Gary Roberts explains radio departure: ‘A good time to go, but one more project’

Gary Roberts

Roberts leaves ARN’s 96FM in ‘rare territory for any station’

After running every commercial FM station in the Perth market, Gary Roberts has called time on his radio career.

“This has been my second time at 96FM,” he reminded Mediaweek on the day he announced his departure. “The first time I was here for 12 years. I was then at 92.9 and 94.1 [now Mix and Triple] for a decade and then ran Nova Perth for 16 years.

“After that I thought it was the end of my radio career, but I got the opportunity to relaunch 96FM. It was never going to be a long-term commitment because I am not getting any younger! It’s been a terrific two-and-a-half years this time and we have rebuilt 96FM into a great place. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the station this year.”

Roberts noted the station has now posted audience gains in five consecutive surveys and a record all-time cume. “Rare territory for any radio station.”

Gary Roberts

Roberts said the decision to depart was made on his wife’s birthday. “She’s been alongside me at radio stations for 47 years. She said this is the best birthday present she has ever had.”

While Roberts may spend more time at home, he has a couple of things he wants to do. Nothing he’s able to share at this stage though.

I’ve been putting together what is a significant event and that will be my focus in the immediate future. I will certainly be not running another radio station.

During his radio years, Roberts was also a long-time CRA board member and is a former CRA chairman.

As we noted yesterday, Roberts will not be replaced as GM as ARN roles out a new structure for Perth. “I’m delighted with the team we put together here, both the content team and the sales team. They are bloody great people and 2022 looks very good for them.”

Leading sales at 96FM is Ashley Braden, while head of content is Daniel Underhill.

Daniel Underhill

Gary Roberts wasn’t too keen to recall his first day in radio as it reminds him of his age. “It was in January and in the sixties.” The year was in fact 1968.

“I was then an office boy at 3AW for three weeks before I then became a panel operator. I had intended to be a tech as I was studying that at night school. The guys on the air told me I had a good voice and I subsequently got my first on-air job while I was 17.”

By the time he turned 21, Roberts was on air at 2UW in Sydney, a station that was then home to John Laws.

Roberts explained how Paul Thompson helped him get into the Sydney market. “When I was in Adelaide, unbeknown to me he took an aircheck and sent it to Sydney. He said they should hire me as he wanted me out of the market!”

Roberts considers himself to have been very fortunate over the years, being able to build good teams with great people at his various stations. “This is certainly the best time to step out and let the team have a crack at it.”

And that mystery project? “Unless you sign an NDA you are not able to know,” he told Mediaweek. “It is something very significant we are trying to achieve. If we can make this happen it will be important and won’t go unnoticed and it will have quite an impact.”

Top photo: Gary Roberts re-united Botica’s Bunch (Fred Botica and Lisa Shaw) when he returned to 96FM. Dean Clairs has since joined Lisa Shaw after Fred Botica’s most recent retirement

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