Company: FM4, a branch of state broadcaster Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF)
Broadcast area: Austria, South Germany and Switzerland
“Radio, when it’s open and approachable, is a window to lots of cultural developments,” says Natalie Brunner. She should know: she’s spent more than half her life on air as a DJ and presenter at FM4. The fourth channel from orf (Österreichischer Rundfunk – Austrian Broadcasting), it is dedicated to alternative music.
Raised in southern Austria, Brunner moved to Vienna at 16. Not long after, a friend encouraged her to contact the new radio station, which was looking for young talent. She produced her first FM4 feature at 17 while the person in charge of hiring was on holiday. “I was never formally hired,” she says. “I was just there.”
Now, 22 years later, Brunner is still there and still amazed that she gets paid for what she does: following electronic and hip-hop music and exploring the genres’ musical and social questions. Brunner wears many hats at FM4: she’s a presenter but also produces longer-format shows, including interviews. She’s known for Friday night electronic-music show La Boum De Luxe, which runs from 21.00 to 06.00. “I didn’t invent the format but about 10 years ago the station realised I was following this music in local venues anyway,” she says. “I was the girl with the darkest circles under her eyes.”
FM4 is niche but its audience is influential. Its programming is multilingual (it originally shared its frequency with the now-defunct English-language Blue Danube Radio) and listeners appreciate the obscure European bands that they can only hear here.
Brunner’s on-air observations often reveal deeper thoughts on the meaning of music and life, feminism, aesthetics and politics – and are a large part of why she’s remained so popular. Her inner circle reflects her wide-ranging interests. “These women add something to my work; we ask the same questions but in a shifted context,” she says. “It’s important to find people you connect with on an emotional, intellectual and spiritual level. If you find these qualities it doesn’t matter what field they work in.”