It is April 1, 1998, 4:57 am. The last few bars of Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” are just ringing out. Josef Alexander Winklmayr presses a button and speaks into the microphone: “Welcome to the new Life Radio, the first nationwide private radio station for all Upper Austrians. I’m really happy that I’m the first to be heard live here.” Winklmayr started the day with the ringing of three alarm clocks, because in the first moderated format of the first private radio station in Upper Austria, oversleeping would have corresponded to a media worst-case scenario. “I hardly slept the night before, but when I pressed the button, I thought to myself: Whistle something! It was a moment that you will never forget,” says Winklmayr, who is still the music director at the station, whose external trademark is the color yellow, works.
The 48-year-old from Linz remembers prominent studio guests of his moderation, the then governor Josef Pühringer and the mayor of Linz Franz Dobusch were eye and ear witnesses.
Albania, China, Austria
The launch of the station was preceded by long political negotiations. At that time, the ORF had absolute broadcasting sovereignty before the regional radio law also enabled the operation of private radio stations in the mid-1990s around Austria’s accession to the EU.
“At that time, apart from Albania, China and Austria, private broadcasting was already established all over the world,” says Christian Stögmüller. As managing director, he is also a man from the very beginning at Life Radio, which reaches around 200,000 people in Upper Austria and parts of Lower Austria and Salzburg every day from his newly adapted studio on the second floor of the “Linzerie” in the center of the provincial capital. News always five minutes before the hour, regional traffic reports, weather, competitions and music from the era between 1980 and 2010 as well as current hits are among the fixed units of the program broadcast by Lichtenberg.
Don’t bite the dust
The former garage spirit of optimism can still be felt here among the around 45 employees. Almost half of the team from the founding days is still there, such as program director Matthias Dietinger.
Josef Alexander Winklmayr goes back to his work, mixing the music for the next day. By the way, the first song after his baptism of fire as presenter on April 1, 1998 was “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. The translation – “another one who bites the dust” – doesn’t fit the channel’s success story at all.
4 questions for … Christian Stögmüller
CEO of Life Radio
1. Mr. Stögmüller, in what media environment
private radio stations started operating 25 years ago?
At that time – with the exception of Albania, China and Austria – private broadcasting was already established all over the world. Many small stations started in 1998 but ultimately didn’t make it. We managed to get off to a very good start. In the start-up phase, it was important to establish framework conditions. There was only the ORF and nothing else. Today, the private radio market in Austria is very well structured with around 20 stations.
2. On the other hand, ORF radio is still an overpowering opponent.
The monetary endowment is almost limitless. We’ve learned to live with it.
3. Media behavior has changed massively in recent decades.
Of course also with the radio. Nobody buys a stereo system or just a radio anymore. We are represented by an app on smartphones and of course on all social media channels, we offer podcasts. We also brought the radio player from the BBC to Austria. Streaming offers have not substituted for us, that has rather boosted our industry. In the future, we will also be dealing with the topic of artificial intelligence. This gives us the opportunity to generate more offers, such as moderated streams.
4. What’s left of the founding garage spirit?
The emotionality of music. Go to a bar, take a shower, sit in a ski hut: music puts you in a different mood and it will always stay that way.
Life Radio in numbers
- 45 employees
- 9131 days on the air
- 200,000 listeners daily
- 3.24 million music tracks played since 1998
- Around 1 million cups of coffee drunk in 25 years
- Over 2 million commercials broadcast since 1998