Rod Webster, a pioneering Scottish local radio executive who delivered high ratings, major awards and commercial success at a string of stations, has died at the age of 69.
Rod, who died shortly before Christmas, helped set up Moray Firth Radio and was the founding managing director at Radio Borders. He also served as MD at Northsound and as head of training for Scottish Radio Holdings.
As an inspirational manager, commercially savvy salesman and talented broadcaster in his own right, Rod was ideally suited to the world of independent local radio.
While he enjoyed success throughout his career, his greatest achievements arguably came at Radio Borders, which celebrates 25 years on air this month.
Rod set up the station from scratch and led it to instant success. The first set of ratings showed 68 percent of potential listeners tuning in — a record audience reach figure for any UK radio station that still stands to this day.
In 1991, after just over a year on air, Radio Borders was named UK Local Station of the Year at the Sony Radio Awards. With typical flamboyance, Rod persuaded a sponsor, Kleenex tissues, to pay for all the station’s staff and even some part-time weekend presenters to travel to London for the ceremony.
“Rod was a great innovator and mentor, a commercial radio genius,” said Danny Gallagher, the first Radio Borders breakfast presenter who succeeded Rod as managing director and went on to run Moray Firth Radio.
Rod started his broadcasting career while serving in Intelligence in the Royal Air Force in Germany. In 1979, he was part of a group of local business people who applied successfully for the local radio licence for the Moray Firth area. He took the lead in drawing up a business plan and writing the programme schedule. He then served as head of sales, commercial producer and weekend presenter at the station.
During his time there, Moray Firth Radio delivered more revenue per head of population than any other station in the UK. He moved to set up Radio Borders in 1989, taking charge of everything from finding a home for the station to recruiting all staff.
In addition to the 1991 Sony win, the station was also nominated twice more for awards at the UK radio industry’s Oscars while Rod was in charge.
“Localness is the key to the success of local commercial radio,” he once told a television reporter. “Based in the area, broadcasting solely to them for them, it’s something the listeners clearly appreciate.”
In 1997, he took over as managing director at Northsound in Aberdeen and revitalised the company’s two stations, boosting both audience figures and financial performance. Rod was then promoted by Scottish Radio Holdings to head up group training, developing and implementing programmes to improve the skills of managers, sales staff, journalists and presenters.
After retiring from SRH, he ran his own business in the recruitment sector and maintained a strong interest in radio, working as a consultant.
Rod was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago but maintained his great good humour and lust for life, travelling widely with his beloved wife Anne and spending time with their family and many friends.
Rod is survived by Anne, a close partner in all their endeavours who was a key member of the Radio Borders staff, by their three children, Sharon, Stuart and Colin and by 10 grandchildren.