Rock Radio, Gibraltar’s newest radio station, is here to shake up the airwaves.
Few would expect a chance meeting on holiday to change the course of their career – but that’s what happened to Daniel Harrison and Neil James, who hail from Manchester and Liverpool respectively. A trip to the Rock three years ago led the television and radio veterans to strike up and conversation with local Evan Wahnon at a bar one evening, and spark an idea which would become Rock Radio, a new local radio station which launched earlier this month.
“We were quizzing Evan on local media, because myself and Neil have worked in media – I’ve been doing it 15 years, he’s been doing it for 25,” station director and co-founder Daniel Harrison told Gibraltar Magazine when we caught up with the Rock Radio team ahead of their launch. “Evan explained what it’s like in Gibraltar, how there’s not a lot of choice, there definitely sounded like there was a gap in the market to create something.”
They saw the Rock as an opportunity hiding in plain sight, and a couple of months later, Harrison dropped everything and moved to Gibraltar to begin the start-up radio station alongside Wahnon, with the two becoming co-founders of the station. Fast-forward three years (after a couple of transmitter location delays), and Rock Radio is now based on Governor’s Street in the heart of town and ready to shake up local media for good.
The first radio station to launch on the Rock for more than half a century, it is a break away from GBC’s dominant run in Gibraltar’s limited broadcasting offering. Wahnon and Harrison are adamant however that their station will not be direct competition to the longstanding local broadcaster, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this year.
“There’s no point at all in us just trying to copy what’s already here – we’ve got to offer something different. We’re not trying to compete, we’re trying to compliment what’s already available,” Wahnon said.
“Two years ago there was a poll on Facebook where [Gibraltarian] people were asked what they actually did listen to – GBC, BFBS – and a lot of the respondents said they either listen to BFBS or they listen to KISS FM in Spain, or listen to online stations like Capital.
“It’s not about trying to get people to switch, we’re targeting people who don’t listen to what’s currently on offer.”
This development in local media marks a move away from publicly funded broadcasting – as the Rock Radio team is a self-start up – brimming with new ideas and approaches. Whether competing with GBC or BFBS or not, their arrival seems to have already had an impact. GBC’s revamp of current stations and shows in September – an idea they had been working on since February – shows that an active marketplace is a sure fire way to reawaken the largely unchanged local media landscape.
Rock Radio’s target audience are on the younger end of the spectrum. “At the moment there’s one station trying to cater to everyone. It does it very well but you’re always going to alienate people at some times,” Harrison explains. “We’re set on going for 15-45 [year-olds].”
They compare their sound to stations in the UK like Capital FM, with a mix of top 40 tunes and club soundtracks they hope will stop younger listeners reaching for the AUX cable to plug their phones into the car. They’ve also launched an app with the station for people to listen online, as they want young Gibraltarians to not only listen in their cars, but also while away at university, or during pre-drinks before a night out wherever they may be.
The team hope that recruiting local DJs like Cheryl “BassCake” Jeffries will achieve that. “She’s going to be doing her show on Friday nights, so the idea is when people are at home having a bit of pre-drinks before they go out, they’ll be able to listen in to a live show, Cheryl playing her own music,” Wahnon explained.
“We’ll also bring in guest DJs from Gib, we’ll have a bit of reggae, electronic, drum and bass, house. It will be a bit of a mix with real, local DJs on the air.” James is also a part of the line-up, and will be heading the morning show – Good Morning Gibraltar.
Wahnon, who had no prior experience in media before joining up with Harrison and James, said giving young, enthusiastic locals the opportunity to go on air was of paramount importance to them – not only because of their target audience’s age, but also because Rock Radio recognises that identifying with the presenters is a big part of what will get Gibraltarian listeners on board.
“One of the big things for us is knowing that Gibraltarians like listening to people they know on the radio,” he said. “I understand that when you’ve got something new coming along the first thing Gibraltarians do is quiz it; what’s it about? Is it really about Gibraltar?
“We understand that we’re a very big culture about being ourselves. It’s very important to give young people a station that’s dedicated to them so gives them the music they want, but also doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s Gibraltarian, keeping it about them and trying to emulate that.”
The response they had prior to launch from their social media followers was that Gibraltar had been waiting for this for a long time. Rock Radio will hope to prove that they were worth the wait.