Is community radio its own worst enemy?

Having been involved in the community radio sector for over 25 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes throughout the time. I remember a time where we had AM regional commercial stations while there were community stations on temporary community radio licences being only able to broadcast for 90 days a year in maximum spans of 30 days at a time. Commercial Radio Australia was successful in getting legislation for existing AM commercial stations to gain supplementary FM licences, often referred to section 39.

Community radio remains the easiest test ground for trying different programming and formats with the ability to change things up on a whim. In the early days it was not uncommon for every couple of hours for the music format to change, catering for multiple genres at different times perhaps known as strip programming.

Fast forward to today, there are now multiple avenues to have access to different genres of music, largely thanks to the internet platform. Australia has grown to have over 350 licenced community radio stations spread right across the country. The strength of community radio lies in being able to cater specifically to the geographical licence area rather than a national network syndication. Professional radio is lucky to have 3 hours of local radio delivery a day, where as community radio is much more likely to fill most or all of the day with local voices.

I toyed with the title being “is community radio imploding?”, so let me enlighten you further to this query. Community radio stations can have geographic areas of metro wide which are not allowed to use a general format, I suspect due to the impact it would have on professional radio. Then there are sub metro stations that can broadcast to less than a handful of suburbs which typically continue to do strip programming but emphasise their community through outside broadcasts, while other sub metros can come close to covering about a third of a capital city, sub metros are allowed to have a general format. In order to engage a wider audience during business hours, general format broadcasters have adopted playlisting and this has spread through to regional community broadcasters.

While regional community broadcasters too can have varying geographical coverage, it can be further clarified through transmission power output. A typical regional community broadcaster in a small town is commonly around 250 watt output power, but when the 1993 Draft Australian Broadcasting Authority Licence Area Plans were devised the body decided for stations in existing commercial licence areas, the community licences to be granted would match those of the commercial stations eg 2-10 Killowatts depending on topography.

So why am I talking about community radio being its own worst enemy? Well it would seem that the volunteer base that make up community stations fear sounding commercial or more to the point, more professional. Volunteers who have enjoyed from the start by playing their own music in a shift time slot that suits their availability and having a say on how the station should sound, through member consultation meetings.

But a growing number of these volunteers do very little in assisting with the operation of what is essentially a not-for-profit business. It takes a board of management to ensure there is enough money for day to day operations, equipment and running a 24x7x365 day service. The board implements policy and procedure to ensure the operation is compliant while supporting the community it serves. The Australian Government has in the last few years commissioned a study which made a bold statement that could lead to less or even no further government funding. So community stations will feel the need to become self-funded through subscription and/or sponsorship models.

The problem lies in community stations that don’t take advantage of the knowledge from those involved in professional broadcast or from associations that help community stations build support networks between one another and learn from shared experiences. Remember professional radio has compiled huge amounts of market research over the years. If your board or member base lacks radio experience other than their own station, they need to seek it out. Too much of the time I see opinion based on next to no evidence rather than factual information that can actually assist a station. For example, on air breaks where someone talks about the music rather than something of impact to the local geographic community where value and objective actually lies.

Consumer Habits – Alcohol

I have to admit, I rarely drink. But when I do I generally purchase from Dan Murphys possibly as a member special and using Cashrewards to purchase a gift card with 5% off I love ordering online and picking up in store although they need an option to select a chilled item. I think if you are a wine drinker, then perhaps a wine club is more of a saving. I tend not to keep alcohol at home because someone will end up drinking it sooner rather than later. It’s extremely rare for me to drink beer and I actually bought one at the local pub recently and got quite the shock at the price. It’s no wonder people are purchasing at the local liquor outlet rather than a venue. I do need to mention Dindima Wines who now make wine on the property I grew up on for most of my childhood.

Bargains to watch this week:

A tip first, if any of these specials are not in stock, ask for a raincheck and you will likely get at the advertised price when the product is in stock next time you are in store.

Coles: Red Island Extra Virgin Olive Oil 500mL1/2 PRICE $4, Freedom Foods XO Crunch 285g 1/2 PRICE $2, Kleenex Double Length Toilet Tissue 12 Pack $10, Save $2.00 

Woolworths: Mainland Buttersoft 375g $5.00 each Save $1.70 

Live from the Central Coast sort of…

This week I’m typing this blog entry up from the Central Coast of NSW, Terrigal to be more precise. It’s an area I don’t know too much about apart from having family here that I’m catching up with. I’ve been trying to catchup with old friends here and in Sydney for this trip, but people live very busy lives. I found where Star 104.5 studios are located but Shayne Sinclair is in Sydney for the week and in Brisbane for the Commercial Radio Awards. The Community Broadcasting Association awards aren’t too far away either. You have to nominated to be considered for a finalist position. The awards remind us of the passion we put in to make great media, I wish all finalists good luck in their chosen categories.

I’ve also returned to the airwaves at FM107.5 after being asked to pull a shift here and there. Technology is a wonderful tool when it works correctly, and we try to improve on it as time goes by. I’ve been asked by a few people to do some paid work for voiceovers and that will come to fruition soon.

Consumer Habits – Groceries

This is obviously a big expenditure in most peoples’ eyes and I must say it’s something I’ve altered significantly in the last few years. I purchase my meat through a local butcher and the same with fruit and vegetables. I find this gets me better quality, less processed and prices are much better. I feel so sorry for people who are stuck buying these items at a supermarket. Having said that, Supermarket wise I only buy minimal items such as Milk and whatever I find on special or need. I spend minimal time in supermarkets now as I just stick to my list and get out. But there is one major difference I’ve been doing in the last year, if I am purchasing from Woolworths and I know from researching online that my spend will be over $30 then I use the pickup service and regardless of spend at either Coles or Woolworths I now use gift cards which save me between 4-5%. I mean why wouldn’t you if you can shave a bit off, I use Cashrewards which gives me 5% off Woolworths and 4% off either using Suncorp Rewards, which is handy because you can do it at the self-checkout on your phone if need be. I’m a member of Flybuys, Woolworths Rewards and IGA Rewards, there is little benefit, but they do help you track specials on things you have purchased in your history.

Bargains to watch this week:

Woolworths Exclusive – Darrel Lea chocolate bars $2.50 (half price)

Personal Reflection

I’ve been spending time recharging my batteries, swimming in the morning doing about 9 laps of a 25-metre pool in the space of 30 minutes with an occasional gym session in the afternoon. I’ve cut back on processed food including sugar and finding a sense of calmness. Sundays I find myself reading books about being frugal, side hustles and how to find the work you desire. My preferred working environment with an employer is to do something that at the end of the day it doesn’t spill over into my personal life or the next working day. I intend to keep up this blog as an experimental ground, who is reading this and what do they find beneficial I wonder?

Consumer Habits – Household Services

There are mainly two household services that I make use of. Originally when I moved here I would mow the lawns and do the edging which proved difficult work for me not to mention the outlay for the equipment and running costs. I approached the real estate for a recommendation for a contractor who ended up charging $60 but then our neighbour put us on to a service only costing $30 (Stuart Gosling – Doo Doo Property Maintenance 0412 320 396), now I’m looking at getting rid of the noisy whipper snipper or line trimmer as they like to call them now.

The other aspect is carpet cleaning, I like to get this done at least every 12 months and I give Noddy a call from Brightaire Property Services 0412 587 944. He’s also one of the guys on air at night at Sunshine FM.

Bargains to watch this week:

Coles: Mainland Buttersoft 375g $5 Save $1.70

Volunteer vs Paid Opportunities

I feel I need to draw a line for myself when it comes between volunteer and paid opportunities in the not for profit sector. I started in radio back in 1993 and the amount of volunteer hours I’ve delivered over this time in short is somewhat excessive. Through this time, I’ve specialised in various aspects of broadcast delivery. It’s only been the last five years or so that I’ve implemented some paid parameters in my involvement.  I’m currently investigating the possibility of running a radio website that brings together key information for running a service and weighing up the pros and cons. Radio is definitely in my blood, so I suspect some sort of paid recognition of my labour will be devised. It is difficult for not for profits to determine when they should actually pay for a person’s time. For those community stations struggling to manage their radio station with volunteer board members, I can’t express enough how much a paid part-time or full-time station manager could benefit your organisation. This is especially important for running the day to day operations, putting out fires and giving the board the opportunity to focus on long term vision and direction.

Consumer Habits – Pocketbook

I’m taking a bit of a break from my exploration of expenses this week to persuade you to start using an app called Pocketbook. This neat little app uses your internet banking logins to pull all your transactions from bank accounts and credit cards to be visible in the one space. Breaking each transaction down to a category used by most users or specified by yourself. I can’t express how much this helps you track spending and adjust as you see fit.

Bargains to watch this week:

Coles: Red Island Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 Litre $8 (half price), Blackmores Fish Oil 1000mg 400 Pack $15 (half price).

Getting your software right!

Running a radio station relies on having decent software that matches your desired workflow. From your administration to your on-air output there are multiple software packages there to assist you in the operations. 

Note in the Radio Hyperlinks page I created on the left-hand side there are many varied possibilities. I don’t recommend just whacking in the first software you come across but chat with others in forums or your professional network to get a good grasp on what is thought to be a good or great solution. It will depend on your requirements and the budget, there is no doubt RCS wins most professional clients, but it comes at a hit to the pocket. 

Comparing playout systems is probably the most difficult and controversial topic as there as so many aspects to consider. Remember if you change one software package it can have an impact on others that interact with your current package. Also remember that a software or cloud solution may not be as good as a physical hardware rack unit fit for purpose.

Consumer Habits – Contents Insurance

I recall Ned Flanders from the Simpsons didn’t have insurance because he considered it gambling. Well I guess he is sort of right, but I’d rather have it than be without it as you never know what can happen.

I recently changed my contents insurance to Youi and saved a substantial amount of money. I recommend contents insurance to any adult and each year shop around for a better deal as insurance companies typically spit out an automated renewal amount which will more than likely be higher. The insurance companies use numerous data sets to work out how risky insuring you will be and I get that it can be really frustrating.

Don’t forget to include your special treasured collections and anything you are likely to travel with worth a large amount of money.

Bargains to watch this week:

Woolworths – Moccona Classic Freeze Dried Coffee 400g $16 (Save $8), Mainland Buttersoft 375g $5 (Save $1.70)

Coles Boost Recharge 80GB 12 month expiry $135 (Save $15) I’m using this product!, 20% off iTunes Gift Cards $30,$50,$100. Bega Block Cheese 1kg $9 (Save $2)

Radio Management

There have been a few people in my radio circles that have raised the appalling actions of radio management over the last few weeks and I thought it time to put my two bobs worth in.

Commercial Radio is known by many now to be controlled by bean counters, networked stations taking direction from state or head office. I suppose you could say a similar situation is in the ABC with budget cuts, losing talent that once saw them have higher listenership.

On talent, when is it time for management to step in because the talent has gone rogue? I’m talking about Alan Jones & Ray Hadley specifically. Well it seems that may be when the syndicating station is loosing advertisers in great quantities. I can’t listen to either of them and I’m horrified when affiliates give listeners no other choice.

In the community sector, I’m seeing an increase in management boards that have slim radio experience, impacting both the finances and content. Radio stations rely on technical infrastructure and your technical staff spend considerable time researching viable pathway options. Then if you decide to gain advice from someone else, you’ve just insulted your staff and their professional experience. If you’re not sure of the advice you’ve been given, ask for more information, ask for the evidence in their advice. You can even go as far to ask them who did they consult in their professional network contacts.

If you have staff that report to a station or general manager, it is really important that there is a feedback loop to the board on that persons’ effectiveness by the staff. Your staff has the inside knowledge on day to day operations and where they are having difficulties. If you are advertising for a new manager, ensure you involve the staff as to what they believe they need in a new candidate. Regular reviews of staff performance should be measured to ensure your station is working at an optimal level.

Consumer Habits – Communications

It seems the elderly still like to hold on to their landline telephone but don’t rely on this being your emergency device. Due to the NBN infrastructure, your service may be impacted when there is an internet outage or power outage. Some providers help you with a backup battery and also a mobile broadband dongle as a backup. You’ll probably find that your mobile may be a more effective choice for emergency calling. Although I know some people who have a reverse problem, in that their mobile signal is weak and need to use their home wi-fi for mobile wi-fi calling.

As far as NBN internet providers go, I can only recommend Aussie Broadband with their commitment to capacity and Australian call centre staff. For VOIP (Phone) services, I recommend the provider Siptalk.

When it comes to mobiles, you are always better to buy your phone outright. In my situation I recognise I don’t need the latest handset. I source my refurbished unit from either Amazon or Ebay at a cost of around $300 and that will generally last me 2 years. At present I’m on a prepaid plan with BOOST mobile where I payed $135 for 12 months including unlimited calls/text and 80GB Data. I tend not to use much data when I’m about. Keep an eye out for these specials at Coles, Woolworths and even Big W. From memory BOOST management is actually based here on the Sunshine Coast. The Telstra network is far superior to any other, Vodafone would be second in my books with Optus last. Try to purchase your SIM through a provider that is a reseller of the Telstra network which BOOST, Woolworths and ALDI all use.

Really important, don’t bundle your services. This is a marketing ploy to keep you in contract.

Bargains to watch this week:

Coles – Freedom Foods XO Crunch Cereal (Half Price) $2 

Giving a flick!

The comments plugin Disqus has been removed to encourage you to comment on my posts without having to login.

I’ve been monitoring the internet feed for Orange’s FM107.5 and noticed a peak in listeners that appears to be around the time of a football match call. Out of interest, what separation rules does your radio station use for Artist? And Song Title?

A sneak preview of some new imaging for them has pricked my ears up and the station seems to be going from strength to strength

Consumer Habits – TV Entertainment Packages

Straight up, I try not support Rupert Murdoch in any of his business deals, this means no Foxtel. I was an early adopter of Netflix and share my account amongst friends and family. I often by Netflix gift cards on special to save on monthly subscription costs. Netflix still suits my tastes at this time but as more streaming services open up and exclusivity becomes a factor this might change. I noticed a remarkable difference in my first Apple TV/Smart TV version of Netflix App when switching to a newer model. Intuitive and sort of a ubiquitous experience.

I like sharing my experiences, so I’ve copied my Netflix Viewing Activity (Available when logging in to the web interface) and placed it here for you to take a look. Maybe you can suggest something and in turn see something I’ve watched you might like.

Bargains to watch this week:

Woolworths – Darrel Lea Chocolate Blocks $2.50 (Half Price)

Coles – Kleenex Double Length 12 Pack Toilet Paper $10 (This stuff doesn’t feel like sandpaper on your bum)

IGA – Bega 1Kg Block Cheese $9

Water into wine

I’ve been helping out 4OUR, Sue Lawson and I have been exchanging music between radio stations. I’d like to encourage other community stations to share their libraries between one another too. Here are links to the 2OCW music library and their most wanted tunes. I gained 1500 tracks and was able to provide them with around 800. It’s important to understand why to use a Broadcast WAVE format rather than domestic MP3.

I noted Tim Aquilina posted in the Community Radio Tech Q&A Facebook page to rip cds with either “Exact Audio Copy” or “dbPowerAmp” and he’s worth listening to with one of the biggest libraries I’ve ever come across.

FM107.5 installed their Optimod 6200 Audio Processor in Orange in the last few days, sounds fantastic!

On the work front, I’m investigating evening part-time work for supermarkets, Officeworks or perhaps the hospital helpdesk/IT. While I try to focus on radio related side hustles during the daylight hours. I’ve been approached already to do voiceovers for a new Sunshine Coast media agency.

My pet cat Mitchell apparently needs dental cleaning, I’d never heard of this for cats and I grew up with a couple. I just wished that the vet who I’ve been taking my little guy to for almost four years never brought this procedure up before as it is a real hit to the pocket. Anyone know a good way to pay out for this when it’s necessary, is there insurance or payment plan service you get good mileage out of?

Consumer Habits – Water, Gas & Electricity

As far as water I don’t have much control on provider, but there are good tips available on saving water through the Sydney Water website, it would be really cool if we could have a celebrity radio segments package that put these tips on the radio!

I refuse to be an Origin customer again, after the body corporate apartment I once live in used a central gas water supply and the customer service experience was pitiful. I also won’t use AGL because of their involvement with Fracking in this country. Currently using Supagas for cylinder based gas but will switch to one of the two local regional owned companies to cut costs and get the bonus of better customer service.

If you are looking for good deals on natural gas and/or electricity supply use the government based comparison website. I’m currently with Alinta which is owner by an overseas company but considering using Red Energy (Snowy Mountain) which has the bonus lure of Qantas Frequent Flyer Points. At the moment I get a pay on time discount but there has been some discussion recently that providers have to remove this incentive so I may end up changing sooner than later.

Bargains to watch this week:

Woolworths – Coconut Oil half price @ $5

Coles – Mainland Buttersoft Salted Spreadable Butter 375g (NZ) @ $5, Blackmores Fish Oil 1000mg Capsules 200 Pack half price $8.50 (Aussie), Moccona Classic Medium Roast Instant Coffee 400g $14

IGA Specials if any posted Wednesday 

Next week TV Entertainment Packages

Sharing my consumption habits, can we help one another?

I’m prepared to start sharing how I buy as a consumer breaking down what comes down in to my budget. I’m eager to hear from you and your experiences as we go through this journey together. You might be surprised at what I’ve found in my experience and I might be interested in what you’ve found in yours also.

So let’s start with housing. I’ve pretty much been a renter since age 19 and I’ve lived in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and now on the Sunshine Coast. I moved back to regional because I wanted more sense of community and I don’t really find that in metropolitan cities. I’ve moved more times than I’d like to remember and don’t really want to move again unless I end up purchasing but I’m not sure on the likelihood of that at my age now.

As a rental person, I make use of realestate.com.au and domain.com.au as my two searching resources with automatic email alerts as properties are listed. I worked for realestate.com.au head office in Melbourne for a year so I know the software back end pretty well if you have any questions there.

If you go to inspect a property either arranged or public viewing, then try to get your paperwork sorted so on inspection you can either hand it to the agent or submit your application online using 1form. $474 a week is the average ABS figure spent on weekly housing for a household.

Do you have any tips on moving? How do you choose a removalist, how do you break down your packaging? One tip I can give you is to use caution if using a back-loader between cities, often they don’t take care and your gear ends up going on a train container. One flatmate had his car transported to another city and didn’t get access to it again for weeks! Another, ensure your laptop or computer and modem/router location is known because you’ll want to probably open that box first. Some cold beer for the movers is customary too!

Next Week, Water, Gas & Electricity.

Frugal sounds like an ugly word but it’s a game changer!

This week I spent one night while trying to go to sleep thinking about how much I despise the current Australian Government. I felt like posting on Facebook a rant over the numerous leadership failures shining through but I just want to say stop voting on what’s best for yourself and think about the country and society. Government is there to provide infrastructure and to make us a better society, not divide us into different classes.

On the weekend I read the first book I felt as if I couldn’t put down, titled “The Art of Frugal Hedonism” by Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb. It breaks down the consumerism that is spreading like wild across the globe and brings home the value of relationships. I thoroughly recommend it to all as it’s not pushy but has good life experiences that are relevant to all. I’ve been reviewing my finances through podcasts, a Christians against Poverty course and initially looking at the ABS household expenditure as a guide. The blogger aussiefirebug shows how people are taking advantage of the tax system and property. In all honesty it makes me sick including the franking credits. Let’s cheat the Australian Taxpayers by dipping into their pool for our investment loses, not me thankyou! It’s important to note being Frugal does not mean just buying cheap but consideration on ethical purchases.

The book goes on to explain that the average Australian spends $400/week outside of shelter costs. The writers have brought their spend down to just over $100/week. It goes further to explain the housing space per person compared to previous generations.