“Radio Absolutely Has To Be Local To Survive”: Macquarie Media’s Tom Elliott

Tom Elliot (Macquarie Media Limited) at Radio Alive 2017
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B&T was front and centre for the commercial radio industry’s national conference on Friday in Melbourne, which kicked off with a Q&A-style panel featuring a number of senior media industry figures.

Radio host Tom Elliott from Macquarie Media’s 3AW in Melbourne was among them, who said that the key to radio’s future is local content.

“Radio absolutely has to be local to survive, but I’ve got to say for video and movies, the next generation says, ‘Do I like this or do I not?’” he said.

“They’re not going to automatically like it because it’s Australian. If it’s well-made, if it’s interesting, they’ll watch it, but they have such access to everything that the world produces.

“I think the concept of Australian made in programming is going to decline in the future, and it’s already declining.”

Tom Elliott on the Q&A panel at Radio Alive 2017.

However, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie said the government-funded broadcaster was experiencing otherwise, particularly on its catch-up service, iView.

“Out of our top 20 programs on broadcast, we have a number of programs we buy in – particularly from the UK – but on iView, the great majority are Australian programs, and it’s Australian programs that are very unique and distinctive,” she said.

“I actually think that’s how we’re going to survive – being more distinctive, more Australian.”

Michelle Guthrie at Radio Alive 2017

Michelle Guthrie at Radio Alive 2017.

The panel was also asked by the audience if traditional media has lost the high ground of leading or forming opinion.

“‘Did they ever have the high ground?’ is the question,” Elliott said.

“There’s no doubt in the old days the editorial of The Age and The Herald-Sun could make or break prime ministers.

“I think these days people are far more independent in their thinking – they cruise and graze on social media as well as newspapers. I don’t think they believe anyone.

“Does traditional media still have an influence? No doubt. But are we seen as the high ground? No. I think more and more these days it’s simply a forum – we don’t dictate for how people think.

Guthrie said the key for the ABC is not forming the opinion, but actually canvassing opinion – “really having a fully-formed discussion”.

“It’s really important for us at the ABC to be that independent source of Australian conversations, culture and stories, and a lot of that relates to that big issues of the day,” she said.

“It’s not about opinion – it’s about leading that town hall discussion, whether that is on Q&A or highlighted in radio programs.”

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