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Radio Heads in New Direction

56 Radio

Mark Butcher, one of the founder's of Radio Frontier, based in Switzerland, explains about the growing market for expatriate and transient workers having a local radio station in their own language which help them integrate into their new community; a case of global going local:-

We live in a globalised world - we all know that. It is becoming more and more common for people to move, live and work across the world. What is different these days is that it is becoming very common for people not to consider these moves permanent.
Arguably, a few years ago, when people moved to a new country, certainly if they were taking their family with them, the move would be seen as permanent. In other words, they would be emigrating. Today, professional working families see a move as a positive step in their career. A few years in a certain country can be seen as necessary for career enhancement.

Many of the world's largest cities now have a community of these 'internationals'.  Although they do not consider their move permanent - it is solid enough for people to need the basics in life so they can continue to live in the way that they have become used to. This will mean a couple of cars, a house (which is likely to be purchased - why pay rent?) putting the kids into school, often private.

Despite living in a foreign country, it is now easier than ever to stay in touch with the home country, if they choose. Internet and satellite TV means you can watch all the shows from home and read your local paper on-line, in other words, you never really need to leave home.


If these 'internationals' remain in a small cocoon of home with limited intention or opportunity of integrating with the host county - there can be friction with the local community who can feel resentful of the 'international' community who they see are not contributing fully to local life , especially if its felt that the community have also secured favourable tax conditions. Although the internationals may have created a world within a world for themselves, they do not want to stay in it entirely as they are educated and worldly and do want to get the most out of their stay; but they may need help in doing so.

Probably the most important barrier for these internationals is language. If a family arrives in a new country and the bread winner is taking up a new job, the language within the working environment will be one that the new arrival has arrived - most likely English. So there is no need to learn a local language which may not be of much use once the international family has moved on.

This is where Radio Frontier comes into play. Although the internet means that internationals can listen/watch/read all their media sources from home (as well as the myriad of international news channels), it is extremely hard to connect with the local environment. In Geneva, probably one of the most famous international cities in the world, Radio Frontier already provides that essential link between the local environment and the international community. Broadcasting 24 hours a day in English, Radio Frontier delivers local news, weather, events and a wide range of presenter led live programming as well as the essential information that you would expect from a local radio station in any domestic market.

Radio Frontier is the first project set up by a new company called Anglo Media Group - a specialist media investment group based in Switzerland.  

The incentive for launching Radio Frontier in Geneva was that - after many years of an English language local commercial radio station in Geneva - the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation decided to change the focus of the station - away from specific needs of the community in and around the Lake Geneva region ‚ to a nationally programmed station which covered all the major urban centres such as Zurich and Basel.

The effect on the audience was dramatic, and at times hostile against the new station. The local listeners immediately felt that the station was not for them. They found it irrelevant to their daily lives. (imagine your favourite local radio station in Brighton suddenly starts reporting on traffic jams in Edinburgh, local politics in Manchester and music events you should go to tonight in Wales - and you can see exactly why).

A former programme controller of the previous local radio station Mark Butcher is one of the founders of Anglo Media 'It became apparent that the new national station was simply not loved, the local station was a glue for the community - and people really missed that' he says.

He goes on to explain that this was the rationale for opening Radio Frontier - 'It's not enough to just be in English, the international community in Zurich is dramatically different from that in Geneva. They have different needs and local reference points'.

In setting up Anglo Media, Mark together with joint founder and media entrepreneur Peter Sibley, quickly realised that this is a new and unexplored market with legs.  Peter says 'there are pockets of people you can describe asm 'internationals' in many cities across the world and the Radio Frontier model can be exported anywhere - the vital selling points will always 'be local, be relevant'.

Radio Frontier - - uses extremely low-cost broadcast technologies, on-line delivery, mobile apps and a flexible advertising revenue model which completely breaks the mould of traditional radio stations which are expensive to run.

After 8 months since its launch, Radio Frontier has developed a listening community of over 40,000 people, a social network of over 2,000 and secured 70 contracted advertising clients.


Peter Sibley points out that the international community is a wealthy, niche audience which is difficult to reach by local advertisers with conventional advertising because of local language and culture. He says, 'Local advertisers know that expats have high levels of disposable income, a regular arrival and departure churn, which can be as high as 25% per year and a need to buy high value goods quickly from local suppliers: houses, education, insurance, healthcare, cars, white goods, electronics and every level of essential daily services. A media outlet aimed at this audience is of very high value to local advertisers and they'll pay for it. The value is about niche, not about numbers.'

Anglo Media Group aims to develop its niche Anglophone radio model - Radio Frontier - for roll-out or possibly franchise over the next few years. Mark Butcher says 'I hope that in the not too distant future it will be possible for people on the move to arrive in a city anywhere in the world and know that there will be a local Radio Frontier to provide instant navigation into the local region and its services, 24 hours a day'.

Julian Wilkins

Julian Wilkins is Editorial Director for Blue Pencil Media Limited. Julian has a LLB (Hons) in law and M.Phil in law as well as a Diploma in European law and was admitted as a solicitor in 1988; he practices in the area of media, entertainment, and intellectual property law as a consultant for Devereaux Solicitors in London. Julian is also a Notary Public and CEDR accredited commercial mediator. Julian has written for academic publications and contributed to an Exhibition Catalogue about 1960s photographer Philip Townsend. Julian is a member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers and also the British Institute of International and Comparative law. Julian is a finalist in The Media Lunch Club “Short Circuit” script competition to be held in November 2011. Julian’s comments “The rapidly changing world economy and technology is presenting incredible opportunities for the Creative Industries and Blue Pencil hopes to reflect and contribute to these changes.”

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