You know what works and what doesn’t. What’s right and what’s wrong. Because it’s happened elsewhere, doesn’t make it right in this market. Each market is different.
Normally it takes time to turn a station around. But if the market is ready – and I think that’s really the case for us – the market was ready for something fresh particularly with the brand that has the heritage value of 96fm. 96 is a unique radio station. A lot of people grew up with it and hung with it for a long period of time. 
All those listeners that were there (from 1980) for the twelve years that I was there, were immoveable. I think we peaked at a 31.8  share . We owned the market. There was no question about it. We were the radio station. And despite the fact that the others converted to FM and were doing okay, they still couldn’t compete with 96. We held the position of being the original. It worked
The heritage value that’s in that brand is something most people wouldn’t know anything about unless they’d lived in the Perth market. A lot of what we’re doing now at 96 reflects that heritage. 
We’ve got the right talent. Getting Fred Botica and Lisa Shaw back on the air is fabulous. The best voices in the industry. Smiley’s (Mark Pascoe – below left) doing a fabulous job in the mornings. Best he’s ever worked despite having been there for 20 years. Putting Russell Clarke (below right) on the air doing afternoons, took everyone by surprise because he hasn’t been on the air for about a decade . He’s absolutely perfect for what we wanted. He’d been the Music Director and CD for MIX 94.5. Hadn’t been on the air for quite some time. And he’s the right for the right radio station at the right time. So all of those things, all of the steps we’ve taken are all based on the knowledge from research and the knowledge we have of Perth.

But we’ve got to keep saying to people this is this is this is the beginning. This is only a very short period of time. I’ve literally been here for only six months. And that’s what’s taken everyone by surprise. But again, I’ve had the right people in the right place at the right time. It’s lined up very nicely and being given freedom to do it. 
Ciaran and Duncan have been fabulous. They just said yep, it’s your call. Go.

Peter Saxon

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