‘Don’t be a dick’: Ryan Rathbone’s advice for surviving in radio

If you want to have longevity in radio, you need to watch your attitude, because “you won’t last that long if you’re a bit of a dick”, Grant Broadcasters’ group content director, Ryan Rathbone, has said.

He pointed to ‘Ugly Phil’ – aka Phil O’Neill – who has just returned to local radio after an extended and varied career to take on Mornings at Australian Radio Network’s (ARN) WSFM in Sydney, as an example of someone who has found long-term success in the space.

And given the year the sector has experienced, Rathbone said radio employees need to learn how to handle, and move on from, a redundancy, without causing a scene of behaving badly.

Host of Air Heads – The Podcast, Leroy Brown, to whom Rathbone was speaking, agreed, noting everyone who’s worked in radio has had it happen to them at some point in their career.

Rathbone said the important thing to remember is radio business are just that – businesses – and those at the receiving end of the axe shouldn’t take it personally.

“Look it’s really difficult, but I’m a pretty positive kind of person, and my advice to people going through that is just remember it’s not personal. You were good enough to get the job in the first place, you’ll be good enough to get another job, and it is just a job,” he told the podcast.

“The best thing you can do is kill the negative thoughts. It’s a business decision. Redundancies are very rarely for any other reason than ‘Actually, you know what? The business is going in a different direction, and you don’t fit the new path of whatever they’re choosing to do’. It’s very rarely a personal thing that has anything to do with anything that you’ve done. So as difficult as it is, don’t take it personally, learn what you can from it, be professional, don’t go out swinging.”

Plus, he said, chances are the broadcaster’s lawyers “are well and truly across what they’re doing”, so you might as well take it in your stride, and find your next opportunity.

“My advice is pick yourself up and be as positive as you can, and remember that it’s your skills that got you the job in the first place and they’ll get you another one.”

The other thing to remember, he said, is the redundancy and unemployment stick can hit anyone, at any time, even if they’re performing well, doing a good job, and connecting with audiences.

“When I was in Sydney, programming Mix in Sydney, and my contract wasn’t renewed and Kyle & Jackie O came over and I could pretty much see the writing on the wall that Derek [Bargwanna] was going to come with them, that was probably a bigger shock with me, because I’d had so much success and built up quite an established career to then have everything, the rug pulled from under your feet,” he said.

This year has been particularly brutal, he said, but he pushed back against the idea that it was ever easy to get into the industry, with jobs aplenty, opportunities abounding, and redundancies but a distant nightmare.

“The industry wasn’t exactly huge at any point, really,” he said. “It was bigger, sure and there may have been more opportunities, but those opportunities still exist. You just need to be extremely proactive about it and you need to kind of badger people. Life has become easier in a lot of ways, so when I was 16 trying to get a job, you’d go and make a tonne of cassette tapes and write your name on it and your phone number and find out the postal address in the phone book. What a pain all that is. Now, you call the reception, find out the email address of the program director and start bombarding them with audio. It’s so easy.”

In fact, he said, more young people should be endeavouring to get into the industry, and the industry should be doing more to attract them.

“I’m a little underwhelmed with the amount of young people trying to get into our industry, to be honest… These days the influencers and stuff like that are actually where these young ones are looking to put their energy because they can see an instant return and they can do the content they want to do .

“Well you can do the content you want to do on radio, too. We’re not going anywhere. And I think we need to do a better job as an industry of making sure we’re reaching out to these people and saying ‘Hey radio’s still a thing and it’s still going to be a thing in the future.’”

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I'm a 'dick'...probably
18 Dec 2020 - 8:32 pm

And that’s one of the biggest problems with the industry right there… ‘Don’t be a dick’ translates to: Don’t you dare express your rights as an employee. Want to work on radio? Then you play by our rules, not the national employment standards, and if you dare stand up for yourself our lawyers will make it difficult for you and you won’t get another job in the industry. Don’t rock the boat, don’t make waves. Say nothing about the misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, or just general prejudices you see or experience. That bullying? Suck it up. That’s the culture. Watch as we run anti bullying/sexism/whatever campaigns on air but do nothing about the culture of our own organization and industry. Remember all those comments on the radio today me too article? I’m not saying Ryan meant all this specifically by his comments, but rather his comments are a product of the culture of the industry as a whole. The whole Australian radio industry needs to do better as a whole, while there’s still time. Because all those ‘dicks’ will take their talent and creativity elsewhere onto platforms or industries that don’t have this mentality.

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