Meet 2EC’s new radio presenter – a painter from Bega, John Watkin

John Watkin learning the ropes with Kim Saker in 2EC's Bega studio. Photo: Ian Campbell.
John Watkin learning the ropes with Kim Saker in 2EC’s Bega studio. Photo: Ian Campbell.

One of the best blokes in Bega has just landed his dream job, four decades after he first had a crack.

John Watkin has been in the paint business for close to 40 years, but as a teen, he applied for radio school with the ambition of working on the wireless.

“Radio was my childhood dream and I got rejected,” John remembers.

“This was back in the day when youth unemployment was 30%, jobs were really hard to come by, you had to get a job wherever you could, which is how I ended up in the family business.”

John grabbed the opportunity with both hands, working with his father to build a business that is now one of the pillars of town – Inspirations Paint.

But from Monday, John’s radio dream becomes a reality as the new Morning presenter for East Coast Radio 2EC.

Program Director and 2EC Breakfast presenter, Kim Saker says giving John the job feels right despite his lack of professional radio experience.

“He and I had talked about the idea over a couple of scotches in years gone by,” Kim laughs.

Keen to bring stability to her station when yet another vacancy opened Kim pitched the 50 something painter to the powers that be.

“He doesn’t have the radio skills as such, but he’s got the personality, he’s got the stability, he’s got the maturity, and he’s got the passion – everything else you can teach,” Kim says.

John’s appointment comes at a time when regional media is under pressure and in many country radio stations local content has been replaced by networked programs from the nearest capital city.

Kim says it was localism that sealed the deal.

“The directors of Grant Broadcasters, who own 2EC have the technology to do hubbing, but they believe in keeping it local wherever they can,” she says.

During his years running the paint business and raising three kids with his wife of 30 years Sharon, John has fed his radio dream with a regular painting and decorating segment in Kim’s breakfast program.

“And for the last 10 years when we have our radiothon weekend, John comes into the studio and he and I pretty much spend the whole weekend on air together,” Kim says.

Learning how to drive the radio studio has been the focus for John over the last few weeks of training, getting to know the equipment, being able to respond to a live radio program, and above all getting comfortable in what many people see as an intimidating environment.

Listeners to Kim’s breakfast program might not have realised that on some mornings recently, John has been “paneling” – pressing all the buttons while Kim kept her gums flapping – as only she can!

From Monday (December 4) he’ll need to do it all himself (as country radio presenters do) during his own program.

This boy from Bega who grew up listening to 2EC or 2BE as it used to be known, says it’s been a nerve-racking experience.

“I’ve been self-employed for the last 27 years, this is out of my comfort zone,” John says.

2EC Breakfast presenter and Program Director Kim Saker with new Mornings presenter John Watkin. Photo: Ian Campbell
2EC Breakfast presenter and Program Director Kim Saker with new Mornings presenter John Watkin. Photo: Ian Campbell

Locals will be familiar with John’s community work through the Bega Chamber of Commerce, Legacy, Anzac and Remembrance Day, Bega Hospital, and more, it’s something he is keen to bring to his new role.

“For me, radio is part of the local community, it’s a connection point, it’s a conduit for the community to share what’s going on,” John says.

“When it comes to fires and floods that’s where radio really steps up, you can get instant news to people.”

John will be on air between 9 and 12 weekdays, treading lightly at first while he gets his bearings, but his plan is to include interviews and discussion in amongst the music that 2EC is known for.

“My day is about connecting with this community, I’ll be talking about what’s happening and how that impacts on our local area,” John says.

The career change is a significant shift in the operations of the paint business John and Sharon continue to run.

“My wife is still not talking to me,” John laughs.

“Sharon is very supportive, she knows I’ve had a passion for radio since before I had a passion for her.

“And the kids think it’s fantastic, they keep hassling me. My daughter has just moved to London and she can’t wait to live-stream me.”

As a 30 year veteran of the industry, Kim Saker says it’s a really nice feeling to make someones radio dream come true.

“My passion for radio started when I was 11, I couldn’t imagine waiting as long as John has,” she says.

“For John to be living the dream now is awesome for me.”

Radio needs real people, country towns need radio, and John Watkin is a welcome addition to the ranks.

*About Regional content is backed by members, including – Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg,
Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, and Four Winds at Bermagui.

Tathra’s Indi Wood ‘making waves’ in Fiji

Indigo Wood
Indigo Wood

“She sent me a text messages saying I think your job just showed up,” Indi says.

“I looked at it and I just went, you know what? I can not not apply.

“And I arrived in mid-May,” Indi says, remembering how he came to be an Australian volunteer influencing the radio airwaves at a Fiji commercial radio station.

Indigo Wood is a 30 something fella who grew up in Tathra, on the New South Wales Far South Coast.

His passion and profession is radio, however the ad on the internet that his sister alerted him to came a long time after his last stable job in the industry. It had been almost seven years since Indi had been full time in a radio studio.

“Battling against the scarcity of jobs and the competition,” Indi says.

“Trying my damnedest to find a place for myself in that industry.”

So there was an element of self-doubt when Indi met the team he’d be working with at Mix FM – Fiji’s Best Mix.

“I walked into this job wondering if I was up to it and whether I would actually know what I was doing,” Indi explains.

That feeling has now passed and six months after arriving, Indi says he can see his knowledge and experience adding weight and creating positive change in those around him.

But it’s learning that goes both ways.

Based in Fiji’s second largest city, 24km north of Nadi, Mix FM broadcasts out of Lautoka which sits in the heart of Fiji‘s sugar cane country and is Indi’s home until May next year when his 12-month contract comes to an end.

Employed by Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID), the former Bega High student and RMIT graduate, is technically a volunteer but is paid a monthly allowance.

“I am here as a trainer to offer advice and try and build some frameworks around better ways of broadcasting, better interviewing techniques, better presentation style,” Indi says.

The AVID program aims to share skills and build relationships with people and organisations in developing countries. It is funded by the Australian Government and managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of Australia’s official aid program.

“Being able to educate and inform your community is really powerful,” Indi says.

“In the case of natural disasters, everyone’s power goes out, everyone is hiding in bunkers in a cyclone situation.

“But they still have wind up or solar radios and as long as even just one tower stays standing, that’s how all the information is shared,” Indi explains.

Lautoka countryside
Lautoka countryside

Better communication in those sorts of situations is central to Indi’s mission and sits alongside those more traditional forms of aid we see the Australian Government provide.

Opportunities with AVID exist across the full breadth of industries and professions, Indi arrived in Fiji with people who were taking up AVID roles in the health, disabilities, and education sectors.

“Giving these guys the skills to be able to research and write clear cut information that they read on air, that informs the public what to do, what not to do, that’s a huge benefit,” Indi says.

Outside of those acute emergency and recovery situations, this student of contemporary journalism and newsroom practice is hoping to develop a more rigorous public affairs culture among the Mix FM team.

“It might not be a really obvious thing but it (a questioning and enquiring media) is a really important thing as far as the development of a society goes,” Indi believes.

One early cultural difference he had to work around was the generally polite nature of Fijian society, where the idea of questioning someone of standing or someone with power was seen as totally inappropriate by many of the radio station’s staff.

“They’d be doing an interview with someone who’s considered an expert, and I’d be saying ‘hang on’ what did he mean by that? push him,” Indi says.

Those different ways also have a value that Indi recognises and is keen to learn from.  There is no sense from him that ‘the Australian way” is the right way, he is very aware of the learning potential his ‘Fiji time’ offers him.

Lautoka CBD
Lautoka CBD

“The amount of effort that is put into showing that you have manners and that you acknowledge people around you, and respecting your elders – that’s everything in this society,” Indi says.

Feedback from management and listeners has been positive, with Indi’s style and presentation suggestions picked up by keen, receptive radio staff. A quick result that perhaps other volunteers don’t get to experience.

“Within a week there were three or four bad habits that they had that were gone,” he says.

Most pleasing to Indi’s ears it seems is that presenters are spending more time planning and thinking about what goes to air, before it goes to air.

“It’s been such a huge change in my life to be finally doing something in this industry,” Indi beams.

“The right team of people in the right place, you can’t go wrong, it’s amazing.”

*Listen out for a full interview with Indi in the About Regional podcast next week.