Recent changes at ABC NewsRadio are aimed at refreshing the sound of the network as it enters its second decade.
The station, which is highly valued by media, bureaucrats and politicians for its continuous rolling news format, was recently moved into new studios at ABC Ultimo, and is now undergoing some lineup changes as the next step in its evolution.
Russell Powell spoke to radioinfo about the changes, which include him being able to sleep in for the first time in many years.
”We have been tweeking the format for a few months now and we are going into 2005 with a better station than ever,” says Powell.
Network Head of the ABC’s national talk radio stations Mark Collier has been driving the changes, which see Powell moving to the more sociable drive time shift and John Barron taking over the breakfast shift.
Powell says: “We have adopted the phrase ‘the news never stops’ as a slogan that describes what we do so well. To live up to that we wanted to improve the reactivity of the drive time shift by allowing more opportunities for ABC reporters to talk live to us at that time.
“When I was at 2GB I did a similar kind of shift, so it made sense for me to take it on here.”
The drive timeslot on the network had previously come out of Brisbane, but has now been moved back to Sydney to allow the changes to take place. The aim is to be able to grab tv and radio reporters, who now work on the same floor in ABC Ultimo, as they are preparing stories for the evening news and current affairs programs.
“It has allowed us to make drive more hard hitting, for example Kerry O’Brien just finished recording an interview with the treasurer and he was able to drop into our studio immediatley afterwards and give NewsRadio listeners the scoop.
“In breakfast you are driven by an international agenda based on what happened overnight, but at this time of day there is much more happening on the Australian national agenda to get your teeth into.”
Powell says audience reaction has so far been favourable to the changes, with recent surveys showing an upward trend, and anecdotal evidence indicating audiences are listening longer.
“We have had phenomenal growth in the ten years since this network started, but the format can’t remain static, it has to keep evolving. The ability to include live Q & As with reporters as they are breaking or packaging stories is a new element that we have now added.”
NewsRadio broadcasts Parliament when it is sitting, but has now added an internet feed of its rolling news format so that news junkies can still get their NewsRadio fix even when the politicians are in full flight.
The Network has expanded beyond the capital cities to several major regional areas, and is expecting to be able to entend its transmission reach further in the next few years as a result of special extra funding promised by the coalition during the election campaign.