World Radio Day 2024: Looking forward, looking back and unwrapping presents

The themes of 2024’s World Radio Day on February 13, is shining a broad floodlight on Radio’s remarkable past, relevant present and promise of a dynamic future. I’d like to put a little more of an Australian spin on this using the lyrics of Cold Chisel’s Don Walker, and voice of Slim Dusty, and call it, Looking Forward Looking Back.

There are plenty of examples of this across networks, podcasts and stations. As I consider World Radio Day to be akin to a birthday party I thought I might celebrate some of the of the best “presents” of Australian radio right now.

ARN: Multimedia marketing with heart

In February 2023 Gold 104.3’s The Christian O’Connell Show launched the Win a Billboard campaign where people were able to share a personal message via a giant billboard. Survey 1, 2023 saw a 1.6 increase in their breakfast audience as the concept, both poignant and fun, hit the mark with their listeners.

Any of the metro capital cities will have billboards, buses and the like promoting radio shows, but this utilisation of an advertising medium that has been around forever, was different, and personal.

In 2024 the show brought the campaign back, this time with images. I don’t live in Melbourne but have been avidly following along. I expect a positive Survey 1 for O’Connell, especially given the delay in arrival of Kyle and Jackie O.

SCA: Creating shows celebrating new and Australian music

I met Matty O’Gorman and his team from Triple M Homegrown with Matty O at the 2023 ACRAs (the show won the inaugural Gudinski Australian Music Champion Award) and was impressed by them and their passion for what they have created.

I was also delighted to see that SCA have further invested in a music champion on their Hit Network with Nic Kelly getting a Saturday show called The Hot Hits focusing on new music and artists.

Looking back there used to be an abundance of music specials and shows but they have mostly been removed, or on weekends or late nights, as is true of Nic Kelly and Matty O. It made me wonder when the last time someone said in a radio job interview that they were there because they loved music?

Nic Kelly clearly did, and the Network have given that love a space to flourish. I’ll watch with interest both shows progress this year. I also want to acknowledge Smallzy’s Surgery at Nova and triple j for championing the cause of new and Australian music.

ABC and SBS: Dusting off the cobwebs with digital content creation

To my great surprise, in recent times I’ve found that the radio station social videos I’ve enjoyed the most have come from the ABC. There’s a fresh energy about them.

ABC Listen and SBS Audio have so much diverse and interesting content and it’s a nod back to radio serials and specials, but delivered with a more personal and inclusive touch. Gone are the fuddy-duddy days of Aunty.

When I think back over some of the concepts that have crossed my desk, from SBS’s Australia Explained to the ABC’s Who’s Gonna Save Us, most every topic is covered, in different languages, learning styles and media formats.  You can even discover what the weird rash is on your elbow.

Producers, content creators, engineers do so much behind the scenes that is like the motor of your beautiful new EV. DAB+ stations, Nine Radio, LiSTNR, iHeart and other podcast production houses have created a whole new audio landscape and environment that is attracting listeners and creating jobs. Which brings me to:

ARN: There’s money in radio

However you feel about Kyle and Jackie O’s record breaking contract, by investing in their talent they’ve shown Gen Z and millennials that you can make a career in radio without needing a second or third job.

I had friends over on the weekend, an ex-journalist, who has moved into healthcare for both the stability and financial security. I feel we all know former radio colleagues who have done similar.

Without a K&J benchmark there’s little to entice newcomers to join if the previous tempters like getting access to your favourite musical artist, iconic programs that made you late for work because you didn’t want to get out of the car and miss a second or overflowing prize cupboards and travel budgets no longer really exist. Their show and their salaries matter. Just ask Alfie Laguzza.

Angela Frino; 2QN/Edge FM, Deniliquin NSW, ACE Radio Broadcasters Best Program Director Country award at the ACRAS 2022

On a less mercenary level there still exists smaller networks where the owners know your name, you are invested in and can build a rewarding career. Ace Radio Network’s Ange Parker (pictured above) is a shining example of that.

I celebrate with you World Radio Day and your own roles within this industry I love. Here’s to looking forward, looking back and unwrapping more “presents”.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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