Jarrod Graetz Interview
PositiveMedia (89.9 TheLight)
Career Capsule: 24 years in the radio industry covering commercial, community and Christian radio stations across Australia and the Middle East
Jarrod, tell us what’s new at The Light and with you… etc?
Wow, how the world has changed in the past two months. Apart from the obvious coronavirus challenges, March 16th was an exciting day for the station when we launched a new corporate identity. Our organisation had been working for four years on a new refreshed brand and re-position to reach more listeners with the love of Jesus. On the very day that the new brands launched, March 16th, that was the day that the country went into shutdown. The organisation name changed from LightMelbourne to PositiveMedia and 89.9 LightFM to 89.9 TheLight on the day when people were put on the first stages of the lockdown. Only He would know that launch day would be the day, that more than ever Melbourne needed to know the true source of TheLight, His light and the love of Jesus. And now His Light is front and centre in the name of our station. Only He would know that people needed a Positive message in the midst of negativity, fear and uncertainty. And PositiveMedia was launched to celebrate Him for a time such as this, all at the perfect time – His time. So in the midst of this crisis, more people than ever are now finding, or re-finding God and hearing about the love of His Son. It’s so encouraging and wonderful that God is being found more than ever through our ministry during this time.
How is the current crisis an “opportunity” for Christian Radio?
Very early in the crisis, I shared with the team that the opportunity in the pandemic is to be relevant or become irrelevant. To lean in, or to, by default, lean out. We decided to be relevant and lean in by significantly investing in more on air presenters around the clock on-air, launching new shows, raising listener engagement and launching a new worship station, called TheLight Worship. Why we did that is tied directly to the opportunity in this crisis – which is categorically to help people find meaning – true meaning, by discovering Jesus. In other words, the opportunity for PositiveMedia is to see our vision come true – which is to see ‘Every Life alight with the love of Jesus’.
After the Coronavirus pandemic passes, what do you think will be the lasting effects (changes) if any to Christian Radio?
It’s a good question for the wider industry of which it could play out in numerous ways from more networking to consolidation. For PositiveMedia, we have no intention of ramping back down. While commercial competitors in Melbourne are winding back their programming and letting staff go, we will continue to invest to see His light shine brightly. So the opportunity is huge for Jesus to be known more than ever in Melbourne via PositiveMedia’s radio stations. For the wider Christian radio sector, I think this is a ‘game changer’ moment for those brave radio operators willing to go against the flow and invest rather than pull back. While that takes a lot of commitment, we also have a God who loves His people and will not let his stations crumble, particularly if His name is being proclaimed loudly!
What is the best special advice you can give to air talent during this crisis?
Special advice to the announcers – now is your time to shine and be the essential connection and centre of ‘calm’ in a rapidly crazy world. You can be their centre of stability while pointing them to God! More engagement, more realness, more relevance, less shallowness, less ‘mechanical’ breaks – that’s the perfect recipe to ensure relevance and connection. Be real, if you are broadcasting from home and your 4 year old comes in while you are live on the air asking for you to wipe their bottom, then embrace that.. that’s real life. The audience will always remember that moment and appreciate you not hiding away from it.
How is Christian Radio in Australia differ from the US?
Christian radio differences – Great question! In Australia most of the larger Christian radio stations operate what we call a ‘mixed’ format Christian radio station. At 89.9 TheLight, 34% of our music is Christian, while 66% is selected mainstream music that is lyric checked (and edited if appropriate) that is positive and uplifting. 89.9 TheLight is designed as outreach, which is aimed to remove the barrier to entry. This is done by being ‘familiar’ and playing music that is known. Around 50% of the audience are not Christian but are interested in spirituality. So we have the best of both worlds, speaking to believers and those who are yet to find Jesus. We also run LightDigital and TheLight Worship, which are both 100% Christian music formats. These stations are designed as ‘movement’ of the audience to grow deeper in their faith.
Is fundraising the same or different for Australia Christian Radio than US… please explain?
Fundraising on Christian radio is pretty similar between the US and Aus. We use Dunham/ShareMedia as our fundraising consultants and the flavour of fundraising really suits our format. The clearer the ‘need’, combined with a clear ‘what can I do to help’ is a great recipe that works well for 89.9 TheLight.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
One or many operators: For Melbourne, we operate the only two full Melbourne-wide Christian radio stations 89.9 TheLight and LightDigital. This model of one Christian radio operator per market repeats across Australia. So I don’t really have an opinion on that as it’s largely irrelevant for our market. On saying that, Vision Christian Media does operate across the entire country mainly on narrowcast frequencies providing a 100% Christian music format that is complementary to PositiveMedia’s stations. Overall, I embrace competition as it forces everyone to get better, and the listeners are the winners in that.
In your opinion, where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Future talent – It likely starts with a commitment from the entire radio industry to invest in new talent. Talent who are empowered to engage. Who are trained to connect. Free to be creative. Talent comes from a desire to change the way we have always done radio and adapt to the new technology generation. Radio is a hugely powerful medium that is still relevant today. Are we prepared to open our radio stations up 24/7 to provide opportunities for new talent development? I believe the talent are there.. the bigger question is are we ready to put in the hard yards to pay them what they are worth, train them, develop them and be happy when they leave for other radio stations? I know we at PositiveMedia are.. who is with us?
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Tracey Johnston – I first read ‘Morning Radio’ in the late 90’s and really resonated with the ‘science’ and strategy behind what makes radio work. I am a radio nerd and Tracey was such an influencer in my early development. It was an honour to meet with Tracey at CMB Momentum a couple years ago and see him just as passionate about radio today as 30 years ago!