Paul Jackson Talks Radio Today in the Australian Market

Paul Jackson

Paul Jackson Group Program Director at DMG Radio (Australia).

Please tell us where you’re from and what influenced you to pursue a career in broadcast radio?
I’m from Glasgow, Scotland. Growing up my father was a broadcaster on Radio Clyde so I developed the radio bug at an early age. We moved to London in 1987 when my father (Richard Park) took over at Capital FM. I used to do all sorts of jobs around the station to pick up experience. Being so close to so many talented broadcasters and producers in my late teens was a privilege and a thrill.

What was your first job in the radio business and how did that opportunity come about?
My first paid job in radio was late nights on the local station in Kent. I’d sent them my demo and got a couple
of shifts which lead to a couple more. Once you’re in you have to do whatever it takes to make sure they want you around so I would cart the ads (pre digital), write promotional scripts and anything else that was needed to be done and then go on air at 10pm.

What prompted your move from UK radio to Australian radio, and what do you do as the Group Program Director at DMG Radio?
I’ve been very fortunate with my UK career. I’ve been PD of local, regional and national stations. I was PD
for Virgin Radio UK for 6 years and also CEO for a couple of years before moving over to Capital FM to run 95.8
in London, The Hit Music Network and XFM. I had a great 3 years at Capital and worked with many fantastic people but really wanted to challenge myself in a different market where I hoped I could bring some new ideas but also learn a lot of things as well.

As Group Program Director of DMG Radio I’ve been very hands on with redefining all our output. Musically, Nova is a fresh young CHR and in May we launched Smooth FM as an easy and relaxing station which along with Nova has been the outstanding radio success story of the year.

Have internet radio stations and streaming services like Spotify changed how you do your job in FM radio? If so, how?
Not at all. In fact we fully embrace the streaming services and are in a JV with Rdio for the Australian market which has proven to be very successful. So long as we continue to create emotional connections with our listeners both on air and through social and digital means there continues to be a bright future for radio.

U.S. radio has become very dry and predictable. How different would you say Australian FM radio is from that of the U.S. and UK?
Well from a Nova and Smooth perspective we always strive to understand our listeners and connect with them in real, fun and entertaining ways. Our Sydney breakfast team Fitzy and Wippa have made over 10 parody videos that have had over a million views in the past year. Our VIP listener Red Room has played host to Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and every other major act in 2012. Our stations are very active in their local markets and are involved at a community level as well. The old adage that you get out of life what you put into it remains true for me and our success in 2012 has a direct correlation with the huge effort our teams have put in to do extra-ordinary things.

I think big tactics over a 2/3 month period are in vogue here more than the U.S. or UK. There is a lot of diverse choice and fierce competition in Australia. The standard here is extremely high.

What do you think is the most common misconception people have about terrestrial radio, when it comes to how you program your playlists?
I find we get a lot of compliments regarding our playlists. There’s a fine balance between being fresh but also familiar. On Nova the research only really tells us when the songs we’re playing are burnt. On Smooth, we play a few Smooth discoveries, songs that no-one else is playing and get a fantastic response from our listeners. Again, it’s all about striking the right balance.

Many independent bands and labels believe there is a monopoly in radio that plays to the advantage of major record companies. How true is this, in your experience?
Not at all. I know that the labels understand that the number one way to break their songs is still through radio. A great song is a great song no matter where it originates from.

What advice would you like to share with those who are interested in getting into broadcast radio? Where should they get started?
There are many great courses for radio these days but if you’re genuinely passionate and driven for a career in radio then you can’t beat getting work in a station, whether you start off doing post or on reception and working your way through. We have ‘Casa-Nova’s’ who do a bit of everything but also get great training. Many of our top talent now started out that way. Be persistent.