burned you black

 

Few issues ignite as much passion as the debate over Australian content on commercial radio, and unfortunately the debate is often superficial.

By way of background: the content quotas are calculated from 6am to midnight and the percentages vary based on format, the highest percentage being required of any one format is 25%. It should be noted that digital and internet radio are exempt from any quotas, and this is a key point of contention from CRA.

A significant obstacle to having a reasoned discussion is that on the surface the idea of increasing content seems reasonable. A motherhood statement of ‘radio should play more australian music’ is likely to be agreeable to anyone without a vested interest.

For artists, and those who represent them, they have a tendency to make extreme demands. Take this comment made by a reader on music news site noise11.com:

‘(the quota) should be doubled and at least half of that should be new’ - Judi Kenneally

Populist and completely impractical.

That said: radio isn’t an innocent party. In its submission to the convergence review in October 2011, Commercial Radio Australia argued that quotas are not as effective in supporting Australian music as they could be, if they were applied not only to the commercial sector, but to other delivery platforms and services. A reasonable point.

However in the submission CRA’s CEO Joan Warner (right) went on to say:

‘to this end, CRA supports the removal of the Australian music content quota requirement in respect of commercial broadcasters…’.

This comment became the ‘headline’ and was widely reported.

Promoter Michael Chugg told Radio Today: 

‘It’s a fucking disgrace, there is no relationship between Australian music and radio, particularly at the younger level. It’s just fucked. The fucking last thing they care about is supporting Australian music’

I don’t believe CRA were advocating abolition with the goal of actually achieving that result. Rather, that they were doing so to make clear the strength of their view that quotas should apply across platforms. However, it had an unfortunate outcome as this position dominated the news and the other (quite reasonable) points were not given any ‘clear air’.

Paradoxically it could be argued that there was a strategic benefit in CRA making such an aggressive comment: in marketing terms, they launched a flanking attack on ARIA and changed the focus of the ‘battle’.

Until this point ARIA could take the high ground of ‘protecting Australian artists’ by arguing for an increase in the quota. CRA changed the battleground and forced ARIA into the position of arguing to even retain quotas, let alone increase them. It is highly unlikely that CRA seriously ever expected to gain any traction on the issue of quotas being removed completely.

Speaking with Radio Today CEO Joan Warner said:

’Our position always has been that in an ideal world there would be no quotas or any other kind of programming intervention by Government. However, given we do not operate in nirvana, and the quotas are unlikely to go, to impose quotas only on commercial radio and not on other radio sectors or the plethora of competing music delivery platforms is both unfair and inequitable’

Noise11 CEO Paul Cashmere agrees: "The radio industry should not be held accountable for the music industry downfall as much as the music industry should not be accountable for lower radio ratings. The music industry sells music, the radio industry sells advertising. They are completely different industries. It is no longer 1995. The music industry needs to understand that radio is not their support act".

Nonetheless, if ARIA and the artists are serious about increasing local content on radio, they need to play smart.

They firstly need to decide whether it’s quality or quantity of airplay that offers the most value to them. If it’s quantity, then they can keep pushing for an increase, and they will keep failing. If they are smart they will go for quality. And with that objective, they could launch their own flanking attack on CRA.

Here is what they could do: ARIA could announce that they accept the quotas as they currently stand with no increase: however advocate changing the parameters to 6am-10pm, thus removing the late night loophole.

Michael Chugg (left):

’for years radio has been pumping out Australian music late at night and it’s fucked, the Australian music industry is stronger than it’s been for years and it’s not fucking well because of radio’

Chugg's point, whilst colourful, is valid. It is not uncommon for some stations reach their quota by blanketing the 10pm-midnight zone with Australian music. Removing any contribution to the overall quota from these hours ensures that Australian content is aired during the prime listening hours. It achieves ‘quality’ airplay.

This would be smart strategy.

Smart because it effectively flanks CRA and changes the battleground again. It advocates a change that CRA cannot argue against without sounding hypocritical: for if they accept no increase to the quotas, but argue against the removal of 10pm-midnight from calculations, they are conceding that these hours are used to artificially reach Australian content. CRA is already on tenuous ground in the court of public opinion due to the ‘headlines’ advocating the abolition of quotas.

To be blunt, supporting Australian music is not the first, or most important, responsibility of commercial radio: rather it is to deliver ratings and revenue. The businesses need to be profitable and have every right to be run in the way the licensee, the board and the group executives see fit. Further, there is a disproportionate amount of overseas releases coming through the funnel of record companies into the Australian market, so that can make it difficult to cut through.

However radio does have a responsibility to support Australian music where it suits the format, and where the quality is good enough. Just as long as it isn’t with a couple of plays a week just before midnight.

It would be good to hear your perspective.

 

 

 

Dan Bradley is director and founder of radio and talent consulting firm Kaizen Media

 
Published on Friday, 09 March 2012 06:00



Anonymous(6:34am 09 Mar 2012)
25% - blah blah percent

If there is a content formula with the potential to strangle the heart and soul of any ratings or financial gain of a radio business model, why would any one support it? More precisely, who?

Yes, Australian radio should support local content. However, no, radio should not funnel it into a late night shift.

Perhaps start the process by being thankful, and I mean both sides. Some western countries of international status (U.S excluded) suffer up to 40% content. Others are fortunate to have 0.. it all depends on the format and license restrictions. In saying that, the population of these countries are double, or triple, or even quadruple that of Australia. Even then, this mandate has the potential to cripple radio businesses. It's easy to say that the responsibility falls on to the business strategy of that station(s). But then, why would any one want a license if it obtains an unreachable compliance.

Staple a set % to all new and birthing licences that intend on formatting Contemporary Hit formats 18-39. However, retain a "perhaps" a 20% on all standing music licences including classic rock and modern versions of AC.

To keep the Australian recording artist industry smiling, impose that the set percentage be played 6AM-6PM through a 7 day week. With solid averages each hour give or take special features. As long as the average is there - eg: 19% for Monday, 21% for Tuesday etc..just meet the average. Artists get air play prime time based on strength collection, and the station gets a discount in percentage. It can, and does work.

The only issue with all that, is it's never enough. Take stock, take heart, you must support Australian music. All those opposed must also support the growth and long term gain of a radio industry, who's backside is closer to the wall than it's willing to admit.
DREX(10:49am 09 Mar 2012)
Here in Canada the base percentage is much higher at 35% CANCON regardless of format. The licences in Canada are applied for, and in that application you have to show just cause in how you will support Canadian content, most stations promise monetary compensation to the Canadian Artist Development fund.

But some stations go as far as to promise 40% sometimes even P CANCON to secure the licence which inevitably leads to a lot of unfamiliar artists getting airplay making the stations sound like shit from the get go.

The CRTC & SOCAN generally frown upon you loading late nights with Canadian artists...or as we call it "Beaver Fever" it has to be 35% 6a-6p & 35% 6p to 12a. No CANCON is required between 12a & 6a.

The 35% percent rule is an issue for most MD's & programmers, we all bitch about it, but there is nothing we can do, it's the rules.

Ottawa (the nations capital) has the weirdest rules, there is a "non Hit rule" where the English stations can't just play hits, they are forced to play non hits as well to give the French stations a chance in the ratings.

Rules are funny sometimes...
Anonymous(10:58am 09 Mar 2012)
Anyone in a record compnay ever think they might do what everyone else does and actually buy some radio advertising to sell thier product. Nope. The greedy fuckers want it for free.
Brett Debritz(12:45pm 09 Mar 2012)
Yes, commercial radio stations have long had a "free ride" on the back of the music industry (although that's changing) and they should give something back. But they are businesses, and they are struggling (more than they will admit) and they need to be free to program to make money.
I'd ask this question of all parties:
Will playing more Australian music on radio improve the quality of Australian music, or the viability of the Australian recording industry?
keith fowler(14:11pm 09 Mar 2012)
Nice to see Drex commenting,from the coal face, on Canadian radio which has had enforced content levels for years.

Possibly aided the Canadian music industry but anecdotally has curtailed the radio industry.

A long time ago when working with Greg Smith, and maybe he would like to comment, and possibly some one has more recent data,but from the basis of extensive research we were doing at the time simplistically our stations essentially under 30 audience were telling us they wanted a third American a third European/UK and a third Australian and our stations were reflecting that.

Everybody who comments on this issue is reasonably likely to have a vested interest, maybe it is time to find out what the audience wants. This would potentially allow lifts in regulated levels (a plus for the music industry and no downside except for higher copyright fees for radio)

In India where in the last decade there has been the granting of 300 odd new FM licenses the music until recently copyright fees made up 40% of opex costs for indian fm radio.

AND surprise surprise very little of this money was actually going to artists Most of it was remaining with music and publishing companies.

This resulted in:
only three or four groups being genuinely profitable
radio companies began forming music and publishing companies
Anonymous(14:15pm 09 Mar 2012)
It's all about playing what the public WANT to listen to.

Australian Music is fucking shithouse at the moment. No-one is producing anything original, it's all re-hashed shite. The public knows this.

Chugg is barking about how it's a disgrace. I don't see HIM promoting any Australian acts throughout large venues at HUGE ticket prices, yet he expects these same acts who he doesn't promote to be given more airplay, even though the public doesn't want it.
sean pickwell (15:13pm 09 Mar 2012)
I think most radio stations wouldnt mind the 25% if as CRA argues that all platforms have the same control

Also how about all stakeholders stepping up??
Record companies have to release 25% australian, and support with 25% of their marketing resources?

Promoters have to have 25% of their concerts as Australian acts

Of course this is restrictive to them...but radio still has to carry it alone?

At the moment its all about radio having to carry the whole industry - radio should do their bit, but so should all stakeholders

sean
Jason Staveley(22:32pm 09 Mar 2012)
Some really good points raised here - perhaps there is some merit in the "quality" airplay model(6a-10p) as suggested above.
I wonder whether other media outlets should also have an Australian music quota - TV, Online portals and why not cinema? (It would certainly be better than sitting through 17 minutes of ads before the movie starts!)

As for Chuggy and artists (Slash/Axel Rose here in the past week) constantly banging on about how "fucked" radio is.......change the record.....or release better ones please!!!
Brian Connor(8:36am 10 Mar 2012)
A Quota applied to any industry does nothing to contribute to the quality of a business' output; be it women on the Board, indigenous people in the workforce or songs on the radio.

The only songs that deserve to be played on radio are the 'best' ones (subjective as that may be).

I have never met a single person in radio who wouldn't prefer to be proudly playing more Australian music...but only if, at any given moment, the Australian song releases happen to be outshining that of the rest of the world.

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