Radio Adelaide makes drastic cuts to staff following ‘disappointing’ fundraising efforts

Words by Phoebe Montgomery

Last week Radio Adelaide announced it would be letting go of five staff members after a ‘disappointing’ outcome to its Radiothon membership drive.

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While Australia’s oldest community radio station has experienced significant obstacles since exiting its contract with the University of Adelaide in 2016, it had managed to retain the majority of its staff until this point. Sadly, due to issues in balancing the station’s expenditure with raising revenue, five long-term staff members are being let go.

Music director and presenter of Local Noise, Luke Penman. Photo: Local Noise

Music director and presenter of Local Noise, Luke Penman. Photo: Local Noise

As of the end of September, station manager Chris Leese and volunteer manager Nikki Marcel will be the only remaining full-time staff members at Radio Adelaide. General manager Rob Popplestone, Breakfast presenter Jennie Lenman, music director and presenter of Local Noise Luke Penman, IT coordinator Anthony Gibbs and broadcast coordinator Darren Van Shaik will all be leaving the station at the end of the month.

While Breakfast and Local Noise will be adjusted so that they can be entirely run by volunteers, Midday Sport will retain both of its paid presenters, with Ken ‘KG’ Cunningham and Phil Smyth set to continue in their current roles. Midday Sport will also be retaining its other paid staff who currently assist in producing the program.

Breakfast presenter Jennie Lenman on air with with Associate Professor Paul Willis. Photo: Radio Adelaide

Breakfast presenter Jennie Lenman on air with with Associate Professor Paul Willis. Photo: Radio Adelaide

Iain Evans, chairman of Radio Adelaide’s board of management, has stated that Midday Sport will continue to broadcast with an unchanged format as it has the best chance of attracting sponsorship support. This is despite the indisputable popularity of programs Breakfast and Local Noise, which are both heavily involved in supporting local music and arts.

Breakfast and Local Noise have become important staples of Radio Adelaide’s line-up in the last few years, while Midday Sport only began broadcasting in 2017. The program is one of general manager Rob Popplestone’s lasting legacies for the station, and was brought in as an attempt to increase Radio Adelaide’s revenue earlier this year.

Radio Adelaide’s past reliance on the University of Adelaide’s funding and subsequent adjustment to a new model of sponsorship has caused the transition to independence to be more difficult than intended. The recent cuts also come after a problematic first year of operation, including the media organisation’s recent settlement with the ABC over 891 ABC Adelaide’s name change to ABC Radio Adelaide.

Many within Radio Adelaide’s volunteer and listener community have been saddened by this recent news. Jennie Lenman and Luke Penman have supported numerous aspiring broadcasters in the early stages of their media careers, and there are additional worries that cutting the station’s technical support staff will cause issues for the community’s 210 volunteers.

It is an especially sad outcome for the many members of Adelaide’s arts and music scene who have appeared on Breakfast and Local Noise. Both Luke Penman and Jennie Lenman have done important work in supporting Adelaide’s cultural vibrancy, and their unique impact on local community media will not quickly be forgotten.

Only time will reveal the impact of these staff cuts. Although this decision may be vital to the radio station’s viability, it raises important questions about Radio Adelaide’s future operation.

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Take a look back at Alana Jagt's performance on Local Noise, here: