10 minutes with… Ian Miller

Tuesday, 21 August, 2012

“These days, there are too many grumpy grey-haired old men like me around that are quietly disappearing and that is the challenge for the industry,” said Ian Miller, ARCIA enthusiast and consultant for Orange Horizons, when he talked to Kylie Rhodes about his past and radio’s future.

Encouraging people into the radio industry and training them to take on technician roles are problems Miller is very much aware of. The change in the manufacturer’s role from selling its wares to becoming a warehouse entity has put pressure on training people to become dealers of its products. However, Miller says, once the older generation start disappearing, this might force the market to pay for the training of the next generation.

He says the simple fact is that “we are not charging enough for what we do and only by being realistic on prices can we get back to being proud of what we do in this industry. We have to learn to value our time and charge for it. There needs to be a complete change in thinking.”

He blames the industry for not attracting young trainees because it hasn’t sold the message about radio. Students still believe that since the mobile phone has come out, radio is dead. Classes are being abandoned and so the classes are being disbanded, he says.

“In Victoria, the government has cut nearly $300 million out of the TAFE system. So unless you can get 25 bums on seats to run a course, they don’t do it. I think what will happen in future is the technicians and salespeople will do an electronics course and some way, maybe through distance education, will pick up radio.”

Although significant changes to training have changed the way people get involved with the industry, Miller is positive about the future.

“The industry is pretty resilient. I’m confident that it will go on and will be great and I’d like to think there are young people coming into the industry now that in 40 years’ time will be in the same position I’m in. They will hopefully say they’ve had a ball and loved every minute of it and have created the same environment for the ones to follow.”

However, 40 years ago when Miller came into the industry, it was a very different scene. He began his working life training as a technician with the Postmaster-General’s (PMG) Department, now called Telstra. His first two years studying were spent training as a telephone technician and only in his third year was he able to specialise in radio.

He then worked on the ABC’s two-way radio and broadcast transmitters and did the studio work for radio and television. He travelled all around Victoria, spending six weeks in a different location as part of his job. Over the years, he worked with a variety of companies in the radio communications industry and from 1999 to 2010 he was a co-owner of AA Radio Services.

Looking back he says: “I’ve been lucky to work in this industry. Transmitters are always in the highest location, either on the tallest building or on the biggest hill, and I got paid to look at all this wonderful scenery as part of my work. Just as enjoyable has been working with people in the industry and the job satisfaction I’ve received, helping people solve their communication problems.”

After four decades in the radio industry, Miller is not set to hang up his hat yet. He will be continuing as a consultant with his company, Orange Horizons, and will remain as a committee member of industry association ARCIA.

“I feel like I have some knowledge to give back. I still want to be involved in the industry association because I do very fervently believe that it will be a critical part of the industry over the next two or three years. Maybe I will learn to put down the microphone and start to relax a little bit and back out, but I don’t want to. I would like to help people within the industry and customers in general, and try to give back to the people who have given to me.”

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