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Immediacy attracts devotees of talk radio

A CALL has just been put to air and the audience listens as a man on his mobile phone explains the problems with the new roundabout proposed for his street.

It’s not heart-stopping current affairs but it’s passionate and is providing this man with a forum for his views.

Hundreds of calls like this go to air every day all across WA, whether the topic is politicians, youth crime or the bell tower – talkback radio provides the community with access to the media.

But behind the on-air personalities and the extreme opinions there’s an invisible army of producers toiling to keep the talkback devotees hooked.

They’re young and ambitious, working long hours to get just the right balance for the listeners. Most of the producers in Perth have completed hours of unpaid work and heartache just to get a foot in the door.

Radio’s a competitive business and young people are cheap, according to News Talk 882 6PR morning producer Melissa Bowen.

“But they (the radio industry) do show a lot of faith in young people … I think radio does a lot for young people in the media,” Ms Bowen said,

Producing is a true behind-the-scenes role. There are many occasions where the producer works hard to get an interview or information which then is dis-seminated in just a couple of seconds of airtime.

“I think if you didn’t find the research and development side of production rewarding it could be very demoralising,” Ms Bowen said.

Although the producers driving talkback radio in Perth might be young, the format’s core demographic is 40 plus.

“We have a massive problem with under forties. Talkback radio in Perth has a real redneck image,” Ms Bowen said.

“But I think it (talkback) can bring things out that people thought were personal issues and put them in a larger forum, and that does empower them.

“You can call and speak to people that you feel are out of reach, like politicians. You can call and talk to the Prime Minister about the GST (for example), and that’s a real community service.”

Many of the politicians around town tune in to the talkback shows to get a feeling for community reaction to current issues.

On occasions, those politicians will ring in to get their side of the story on record, too.

Governments that are smart can use this as a really good gauge … and I think there are certain people who can run campaigns through the radio and you can build a pretty good case,” Ms Bowen said.

Despite television’s dominance in our cultural landscape, talkback radio has retained an intimacy

and immediacy the print media

and television will never attain.

“Of all the forms of interaction with the mass media, (talkback) is probably about the easiest to connect with. And it does serve an important role,” 720 ABC Perth Statewide Mornings with Liam Barlett producer, Tim McMillan, said.

“We purposely leave a significant gap to allow for feedback … we do pick stories that we know we’ll get feedback from.

“Quite a few politicians tune in, so they do use it and they’ll just call in, we don’t always put them to air.”

The producer also plays an important role in getting both sides of a story to air, a balance of opinions, as far as is possible.

“We like to have a range of calls … and we’re happy to put people to air who dispute what Liam’s said. We do try to get both sides,” Mr McMillan said.

Talkback has the capacity to connect people and therefore plays an important role in bringing together people in the community.

‘We’ve got 30 or so callers who are regulars but it depends on the issue. I know if we do road trauma I know a certain lady who lost her daughter will call. I think it does help a lot of people,” News Talk 6PR drive producer Sandra Di Girolamo said.

News Talk 6PR breakfast producer Kim Smith said she enjoyed the immediacy of talkback radio.

“Our listeners bring up a lot of issues … we get a surprising mix of listeners calling and the amount of young people calling in on the up,” Ms Smith said.

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