Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Community Radio: Not Naming Names.

It's about time my local radio station had an enema.

Excuse my French. But this week, they're in deep shit.

Despite living away from the area for a long time, I've been waiting for this for years.

They feign engagement with their local community, but for them, the ancient presenters are there to babysit and insult the intelligence of their listeners with content that's about as challenging as a nanna-nap on the shores of Pugh's Lagoon. Meanwhile, the two-bob snake oil merchants out the back collect cheques for "advertising", telling the sponsors that the (very averagely-produced) ads are way more effective than they really are, in an attempt to justify the exorbitant costs. Then money starts falling off the side of the wheelbarrow, the leaving secretary is not replaced, documents are lost, and people are allegedly threatened with physical harm if they look like they're going to blow the whistle.

I walked into this particular radio station a while back wanting to be involved in contributing to content for community arts. I was blunty asked for money, and when I didn't have any cash for them, I was sniggered-at and shown the door.
After working as a producer with 2SER for some time assisting in production for my delightful presenter and good friend Philippe Perez, This Unnamed Community Radio Station's "ivory tower" attitude to community arts and their greed for money quite frankly sickened me. As the #1 local community radio station, they have a significant share in local media, and with that comes enormous responsibility to operate ethically and with a focus on encouraging young people to get involved. This could mean fair content for all ages, it could mean training for youth interested in broadcasting as a career (this is a great example), or perhaps short term philanthropic projects that actively integrate with the community.

And for pete's sake, show the presenters how NOT to sound like Lurch. If they just don't "have" it, get them behind the scenes more into production and operational roles and freshen up the voices on the airwaves. Put some effort into creating consistency and continuity. And let's hear some young people who are educated and actually have lives outside of the radio station. Let's ask intelligent questions. Let's create a culture, and let's support the musicians. And let's stop being hypocrites by saying "we love music" when we don't support musicians.

Yes, facelifting the profile of a radio station costs money, but if a community really is behind their local radio station and its leadership, it's amazing how easily these things come together. And to get people behind you, you have to RELATE to them and give back to local arts, philanthropy and other areas of interest. It's not all about money. It's least of all about the presenters, and it's not about ego or "I've been at this radio station for 20 years and you will do what I say and play the music I personally like." 

It's about engagement.

Community radio stations have a responsibility to be progressive, supportive, TRULY informative and to create a profile that is cohesive with its community. That's why they call it "community" radio.

Crazy concept, huh?

Compared to the community radio stations I've been involved with in Sydney city, the South Coast and Southern Highlands, This Unnamed Community Radio Station is just plain embarrassing.

Sorry, but it is.

I welcome a good old shake-up, and I know that I speak for many.
Lynch me if you like, but this is my stance.