‘Remembering when radio was king amid the huge influence of talk back’

Apr 10, 2019
Are podcasts the future of radio? Brian certainly thinks so. Source: Getty Images

No doubt most of us have come from the era when radio was ‘king’ … Music, plays, ‘live’ quiz shows, family entertainment etc. Then it quickly morphed into lots of ‘pop’ music, with lots of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eagles and more including Australia’s own Johnny O’Keefe! Remember those days?

By early 1967, talkback radio — which began on 6PR in Perth, then not long after on 2SM in Sydney and 3AW in Melbourne — was starting to give music stations a run for their money! Of course talkback radio, where listeners can call in ‘live’ and talk to the presenters one-on-one or express an opinion on the news of the day, quickly became popular.

As an aside, did you realise live talkback radio is not truly live. It’s actually a delayed broadcast, albeit by 7 to 9 seconds or so! That’s just in case a caller says something rude, defamatory or swears inappropriately.

Having started work in radio in the late-60s one of my jobs was to cut and edit the 9-second audio tape based new fangled ‘cartridges’ (basically big cassettes) that would be used for each show. We would feed the live studio and phone call audio to the recorder input, then 9 seconds later it was replayed live to air. If something bad was said, the announcer had 9 seconds to stop the tape and therefore stop whatever was said, being broadcast! Pretty hi-tech, eh?!

As these tape loop cartridges had a limited lifespan, we were literally making them every day. Over time, digital delays took over!

Anyway, talk radio grew as the novelty of the public being able to have a say grew. One of the biggest stars of the time, of course, was John Laws.

A lot changed for talk radio in the 1980s. Although FM radio (basically high quality stereo broadcasting) had been going in Australia in the mid to late-70s, music lovers soon realised how much better music sounded on stereo FM radio rather than AM (the then ‘voice quality’ offering).

Several new major FM radio offerings launched in the 1980s in all capital cities, but then something else happened … The internet was born in 1983. Interestingly, before that — 1979 to be precise — The Buggles wrote and performed the worldwide hit ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, which  was actually before MTV was launched on August 1, 1981 on American TV. MTV honoured the song by making it the first hit video to be aired on their channel.

A lot has happened since then though … Music in particular has morphed from being available on cassette tapes and VHS to mini-discs, CD and then DVD to being available via YouTube and other online on-demand services such as digital radio.

But talk radio is still with us, bigger and stronger than ever. No need to mention the networks, however ‘live’ radio is one thing. Podcasts are another.

Podcasts were named after the iPod and of course the word broadcasts. Literally meaning broadcasting on an iPod. Podcasts are not just music, they can be talk too.

As technology advanced, many people were starting to use these small digital devices to play the music they wanted to hear when they wanted it rather than just listening to the radio.

Of course now with our very busy lifestyles, the routine of listening to our favourite radio station at a particular time of the day is not always feasible so podcasts are ‘what’s new’. In fact most talk radio stations provide podcasts online to allow listeners to listen at their leisure or if you wanted to hear something again.

Never listened to a podcast? Don’t worry, it’s just like listening to the radio but you can do it on your computer, laptop, tablet or phone! Best of all you can do it whenever you want and you can stop or start it wherever you want in the program.

Given how easy it is to create a podcast these days there are literally hundreds of thousands of them out there and just like radio, some of them are good, some not so good.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are you listening to?

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