Ex-SCA announcer encourages people to ‘burn their radios’ in response to ‘outdated workplace standards’

A former radio announcer, Paul ‘Browny’ Brown, has launched an evocative campaign along with a call-to-arms in response to “the radio industry’s outdated workplace standards”.

Brown said even though the radio industry appears to support mental health awareness and initiatives via on-air talk breaks and ad campaigns, it still suffers from a “suck it up” mentality, where staff are expected to just get on with it, regardless of how they are feeling.

Even though he has now left the industry, Brown said he has spoken to countless current and former employees, who echo his sentiment that it’s not quite right.

Thus, the Burn Your Radio campaign was born.

@wallofsoundau#BurnYourRadio #WallOfSoundAU #fyp #foryou #burn #staytuned♬ My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up) – Fall Out Boy

He has released a limited edition shirt, with 100% of proceeds going to Beyond Blue. There is also a fundraising page.

Brown reflected on his own experiences in radio, which left him drained and defeated.

“For over 12 years, I poured my heart and soul into the shows and stations I worked for, contributing countless hours of overtime to get it right (and get noticed) whilst trying my absolute best to get the bands I knew and loved airtime,” he said.

“But behind all the radio shows, career highlights, various station roles and successful on-air campaigns, there were countless dark periods where I struggled with my mental health and unfortunately, I’d get stuck in my ways reflecting on the negative moments (and believe me there were LOTS of them) more so than the positives and in the end, it all became too much.”

He said he hopes the campaign leads to different outcomes for those stuck in the same cycle.

“I hope this campaign encourages conversation amongst the industry (and every line of work) for staff members to reach out to one another and make sure they’re doing everything they can to help each other through rough patches, where they’re feeling physically and/or mentally drained, and all they need is for someone to acknowledge their struggles and assist them with getting the help they need to make it through those dark times,” he said.

Brown was an announcer across various Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) radio stations including 105.9 Star FM in Orange, Hot FM in Gladstone, Hit105 in Brisbane and Triple M Brisbane.

SCA lends its support to Beyond Blue via various initiatives, and runs various on-air awareness promotions including Triple M’s No Talk Day. Internally, SCA also has a mental health strategy for its staff.

Brown now runs Wall of Sound, and recently spoke about some of his experiences in radio alongside former co-host Chris Baskerville.

SCA was approached for comment.

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Matt
12 Feb 2021 - 12:11 pm

Love the idea of promoting this conversation in the industry. But FFS -Burning plastic? Great idea. ‍♂️

Sick of the exploitation
12 Feb 2021 - 1:41 pm

Radio’s culture is toxic but as they say s***t trickles down from the top.

Too many people still treat the radio industry like it’s the 90s: if you don’t like it leave, there’s a queue of people who want your job.

The problem is the queue no longer exists, at least not a queue with any experience. And you get both better pay and conditions doing almost any other job.

I genuinely can’t think of any other job where you’re expected to continuously work overtime without pay or time in lieu, are restricted as to when you can take leave but aren’t given any extra leave to make up for it, and are paid less than a graduate teacher makes – with little opportunity for career progression, and if you don’t want to move states all the time, your opportunity for career progression falls to 0.

I used to do radio for the love of it. Now I wonder what it ever was that I loved about it.

If only we had a union who knew what the term ‘commercial radio’ meant.

Peter Starun
12 Feb 2021 - 2:20 pm

I worked in Radio for 10 years, the bullying and pressure from above was disgusting, the owner of the stations was the worst perpetrator and his responses to any issue were ” Shutup” and ” Because I said so”.

Dan
12 Feb 2021 - 4:16 pm

I worked in radio for 15 years, and for the most part, people were good. However, I had one CD who enjoyed carrying a cricket bat around with him as an intimidation method. He would smack it down on a desk occasionally if he wasn’t getting what he wanted. He would take other people’s ideas, roll them out and claim them as his own. He had zero people skills, but he was a company boy. And for that reason, he’s still a CD to this day.

The bullying and belittling from a few egotistical breakfast team members over the years was soul destroying as well. Particularly from those who had no radio backgrounds and thought they could others however they wanted.

The pay and the hours were terrible, but like others, I did the job because I loved radio. However, since getting out, I’ve never looked back.

John
12 Feb 2021 - 5:19 pm

Exploitation of labour occurs in almost every industry and it’s happening now from retail to aged care. Get out of the radio bubble and talk to more people. The glass can be half empty or half full. It’s your decision.

My Two Cents
12 Feb 2021 - 6:09 pm

Nice work Browny! The toxic culture isn’t restricted to SCA either. Grants, Super etc. – it’s industry wide issue and about time someone had the balls to call it out.

There’s certainly a difference between doing it for the love of it, and being exploited.

Since leaving radio under similar circumstances, I’ve almost tripled my salary and don’t have to do an insane amount of overtime to achieve it.

It’s a crazy thought, but with the addition of extra roles as times gone on from social media to web content, the remuneration has barely changed, in some cases if at all.

Hopefully the big wigs will take some notice of the noise you’re making for the greater good.

Darren Moss
12 Feb 2021 - 6:46 pm

There are ratbags in every industry. Radio is not immune to poor behaviour, however I think you will find it’s a very select few and not the majority of great people who work in our industry.

What matters is what you decide to do about it if bad things happen to you or others you work with.

We’ve all had an experience in some form. The thing is we’ve all worked hard to get someone in the radio business and nobody deserves to be treated unfairly.

I’ve seen some pretty average behaviour and in the last 5 years I decided to do something about something I saw in the workplace.

I personally had the honour of working with a senior manager who turned out to be a misogynistic, sexist, backstabbing grub. He did shit that used to happen in the 1980s. Sure people badmouth other departments, especially those who make you do things you’d rather not, but this guy bagged his own people!

He repeatedly told his department staff about slapping women on the ass at industry events so they couldn’t say or do anything about it, he openly told his male staff how on-air females were bimbos and not hired for their brains. The male staff thought it was funny and laughed along. Apparently that’s what you do to fit in as one of the guys. I couldn’t do it. Hearing him talk like this was akin to being in a timewarp with a neanderthal.

This grub also managed up, so he was telling his staff the great job they were doing, whilst at the same time telling management how he was actively exploring ways to ‘manage people out’ and ‘disestablish’ their positions because they were less than good at their jobs. One guy I worked with had been there 40+ years and was very, very good at his job – the manager praised him to his face, but was telling upstairs management how he was outdated and had to go. He spoke to me about tactically removing tasks this guy had been doing for years and allocating tasks a junior could do. I worked right next to this guy who had been in radio longer than I’ve been alive.

I sat in a meeting with the senior manager and watched him tell business stakeholders to ignore their tech project manager because he’ll be out the door soon. The PM was a permanent staff and had come from a telco background. His skills were second to none for rolling out infrastructure, which is exactly what he did there. Meanwhile the project manager had no idea why he couldn’t get people to perform to milestones (surprise! they were the staff of the senior manager). That PM went on stress leave, became depressed and eventually left.

Soul destroying stuff. I couldn’t watch it any longer. I reached out to the PM and told him everything that happened. He got help.

Late one afternoon I was in the stairwell and the senior manager walked past me. We were the only ones there. I was tempted to beat the shit out of this idiot. That would have put me on the backfoot, so I didn’t do or say anything. But you know that was half the problem, I was just another nobody doing nothing about what I saw.

I decided to report the manager to Human Resources, who to my surprise didn’t want to deal with any potential public backlash, instead choosing to stall any response. They didn’t even have a workplace bullying policy! After 10 days of no response, bugger it, I reported it to the Employment Relations Authority.

I was able to move on and leave.

Afterwards I had several exchanges with the CEO who said he had no idea this was happening. I found that difficult to believe, however I gave him the benefit of the doubt and provided my notes so he could read what was happening in his own organisation. He promised to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps he did, I don’t know, but I do know that you will meet people of all walks during your career. Some of them will become good friends, some will become people you tolerate or just deal with. It doesn’t really matter so long as you respect each other’s roles and can work together. You don’t have to be best mates.

When you meet someone doing the wrong thing and making working life hard for others, it all comes down to what *you* decide to do about it.

During the course of this drama I reached out to the 4 people the senior manager treated unfairly, I told them what happened and gave them my notes about the incidents with who said what. I would like to think those 4 people I helped are in a better place for what they know not only about that person, but how to handle the same scenario should it happen again.

Since leaving that organisation, every year I take part in Pink Shirt Day, a day about stamping out (workplace) bullying, by writing articles and raising awareness that everyone is entitled to work and live free of bullying and harassment.

Poor behaviour is not an industry thing, it’s not even a team thing, it’s an individual thing and can be weeded out.

Good on you for speaking up, I hope your message can help others who may be in a similar challenge.

Peter Matheson
12 Feb 2021 - 7:36 pm

I am utterly shocked that he has burnt a perfectly good radio.

Like, how is he going to get his news, traffic, weather, music and important info about this weekends Harvey Norman sale WITHOUT a radio?

Jack
12 Feb 2021 - 8:58 pm

Everyone’s experiences are different. I have worked for SCA for 9 years and as a current employee can’t believe that someone within the organisation has these views. Perhaps the culture in the teams he worked in during his career contributed to his feelings. I think its a bit of a stretch to lump the whole industry or company in a certain category. SCA has multiple different avenues to help its employees suffering from mental health or any other illness or stress for that matter.

@john
13 Feb 2021 - 2:06 pm

Sure, exploitation happens in many industries, but not in the same way it does radio.

I don’t know of any other industry where you’re expected to dedicate your entire life to it while getting paid minimum wage in regional or marginally above minimal wage elsewhere

Hospo workers may be underpaid but they:
-have a union to support them
-have recourse if their conditions are terrible
-will not ruin their entire future career by speaking out
-have significantly greater choice in regards to available employers
-do not have to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for no further pay

Hard to have your glass half full when you work in radio… oops I mean ‘do it because you love it hehe who cares if you are exploited by those making 10-100x what you are we love it sooo much xxx’

Blindsided
13 Feb 2021 - 8:30 pm

I worked for a cap city network. I took a week off mental health leave. 1 week later was made redundant. No written warnings no called into the office to lift my game. It was a random meeting with Group PD and HR. This was after them knowing my leave. Should of gone to fair work but my mistake.
Anyways, they dont care. We are just spokes on the wheel, we can be replaced. New staff to do the role.
This shit will happen next year and 10 years down the track .

Kim Napier
14 Feb 2021 - 8:36 am

Could not agree with the sentiment more

The Creator
14 Feb 2021 - 4:33 pm

I have a theory – I have no scientific back-up for it, hence “theory”.

The radio industry lives and breathes on two types: People who can Sell, and People who are Creative.

People who Sell NEED people who are Creative to sell, and vice versa to make money.

When you push Creative people too hard to make that Sell, the Creative will break. That’s because they put more than enough energy day in and day out to make the final result as creative as possible.

Time and time again – the Creative get told by the Sell – that what they have created isn’t good enough, it sows a heap of doubt and destroys confidence in the Creative person – which can result into burn-out and breakdowns.

I don’t think the Sell know how sensitive or close the Creatives are to their pride and joy of the creation they have made. Because at the end of the day – the Sell thinks bottom-line of the money and not the heart behind the creativity. “Try harder or get out of the industry” is the repercussion.

That’s why when the Creatives leave the industry, they do their own creative thing and be their own boss, because you don’t have the Sell watching over their shoulders.

The Sell needs to respect the Creative more than anything.

Ex-SCA
14 Feb 2021 - 8:20 pm

There is no doubt that this is an enormous issue. It’s also entirely unsurprising. Radio is one of very few industries that have many top-level executives without any formal qualifications, experience in diverse industries, or often even clear metrics as to why they have the jobs they have. So many of those appointments are made on gut feel and nothing else.

The amount of people who started as panel operators or casual announcers 10-20 years ago who are now running radio stations (and even networks), just because they stuck around and there was nobody else for the job to go to, is absurd. For many, there are very, very few genuine reasons why they hold the jobs they have, and yet their egos and the scope of the power and influence they have is enormous.

If you went through every content director and senior content executive in the country, you would struggle to find reasons they are where they are, and very little if any track record of creative success or innovation. And yet they walk around like they invented the wheel, are paid that way too, and treat others as if they are so far beneath them.

How many young, impressionable, hopeful announcers or producers abandoned their lives for base minimum wage in the middle of nowhere on the advice of these completely unqualified bosses? How many of them were sold a lie of ‘this is how you progress’, even though you could count the number of people who actually progressed that way on one hand? How many of those young people went on to suffer from serious mental health problems due to this manipulative and abusive model?

I wouldn’t be surprised if SCA for example was, at some stage in the future, subject to some pretty serious litigation around negligence and workplace harassment. The lie of the talent pipeline (which came with no support, no direction, and very little pay – criminally low, in more than a few instances) is crazy to think about. Only for those announcers to then get out there and be treated appallingly by unqualified bosses, and the moment they expressed some sense of finding things difficult, being told ‘somebody else will want this job more if you leave’.

It’s a toxic, outdated, manipulative, and rotten to the core industry. The combination of ego and superiority-complexes combined with the lack of any clear metrics as to how/why the people in charge hold their positions or how they are assessed and kept accountable has contributed to so much hurt caused to so many people.

Leaving radio was the best thing I ever did. 4 years free and never looking back. And from the conversations I’ve had, like Browny, there are very few people who have left radio who regret leaving.

The titanic is sinking. And we’ll all be better off when it goes down for good.

Finding a new industry
14 Feb 2021 - 9:45 pm

The attitude currently is, it’s an employer’s market.

The sad thing is, the people who love and care about real radio are the people who leave. All we are left with now is a bunch of toxic middle managers who make light of mental health taking credit for others work.

Good to see we aren't alone
15 Feb 2021 - 10:01 am

This is not exclusive to SCA. ARN, SRN and Grant Broadcasters all give little attention to mental health. Forward another EAP email around, she’ll be right.

There are a bunch of under or not qualified people who have been promoted up and out of the way now putting the squeeze on people who can barely make ends meet so they can take their fat cheques at the end of eat QTR.

We are stuck in the 80’s. And nobody cares.

Jokes about people going on week long coke benders, sleeping with their managers and actively excluding people who don’t get on board are commonplace. These people ALL still have their jobs. It you’re one of them, and you’re reading this. Just know, the rest of us pity you. We don’t envy you.

Recommendations for a better future:

Less coke more communication
Sleep with your own spouse always
If you see something, say something
Be kind to each other

Chuck Tuna
15 Feb 2021 - 11:13 am

Lots of stressed out announcers out there at the moment, used to be a fun industry to work in, all too sad

@ex-SCA
15 Feb 2021 - 1:35 pm

Just wanted to say, you’ve hit the nail on the head with everything you’ve written. There are few in this industry who are managers because they’re good managers. The old adage that people are promoted to their level of incompetence has never been more true than for Australian radio.

Many managers and executives are there from luck and/or their ability to bullshit about themselves. How many executives are *still* in charge of stations that haven’t rated under their stewardship? Constantly blaming every other show or talent or anyone else but themselves.

Meanwhile, you can earn more money working at Coles full time than you can in many (if not most) regional gigs, with less stress and fewer hours. And any excess hours you do are paid overtime, rather than just pretending that overtime doesn’t exist.

Radio is dying, sure. But it killed itself. It’s the knight in Monty Python’s holy grail. An ego that can’t see its own direct contribution to its death.

‘Just a flesh wound’ kills you pretty quick if you can’t acknowledge that it’s something bigger.

Boris
15 Feb 2021 - 1:45 pm

Speaking from someone who is still young but didn’t go into radio straight from school via AFTRS or otherwise and experienced ‘life on the other side’, this is spot on. Radio is a disgusting industry.
The pressure on announcers is immense, there is no fun or joy to be had. PD’s and companies whip you constantly, demanding more and more until breaking point. They play favourites, higher-ups then make no guarantees even if you’re a good standard and have put in the work – you’re expected to drop everything and shift interstate to get paid 60k and that’s viewed as a ‘promotion’.
I’ve seen people get dealt a horrible hand in life, like sustaining a serious injury and being expected to front up to work the next day, not to sit in a studio either but to do an active OB when they are in obvious physical pain.
Politics are rampant. SCA is a lie, between their Hubble program, boot camps, and talent ‘pipeline’ the reality is they will pay you the same as the other smaller networks and then have the audacity to cull 38 regional breky announcers to save less than 200k whilst spending presumably a million minimum on a re brand AND whilst having the further audacity to inflate the contracts of Carrie and Tommie and an abysmal breky show that is destined to fail once again (how appointing Erin Molan is a view to saving something already struggling is surely beyond everyone) – all under the guise of well COVID was tough on us. How about the years of work people like Bodge, Carly etc put in – what happens to them? They’ve moved, slogged their guts and have nothing to show for it, and I can guarantee SCA have offered zero in the way of training to swivel into a new industry and support them.
Same for Grants, ARN, SRN, Capital….it’s an awful awful industry that makes announcer feel worthless, they are already critiquing their own work more than anyone in a desperate attempt to get better and ‘make it’ but what is there to make? A cap city workday jock is on what maybe 75k? And you can barely name one. The breky hosts left will now never move, they’re on a great wicket and they know they’ll be lucky to pull any other shows.
That means there is no opening. The fact that these companies also expect people from Melbourne or Sydney to venture in to a middle of nowhere place like Broken Hill, Inverrell etc and spend 2-3 years there before being offered something else is absurd.
It’s not about ‘bad eggs’ in the mix like some of these other comments, the industry itself is rotten and aims to exploit peoples passions, hopes and dreams and offers very little if anything as a return.

radionerd
15 Feb 2021 - 2:40 pm

Some excellent comments here, and it’s sad because I’ve known so many really talented operators who have left the industry and to be honest, are far better than most jocks on air today. All of them LOVE radio, but they’ve left because of low pay, no job security, and being treated like crap from some leaders.

Hope things change
15 Feb 2021 - 5:00 pm

It’s heartbreaking reading some of these comments. I left SCA after some intense bullying and gaslighting by my manager. After no success in talking to the management within my building, I tried to report it to HR. After their ‘investigation’ I was told *I* should change my behaviour, suck it up, oh and… here’s the EAP line if you want it.

I don’t cry much, but I was crying heavily on the phone when they told me this. I couldn’t believe the outcome. I’d endured so much from this person, and I thought I had done the right thing by trying to reach out for help. I was distraught.

Prior to this person arriving I had loved my job. I went from being a celebrated member of staff to being a ‘problem’. This person’s behaviour caused me no end of sleepless nights, anxiety about going to work, and has had lasting impacts on my mental health.

HR never followed up with me after they gave me the EAP number.

Eventually I just had to get out. In the lead up to my departure so many staff stopped me in private to say: “I totally saw what was happening, that person will get what’s coming”.

While this reinforced that my treatment was being seen and I wasn’t crazy (trust me, this person had tried to make me feel like I was), it also makes me very sad that we work within an industry where people are too afraid to speak out, or stand up for others, based on a fear of how it could affect their own employment.

Since leaving I had several people reach out to me to say they’d been through a similar experience when they’d tried to report their experiences with this person through HR.

I’m sad to say that the person I’m referring to is still very much employed within the industry.

Good luck to you Browny, you’ve got more chutzpah than I do. I hope that this campaign starts some much-needed conversations.

Chuck Tuna
15 Feb 2021 - 6:27 pm

The possible reason no calls are going to air is because there’s no one doing a live shift anymore due to voice tracking, there’s actually no one in the studios to answer the phone

Most listeners are easily pleased, play good non repetitive music, fun entertaining jocks, is there really a need to promote the brekky jock once an hour ? As for forward teasing , creative hooks ? Yeah i guess, but lets not have a nervous breakdown if we don’t. Instead of ad libs, now its story arcs ?

I worked with a jock once on the FM side of the station , who was in tears one morning because her on air partner forgot to tee something up , I said dont worry just wing it this morning, she said you don’t understand the Group PD will rip into us etc etc , They are now both out of the industry…

Ex-Weekend Warrior
15 Feb 2021 - 7:22 pm

I was talked into doing a casual, AMD fill-in gig with a capital city station and told by doing so, it’ll look good on my resume should I apply for the position (which I was also encouraged to do by multiple managers). I found out two days into that stint, the position was already given to someone else and my job was essentially to “warm the seat” until they arrived a month or so later. That’s the kind of mentality you go through in this industry and that was after a decade with the company mind you. False promises and mind games are just the beginning of radio’s mentally draining issues that need addressing and I reckon Browny’s mission will start that.

get out while you can
15 Feb 2021 - 8:28 pm

The biggest con they pulled was telling us not to discuss salary info.

I got put on a performance management plan and turned from star employee to problem employee after I learned my co-worker was earning double what I earned (I was earning $45k at a pretty major regional station doing a skilled job and doing 12 hour days).

Now I work at a metro network. Still earn half what many of my co-workers do. Still expected to do ridiculous hours. There are some really great people working in radio, and a handful of really genuine people working in management. But for the most part *everyone* is too scared to lose their job to achieve anything at all.

The smart people get out quick

It's what you do, not who you are
15 Feb 2021 - 9:59 pm

Former Cap city announcer here who left not so long ago. I commend Browny for talking about this openly. So many others feel this way and either can’t talk about it because it is too traumatic, or because they have signed confidentiality agreements. This and worse absolutely happens and happened to me. This industry is toxic. And that is so sad. I love/d radio at my very core and worked relentlessly to be the best of the best, and even when I was it wasn’t enough. You can be the number 1 rated jock in a market, with listener recognition and positive scores off the charts and you are still treated like gum on the shoes of these businesses. I’ve actively spent time with mental health professionals since I left to deconstruct my feeling personal feelings of failure and grief because I couldn’t take anymore toxicity and stood up for myself and my health, at the cost of my job. This is not a normal industry. That is not a normal feeling. And anyone else who feels this way you are not alone. This industry uses your passion and creativity as a tool to manipulate and control, paying you pittance, while they make out like bandits off the back of your work, brand, and ability to form authentic relationships with listeners. If you are in this situation now – know that you are worth more than this. I have personally discovered that there are many other things that can leave you more creatively and financially fulfilled than the radio industry. Back yourself and make changes that support your mental health.

When passion turns to exhaustion
16 Feb 2021 - 10:27 am

The biggest challenge for radio in 2021 isn’t measurement Grant, it’s stopping all the people you, and your competing networks have treated like cow dung from organising, then standing up to your archaic, hostile work practices.

If someone told me five years ago radio was dying, I’d have fought them until I was black and blue in the face… it’s on life support now.

David
16 Feb 2021 - 11:16 am

Fish rot from the head down. SCA has gone downhill since that old TV General Manager was installed as ” CEO ” All he talks about is podcasting, he is not a radio guy and the network has tanked and will continue to be in freefall, while he is there. Sad but true. Why hasnt the SCA Board of boffins grown the company through acquisitions or revenue initiatives. Ratings in metropolitan markets have never been worse and we will soon see how regional is going, not great I would expect. Grant Broadcasters must spend a lot of time, trying to wipe the smirk off their face, what a bonus it has been having Grant Blackley in the bush, no idea what he is doing.

Paul 'Browny' Brown
16 Feb 2021 - 4:08 pm

Thank you all for your contributions to the cause. This is exactly what this campaign is all about, sharing experiences, initiating conversation and shining a light on the struggles we’ve all faced working within the radio industry. I hope we’ve caused enough attention for companies/stations/management to take this seriously and address the problems from all across the industry moving forward.

If you’re inclined to donate to Beyond Blue, the official fundraising page is here: https://fundraise.beyondblue.org.au/wallofsoundburnyourradiofundraisercampaign

If you’d prefer a shirt (with 100% of proceeds from sales being donated to Beyond Blue) grab that here: https://wallofsoundstore.com/collections/new/burn-your-radio

Meow
16 Feb 2021 - 9:13 pm

I worked for SCA straight out of uni. I stayed for five years. What Browny has said is not only true, but absolutely horrifying.

Here are some of the things (that I remember), that stood out for me:

– I would be asked “if I was on my period” if I disagreed with my CD.
– I was told to ‘flirt’ with a high paying client at the ARIA awards after party, and try and get them to ‘resign the deal’ for sponsoring the show
– It was pointed out at an all staff meeting that I had a breast enlargement while I was annual leave. My boss asked the staff if they ‘noticed anything bigger’ about me.
– I earned $38,000 per year, and NEVER was approved for a pay rise. In five years. Kept being told there was a line of people out the door that would do my job ‘for less’.

I’ll write a book about it one day. Time’s motherf**king up.

Hellen
18 Feb 2021 - 12:49 am

I look forward to Radio today doing follow-up interviews on these points and issues with current heads of radio.

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