Rocking the airwaves

Kol Hacampus radio station celebrates 18 years as a breeding ground for some of the budding stars of the Israeli media community.

Electric Zoo 370 (photo credit: Nir Geiger)
Electric Zoo 370
(photo credit: Nir Geiger)
In this day and age of seemingly infinite media and entertainment options one wonders how radio stations manage to hang on to their audience. Kol Hacampus is grooving, kicking and biting proof that there’s life yet in them radio waves.
The station works out of the College of Management Academic Studies’ School of Media Studies in Rishon Lezion and acts as fertile breeding ground for some of the budding stars of the Israeli media community. Tomorrow the station will celebrate 18 years of proffering sounds that evidently matter to a lot of people with a musical extravaganza at the Block Club in Tel Aviv.
The fun starts at 10 p.m., with six shows and 20 DJs working from three stages pumping out all manner of vibes tailored to appeal to rock and rollers, fans of electronic sounds, and groove freaks. The acts lined up for the evening include rocker trio Electric Zoo, which will perform material from its new release on the radio station’s Harake label, and pop-ambient threesome Garden City Movement. The DJ lineup features such leading vinyl spinners as Kol Hacampus veteran Dan Zoaretz, Asaf Almog, Doni Kisluk and Walter Einstein Frog.
The principal guiding hand behind the festivities, and the whole radio station, is Lior Nachmani, who has been around for quite some time. “I joined the station in 2002,” says the fortysomething station manager. “I started out as a moderator of a workshop which took place at the station, for the school, and after around a month and a half I found myself working as the head producer, and four years after that I was appointed station manager.”
So Nachmani is the person to ask about station’s evolution over the years. “The main thing that has changed here is that we have opened up the radio to all sorts of directions,” he says. “It is important to remember that the idea behind the station is to help communication studies students to integrate in the station’s activities, and to find their place in the world of media.”
Nachmani says Kol Hacampus focuses purely on the cultural side of things. “In contrast to, for example, Galei Tzahal, which constantly provides news journalists to the world of the media, we provide culture journalists to the world of the media.”
Not having commercial considerations is also a big help, and it means that the station can follow its own muse without having to worry about some big company that provides crucial advertising revenue trying to dictate what kind of music the radio puts out.
“Yes, that’s true,” observes Nachmani. “Not only that. We also allow the students carte blanche. They decide what they want to bring to the listeners, and we teach them how to get it out there.”
That, naturally, means that the stations offerings constantly expand. “The students enrich the content we have,” continues Nachmani, “and we help to provide them with new avenues of exploration, so that they can widen their horizons. If, for example, a student likes funk music we’ll make sure he knows about all kinds of funk artists, and that opens up new [options] for him. But, at the end of the day, it is the student who decides what goes out over the airwaves.”
That is a far cry from the world of commercial radio. “By and large, radio show presenters are provided with a playlist, without having any say over what they play. But our guys present material that means something to them, and I’m sure people who listen to them get that.”
Nachmani says there are other advantages to doing time with Kol Hacampus before heading out into the big wild media world. “Lots of commercial radio show presenters get paid peanuts – something like NIS 25 an hour. Our students, over the years, have preferred to stay on with us and gain more experience, and to find paid work in others areas of the media, like print media or writing for web sites or production. It’s true that they could probably get a better hourly rate as waiters but we take on ‘the crazy guys,’ as it were – you know, people who want to get in on the act rather than make millions. We all earn less money but we enjoy what we do.”
Nachmani says that, over the years, the station has also expanded its range of activities in order to provide the students with as wide a skill base as possible before they fly the coop. “We understood that what we need to do, to help the students make a smooth transition into the media sector, and not just radio, is to tailor our own platform so that they can gain experience in writing, editing and other areas. I think that is the most significant change the radio has undergone over the last 10 years or so.
“We used to be a station that put out great music you couldn’t hear anywhere else, and hosted live shows. Now our platform has expanded, which offers a complete package.”
That, of course, also meant upgrading the station’s virtual output. “In 2007 we designed a new web site with an abundance of content,” he explains. “We feature articles on all sorts of topics, reviews of music and of concerts and shows. We allow our students to gain experience here, without having to worry about making mistakes on the way – which they wouldn’t be able to do at a commercial radio station – and now they can do the same in, for example, writing articles for the web site.”
One of the most popular shows in the Kol Hacampus lineup is Napoleon, which Leon Feldman, the station’s longest serving staff member, has fronted for the last 16 years. Feldman has been dubbed “the high priest of alternative music” and hosts live performances in the studio.
The Internet also has a strong bearing on the Kol Hacampus audience. “Research indicates that most radio stations have their highest ratings between seven and nine in the morning and between five and seven in the evening, when everyone’s stuck in traffic jams on their way to work or on their way home,” Nachmani notes. “Our listenership kicks in around 11 a.m. and goes right through to 11 p.m., via the Internet. We provide an important service, and I think people like what we offer.”
That should also be the case tomorrow at The Block. Be there or be square.