Renegotiating radio work in the era of media convergence: Uncertainty, individualisation and the centrality of brands

Rufus McEwan


Commercial radio is seemingly resisting many of the challenges that online media platforms present for print and television. Despite encouraging listener numbers and consistent revenue, there is, however, widespread industry consensus that radio must change to account for an uncertain future. In a highly commercial context, such as New Zealand, radio stations are increasingly converged with complementary platforms as part of a larger integrated media offering. Aligning with a broad political economy critique of contemporary media work and similar investigations into changing radio practices elsewhere, this article examines the negotiation of new responsibilities within New Zealand radio’s ‘virtual duopoly’. To this end, the research presented here is drawn from an empirical study that conducted in-depth interviews with radio professionals across various levels of management, on-air, and online content production. The interviews reveal the workings commercial radio organisations as they develop strategies to meet new branding objectives by converging broadcast and online media practices. As this article will demonstrate, management tasked with implementing digital initiatives have an informal approach to developing these strategies, encountering limited resistance in the promotion of new tasks. Likewise, on-air staff have largely embraced the opportunity to extend their personal brand and engage with audiences online. A relaxed approach to implementing new practices is perpetuating industry uncertainty, demonstrating some potential to strain existing organisational relationships.

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