I'm back!

Posted April 27th, 2013 by debritz

Septembert, 2015 update: My new blog is at


Posted October 21st, 2009 by debritz

My latest blog

Posted May 24th, 2015 by debritz

.. is at

My new home

Posted May 24th, 2015 by debritz

I've been a bad blogger, but I'm back (again). My new site is at

Radio predictions for 2014

Posted December 23rd, 2013 by debritz

As promised, here's my annual list of predictions for Brisbane radio.

It'll be a closely fought race for top position overall and in breakfast, with some failures along the way. More than one show won't make it to the end of the year in its initial form. It will be a year of further cutbacks, job losses and low tolerance for failure. (And, sadly, not much room for experimentation, meaning homogenisation on the mainstream music airwaves. This has already manifested itself nationally with ARN's hiring of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie Henderson, and the reformatting of Mix in Sydney to tackle 2Day an Nova head-on.).

I say with no pleasure but some confidence that 2014 is the year when reality really will begin to bite in the Australian media. While the free-spending days are long gone, many businesses are still spending beyond their means (or at levels that reflect better days). The advertising pie is being sliced more thinly and, despite efforts by industry bodies to spin it otherwise, traditional broadcast radio has lost, and will continue to lose, audiences to other media. It's not out of the question that one network will fail altogether. Despite the brave (some may say arrogant) face they present to the world, the networks know this, and that's why they are investing in online services and digital offerings that may help plug the gaps in their mainstream programming.

For the record, although I was initially enthusiastic about it, I have long believed that broadcast digital radio is a turkey. Its coverage is woeful -- I have friends living just 20 kilometres from the CBD who can't pick it up, making it unsuitable for commuters (even if there were receivers in their cars) -- and its content offering can't even begin to match what's available on the internet. Once new cars are wi-fi (LTE/4G) enabled, it'll be "Goodnight, nurse" for DAB+ in Australia (although digital will continue to be successful in th shortterm in more compact markets).

These predictions are based on the assumption that the new ratings methodology won't throw in too many surprises (and my inclination is that they won't, otherwise Commercial Radio Australia, whose jobs it is to support the status quo, wouldn't have signed up the new provider).

+ 612ABC's Spencer Howson will remain no.1 in breakfast at least for the first half of the survey, as the others sort themselves out. Across the board, 612's fate is linked to how well or how badly 4BC's complete makeover works. If BC flops, 612 will benefit. At the same time, with consistency on its side, the AM crown is Aunty's to lose.

+ It's going to be tough for 4BC to get where it wants to be. An almost-all-new line-up provides an opportunity to rebuild, but I suspect their retooling creates a void in the market rather than fills one. As much as I dislike it personally, right-wing, lowest-common-denominator talk radio is where it's at in the commercial world. Trying to be the "ABC with ads" may make some sort of sense for 2UE in Sydney (which can't hope to beat 2GB at its own game while Alan Jones and Ray Hadley are in place), but it's going to hard to build an audience with that format in Brisbane. As much as I admire Ian Skippen, I don't think he's the right person for breakfast. The station needs a strong, opinionated voice that will bring the listeners in and keep them glued to the station. I'd put Skip in the afternoon slot, where he could provide the post-lunch change of pace with consummate ease. I think Patrick Condren is the strongest of the new bunch recently signed by 4BC, and he's got a good chance of giving 612's Steve Austin a run for his money in the morning shift. Of course, everything could change if the long-mooted merger between Fairfax and Macquarie actually goes through in 2014.

+ The return of Ed Kavalee to the Brsbane airwaves is welcome news -- particularly since he'll actually be in Brisbane this time. But it raises two questions: Is Triple M the right station for his talent and skill set? Will there be enough chemistry between him and Greg "Marto" and Michelle Anderson? My inclination is to answer no on both counts, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. I'd have built a new show around Ed. He's an underrated talent who needs to work with people who are on the same page. (It's such a shame that Tony Martin is persona non grata at Southern Cross Austereo.)

+ Triple M's sister station B105 has a challenge on its hands. In the grand scheme of things, it's not doing too badly, but it's not the must-listen-to station that it used to be. At the time of writing, Southern Cross Austereo has chosen not to tinker with the breakfast show line-up, as doing so would almost certainly lead to an at-least-temporary ratings slump. However, given it is launching new breakfast shows on its Today stations in Sydney and Melbourne, it must have been tempted to do so as part of a network wide facelift. While it ain't really broken, it does need to be fixed. The real battle is with the music offering. The programming experts can say what they like, but many teenagers and young adults follow the songs rather than the on-air talent.

+ 97.3Fm runs the risk of falling victim to "friendly fire". The launch of Kiis 106.5 in Sydney will mean some further tinkering with the successful Brisbane format to accommodate a Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O "best-of" in the evenings, and Ryan Seacrest in the nights. They risk losing at least some of the female grocery shoppers coveted by advertisers, and that doesn't seem like a particularly wise move to me. Having said that, the breakfast show should remain strong if they don't change the music too much.

+ Nova 106.9 is looking good for a strong year, although changes behind the scenes -- especially the loss of foundation station manager Sean Ryan -- could be felt on air. My advice to the DMG bosses down south is to realise the uniqueness of the Brisbane market and to give the station some credit for succeeding as well as it has. Ash, Kip and Luttsy are likely to remain near or at the top of the commercial tree in breakfast. The loss of Brisbane favourite Meshel Laurie, who has moved from network drive to Melbourne breakfast, may be felt.

+ The fates of 4KQ and Magic 882 (formerly 4BH) are intertwined. If Magic gets a bit too contemporary with its music choices, KQ will reap the benefit. If KQ doesn't mind its knitting, Magic may steal the advantage.

+ The "dark horse" to watch is Triple J, which did very well in the Brisbane market at the time. I believe that the Js are batting above their average because of dissatisfaction with the mainstream FM music stations. As I said at the beginning, this brave new world of commercial radio leaves little room for experimentation. Playlists are conservative, and people who want to find new music are looking to Triple J and the internet.

Things I'd like to hear

Posted November 17th, 2013 by debritz

I was recently asked when I was going to publish my almost-annual list of Australian radio predictions.

Well, when I sat down to make a start, I realised it was a bit too early to make meaningful predictions for 2014, given that many stations have still not confirmed their on-air line-ups.

So, instead, here's a list of things I would like to hear on the radio in 2013:

"For #@+*'s sake, I'm a 40-year-old man. I am not the least bit excited by the fact that One Direction are coming into the studio this morning, unless I get the chance to kick one of the talentless twerps in the goolies."

"Cheryl, stop gushing like you're the only woman in the world who as ever had a baby. If you tell one more cutesy story about your illbegotten offspring, I will projectile vomit over you and the entire studio."

"This being the ABC, I am not supposed to venture a personal opinion on air, but after what you just said Cyril, I'm prepared to risk my career and make an exception."

"If you really think we get this perky in the morning just by drinking products from our sponsor, Coca-Cola, you are very much mistaken."

"Actually, Bruce of Logan, you are a hateful, bigoted old man who has never achieved anything of significance in your miserable life and rather than be angry with yourself, you have externalised the blame on people who are making an honest effort to make a go of their lives, and are prepared to risk what little they have to create a brighter future for their families."

"You know what Shazza, I am constantly amazed by the extent to which so many of our listeners are prepared to demean themselves to win a worthless prize we contra-ed from one of the advertisers."

"Rather than hook young Darlene up to the lie-detector, I'm going to attach it to myself and tell you all what I really think."

"If you don't stop perving at me and aiming sexist remarks in my direction Bazza, I'll email those pictures from the last Commercial Radio Awards function to your girlfriend."

"Despite explicit instructions to the contrary from station management, I have decided to henceforth refer to myself by my given name, Michael, rather than the childish epithet of 'Beano'."

"Who are we kidding, we know most of you are only listening because you like the music, and that you change station whenever an ad comes on or we start talking."

"And the whole gang from the station will be at the big listeners' party on Friday night, even though we'd rather apply a dentist's drill to our eyeballs."

"Do you seriously think I would actually use any of these crap products I endorse on air? I have to put on surgical gloves just to touch the huge wads of cash they pay for me doing it."

"No, by all means, do keep talking Doris. It's 3 o'clock in the morning, nobody else is listening and, on the money they're paying me for this graveyard shift, I literally do not have a home to go to."

"I hate you all."

Man overboard

Posted May 22nd, 2013 by debritz

Visit my new Man Somewhere travel, history and culture blog here.

Time for a break

Posted April 24th, 2012 by debritz

The blog is taking an indefinite break. Thanks for your interest in me and my work. My tweets will still appear in the panel on the front page of the blog (above), and while comments will be turned off, you can contact me through the Email Me link in the menu at left or find me on Facebook or other social media sites. The Celebrity Deaths Archive will continue.

All the best,

Scott reveals Aunty's plans

Posted April 19th, 2012 by debritz

ABC managing director Mark Scott, in Brisbane to open the national broadcaster's new Queensland headquarters at South Bank, has revealed some of Aunty's plans for the digital future.

He told 612ABC breakfast announcer Spencer Howson that:

+ A new ABC app for Android phones would be released "within days";

+ An iView app for mobile platforms would be available soon, and that iView would eventually be available in HD, although delivery on the net was expensive for the broadcaster;

+ Aunty is lobbying government to extend digital radio coverage from beyond the major metro areas, although he conceded there was no great financial imperative for this as there was for the digital TV switchover;

You can hear the full interview here.

Video rewards the radio star

Posted April 18th, 2012 by debritz

As The Australian's Michael Bodey points out, we really shouldn't have been surprised that Hamish Blake won the Gold Logie.

Blake has successfully parlayed his success on radio, and in cyberspace, into Logies votes.

The problem, of course, is that while Blake is very popular -- and especially so with young people -- he has been ostensibly rewarded for his work on a television show that had low overall ratings but was a minor hit with its target demographic.

Developing Bodey's argument, it seems fair to say that the Logies have become not a measure of television popularity, but of overall popularity -- at least among those people who are prepared to go to the trouble of casting a vote.

How long, then, before the Logies -- or some new thing that will usurp their role -- become popular culture awards rather than TV awards?

The Gold Logie may, in the not-too-distant future, be awarded to the "most popular" person in all media, rather than just television.

Of course, as long as it relies on people who are motivated to vote, or are even aware that the award exists, it won't be a true indication of actual popularity.

But at least it will be a more honest reflection of the realities of media in the 21st century: that fame transcends platforms and that nobody is working in just one medium any more.

All-star effort

Posted April 17th, 2012 by debritz

I don't often share videos on this blog, but this is something else.

It's a promo for a Norwegian television talk show and it features a random array of blasts from the past, from Roger Moore to Harpo (Movie Star singer), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), Rikki Lake, Huey Lewis, David Faustino (Married with Children), Lou Ferrigno (the Hulk), John Nettles (Bergerac), Gorden Kaye ('Allo 'Allo), George Wendt (Norm in Cheers), Fab Morven (Milli Vanilli), Kathleen Turner, Daryl Hannah and many, many others.

My hat tips to for finding it.

Now, if only an Australian TV network could gather such a line-up ...

Never mind the Logies, here are the Logics

Posted April 12th, 2012 by debritz

Let's face it, the Logie Awards don't make any sense. Every year, the best and brightest of Australia's television industry gather at a function arranged by a magazine with a very low circulation to give out gongs to people who really haven't earned them.

Actors and presenters whose shows next-to-nobody watched are rewarded, while the creators and stars of the top-rating shows go home empty handed. (Why, by way of example, was Ben Elton widely ridculed last year when his Live from Planet Earth show actually attracted more viewers than the Today show, whose star Karl Stefanovic won the Gold Logie?*)

Because of these discrepancies, I have initiated the Logic Awards, which acknowledge programs and talent on the basis of the only true measure of popularity in the world of TV -- the ratings.

These gogns are based on the actual ratings -- the most accurate available measurement of a show's popularity -- not just a poll of a small subsection of the population who read a magazine or visit a certain website. These are the shows and the stars Australians actually watched in 2011.

Where the winners are from overseas, thus making them ineligible for a Logie award, I've added Australian runners-up.

(No methodology is perfect, but I've explained mine at the end of this post.)

GOLD LOGIC for Most Popular Personalities

Prince William and Kate Middleton, stars of the most-watched program of 2011, The Royal Wedding.
Australian: The cast of Packed to the Rafters

SILVER LOGIC Most Popular Actor
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
(Australian: Erik Thomson, Packed to the Rafters)

SILVER LOGIC Most Popular Actress
Laura Carmichael, Downton Abbey
(Australian: Rebecca Gibney, Packed to the Rafters)

SILVER LOGIC Most Popular Presenter
Tie: Grant Denyer**, Australia's Got Talent and Scott Cam, The Block

Ryan Corr, Packed To The Rafters

Hannah Marshall, Packed To The Rafters

Packed To The Rafters

The Big Bang Theory
(Australian: The Gruen Transfer/ Gruen Planet)

Better Homes And Gardens

The Melbourne Cup

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
(Australian: tie between Australia's Got Talent and The Block)

Seven News

Audio link: Brett talks to Josh from the MolksTVTalk podcast
(Full podcast here.)

Notes about the methodology: For the purpose of these awards I've made a few adjustments to the categories and elegibility rules, and used some "best guesses". For example, I've extrapolated that if Downton Abbey was the most popular drama on TV, then its headline stars are the most popular actor and actress.
In the comedy category, which I bundled with light entertainment, while the debut of Ashton Kutcher in Two and Half Men was a huge ratings success, the show spectacularly lost two-thirds of its audience -- a sure and swift sign of unpopularity -- so it cannot be reckonned to be as big a success as The Big Bang Theory, which rated consistently well, even in its many repeats.
In the case of The Block, its audience average over the season was slighlty lower than Australia's Got Talent, but its huge finale helped compensate. I've declared the difference between these shows and their hosts as too close to call.
While I largely ignored the official TV Week Logie Awards nominations, I was somewhat guided by them in categories that I felt were unclear. The distinctions between light entertainment, reality, lifestyle and factual seem blurry to say the least. In the factual category, logic dictated that it must go to the highest-rated news program, even though the Logie nominees did not include news and current affairs programs. As nted above, I included comedy programs in the light-entertainment category.
I have not included the "most outstanding" award catgeories, which require a more subjective approach than used here.
In compiling these results, I am indebted to reasearch done by David Dale for his excellent blog, The Tribal Mind. Any misreadings of the data, however, are mine.

* Yes, I am aware of the difference between breakfast and prime time, but viewers are viewers, and I would argue that viewers in the morning aren't anywhere near as engaged with the box as those at night, so LFPE actually had command of far more eyeballs and ears.

** As an anonymous commenter points out (see below), I originally wrote Luke Jacobz here in error. Apologies to all.

Kimpossible dream?

Posted April 10th, 2012 by debritz

Is a fresh and funny Australian sitcom too much to ask for? Apparently so.

News that we're about to be subjected (if we so choose) to both a Kath and Kim movie and a new TV series is proof positive that there are either no original ideas in comedy now, or that nobody in televisionland is willing to take a punt on a new idea.

I was never a big fan of Kath and Kim. I always saw it as the latte set's cruel and too-broadly-stereotypical-to-be-funny satire on the working classes. To me it was just as authentic as millionaire shock jock Alan Jones is when he talks about "Struggle Street".

But I also realise that many people, including those out of whom the mickey was being taken, lapped it up. And I admit I am a fan of other work by the creators of Kath and Kim, Jane Turner and Gina Riley, and many of its cast, particularly Glenn Robbins and Magda Szubanski. (I think Riley's best work was in The Games, which had the benefit of John Clarke's brilliance behind it.)

If we must flog this dead horse, can we have something else, too? Why aren't the networks -- especially the cashed-up Seven Network -- investing in the future of television comedy? As I've said before, creating content is the only viable future for the free-to-air networks.

We've come a long was as a society since Hey Dad..! and yet, Kath and Kim aside, there hasn't been a hit commercial television comedy since it ceased production in 1994. It's time for us to move on; to invest in the writing that can bring us a genuinely funny sitcom that riffs off contemporary Australian themes.

Perhaps the Queensland Theatre Company will consider reviving its Australian Sitcom Festival, where in 2001 (wow, that was a long time ago) an ensemble of talented actors gave new scripts a try-out in a stage setting.

New Queensland Premier Campbell Newman doesn't seem to be a fan of the "high" arts (he scrapped the annual Premier's Literary Awards), but maybe this is something he could get behind. Anything that would encourage good writing, and provide potential employment for actors and film crew, is surely worth considering.

A job worth paying for

Posted April 4th, 2012 by debritz

My father, like his father, was a house painter. He wanted to be a teacher, but times were tough and he had to leave school at a young age to help support his family.

Still, he was a very wise man. He read widely in areas that interested him and he held strong opinions.

I remember him saying, about his own trade, that anyone could paint a house to suit himself, but not everyone could paint a house to the satisfaction of the people paying for it.

I'm a journalist, and I feel the same way about my own profession. Plenty of people can write but not everybody has the full set of skills a professional needs.

I think this approach to the craft is especially relevant at a time when the news media is desperately trying to reinvent itself in the digital age. In doing so, we must not forget our core skills.

When I tweet or blog about errors in spelling or syntax in media reports, I'm sometimes accused of being pedantic -- as if accuracy was no longer a prerequisite for the practice of journalism.

Recently, I've been having a minor rant on Twitter about journalists who misuse the word "allegedly". In news reports you will often hear or read about an "alleged robbery" when the reporter is referring to a robbery, pure and simple. What's alleged in the story is the identity of the person or persons who committed the crime.

If the court reporter and the sub-editor who handles his or her copy doesn't know how to use "allegedly" properly, then they don't know the law, they don't know the language, or they simply don't care. That is unacceptable.

I rail against people who confuse "deny" and "refute" -- words that have distinct meanings -- and those who believe there are degrees of uniqueness. Why? Because getting it wrong dilutes the power of the English language.

Oh, but language changes, I'm constantly told. Yes, but it should change to become more robust, not to become weaker. We should be adding words to the dictionary to make communication easier and more exact, not tweaking the meaning of existing words to the point where they lose potency and create confusion.

I'm by no means perfect. There are many errors on this blog, probably even in this post. But I'm working on my own here.

If professional news organisations can't leverage the huge resources and large staff they have to ensure that they get the basics right, how can they realistically hope to compete against the online aggregators and other cut-price operators?

The thing about being professional is that you do your job properly, you are acknowledged for it, and you get paid for it. Nobody's going to pay top dollar for a slap-dash paint job, and nobody should have to pay for consistently sloppy journalism.

When I point this out to other journalists, they say that budgets are tight and they can no longer afford the checks and balances that used to be put in place. I reckon that's a false economy that could ultimately lead to the demise of the established news media.

In the future, there'll be plenty of digital detritus but not a lot of solid, well-researched, well-written and well-edited journalism. What there is of any quality will be worth paying for, either directly or indirectly (through advertising).

It's my belief that, after a period of playing around with the amateurs, enough people will come back to the fold to make well-run professional news media organisations viable. But that's only if they are worth coming back to.

Images from the Molkies

Posted April 2nd, 2012 by debritz

Scenes from the Molkies, Brisbane's alternative television awards night, held at the XXXX Ale House on Saturday:

Molkies prize details, including video of wonderful acceptance speeches from Wil Anderson and Adam Hills, are here.

A matter of trust

Posted March 29th, 2012 by debritz

It's not a great time to be a journalist, with job opportunities shrinking on a daily basis. But it certainly is an excellent time to be in PR. Why? Because the chances of your media release getting wide and uncritical coverage are expanding by the minute.

You don't have to dig too deep on the internet to find bloggers who merrily and uncritically repeat media releases, usually without even acknowledging the source.

Some bloggers even go so far as to pretend they did their own research -- or, at least, they allow their readers to think so -- when all they are doing is parroting the PR.

What's worse is that this kind of thing is finding its way into mainstream media sites, where the work of untrained bloggers is being published alongside that of journalists but without the checks applied to staff-written copy.

I'm not at all promoting a "closed shop" mentality. I believe everybody is entitled to their view, and I'm happy that the internet, especially the advent of social media, makes that possible.

However, I think the readers of professional media websites are entitled to know the credentials of the person whose work they are reading. And I think the editors of these sites need to be vigilant, because the expedience of using free copy from enthusiastic amateurs could blow up in their faces.

One thing that separates the professional media from the amateurs is the integrity of the product presented to the public. If what's published online doesn't meet the high standards applied to the print or broadcast media, the proprietors expose themselves to potential legal issues.

They also risk a loss of the public trust that is their competitive advantage.

Will Kyle call it quits?

Posted March 27th, 2012 by debritz

Southern Cross Austereo is facing a big dilemma in light of today's ruling by the Australian Communications and Media Authority deeming that its Sydney station, 2Day, had breached decency standards.

The dilemma? Exactly when should it pull the pin on Kyle Sandilands, the man who has brought such shame on the station and the network, and whose behaviour has put at risk millions of dollars of advertising revenue?

It's not the ACMA ruling that will determine the fate of Sandilands and his co-host Jackie O, however. It's the ratings.

The second official radio ratings survey for 2012, also released today, shows the Kyle and Jackie O Show is continuing to decline in ratings, despite expensive promotional activity during the survey period.

While the show still leads the commercial FM pack, Sandilands' audience share has dipped below the psychologically important 10 per cent threshold, while his fresh competitors, Fitzy and Wippa, at Nova are on the way up.

Clearly, Kyle is edging closer to his use-by date. Austereo knows this. But it also knows that he's been a good and loyal servant to the company over many years, and that his talent and notoriety have brought publicity and big dollars to the network.

But sentiment only goes so far in business. In Brisbane, Austereo cut loose Jamie Dunn six years ago, and his onetime on-air partner Ian Skippen just last year. In their hey-day with the B105 Morning Crew, they brought in the kind of ratings Kyle Sandilands -- or, indeed, any other current broadcaster -- could only dream of.

At one stage, the B105 Morning Crew commanded about a third of the total available Brisbane audience. I've not seen the figures, but I know they put big, big dollars into the Austereo coffers.

The nature of commercial radio, of course, is that nobody stays at the top of the ladder forever. There comes a point when they are no longer worth the big money they are paid. In Brisbane, management decided to bite the bullet with a view to rebuilding before the figures got too low. In Dunn's case, he was allowed to announce his own departure after lining up another gig.

Now, whatever you think of Kyle Sandilands, he's done very well in a very competitive market, and he deserves some credit for it.

However, his race is very nearly run. In fact, it could be argued that the controversy surrounding him in recent years has extended his career with 2Day beyond its realistic shelf life. But the station management really must be contemplating renewal.

I'm not saying Sandilands is going to get the sack anytime soon, partly because he still makes money for 2Day and partly because Austereo doesn't want to be seen to be weak in bowing to the pressure applied by lobby groups. However, I think if Sandilands presented his resignation to management tomorrow, it would be accepted without too much of a fight.

In fact if I were Kyle Sandilands, I would make a big show of quitting at the time of my own choosing. But I wouldn't wait too long, in case worse surveys are on their way.

On a related subject, I am quite disturbed by the revelations surrounding Kyle and Jackie O Show producer Bruno Bouchet, who has taken down his website and Twitter account following this story at

I knew Bruno when he was in Brisbane, and he always presented himself to me as a friendly, polite and competent professional. The website in question was puerile -- the kind of stuff you might expect from a 15-year-old schoolboy who'd just discovered some naughty pictures on the internet. It's hard to associate those posts, or his bodily-function-obsessed tweets, with the person I thought I knew.

Unless I'm a bad judge of character, I think it says a lot about the effects of working on the Kyle and Jackie O show.

97.3 maintains ratings lead

Posted March 27th, 2012 by debritz

In the race for ratings supremacy, 97.3 FM remained steady on top of the Brisbane radio pile with a 14.1pc share when survey two results were released.

In second place was 612ABC (11.8pc), followed by B105 (10.7), Nova 106.9 (10.4), Triple M (9.4), 4BC (7.4), 4KQ (7.2), Triple J (6.6) and 4BH (6.1).

In the breakfast shift, Spencer Howson retained his lead for 612ABC (14.9pc down slightly from 15.1), and he was followed by Robin, Terry and Bob at 97.3 (12.8), with Labby, Stav and Abby at B105 (10.3) third, and Ash, Kip and Luttsy at Nova 106.9 (10.1) a close fourth.

Following in breakfast were Triple M (9.0), 4BC (7.8), 4KQ (7.5), triple J (5.9) and 4BH (5.5).

The good news for 97.3 continued through most of the day, although Nova edged ahead among music listeners in the evenings.

The ABC also had a big result in the mornings shift, with Steve Austin garnering a 12pc share, possibly helped along by his state election coverage. His successor on the Evenings shift, Rebecca Levingston, has started to claw back some of Austin's old audience following a disappointing result in the first survey. Afternoons' Kelly Higgins-Devine and Drive's Tim Cox also added audience share.

In Sydney, the 2Day breakfast show fell below double figures to a 9.7 share, coming third, as usual, to 2GB's Alan Jones and ABC702's Adam Spencer, as host Kyle Sandilands faces the results of an Australian Communications and Media Authority probe, which ruled against him and 2Day, and fallout from revelations about the online activities of one of his producers.

Sandilands' commercial FM rivals, Fitzy and Wippa at Nova 96.9, were the biggest gainers in the Sydney breakfast shift, but they remain more than 3 percentage points off the pace. Nova also picked up a huge swag of listeners aged 10-17, although not from 2Day.

Guide to go?

Posted March 25th, 2012 by debritz

Back in the day when newspapers were king, one of the big circulation boosters for Sunday titles was the weekly television guide.

The insertion of the A4 TV Extra magazine, which listed the week ahead's programs spiced up with celebrity profiles and gossip, was a bold experiment that sent Brisbane's Sunday Sun soaring ahead of its competitor more than 30 years ago.

It also played a part in the launch of the Daily Sun and the subsequent News Ltd purchase of Queensland Newspapers.

Other papers followed suit, and now most Sunday papers in Australia still have a dedicated TV liftout.

But not for much longer, I'd wager. There is one sitting under the remote control on the coffee table in the lounge room now, but I doubt I'll be consulting it.

Why are these guides endangered species? Because they are expensive to produce and insert, and in the age of electronic program guides and the internet, they are not necessary. With their early deadlines -- up to five days before publication -- and the TV networks' renewed fondness for last-minute schedule changes, they are increasingly inaccurate.

On top of that, Sunday papers no longer have a stranglehold on "breaking" TV news; the networks are much more likely to take direct control of these scoops through targeted webpages, viral videos and social media (sometimes disguised as "leaks".)

That's not to say that television gossip will be absent from the papers. If anything, there'll be more of it -- but in the "news" pages and other features sections, rather than in a dedicated space. With the exception of highlights, the listings will eventually disappear altogether as they no longer justify the space they take up.

It will be a brave editor who first pulls the plug on the weekly TV listings, but I think we'll see it happen within a year or two -- and the sky won't fall any more in terms of lost circulation than it already has.

Disclosure: I briefly edited the Queensland TV Guide in the mid-Noughties, when part of my brief was to cut costs.

To be or not to be?

Posted March 20th, 2012 by debritz

Many years ago, I interviewed Mel Gibson, and I asked him how hard it was to get the green light in Hollywood to make non-mainstream films. He told me an anecdote that went something like this:

When Kenneth Branagh pitched the idea of Henry V, one potential backer asked him: "Henry Five, eh? How did Henrys One to Four do at the box office?"

I suspect it's an apocryphal story, but it illustrates a point not only about the American movie industry, but about the current state of Australian television.

When I look at the endless promos on the commercial channels for their new and upcoming local product, one thing is clear: everything is derivative.

Every show is either a reboot (Young Talent Time, Big Brother), a franchise (The Voice, Big Brother [again], Australia's Got Talent, Celebrity Apprentice) or a clone (The Shire is tipped to be our answer to Jersey Shore, for example).

Nothing on the commercial channels strikes me as being truly original, because nobody's game to back a hunch. Better to copy something else and hope it clicks (bad luck about Excess Baggage, which was a mashup of Biggest Loser and Celebrity Whatever) than to take a risk on innovation.

After all, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Oh, wait a minute ...

When the commercial networks do look for something "new", they almost always fall back on the same relatively small and intertwined cliques of "creatives" who've produced everything we've seen on television for the past 20 or 30 years.

I've written before about how free-to-air television networks' only chance of long-term survival is if they seriously invest in content creation. If they're going to succeed, they will have to take some real risks and seek out ideas from people other than the usual suspects.

Update: Last night's ratings go some way to illustrating how bad things are for Channels 9 and 10. They both, again, got blitzed in the overall figures by Seven, but they also failed to win their "preferred demographics", which must make it very hard to pitch to advertisers. I also find it's interesting that repeats of Big Bang Theory on 9 are doing better than new episodes of Two Broke Girls and Two and a Half Men.

Nothing but the truth?

Posted March 19th, 2012 by debritz

A few days before US National Public Radio's This American Life "retracted" an episode based on Mike Daisey's one-man show about conditions in Apple Computer factories in China, I was listening to an interview with a British comedian.

It was a BBC broadcast, but I can't remember her name (sorry, I didn't expect to be writing about it). However, I do remember what she said: that she often "appropriated" stories from her friends and others and included them in her monologue as if these things had happened to her.

It struck me at the time that this must be a common practice among standup comics. After all, who is really going to get an hour's worth of material based on recent events in their own lives? It did not really occur to me that what she was doing was unethical.

My point is that, at some level, we expect comedian to lie, or at least "stretch the truth" for humorous effect.

But do we expect it as part of a presentation that purports to be true and makes damning accusations about an individual or a corporation? Or does the fact that it was presented in theatrical context somehow make it different?

Truth is in the eye of the beholder, and the people who took Daisey at his word - including This American Life host Ira Glass - have a right to feel wronged.

Daisey must have known that what he was saying on stage was not true, and he presumably felt that the ends justified the means.

But did he realise that telling these untruths for dramatic effect would bring a valid cause - to improve the conditions of sweat-shop factory workers - into disrepute? And could he have foreseen the damage he'd do to his own reputation and that of one of America's most trusted news sources?

The Shire's no Shore thing

Posted March 17th, 2012 by debritz

Australia's Ten Network is reportedly working on a new "reality" series to be called The Shire.

The word is that Ten is expecting the show -- about a group of people living in Cronulla, a beachside suburb south of Sydney -- to be Australia's answer to the US phenomenon Jersey Shore and the British hit The Only Way is Essex.

Not that anyone in televisionland is going to listen to me, but I would urge caution. Remember, Nine thought Excess Baggage would be a huge hit, too.

There are a lot of potential pitfalls with this kind of programming, and one of them is beating your chest too loudly when they are launched.

The days when people will watch a show based purely on the station's own promotional efforts are long, long gone. It takes positive word of mouth, and -- especially with shows targetted to a young audience -- a lot of genuine internet buzz before a show will become a hit.

If anything, overzealous promotion will turn potential viewers off (as I believe it did with Excess Baggage).

The fact that the formula has worked elsewhere counts for very little. Success or otherwise will depend on casting, production values, scheduling and a lot of luck.

The Shire may well be the next big thing and, given the lacklustre performance of many of its other shows this year, I'm sure Ten has a lot riding on it.

To be honest, I'm hoping it isn't a hit. Why? Because it means we'll have another bunch of oxygen-sucking pseudo-celebrities clogging up media coverage that could be devoted to actual achievers.

Given the backlash The Circle's Yumi Stynes and George Negus received over their comments about Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts Smith, maybe Ten should be making a real "reality" show about people who've done something to benefit others.

Sharing the fame

Posted March 9th, 2012 by debritz

It began as a simple question posed on Twitter and Facebook:

Brisbane: Tonight we unveil another statue to a footballer. Have we honoured any great scientists, artists or peacemakers in bronze lately?

Now, I'd like to follow it up. First, by saying that I have no objection at all the rugby league lovers honouring Darren Lockyer for his achievements in the game. Or, for that matter, our publicity-hungry politicians trying to get in on the act. I just wish they'd cheerlead for some other great achievers more often.

What I am saying, though, is that there are plenty of other Queenslanders, living and dead, who deserve public recogniition for their achievements in their fields, and not all of them are getting it.

I know there are many in the fields of science and politics, and the military, but I'm going to restrict this argument to the arts, which is my major field of interest.

A few years ago, I supported a move to get a theatre named after Alan Edwards, the founding artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company. So far, he has received no public recognition, even though, arguably, without his influence the international careers of hundreds of actors and other professionals, including Geoffrey Rush, Bille Brown and Carol Burns, may not have taken off.

I'm going to present a list now, and this is mainly from the top of my head and a quick internet search, so I'm sure to have missed some very important names. I reserve the right to amend it. I also acknowledge that some of them have already received statues or other recognition, but many of them have not.

I also not that there's an emphasis on people who are or have been widely known outside of Australia, and that I've omitted some younger people, such as authors Nick Earls and John Birmingham, writer-actors Adam Zwar and Jason Gann, and comedian Josh Thomas, who are (in my opinion) likely to go on to greater success.

Actors Geoffrey Rush, Ray Barrett, Diane Cilento, Barry Otto, Bille Brown, Carol Burns and Barry Creyton all have of have had international profiles. Other notables include Sigrid Thornton and Leonard Teale,.

Writers include Thea Astley, David Malouf, Judith Wright, Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

In popular music, there are The Saints, The Go-Betweens, Powderfinger and Savage Garden, and in opera we have Donald Shanks and Lisa Gasteen.

There are many famous Queensland dancers including Garth Welch and Leanne Benjamin.

Delving into the ratings

Posted March 6th, 2012 by debritz

Some figures that fell off the back of a metaphorical truck provide an interesting perspective on the first official radio survey for 2012.

The 15-minute breakdowns reveal that changes to the 612ABC on-air line-up have had an immediate, positive impact on the station's daytime schedule.

Audience share for the local ABC station has increased in every segment across the day, from 5am to 7pm, as compared to the final survey of 2011 -- with only two exceptions, one of them a tie.

The figures are particularly good for top-rating breakfast host Spencer Howson, who added as many as 5.0 percentage points in some 15-minute segments.

In evenings, however, new host Rebecca Levingston has a substantially lower audience than her popular predecessor, Steve Austin, who has moved to mornings.

The stats also indicate that 612ABC dominates the AM dial and continues to be the preferred news-talk choice over commercial rival 4BC for most of the day. In some 15-minute segments, Howson has more than twice the audience of BC's Peter Dick and Mary Collier.

The good news for BC is that the race becomes tighter in the middle of the day, with Greg Cary narrowly beating Austin between 10.15 and 11am. BC also enjoys extremely narrow leads between 2.30pm and 3.45pm, but 612's Tim Cox pulls away from 5pm on. Levingston maintains the lead over 4BC until 8pm, when the commercial station swaps Sports Today for the Walter Williams show.

A word of caution: January-February is an atypical time for 612, largely due to cricket interrupting the normal schedule. On top of that, the ABC always does well when there are big political stories around, and they have not been in short supply this year. The latter factor is of particular benefit to the news and current affairs offerings, and to the mornings shift.

Making a meal of it

Posted March 6th, 2012 by debritz

Yesterday, after I posted this item about the state of television in Australia, I received a direct message from somebody who works in the industry.

Noting that "fatal decay" in broadcast television began years ago, my correspondent added: "Who wouldn't rather order from a menu?"

The food analogy is a useful one, but I'd employ it differently. I'd say, who would want to choose from a limited menu when there's a whole smorgasbord to be enjoyed? Oh, and not everybody wants to eat at the same time, and no matter how good the chef is, we don't always want to eat at the same restaurant.

This is why, even with the greater flexibility offered by having extra digital channels, free-to-air television can't compete with pay-TV, let alone the internet.

Online, you can get anything you want exactly when you want it. The only problem is that it's not legal in Australia yet. But, as with music file-sharing, that can't be far away, because the people who make the product, quite reasonably, want to get paid when people consume it.

In reply to the message, I said that, even though it was apparent to people inside the station bunkers, it didn't appear that the television networks were doing enough to cope with this revolution.

Yesterday, I finished up by writing that My Kitchen Rules "is a step in the right direction, because it's popular, original content that the Seven Network can exploit in other media".

Another, perhaps better, example is Home And Away, the Australian soap opera that regularly attracts more than 1 million viewers at home and millions more in overseas markets. It feeds Seven's own schedule, and will be making money for its producers well into the future, through repeats.

At the moment, network production resources are largely devoted to news and current affairs. That's a good thing for short-term ratings results but, in general, these programs have a very short "tail". There's an immediate ratings return, that is rewarded by increased income from advertising, but there are no ongoing payments for repeats (except for sales of library material).

To survive, networks simply must focus on being production houses first, and broadcasters second. If they are not out there seeking fresh talent -- starting with writers who can produce great scripts -- and prepared to take a punt on drama and comedy, then they are signing their own death warrants.

The elephant in the room

Posted March 5th, 2012 by debritz

If you've been following this blog, or you've heard me speak on radio, or you follow me in social media, you'll already know my stock response whenever anybody tells me how a television program attracted a large audience.

Other person: "My Kitchen Rules had two million viewers last night."

Me: "Well, that's 20 million people who didn't watch it, then."

Now, I'm not dissing MKR, or the rugby league, or whatever else it is that Australians want to watch in great numbers. What I am saying, however, is that when, on an average night, fewer than two million people in the country's five biggest cities are watching the same program -- and, importantly, the same ads -- at the same time, can it really be referred to as "mass media" any more?

Take a look at the excellent research by popular culture historian David Dale.

According to Dale, at least three programs in the history of television have been watched by more than half the Australian population. They were all special events: the wedding and funeral of Diana Spencer and the 2000 Olympics opening ceremony. Now that's a mass audience.

But amid these one-offs, and a swag of hit movies and miniseries, you have to run your finger a long way down the list to find a regularly scheduled program that has captivated anything like a genuinely huge audience slice. And, as the years go on, fewer and fewer people are consuming the same thing at the same time.

So far this year, the top-rating show has been MKR, which has been watched by about one in 10 Australians. Of course, they are the same people night after night. From an advertiser's perspective, it's a matter of reinforcing a message to those people over and over again, but not reaching anybody new.

The figures are nothing to sneeze at, and television remains the biggest show in town for now. But while the number of eyeballs and ears glued to the goggle box is getting smaller and smaller, things are rather different on the internet. The growth is all online.

The internet is a wild and strange place, and advertisers and their bookers are rightly wary of it. Most importantly, rather than a choice of a dozen or so channels, there are hundreds of millions of websites.

However, some sites are cutting through big time. How can you ignore this burgeoning medium when one of the biggest players, News Limited, claims it alone attracts about 7.7 million unique viewers to its sites every month?

Now, there are big difference between banner ads (or even splash ads and video) on the internet and TV commercials, but the former do have some significant advantages.

While it is possible to block ads on a website, most people don't, and indeed can't, do it. They do see web ads (and, increasingly, hear them), but they can and often do choose not to see television ads (via time-shifting, or by changing channels, or by simply leaving the room for a few minutes).

Like newspaper ads, web ads are always there for most of the audience. Unlike newspaper ads, they can be directly targetted to the particular person viewing the page, thanks to technology that stores our personal information on our computers and, increasingly, in the cloud.

I can, and almost certainly will, write more on this subject, but the simple point I'm trying to make now is that the TV networks, and other "traditional' media for that matter, can't afford to ignore the elephant in the room. They have to ramp-up their own online offerings if they are to stay in the game.

And they have to realise that their competitors are not just the other television networks. Everybody with a web page is now a potential broadcaster, and television sets are not the only (or even major) means by which people tune-in.

At least, a program like MKR is a step in the right direction, because it's popular, original content that the Seven Network can exploit in other media. Other networks are relying on sport -- to which they have only the telecast rights (which they risk losing) rather than actual control -- and imported programs which audiences can access through other means.

When Davy met Marcia

Posted March 1st, 2012 by debritz

Perhaps this isn't the finest moment in the career of Davy Jones, the British actor and lead singer of The Monkees, who has died at just 66, but it was the one that imediately came to my mind:

(I'm not sure as a responsible parent I'd be letting an older man take my teenage daughter to the prom, though.)

March 1, 2012

Posted March 1st, 2012 by debritz

February 27, 2012

Posted February 28th, 2012 by debritz

February 26, 2012

Posted February 26th, 2012 by debritz

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