Radio Gaga

Hawke’s Bay Media: Must Try Harder! Part 2

Are my expectations too high, or is the quality of most Hawke’s Bay media just not up to the level our region deserves?

We have a big, vibrant, smart region. But if its media industry is anything to go by, you would be forgiven for not noticing it.

Radio

Local radio has little in the way of local content these days. In an industry controlled by two big networks, far too much content is simulcast from Auckland. At least Mediaworks’ More FM and The Radio Network’s Classic Hits have locally-based breakfast shows, but from there it goes downhill fast.

More FM sticks with local content till around lunchtime, while central Auckland studios take over for Classic Hits before you’ve even had morning tea. It could be worse. In many centres around New Zealand, including Wellington and Hamilton, the Auckland-based broadcast is all they get 24/7. I pity anyone who has to listen to Marc Ellis and his cohorts over breakfast.

Straight out of high school in 1995, I worked for “Hot 93 FM”, at the time one of the few Hawke’s Bay radio stations that were still “Live and Local 24 Hours a Day” (I was the short end of the 24 hours a day stick, doing the weekend midnight till dawn shift). The only simulcasting was the news and everything else was done with a stack of CDs, a run sheet and the skill and talent of the announcer. It was a simpler time, but a better time for the core fundamentals of radio. So much relied on the station’s interaction with the community.

It really was Hawke’s Bay’s station – you knew the announcers and would see them around town. There was always someone at the station, so in the event of an emergency, earthquake etc., you could turn on the radio and instantly find out what was going on. Not anymore.

Soon after I left Hot 93, simulcasting started to take a real hold on the station, as it went through technological and multiple ownership changes and eventually became the More FM station you listen to today on the same 92.7 FM frequency.

Today there is far less local interaction. It’s hard when 90% of your announcers are 500km away physically and even further away mentally. I might not mind simulcasting so much if it wasn’t for almost all of this small selection of Auckland-based broadcasters being so bloody banal, bland and boring. I find myself forever swapping stations and eventually listening to my MP3 player to escape the depressive drivel these “personalities” (allegedly) get so handsomely paid to spurt. This is the battle New Zealand radio currently faces and is largely losing as listeners prefer to download and live stream their personal selections of music, without the ads and annoying announcers.

Every year hundreds of young people with dreams of becoming the next Jay Jay, Mike, or Dom go to broadcasting schools around the country. With such a small employment base, with simulcast stations employing a minimum number of announcers for a maximum amount of profit, very few can achieve their dream. That’s a hell of a waste of talent, not to mention a waste of thousands of dollars in student loans all for nought, while the same old crew dawdle along on our airwaves.

I suggest reverting to the “live and local 24 hours a day” format where the regions rule themselves. Local news, local advertising, and lots of local interaction (separate stations looking after their own operations and finances might also lessen the likelihood of massive networks incurring massive debts). Let graduates and listeners live their radio dreams, keeping the talent we develop locally and rejuvenating an industry that has become distant and disjointed.

Grade: D – Must Try Harder!

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