In these Radiowaves-exclusive articles, legendary presenter Pat Courtenay shares his views, ideas, experience, and tips with our visitors…

This time around he talks about a real opinion-divider: radio automation…


It was refreshing to follow the discussion about automation that focussed on its operational aspects; how to make it work better, which systems are better than others, how you can sound ‘live’. It was refreshing because no one felt a need to consider the damage that automation is doing to careers.

The greatest beneficiaries of Broadcast automation the world over, are the owners and shareholders of the company that does the broadcasting. Automation saves money. If I can sit in a studio in Metropolis and broadcast to twenty-four other parts of the country at the same time, my Chairman’s getting twenty-five guys for the price of one.

The pattern overseas is usually to have a Breakfast Show which adheres to the Network format but features local jocks. The rest of the day is networked out of an automated studio in a galaxy far, far away. Meanwhile, around the country there are hollow shells of buildings with the Breakfast people, who hate the Network Stars; a journo, who works for the local paper to pay the mortgage; a receptionist, who has to reel off several different station names before the “How may I help you” bit; a Manager, who sub-lets offices to help meet the Network targets; and a Sales rep., who fills visiting Network Stars with beer because they’re easier to sell than his Breakfast Show!
Copy writers – gone. Production – gone. All those midnight-to-dawn shifts that used to be the nursery of sprouting talent – gone. All those little drive-you-mad stations in the country where you learned to do just about everything – gone.
Big Network says, “We want hot performers, with enough experience to rate well nationwide.” So, where do you get the experience?

Increasingly we find Television personalities and stand-up comedians getting the big Radio gigs. Any off-peak shifts that still exist are filled by a new breed who will take whatever they can get, working huge weeks for tiny money because if they don’t do it, somebody else will!

How does this happen? Politicians.

New Zealand is a tragic example: some government or other de-regulated Broadcasting, meaning that if you could afford the gear, you could open a Radio station. Overnight, it became almost a case of “stations per listener,” rather than “listeners per station,” and only the Big Companies could make any money: all the others gradually went broke and got bought (for half-nothin’) by the Big Companies.
Great networks from little bankruptcies grew, to the point where I’d say eighty to ninety percent of that country’s outlets are now owned by two Companies. Each Company can then put several different brands of programming on a series of networks all run out of HQ. Easy money.

It seems the only others who profit from all this are the so-called Broadcasting Schools, who keep scalping thousands off the innocent, neglecting to tell them that they’re now qualified for McDonald’s. Apart from all that, what happens when there’s a flood disaster in Ballykillferret and the local station’s playing Buster Hymen and the Penetrations off a computer in Dublin?

Don’t let it happen!

Next: Personality Jocks