The changing role of local radio is an undeniable side effect of our current crisis.
We have looked in depth at the pivotal role radio has played for both brands and local communities over the last few months as it becomes publicly recognised as a vital service by our political leaders.
We’ve looked at the agility of radio and how important that is for brands. Plans change and evolve constantly in the normal course of business but there appears to be a resolute commitment to local radio during this time with some brands accelerating their media plans and bringing forward activity.
The speed at which events are moving and new developments made are truly mind blowing. In this unsettling time communities throughout Ireland are relying on their local radio stations to deliver trustworthy and accurate news in a time of true crisis.
The versatility of local radio gives listeners the information they need in many ways; from live broadcasts to interviews with local politicians and news bulletins throughout the day. Our stations are acutely aware of the weight of this responsibility and are doing an exceptional job to keep services running in incredibly difficult circumstances.
We’ll look more closely at three of our stations who have stepped up to this challenge, who, despite difficult times, remember that radio is also about entertainment, companionship and bringing a smile to the community in whatever way they can.
KCLR: Rockin’ The Lockin
KCLR broadcasts to communities throughout Kilkenny and Carlow. Their on-air presenters pride themselves on understanding their listeners, staying on top of community news and bringing local to every show.
We caught up with Ken Maguire, Broadcast Engineer and Presenter of KCLR Drive, to get into some of the logistical nitty gritty and what this means for the people behind the voices.
“Obviously, it’s a whole new norm. I’m off air myself (usually on 3-5.30) but from an engineering capacity, there’s a lot more to tackle when almost every member of staff, plus contractors, are working outside of the building. We’ve had to make some schedule changes but for the most part on air it’s business as usual.”
- Ken Maguire, KCLR
Schedule & Remote Working
With news teams spread across two counties remoting in for bulletins from 7am and an extended 4-hour lunchtime show broadcast from a kitchen, there are many challenges to make “business as usual” happen. With assistance from the station home offices have been turned into full production studios, the stations phone system has been redirected with minimal disruption to calls from listeners, and virtual coffee meetings have become the new team norm.
It’s not just working environments that have changed for KCLR. In responding to the needs of their community programming has been adapted. Mass is now broadcast live every Sunday at 9.30am and a full quota of masses over the Easter weekend.
Adapting specifically to COVID 19, the station covers the latest developments on both morning and evening talk shows while KCLR Live brings updates from local doctors on the frontline. The show has had a massive response to their Frontline Heroes campaign that recognise the contribution of local frontline workers.
Digital & Online Engagement
The station also recognises contributions from local businesses to the community. To support these local businesses, KCLR rolled out a “community cares” feature with shoutouts for businesses that are still open and trading. This was extended into a one stop shop of information for listeners with an “Open For Business” section on their website. This links open businesses with volunteer groups, home and community supports.
Presenters and listeners are continually contributing to fresh content on social media leading to a surge in digital engagement for the station. They’ve used this platform to introduce live sessions with talented artists such as Pete Fagan, Damian Carroll and Mickey Joe Harte all taking part. The first show with Pete Fagan was a 90 minute performance and raised funds for local charity, Teac Tom.
To keep spirits up in their community while encouraging people to stay at home, KCLR have run an online competition – Rockin’ The Lockin. The premise is simple. Locals submit a performance of an original song via video. The station shares it and puts it to a vote late April. The winner will get pro studio time to cut a single, full music video production, and playlisting from the station themselves. With support like that, Kilkenny and Carlow truly are Rockin’ The Lockin.
EAST COAST FM: Social…From a Distance
East Coast FM, the local radio station of Co. Wicklow, prides itself in being the heart of the county and committing fully to the local community. This commitment is evident in their current Sambos for Ambos campaign. The brainchild of local woman, Hazel Hoad, the station dedicated their Good Friday morning show to this worthy cause, giving something back to the local frontline staff who are sacrificing so much for the community at this time.
Their Morning Show is almost completely dedicated to bringing the local community relevant news and updates regarding Covid-19. With real-life updates from a local Bray guard to remind people why the restrictions are in place and the importance of staying away from beauty spots (a tough job when you’re taking care of “the garden of Ireland”) to parenting experts offering advice on how to keep kids busy, to home fitness experts, the station is committed to making the best of the current situation for their listeners. Putting the majority of these into podcast shows how the radio station is responding to the different needs and habits of their listeners during this time.
Radio NOVA: Is there a Muso in the House?
Radio Nova prides itself on bringing listeners the best music from the last 40 years. Self-proclaimed “music addicts” this station pulls together shows that appeal to the masses but holds a soft spot for air guitarists and shower soloists.
With big personalities on-air, the station has adapted their programming considering the current crisis without losing their sense of fun or community.
Celebrating a local hero every day and dedicating the entire show to that person, Marty @ Work brings every listener closer to the front line by sharing real experiences and stories.
Is there a Musos in the House? with Pat Courtenay encourages all armchair musicians, regardless of talent, to send in their home recording. Sometimes it works and sometimes it works better but there is no doubt that the intention here is to bring a smile to the face of every listener.
Recognising the fact that outdoor events are cancelled for the foreseeable, Radio Nova has put together a #StayAtHome Music Festival weekend over Easter bringing live music to their listeners Friday through to Monday. Listeners are invited to engage with the station by sharing photos of their favourite festival memories or ticket stubs.
Adversity introduces a man to himself – (credited to) Albert Einstein
The actions and reactions of local stations throughout the country to keep broadcasting during this crisis is a credit to all the people behind the familiar voices. They’ve shown commitment and, in some cases, ingenious creativity to keep broadcasting and bringing important, sometimes lifesaving, messages to their listeners. They are the embodiment of the old adage: The Show Must Go On!
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