As demonstrated previously in my musings here; the importance of reflective practice has become an integral part of my professional life. Whilst I wait impatiently for the New Zealand borders to reopen to quarantine-free travel, I have been reflecting on my involvement with Radio Coromandel Ltd and how & when it all started.

November 19, 2018 – Radio Coromandel Ltd officially commenced broadcast as C95 FM.

Trolling back through messages with Kieron Atkinson – CFM’s Programme & Music Director, I was reminded of how and when my journey with CFM began. firstly, kieron and i became colleagues and best friends when we first meet @ 4GY Gympie in 1989 – (he stopped in while looking for a new radio gig – the following week, I had a car accident and he backfilled my Production Manager gig while I recouped) life and many years in the business ensued…

Late December 2018, Kieron messaged to tell me about his new programming adventure with a new independent radio outfit on the North Island of New Zealand and specifically to seek my assistance with getting voice-tracking* software working on MacOS; (at this stage I had been working away from full-time broadcast radio for 14 years – as a media professional embedded within higher education).

Kieron’s passion for this radio station was simply infectious; he told me stories of how he got involved and the incredible passion for radio the owner has. Before I worked on the software challenge itself, I decided to listen to the station and hear what my old friend was up to. Instantly, I fell back in love with local radio (something I would later write about as hyperlocal). I also became fascinated and intrigued by the geography and its rich culture and heritage. (that’s yet a bigger story with many facets)

One of my first questions to Kieron, after listening for a few days, was about dialect (or accent, if you must)… these funny New Zealanders have some very different pronunciations to my engrained Australian/Queensland dialect. Not only the simple day to day words; “dance, chance, grant, advance, garage, answer”… but then there are the town names (often Māori pronunciation).

30 Dec 2018
so… ? tell me…how the heck is this being pronounced? Whitianga
I would think… wit-e-anger… but what I’m hearing is… fit-e-ang-a

Kieron replies with an audio message giving me my first te reo māori lesson

I had many lessons and much practice to do, altering my daily dialect and slowly ingesting the basics of a new language. I set a personal rule very early, particularly with town names – if i don’t know the correct pronunciation, don’t even try, until I was sure. It’s just about respect.  Here’s a really small example of a single word I’ve needed to change. 

1 Jan 2019
Happy New Year!  So…holyshit…I’ve got VT software to work on mac…do not know how…but it worked…so, did my first break…woohoo!! OK, so 00:00 hour tomorrow morn – 2/1/19 is that ok? do you mind?

I ended up recording 3 hours of voice-tracks* – more pronunciation questions ensued…“i need help with this one – Whangamata”

Like I said previously, I simply fell back in love with local radio, so I didn’t stop at just testing the software once, I recorded voice-tracks for another mid-dawn – “just VT’d 00:00-04:00 FRIDAY 4/1/19”…and a third “00:00-04:00 Saturday 5/1/19 VT’d”.
Kieron could obviously see I was having fun, and as my PD he thought I was ok to keep going. Next step was to unleash the broad Australian onto a weekend afternoon music shift – Saturday 12 Jan 2019 – 12:00 – 16:00

16 January 2019
Kieron: You’ll never guess. John (station owner) has heard you. He asked me about you yesterday.
me: Is he ok with me being on air?
Kieron: Ummmm, he wanted to have a listen to some logger files. He was a bit concerned if your accent was strong. I know you’d been conscious of that. Maybe hold off until I talk to him about you again

Well, I’d had fun – and I had actually done what Kieron had originally intended – I had the voice-tracking software working nicely on MacOS. Interestingly, after checking the logger files, John wanted to hear me on his radio station again, this time for an audition. Saturday 19 Jan 2019 16:00 – 19:00. Shortly after this VT shift, Kieron messages asking for a private chat, after having spoken with John.

23 Jan 2019
“following on from our conversation Saturday evening. I have been investigating my leave options etc. Let me say, I am very very seriously thinking about the 6month offer… and I would really like to discuss this further with you on the weekend, if that’s ok.”
“Sure thing mate. John is keen too. I should hook you guys up for a chat”

Seems as if the audition went well. That conversation then lead to my first offical rostered shift Sunday 27 January 2019 – 14:00 – 16:00.
From then to this day, I have voice-tracked hyperlocal programmes, literally almost every weekend; plus many other fill-in shifts across the week, copywriting, and voiceovers, all in a voluntary unpaid capacity. (Remembering, while this is a commercial radio station – it’s a small rural independent station, still being topped up by owner.) I do this unpaid voluntary work because, like John (the owner), I just love this medium, I love LOCAL radio and truly believe in it’s impact on the community.

This passion obviously influenced an initial invitation for paid consultancy. June 2019, I visited New Zealand & the Coromandel peninsula for the first time, to setup production processes, conduct staff training, write copy and backfill onair live shifts. Leading to further paid consultancy insitu in November 2019 and again January 2020. These visits have included backfill for music director and a variety of announcing team members. I continue to regularly voice commercials, write copy and assist with production. 

Over the past two years, I am proud to have been involved in many firsts for the radio station: first onair announcer when 94.0 TX turned on at Rataroa; first onair announcer when Tokatea TX turned on at Coromandel; first onair announcer when Whangamata studio turned on; first to get the company in trouble with council for parking the retro OB van on council land without permits – oopps

Radio Coromandel Ltd is an independent small market commercial radio outfit, in a competitive commercial radio environment with national broadcasters and multi-national competitors. Our point of difference is hyperlocal – this is also what will make this a success. Even in the current covid scenario, even when revenue is at least 20% down .. not only for us, but for all media and small business alike.

It’s a fight…and personally I’m proud to be fighting for local radio to survive – like John & Lynda Grant – directors of Radio Coromandel Ltd, I have a passion to see this succeed and a passion for broadcast radio.

* from wikipedia: VT / voice-tracking, is a technique employed by some radio stations to produce the illusion of a live announcer sitting in the radio studios of the station when one is not actually present.

this is an amazing feature of modern radio playout software – it can be done well and it can be done very poorly.
In the late 90s when we first started doing this, it was almost a challenge between young announcers to see how quickly you could do a VT shift. “hey, i did my 4 hour saturday arvo shift in 20mins…”

These days, my belief is very different – how “live” can I make myself appear – how “local” can I make this show? How close can I get the time calls? …all while pre-recording and actually not being present. Fact is, I’m VT’ing from 2500km away from this community. It feels like I put more work into a VT shift than a live shift, on location. (I think I put 5 hours work into yesterday’s 3 hour VT shift) I simply have to work harder to sound live and local. Not everyone is like me though – some still try to do a shift in the shortest amount of time – this is simply not fair on the listener or the advertiser. Even voice-tracked shows can be hyperlocal! 😀 


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