Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 5, 2011

Saturday, 5th February 2011 – the rains come back, and a promotional radio piece

Is there no end to these variable and unusual climatic extremes we seem to be experiencing this Summer down here in the land of sunshine and beaches?   Late yesterday, and overnight,  Victoria has been battered by thunderstorms producing flash floods across the state as the effects of tropical cyclone activity up in the northern states continue to wreak havoc on infrastructure and property.  Although I obviously missed the worst of the weather, on my return home yesterday in humid and uncomfortable conditions,  public transport was brought to a standstill along tram routes and several train lines, while hundreds of roads, including parts of the Monash Freeway and the Calder Highway [the road I travelled by, as far as Sunbury], were closed, traffic jamming as workers fought to drive home through the deluge. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade was overwhelmed by calls for help from disabled people seeking assistance. The State Emergency Service (SES) took calls from more than 1500 people for assistance and rescued 49 people from cars and homes after heavy rain inundated suburbs and towns on Friday evening. Emergency warnings for flash flooding were issued for the metropolitan, central, east, southwest, northwest and northeast parts of the state.  Here in Sunbury, it really started to come down [the rain] around about the time Susie was due to leave her work – not surprisingly, by the time she walked in the door at 10.30pm, she was soaking, drenched to the skin almost!

When I awoke this morning, it was still raining steadily, although I don’t think it had continued through the night.  It did not look good for the local cricketing teams with the second day of a two day game due to be played today – I think Adam’s game is here in Sunbury, and even if the rain stops, I imagine the various sporting ovals will be partially under water in many areas. Certainly, it seems more rain is due today  – the day I was finally going to get my lawns mowed, following the return of my machine during the week.  Not today!! The Bureau is forecasting widespread rain in Victoria over the weekend, including a flood watch for the greater Melbourne  water catchment areas.

Away from the weather, which admittedly has not just dominated my ‘blog’ over recent weeks, but most of the media outlets here!  However, I did mention a couple of days ago, the inclusion of a good article about our local radio station which appeared in this week’s ‘Weekly – Your Community Voice’, and I wanted to share that article with my readers, far and afield.

More than two thirds of the 59 fully licensed community radio stations in Victoria are in country areas. The stations, mostly run by volunteers, offer a range of programs and services often not found on commercial channels. Reporter [for the ‘Voice’] Charlotte Cullum Jenkins spoke to some of the people behind Sunbury’s station 3NRG.

Every Monday at 7pm Alan Olsen takes his seat behind the mixing desk, broadcasting to the people of Sunbury songs made famous by the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.   ‘‘I love music and I’ve always listened to radio. I guess why I got involved in radio is because I have a certain following in music. I do a country show. I was brought up on country music.   ‘‘Community radio were the only stations that would play what I would listen to. You’d never get that on commercial. I was looking for an alternative. But community radio stations back in the ’60s were few and far between. I was playing music through a tape recorder that I fitted to the car I had, that’s how I got to hear what I wanted to hear.

‘‘Community radio was always my favourite interest, even back then. It was that little bit of difference that I enjoyed. Presenters were more down to earth, you could relate to what they were about … I like to listen to someone who is fair dinkum and that’s how I got into community radio.’’\ Olsen joined 3NRG in 1994 and his show has been on air for 16 years.  ‘‘To me there are big differences between community and commercial radio … We involve the community and we try to get the community involved with the station. We do live outdoor broadcasts, anything that might be of interest. We ask people and we can broadcast it. We also try to get people to become presenters, which adds content for the listener.’’ The catchment area of the station is about 55,000 people.

Listener surveys reveal there are about 7000 regular and 12,000 casual listeners. But does Olsen ever wonder how many people are tuning in?  ‘‘It goes across your mind all the time when you’re doing radio — who is listening? Am I giving them the entertainment they like? Unless you get feedback you don’t know. I guess the best way to know is if no one rings in and asks you to do things another way you must be doing something right.’’ Olsen’s passion for country music and radio is what landed him behind the desk and he is now the station president, overseeing the running of the station.

On Air: Alan Olsen says the community plays a big part in making 3NRG what it is. Picture: Matthew Furneau

On Air: Alan Olsen says the community plays a big part in making 3NRG what it is. Picture: Matthew Furneau

All presenters at 3NRG go through a training program, teaching the fundamentals of on-air radio. ‘‘When you’re on air you’re talking to people — you don’t know who you’re talking to or where it’s going.  It’s not that same as talking to someone on the street or your neighbour. The course of conversation has to differ because people are listening and you can easily offend. It doesn’t matter what you say, it may offend someone somewhere.’’ The station has between 60 and 80 volunteers, 40 of those are on-air presenters — covering about 86 per cent of on air time a week.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, the national body for community radio stations, has set out some of the broadcasting guidelines that the station adheres to and supports the running of the station. ‘‘Community radio is based on the principles of access and participation to members of the community in a local area. It provides a broad range of programs produced and presented by people who are part of the local community, provides training and experience in broadcasting and in many communities forms an important part of the social framework and information network so critical to maintaining a strong sense of community,’’ the general manager of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, Kath Letch, says. ‘‘Community radio stations play a vital role in small communities throughout Australia, with 75 per cent of stations located in regional and remote areas. According to our industry research, approximately 30 per cent of regional community radio services are the only radio services providing information specific to their local community or region.’’ Community radio offers a variety of programs to cater to many interests. But one of the challenges that community radio stations face is raising the money to run them. Mostly they rely on sponsors and membership.

It costs about $15,000 each year to run 3NRG. Station manager Mike Cherriman says there are also grants available from local, state and federal governments and community groups. Funding is a huge challenge … we have just enough money to manage our affairs so we’re not attractive to grant givers, which is a bit of a catch-22, so we rely on grant givers. ‘‘As a manager there’s a lot of networking, a lot of getting out there and helping people understand what community radio is, why it’s there, what it can do for them, engaging various community centres — providing them a platform to promote themselves. We offer the opportunity to anyone who wants to come along and stand on their soapbox and be heard. The airwaves are there for that.’’ Olsen’s hope is to see more young presenters working at the station. ‘‘I think the station is going to boom down the track. Mike is drumming up more and more sponsors.’’’

So there you have it, a little synopsis of our local radio station which, as will have been noted over the years of my writings involves quite a deal of my non-working time. Many of the points that Alan has referred to are matters I’ve mused over myself from time to time – the prime example being I think, the constant wondering as to whether ‘anyone is listening’!!  Alan will be the first to tell you that ‘yes Bill, they are out there, you would be surprised’, but then again, they are words from the presenter of one of the two or three most popular programs on the station  – however, one can be assured that just because those programs all happen to concentrate on ‘country’ music, the rest of us are not in any hurry whatsoever to change ‘our’ preferred genres of music, etc!!! We like to think [tongue in cheek] that our listeners are he quieter types who prefer to sit back and enjoy the music without rushing to the phone every five minutes!!!  True or not, that is the optimism which keeps this presenter on air, and will in fact see me on air for two programs tomorrow, neither of which have any semblance whatsoever to country music!!!  Meanwhile we still hope, with plans in the future pipeline to be able to one day broadcast or stream our programs online through the internet, so that will mean my friends overseas can finally listen to Bill on air – hope it’s not too long in coming!!

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