NYF’s Radio on Radio features New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards Grand Jury’s insights and observations on the transformation taking place in the industry today. Each interview focuses on such topics as their opinions on the importance of free speech, their thoughts on creating their dream show and where imagination comes into play.
NYF’s international Grand Jury of award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are actively involved in creating the innovative radio programs heard on radio today. Who better to share their insider information on the wonderful world of radio than this respected group of prominent industry thought leaders?
This week NYF’s Radio on Radio will explore the evolution taking place in the world of radio with 2017 Grand Jury member, Aaron Kearney Pacific Sports Reporter for ABC International Australia. Aaron is a multi-award winning broadcaster, journalist, and sports commentator with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He is the host of 1233 ABC Newcastle Breakfast Show which features the Story Box – a popular blind interview segment that earned the 2013 New York Festivals Radio Program Awards Silver Trophy.
Aaron has been awarded a shelf full of high profile awards including the Walkley Award and two New York Festivals International Radio Awards, taking home both Gold and Silver trophies. In addition to being a Kennedy Award finalist, he is one of the few Australians to win awards for his work for television, radio and newspapers, magazines and online.
Throughout his career he has covered some of the world major sports events from the Olympics, to the FIFA and Rugby League World Cups and AFC Champions League and is the creator of a Sports Commentary training course used by broadcasters in Papua New Guinea and the Tiwi Islands.
In the interview below, Aaron shares his insights and observations on the evolving radio landscape, his thoughts on niche content, the importance of freedom of the press, why imagination equals engagement and much more.
New York Festivals: How will radio transform in the coming years? What is the biggest shift you’ve noticed this past year?
Aaron Kearney: Obviously, the prospect of driverless cars becoming ubiquitous looms large for the industry, but we have already seen something similar around the breakfast table in recent years. With no need to watch the road and cheap screens all around us, I think there will be an increasing necessity for visual and/or interactive elements to radio broadcasting.
This doesn’t mean it will become cheap TV. It will need to be something different and far more sophisticated than that. In fact, radio’s gift has always been its intimacy and personal connection. Those that understand that will prosper.
I think the idea that rather than being disembodied voices, you can choose to have your radio friends talking to you from a screen on the back of a car seat or at the end of the breakfast bench remains true to the traditional essence of what radio at its best has always been; personal connection and shared experience.
New York Festivals: Is there a revolution going on today in radio content?
There is a certainly revolution in audio content that may or may not be evident in the radio industry, depending on where in the world you are.
Clearly, more niche, more specific content has been a trend for some time via podcasting, but the revolution I am noticing it how that delivery mechanism is becoming increasingly real time. For example, my wife and I watched the first season of Westworld and by the time we’d turned off the television and headed to bed, there was a podcast discussion of what we’d just witnessed ready for download. Similar things are happening in the realms of sport, finance and politics.
I see some sectors of the radio industry ignoring this at their peril. They are fleeing in the opposite direction toward generic networking in a bid to save costs, whereas the only way to truly compete is the be the best at something someone wants, and the traditional industry’s best bet is, in most cases, to do “local” better than anyone else. In a world where anyone can listen to anything, the one thing that the rest of the world can’t offer is a sense of local connection.
New York Festivals: What would be your dream show to create, budget no object?
I am actively involved in a campaign to empower broadcasters in developing media environments to provide live commentary of local sports events. I have worked in Papua
New Guinea, the Tiwi Islands, and with women from across Asia, collaboratively creating sports commentary teams and I love the idea of a show or even an entire station that showcased hyper-local sports events from the most obscure corners of the world. It would be extraordinary listening, would attract a devoted audience and, I suspect, enthusiastic advertisers. Please contact me if you can help.
New York Festivals: Will you talk about the importance of freedom of press?
I now work across more than a dozen countries and have the opportunity to compare and contrast what press freedom means for societies and citizens. There is a direct correlation between the power of the press and corruptions levels, citizen empowerment, and quality of life. An ethical and powerful media sector gets results for its people. It is, in my experience, highly prized in places where it is restricted and grossly undervalued in places where it is ostensibly guaranteed.
Further, it is critical in this media landscape, not only that we value the freedom of the press but that we value the work of the free press. One of the many positives of social media is that is has demystified and democratised information, but in so doing, it has undermined the value of professional journalists/photographers et al. It has also incentivised cheap opinion and made expensive investigation more unsustainable. But in my seminars, I often like social media to first aid. It would be wonderful if everyone in the world was proficient in first aid. Clearly, the world would be a better place, but that would not mean we no longer need heart surgeons. So it is with social media and professional media.
New York Festivals: Audio landscapes, theater of the mind, how does imagination come into play?
Imagination equals engagement. Therefore, there will always be a place for audio-only information and entertainment. The moment someone engages visually an emotional distraction or even disconnection occurs. The halo effect, both positive and negative, clouds perceptions. We are distracted by age, appearance and context in a way that takes away from the immersive, emotional experience of having someone directly enter your head via your ears. There is a purity of experience, a depth of connection, a psychological coupling that can only happen this way. Long live audio that stimulates the imagination.
Join New York Festivals Monday, June 19, 2017 as we honor the World’s Best Radio Programs at an awards ceremony at in New York City. To view the 2016 World’s Best Radio Program Ceremony Gala, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/media/rp/2016/