PETER Caligari is urging radio presenters and commentators to keep listening to their audience.
He says the moment you stop listening, the moment the community stops listening to you.
When Mr Caligari announced his resignation from his long-standing role as 3BA Christmas Appeal director, it captured attention across Australia and overseas. The step back ended a 62-year career in Australian radio – more than double the industry average.
Humble in his achievements, the 79-year-old attributes the success, highlights and longevity in his career to the people and communities he has worked alongside.
“I didn’t realise I’d had so much involvement in the community over such a long period of time in Ballarat and at industry level until you start to look back...The more you search back, the more you realise,” Mr Caligari said.
“Introducing the 3BA Christmas Appeal has been the most rewarding and satisfying highlight in my career. The appeal has made such a positive benefit to so many lives for people. We’ve raise such a huge amount of money and food and I suppose I was fortunate to be able to have raised sufficient funds before I stepped down to ensure it would go a long way to meeting winter demand. One agency told me Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard had been getting very, very bare for these winter months.”
The Christmas appeal launched in 1980, when Mr Caligari was 3BA general manager, and it was in stepped down from his role as managing director in 2001 that Mr Caligari established the Christmas in July appeal in a bid to assist in the city’s coldest months.
A strong community focus has always played a feature role in Mr Caligari’s radio career. While technology has greatly evolved in the past six decades, Mr Caligari said the fundamentals of radio were the same.
An effective radio commentator or presenter is talking to a listener as an individual, you're having a conversation...you don't think of all the people who could be listening.Peter Caligari
“An effective radio commentator or presenter is talking to a listener as an individual, you're having a conversation and you want it to be direct to that person...you don't think of how many people could be listening,” Mr Caligari said. “...You must always be listening to what your community wants.”
Mr Caligari’s first taste of commercial radio was in October 1956, a few weeks before the Olympic Games were staged in Melbourne. His start in radio with 3CV in Maryborough coincided with tape recorders being introduced to replace wire recorders.
Mr Caligari leaves the industry in a dynamic digital era with satellite delivery and increasing FM and digital radio stations he has been proud to have experienced.
In Maryborough, Mr Caligari took up on-air sports broadcasts and spent time as acting station manager before moving to 3HA in Hamilton in May 1965 as sales manager.
A chance meeting with then-3BA managing director Ern Whykes in April 1966 was enough to entice Mr Caligari to move to Ballarat – the start of a 52-year journey.
Mr Caligari quickly became a voice of the Ballarat Football League as a commentator in the late 1960s and 70s and in hosting the station’s popular Sunday morning football program, working alongside BFL identities like Alan Benson, Digger Warren, Ian Burt, Jim Murphy, Joe Lynch, Webber Jackson, Charlie Holt, Len Templar and Ron Plover.
In the move to Ballarat, Mr Caligari was also a sales manager, general manager, then managing director during which time 3BA’s sister station and Ballarat’s first commercial FM station PowerFM joined the airwaves in 1996.
From promotions to equip 100s of Ballarat children with bike helmets in the 1980s, to convincing Qantas to brand one of its jets “City of Ballaarat” in 1987 or the trivia nights and Christmas shows with Gary West, Mr Caligari said there were so many fond memories in doing what 3BA could as a station to help make Ballarat a better place.
Proudly, Mr Caligari still has an official letter from then-Ballarat mayor Frank Williams for helping to save Ballarat Begonia Festival from extinction during a decline in the early 1990s.
“It has been a truly memorable radio journey and I owe so much to so many, and on top of that very long list is my wonderful wife Ola, who has supported me every step of the way,” Mr Caligari said.
“I have been extremely privileged and fortunate to have been involved in this great industry for such a long period of time.”
Mr Caligari stepped back from his role as 3BA Christmas appeals director late last month for personal health. The station is working to ensure the appeals keep on.