The Media Landscape has changed, are you in a good position?

This blog entry was prompted by a Flipboard App article advising that community TV in Australia is now officially dead and also the impact that COVID has had on the media industry.

I first want to look at my personal media consumption. As I live on the Sunshine Coast I try to keep it local, in the morning I listen to Hot91.1 for the music and the laughs from Dave in the breakfast crew. I stay on this station throughout the day till I get to drive time when I switch to 92.7 Mix FM and get a kick out of Todd’s antics. Sometimes I switch to Nova from Brisbane if I feel like a laugh from Marty Sheargold. I don’t really use my iPhone music collection all that much, I refrain from purchasing tracks or subscriptions through this method as you don’t actually own the music you are leasing it. At night I record 7 local news on the TV and replay the first 15mins as sport and weather are of little interest to me. I’m not interested in paywalls from local traditional newspaper outlets. Before I head off to bed I read articles through Flipboard on my ipad. On weekends if I’m out in the car I keep it on Hot91 or at home I listen to the 80s weekend on Austereos Easy Hits station. I regularly stream Netflix for a few hours each night.

One of the things that attracted me as a youngster to radio was story telling and the ability to pickup a signal from a location far away. When I used to live on an orchard in Orange during my childhood I would listen to 2WS and Triple J through use of a simple TV antenna. I picked up a Tamworth FM station at one stage and used to love listening to the 2Day FM morning crew with Wendy Harmer on visits to Sydney. FM radio was a novelty, one that captured my heart as a school kid and seeing a local community station test broadcasting got me hooked into the industry. I’ve been involved with a handful of stations over the years, visited and listened to over 50. On annual timeshare visits to the Gold Coast I would stay in the apartment and record the non music portions of the stations on the FM band. I wish I had kept the tapes as I believe FM radio was in its prime during this time. I appeared in the local paper a number of times while volunteering in radio, blushing when it was featured on the front page. I remember a time where we only had two TV stations, Midstate Television and the ABC. The stations would start up at 6am transitioning from the test pattern to an opener with the TV transmitter locations across the network. Radio and TV used to be the clocks that would tell whether I was on time to catch the bus to school.

I was an early adopter of technology, one of the first to have a mobile phone at school (the other a drug dealer) and was connected to the internet during its infancy while computer bulletin board services were the current rage. I remember streaming Wild FMs test broadcast from Sydney in the school library, buffering issues were frequent due to the bandwidth limitations at the time. Even the introduction of a computer soundcard was an incredible impact on the radio medium. For my HSC I coded up a front end application to be a playout system for the community station loosely based of RCS Master Control used by commercial stations.

As far as community radio goes though, there were a lot of stations test broadcasting in the 90s in the hope of gaining a fulltime licence, there were rules for a max of 30 days continuous broadcasting and 90 days in total a year, then the rules eventually changed a bit as full time licencing became more of a reality. 1993 the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the regulator now known as ACMA constructed the draft licence area plans. Stations would be given the same coverage as their commercial counterparts. This appears to have been an issue with a number of community stations as they did not realise they weren’t just broadcasting to a handful of suburbs or a town or city but a wide region defined by census collection districts at the time. Also unexpected was that existing commercial stations were granted a supplementary FM radio licence before many community stations were fully licenced. As community stations test broadcasting most were on FM, whereas commercial broadcasters somewhat struggled to compete stuck on the AM band at least in regional areas. 

What is evident however is that through the development of the internet we have seen new platforms emerge in media consumption. Youtube, Napster, Social Media, Podcasting, Netflix, Music streaming services and the smart phone have really fragmented traditional terrestrial delivery markets.

There have been many long serving volunteers over the years who have become set in their ways playing the music they choose or requests from a loyal audience developed over the years often keeping the same timeslot. I believe most community stations have failed to accurately deliver to their market through a failure to survey their potential audiences. The commercial and government radio surveys do not include community broadcasters. This is the biggest struggle point for a community station, how do they prove they are the choice of demographics?

For the past 20 years I’ve seen community stations transition to set playlists during core hours or fully to ensure continued listenership to a wider audience. Nights and weekends are when programming diversity teams allocate to specialty programmes. Every station who goes through this difficult transition and those that haven’t will simply not survive in the current consumer environment. Businesses do not sponsor primarily for a feel good thing for the community, they want to reach people to on sell their products and services. The station then benefits the community by promoting community events and services. Outside broadcasts are the greatest exposure in the current climate to engage the community. Live broadcasting is no longer considered the best content for radio (described as lazy), as James Cridland – Radio Futurologist pointed out in an article last year.

Commercial radio has invested huge amounts into researching listener habits and the professionals from there and government services have a huge knowledge bank to tap into. Community stations should welcome any volunteer input from past and present professional industry employees. Volunteerism is on the decline as our lives become busier and more complex. Time shifting of resources is not optional, it is now essential. Community stations need to network with people from surrounding community stations and their sector bodies. I’m not fond of the CBAA, I’ve been to two conferences and felt like it was an opportunity for metro wide stations to pat each other on the back at the expense of federal funding and member stations. The community radio network, both CRN1, CRN2, the DDN infrastructure is a complete waste of money now it is not a live interactive platform. Community stations first and foremost are about being local, informative, communicative and educational mixed in with entertainment to draw the listener in. The Southern Community Media Association is a sector body for regional, rural and sub metro broadcasters that I truly believe are doing some really positive work in the sector.

My professional network are concerned that Gen Y and more to the point Gen Z are not listening to radio anymore impacting the longevity of the medium. The on demand movement is upon us and it’s here to stay.

So I ask you, is your station surveying the community? Outside broadcasting? Building relationships with community groups and all levels of government in the licence area? Streaming? Podcasting? Blogging? Providing the ability to pre-record when volunteers have more flexible availability? Do you have a strategy for presenters to produce from home due to Covid19 restrictions? Are you financially relying on grants or can you stand on your own feet by other means? Are you working towards official emergency broadcaster status?

Consumer Habits – Hobbies / Gym / Sport

Over the last 12 months I’ve lost around 18kg, changes to diet and exercise regimes the main factors. I swim at Mountain Creek High Aquatic Centre and it is considerably cheaper than other pools especially with a monthly or season pass. There are times the swim club or school take up lane availability but the reduction in cost is well worth that inconvenience. I’m waiting for the pool to reopen at the moment and paying for it through another competitor facility. I also use the TAFE Mooloolaba Gym where they teach personal trainers, substantially cost friendly than other options and the staff are always available to help you.

Weekly Bargains to keep an eye out for! I’m going to shake things up a bit and tell you why they’re on my list:

Coles: 

Mr Chen’s Frozen Steam Selection Dumplings 9 pack 240g $5 save $2.50, Mr Chen’s Frozen Prawn Hargow Dumpliongs 12 pack 300g $5 save $2.50. I love a good dumpling, I wish the Sunshine Coast had a great dumpling house like those in capital cities.

Western Star Supersoft Spreadable Butter Blend 500g $4.80 Save $1.20 it’s the biggest tub meaning cutting down on plastic wastage and it’s an ethical guide choice.

Jalna Pot Set Coconut Greek Yoghurt $5.50 Save $2 – Australian made and owned

Ecostore Vanilla & Coconut Hand Wash 250ml $4 Save $1.50 – ethical guide choice

Woolworths:

Bulla Creamy Classics Ice Cream Vanilla & Boysenberry 2 L $4.25 half price. This is Australian owned and made plus when you add chocolate topping it’s like a type of rocky road taste – delicious!

Bickford’s Pomegranate Juice 1L $5 Save $1 – Australian owned and made plus helps me with some nutrient deficiency at least I think it does.

eBay $50 gift card, earn 2000 Woolworths rewards points worth $10 towards a future shop.

I’m going to start approaching people to be a guest blogger on my site, who would you like to hear from? Who is interested in contributing?

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