James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Emergency broadcasting, radio’s market share, and the launch of Alfred

James Cridland, radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

Greetings from a rather soggy Brisbane. It’s been raining non-stop for quite some time, and there is widespread flooding throughout Australia’s third-largest city. Above, the aftermath of a local road’s closure. And, of course, I had the radio on.

The ABC is well-used to emergency broadcasting, and the playbook for them is very much based on quiet, calm, unsensationalised information. A number of local stations simulcast the same output, which, at the time I tuned in, was being ably and calmly hosted by Cathie Schnitzerling (who, as far as I can see, is Executive Producer of an ABC TV news program, Landline, and does swing work at ABC Radio Brisbane), and produced by Kat Davidson. It was most certainly the place to get information: many public officials giving info about their areas and responsibilities.

4BC was an afterthought to me, mainly because when I moved here, 4BC was just a rebroadcast of a Sydney radio station, and I still think of it as such (even though it’s now local from 5.30am-7pm, excepting mid-mornings). When I tuned in on Saturday afternoon, expecting some sportsball program, it was a live and well-balanced local show with plenty of public officials, yes, but also many ordinary people on the ground. Jingles announced “a special broadcast” showing a bit of forethought, and when I tuned-in, Jason Dasey was on-air, produced by Olivia Wilbury. 4BC’s output benefited from being more focused on Brisbane, rather than having to cover adjoining broadcast areas: on 4BC, officials were on-air, but so, too, was more colour from local people, and a little less focus on towns six hours’ drive away. My initial reaction to overlook the station was a reminder that if you change a station, you need to focus on the marketing for a lot longer than you think.

The ABC was a good calming listen, if quite strange to me having never heard that information-heavy format before. I can absolutely see a place for information radio like this. For me, though, I think 4BC was a warmer, more human listen: better for connection, rather than just information. It was also delightful to hear that Frank Walker from National Tiles is still alive and well.

On the TV, while the ABC is statewide, the commercial channels aren’t, to their benefit in this instance. I tuned in to Nine News around midday to see Alison Ariotti and Jonathan Uptin, crossing to a number of live feeds from across the area, including Garry Youngberry, the weather broadcaster. Cameras were soaking (and repeatedly being wiped-down on-screen); some reporters were stuck trying to travel to stories. It was an excellent service (and disappointing that the EPG told potential viewers that it was women’s football).

I feel for ABC Radio Brisbane, though. The studios are next to the river, and our emergency broadcaster was evacuated last night. I gather that the station is now being panelled elsewhere, with presenters and producers doing their jobs from home. After the last two years, though, at least they’ve had plenty of practice at WFH. I wish them luck.


James Cridland