Eastern Radio – Voices of the community on 98.1

Caleb and Kyra Lewis singing his winning entry ‘Future is Bright’

Story by Prasadini Nanayakkara

Radio Eastern 98.1 FM is a community radio station staffed entirely by a dedicated group of volunteers. Easy listening music from yesteryear is the staple of their programming menu. Local artists both old and new are prominently featured.

Listeners who tune in or stream online are also privy to everything from community service announcements to local news bulletins, to interviews and community service announcements. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with much more to come.

It’s been two years since Radio Eastern aired its first talent hour competition to listeners in the outer east. Since then the show has gained momentum and is set to conclude a second successful season of showcasing new local talent. Complementing these efforts, a robust schedule of daily programming reaches a listener base estimated at over 500,000 across Maroondah, Knox, Whitehorse and the Yarra Ranges municipalities.

A host of program choices

Commenting on a recent listener survey, Keith Jessup, President of the Radio Eastern Committee, highlights the importance of community participation and feedback. ‘We look to our listeners to know which direction to go with our programming. Listener feedback serves as our guide and we encourage them to participate whenever possible.’

There are a host of community-centred programs to tune into. Not for profit organisations and charities such as Community Houses, Rotary, Probus Club and Spectrum Journeys can promote their local events and activities through special announcements and segments such as sport, health, Eastern Regional Libraries and family safety.

What’s more, Radio Eastern’s portable equipment allows for live updates to be broadcast from events as they unfold. ‘Whether it’s a carols night, a speech night or a school fete, we encourage communities to keep us informed, so that we can publicise them,’ adds Keith Jessup.

Radio Eastern lends itself as a hub of information as well: interviews with subject experts on topics such as gardening and community sports, and free advice from local and state government professionals on consumer affairs, real estate and finance. Another special segment of Radio Eastern is the monthly interview with a council mayor informing the public about council services and projects.

One of the Station’s recent endeavours has been to connect with diverse communities across the outer east to promote integration. The Station’s Community Engagement Manager, Greg Wilson is currently taking steps to engage with the Myanmar and the Indigenous communities in a bid to showcase their music and activities through dedicated radio programming.

Further emphasising its role in the community, Radio Eastern serves as an official emergency broadcaster. In the event of an emergency such as a local bushfire or a flood, the station receives vital information directly from the state government to communicate to the public.

Win a prize in the Talent Search

There’s no doubt that the community is at the heart of Radio Eastern and the annual Talent Search is definitive of what the station aims to accomplish through its airwaves. While championing local talent, the competition also encourages listener participation through a simple voting system.

So far, an impressive range of MP3 submissions – some sophisticated, some delightfully rough around the edges – have received airplay. Aspiring artists, up and coming musicians, composers, students and hobbyists have been aired on weekly rotation, culminating in a winner selected through listener votes. Sponsored by Bendigo Bank’s community
branches since its commencement, February marks the last of the current monthly rounds of competition. Monthly winners are awarded a cash prize of $500 while a cash prize of $1500 awaits the final winner selected in March from the pool of monthly winners.

Murray Smith, Presenter and Committee Treasurer of Radio Eastern, has been running the Talent Search every Sunday morning at 10 am.

‘The response has been enthusiastic this season with around 15 entries a month and we’ve also picked up new listeners along the way,’ he says of the competition, which has drawn listeners across a broad age demographic. Entries have ranged from teenage participants to a submission by a 75-year-old and the genres of music have been equally diverse.

‘The feedback has been very positive this year and the artists are highly appreciative of the opportunity and the exposure they gain for their music,’ says Murray.

The competition came to fruition when David Green of Bendigo Bank approached Radio Eastern with a concept for a talent search. ‘I was looking for a way to work together to promote local artists. We often hear overseas music on commercial radio but not a lot of
local music,’ he says. ‘Radio Eastern is unique in the outer east for playing music by local, aspiring, unsigned musical talent.’

Central to the success of the competition is the user-friendly software for registration, song submission and voting. Listeners log in and listen to all the entries of the month and submit one vote for any number of entries. The single platform presents an efficient means
for both entrants and listeners to participate in the competition. Another highlight is the in-studio live performance afforded to each monthly winner.

Much like many of Radio Eastern’s efforts, the Talent Search is an opportunity for community participation. Listeners and entrants can join in via the website here.

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