Who'll be the new King?
Posted September 24th, 2011 by debritz
Update: Even more names, Craig Zonca, Cathy Border, Rebecca Levingston, Alex Bernard, Bill McDonald, Natalie Bochenski and Patrick Condren, are now in the mix. See the comments.
At the start of this year, I wrote here that there'd be a lot of changes on Brisbane radio in 2011. I expected most of them to be at the commercial stations - as, indeed, they have been (with more to come).
But change isn't restricted to the commercial sphere; 612ABC is about to alter its core Monday-Friday line-up for the first time in half a decade. This has been brought on by afternoons host Richard Fidler's decision to devote his radio activities exclusively to the national 11am Conversation Hour, and Madonna King's decision to leave the helm of the 8.30am-11am current affairs and lifestyle show.
As you'd expect, there's lots of lobbying behind the scenes (all done in a very dignified manner, of course), and there probably won't be an official announcement for some time. If Aunty is true to form, the morning shift will have a series of stand-in hosts for the rest of the year after King hangs up her headphones on October 21.
The relevant decision-makers will also probably consider reshuffling the entire deck of presenters, meaning there may be more than two new voices on air.
Given the station's comparatively strong performance in the ratings, though, it's unlikely that Spencer Howson (the No.1 breakfast announcer in the city, who has surely got that job for as long as he wants it), Kelly Higgins-Devine or Steve Austin will be moved on altogether.
So who are the contenders for the two vacant spots?
When King announced her decision, 612ABC crossed to Premier Anna Bligh, who said nice things about King but also endorsed ABC political reporter Chris O'Brien (who was holding the microphone she was speaking into) to take over the morning shift.
O'Brien (pictured) certainly has the credentials for the job - especially the flagship half-hour from 8.30am where the big state issues of the day are discussed.
Other people who may be considered for one of the vacancies are:
Terri Begley, a former ABC News Radio host, who is the regular fill-in for King, and is widely liked by listeners and within Aunty;
Kirsten MacGregor, a former mornings host and now a senior newsreader;
Tim Cox, formerly the mornings host on ABC local radio in Hobart, now presenting the breakfast shift on ABC Coast FM on the Gold Coast;
Steve Austin, again a former mornings presenter who now hosts the popular night-time program;
Katrina Davidson, a standup comic, producer and announcer who had a successful run filling in for Austin, maintaining the No.1 spot for that shift (if Austin moves, she'd be a comfortable fit for evenings);
Lee Anderson, former Channel 9 news director and highly experienced and well-connected journalist who fell on his sword over the "choppergate" scandal, even though he was away at the time;
Greg Cary, the veteran and talented mornings host on 4BC who may want to escape the uncertainties of the commercial world;
Ian Skippen, the now-jobless former Triple M and B105 anchor, who would be popular with the ABC audience and could easily slot into afternoons or evenings in a 612ABC reshuffle (but not the morning show);
Anthony Frangi, a former ABC and 4BC presenter who has also worked in ABC management, often does fill-in shifts (including during the floods), and has a warm, friendly and familiar style;
Peter Gooch, a former mornings and nights presenter who now works behind the scenes but maintains a strong audience following;
Scott Rollinson, a Toowoomba-based ABC announcer who has been filling in on 612ABC evenings recently;
John Birmingham, the well-known author has been on air in Fidler's afternoon spot recently, and seems to enjoy the medium - but he probably doesn't want a full-time radio gig.
Obviously, the ABC has plenty of experienced and talented people who will be putting their hands up for one of the jobs, as will many others from the outside.
The only thing that's for sure is that, in 2012, Brisbane radio surely will sound different. (Hang on, I think somebody's already used that one ...)
Image of Chris O'Brien is from the ABC Brisbane website