All I hear is Radio JAFA
Auckland has more radio stations than any other city – and we’re intensely loyal to our favourites. Edward Rooney tunes in.
CONVERSATION was going well. Right up until she asked what radio station I listen to. “bFM,” I replied.
“How can you listen to that?” she spat. “Most of what they play is unlistenable.”
In Auckland, we judge each other constantly.
But not only by what we do “for a crust” – by one another’s favourite TV shows, films, blog sites. Radio station can be a biggie.
Many people will often not reveal their preferred channel for fear of being thought a schmuck or a redneck. What’s mmm-bopping in their ears on the bus or which morning jock they’re chortling along with in their cars will remain their secret.
WE’RE TOPS in the world for radio stations. Matt Mollgaard, curriculum leader for radio studies at Auckland University of Technology, confirms Auckland still has the most radio stations per capita in the world.
There are 30+ “full-strength” commercial FM stations and between 40 and 60 low-powered stations like Howick Village Radio and AUT’s own station, Static.
“There could be even more than that,” Mr Mollgard says. “The small ones tend to pop up all over the place.”
The reason there are so many? Deregulation in the late 1980s, when the Government opened the airwaves to anyone who could afford to buy a frequency. “New Zealand became a free-for-all,” says Mr Mollgaard.
One outcome is that most major stations are now owned by two companies, both of overseas parentage.
THE RADIO Network (owned by APN News & Media and the Clear Channel USA) operates more than 120 stations in New Zealand, including NewstalkZB, Classic Hits, ZM, Coast, Radio Hauraki, Easy Mix, Radio Sport and Flava. MediaWorks (Ironbridge Capital, Australia) owns The Edge, More FM, Kiwi FM, Radio Live, BSport, Solid Gold, Mai FM, George FM plus several other local stations and TV3/C4.
The last two full-powered, full commercial frequencies on the market sold for $6.3 million and $6.5 million in 2003 – “a good indication of how valuable space on the air is in Auckland,” Mollgaard points out.
The Government recently intervened and sold a frequency that could not be bought by either of the two majors – and $800,000 later that is now Big FM.
Mr Mollgaard says iPods, satellite TV and the internet have caused a “shallow but steady drop-off” of radio listenership around the world.
Auckland is no different but radio’s still very strong here: it picks up about 12-14 per cent of the advertising dollars. In Australia, the share is 5-8 per cent.
Mr Mollgaard says stations are adept at building solid communities of loyal listeners. “As a result, people can be quite passionate about their radio stations. They become quite tribal.”
He points to Radio Hauraki. “Hauraki listeners are very, very loyal. They will go to the events and they will wear the brand.”
LISTENING to the radio can be more than joining a tribe, feeling less alone, or testing your opinions on air. It can be lucrative.
The Aucklander spoke to one man – who declined to be named – whose hobby is winning radio contests.
“It’s not about entering them, mate,” he says. “It’s about winning them. I haven’t had to pay for a family holiday for the past four years, put it that way.”
Interestingly, we met this man after a radio station recommended him as a fan of the frequency. When asked about that station, he says: “I listen to all sorts of stations, whichever has a competition running that I’m interested in,” he says.
Stations work hard to forge listener loyalty. Coast FM programme director Mike Regal has pushed the station up to second place in the all-important ratings within five years of launch by tapping into the baby boomer generation – while luring other ages as well.
“Coast has a lot of real oldies listening in, as well as the boomers,” Mr Regal says. He cites the “Andre Rieu factor” – named after a Dutch violinist who’s sold 10 million CDs of easy listening interpretations – to keep a large number of listeners happy. Coast also plays a few “daggy” tunes as a point of difference, he adds.
That said, Newstalk ZB is the undisputed champion of Auckland radio. The current market shares – released by Research International at the end of October – show it holds 14.7 per cent of the audience.
Many stations do not subscribe to Research International and appear as “other” in the statistics. They include Niu FM, 104.6 Planet FM, Apna 990, Base FM, BBC World Service, Big FM, Life FM, NZ’s Rhema, Radio 531 P.I., Radio Waatea, Ruia Mai, Southern Star and UP FM.
DISCLAIMER The Aucklander is published by APN.
The gospel according to Leighton
IT’S BEEN almost 20 years since Les Bryant was a “first-time caller” to talkback radio.
He tunes in most of the morning and waits for a chance to phone in with his thoughts. “It tests my ability to articulate my opinions and tests the veracity of my opinions.
“In the early days, it was hard – you tend to agree with whatever the host says. But, after a while, you tend to test them as much as they test you.”
Mr Bryant gets most satisfaction out of triggering further calls in response to something he has talked about.
The 51-year-old software consultant says he began turning more and more to Newstalk ZB host Leighton Smith as he “rediscovered” his conservatism … “which probably proves I shouldn’t have veered away from it.”
Mr Bryant estimates he spends about 40 per cent of his listening time with the late-morning host, about 15 per cent with Kerre Woodham and 5-10 per cent with Danny Watson. “I don’t really like Danny Watson,” he confesses.
Mr Bryant reckons people choose a radio station to find people like themselves and to feel “less alone”. He, however, likes to go further and test his views.
He bristles at the suggestion he’s a redneck or conspiracy theorist because he likes talkback radio.
“I watch Al Jazeera TV and Maori TV. I’m looking to understand the world I live in. I don’t like formulating quick opinions anymore – that’s a young man’s folly.”
Mr Bryant believes the people listening to – and calling – Newstalk ZB are many and varied.
“There’s only one guy I recognise as calling up from time to time. He likes to walk on a wooden floor when he’s talking on the radio and you can hear that.”
Call him loyal
NEVER MIND the ratings, Tony Dickason loves Solid Gold anyway.
He roamed the dial in 1997 when Kool FM closed and hit on the Solid Gold format. The 48-year-old information technology worker enjoys the song selections and the personalities – particularly veteran DJ Kevin Black.
“The music is my era, if you like, but it’s more about the hosts for me.”
Mr Dickason knows he’ll be mocked by some people for his choice of station, but he doesn’t mind.
“I’ll have the radio on through headphones while the rest of the family is watching TV,” he says. “I’m a bit of a radio junkie in that respect. I often thought I should have worked in radio – I love it that much that it’s become something of a hobby.”
Mr Dickason correctly guesses Solid Gold has currently one of the smaller audiences. He knows of only one other person who listens to the same station.
“The only place I don’t listen to the radio is at work, strangely enough, because we can’t have one on. I’m not sure what station the others would want anyway.”
On your dial
- 88.1 Static 88.1FM
- 88.2 Radio Samoa, since 1998
- 88.2 The Flea 88.2, since 1999
- 88.3 Fleet FM since, 2003
- 88.3 Waiheke Radio, since 2008
- 88.6 Mai FM, since 1992
- 89.4 Newstalk ZB, since 1994. From 1983-94, this channel was 89 Stereo FM (has also been branded as Triple M and 89X)
- 90.2 The Rock, since 1999. Back in 1990 it was KeyWest 90.2FM. 1991-93 Fine Music Radio 90.2FM. From 1993-94, it was Nuu FM and during 1994-99 was the home of Radio Pacific.
- 90.6 Radio Chinese, since 1997
- 91.0 91ZM Hit Music, since 1997. From 1983-93 it was Magic 91FM. From 1993-97 it was known as The Breeze on 91.
- 91.8 More FM Auckland, since 1993. From 1985-90 it was the home of bFM. In 1990, it was Radio i FM92 and from 1992-93 was called Today 92FM.
- 92.6 Concert FM, since 1985. Previously known briefly as Harbourlights FM.
- 93.4 The Breeze, since 2006. In 1990, it was set up as Easy 93FM. From 1991-93, it was Oldies 93.4. From 1993-97 Kool 93. From 1997-2006, Solid Gold.
- 93.8 Solid Gold Oldies, since 2006. From 2003-05 Channel Z. From 2005-06 Kiwi FM.
- 94.2 The Edge, since 2003. From 1989-90 this was Oasis 94.2FM. From 1994-97, it was FM Country 94.2 and from 1997-2003 it was Channel Z.
- 95.0 bFM, since 1990.
- 95.8 Real Good Life, since 2003. From 1994-95 it was Q96. From 1995-97 it was Mai FM and between 1997-2002 was Counties Manukau Radio.
- 96.1 Flava, since 2004. From 1997-99 it was called 9inety6dot1. From 1999-2001 The Beat and from 2001-04 Cool Blue 96.1FM.
- 96.8 George FM, since 1998. From 1996-98 was called Soul FM.
- 97.4 Classic Hits Auckland, since 1989.
- 98.2 Easy Mix, since 2007. Same station but branded as: Easy Listening i98 from 1990-2005, Viva from 2000-07.
- 99.0 Radio Hauraki, since 1990.
- 99.8 Life FM, since 1997. In 1990, it was Radio Manukau. From 1991-93, it was FM Country 100 and from 1993-97, it was Today 99.8FM.
- 100.6 RadioLive, since 2005. This was George FM from 1998-2001.
- 101.4 Radio New Zealand National.
- 102.2 Kiwi, since 2006.
- 103.8 Niu FM, since 2003.
- 104.6 Planet FM.
- 105.4 Coast, since 2004.
- 106.2 Big 106.2, since 2008.
- 106.9 K FM Radio.
- 107.1 GOfm 107dot1. In 2004, this was Variety.
- 107.4 Waiheke Radio, since 2008.
- 107.5 UP FM, since 2002.
- 107.7 Trend FM, since 2007.
hat tip: wikipedia
© The Aucklander Decemeber 3rd, 2009.
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