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Mon, May 13, 2002 - Page 18 News List

Listeners, don't touch that dial

Familiar to most radio dials in taiwan, ICRT has entertained local and foreign listeners for decades with its mix of international hits and English-speaking DJs. But in recent years listeners have complained about the station's shift to DJs speaking mostly in Chinese and tendency to play too much POP and allow too much talk. Now the management is revamping its playlist, imposing strict limits on DJ banter and returning to an all-English format in an attempt to take the station back to its glory days, when it was the hippest station in the country. Staff reporter Patrick Kearns spoke with Doc Casey, ICRT's general manager to learn more about the station's overhaul

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Doc Casey, ICRT's general manager, sits in a recording studio at the nation's only English-language broadcaster. Promising less talk and more music in the station's new format, Casey assured the Taipei Times that cheesy Mandarin pop, mindless bilingual chatter, bad karaoke and screaming contests are a thing of the past.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: Late last month you over-hauled ICRT's programming from a talk-intensive station to a more music-oriented one. What has the public's response been and how is that multi-stage plan shaping up?

Doc Casey: The overhaul is still in progress, at least the preliminary stage. We expect this part will be finished in the next couple of weeks. Then we will be fine-tuning the rotation of songs to improve the flow. Our listeners should be noticing an improvement in the sound of the station now, but it's going to get a lot better in terms of programming quality and consistency before we're done. The reaction to what we've done so far has been very encouraging -- the responses have been almost unanimously positive.

TT: The government recently has placed new importance on improving English skills in Taiwan. What plans does ICRT have to take its market advantage of being Taiwan's only English-language radio station to the bank with advertisers?

Casey: We held our first ICRT English Expo just recently and we plan to do that again in the fall. We're looking to align ourselves with existing English services and products even more aggressively and also develop some products of our own. These non-traditional revenue sources hold a lot of promise.

TT: After checking out the new ICRT programming for several weeks, the current music format appears to be a combination of hit songs, love ballads and oldies. While at times the flow of music is good, it quickly becomes obvious that DJ tastes play a big role in the continuity of the station's "feel." What is the "feel" you are trying to create and is your team united behind that plan?

Casey: What we are shooting for is almost pure Adult Contemporary. When I say "almost pure" I mean that we will be making some minor accommodations for local market preferences. What that means [specifically] is the best music from the 60s through the present that appeals to an audience 25 years old and above during the daytime and a younger audience at night. "Good" music means established hits, both in Taiwan and around the world. DJs will have less and less freedom to deviate from the playlist over the next few weeks as we get the music identification and rotation adjustments finalized and as a result you will hear much more consistency. The "feel" we will achieve is one of comfortable familiarity. We don't want to intrude on your day as much as we want to help you get through it.

Who's the audience

TT: Recent ACNielsen Taiwan ratings appear to show your organization may have slipped a little in the last quarter. How would you interpret the new numbers and are you concerned?

Casey: The radio market is shaking itself out and it is a natural evolutionary process. I think the TV stations went through the same thing when all of the cable channels came online. Some of the most dominant stations have suffered losses much worse than ours in the ratings. But everybody is trending down as the radio audience, which has not grown significantly since the launch of all of the new frequencies, finds stations that better serve their individual or community needs. Niche programming and marketing is here now and it's here to stay. That's one of the reasons that I feel ICRT has the greatest potential to succeed.

We've been doing niche programming since our inception in 1979. As I've said previously, our position as the only English-language station in Taiwan is our greatest strength.

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