Marto's mates revealed

Posted September 25th, 2011 by debritz


(Photo from Triple M website.)

It's been confirmed that former Nova announcer Michelle Anderson will be joining Greg "Marto" Martin on the new Triple M Brisbane breakfast show. So, too, will be former Big Brother housemate Peter Timbs.

According to the Triple M website, the show will debut on Wednesday and will be known as The Grill Team - suggesting at least some interaction with the Sydney Triple M breakfast show of the same name featuring Matty Johns, Mark Geyer and Gus Worland (and making networking of content easier).

Good luck to them; it's going to be a tough battle in 2012.

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

Radio activity

Posted September 23rd, 2011 by debritz

+ The story so far + What next for Ian Skippen? + Who's on with Marto? + Where's Kip Wightman? + What about 4KQ, 4BH and 4BC?

The music hasn't stopped yet on the great game of musical chairs that's been Brisbane radio for the past few weeks. While I expect more changes to come, it's a good time to take stock of what's already happened and why.

The first interesting thing, to me at least, is the timing of all these changes and announcements. Normally, this sort of thing happens at the end of the year, and new line-ups debut in January.

It's clear that the battle for listeners' hearts and minds, and advertisers' dollars, in 2012 has already begun.

Let's recap: First, Nova 106.9 poaches Camilla Severi from B105, who replace her pretty quickly with Abby Coleman (described on the station's website as a "gorgeous chick", which is, of course, oh-so-important for a career in radio these days. Oh, and she's pregnant, which is a bonus if you want to engage with young mums, which B105 does).

Then, Nova also rehires the repentant Ash Bradnam and David "Luttsy" Lutteral, who were part of its successful original breakfast team. I predicted at the time that Kip Wightman, the original anchor, would also be back. Although he's at 97.3 right now, negotiations are still underway, which is why the bloke pushing the buttons is being called "Stand-in Dan".

All the Nova changes came about because the network wanted to change its Sydney breakfast show, getting rid of Merrick Watts and parachuting in the drive team of Fitzy and Wippa (Ryan Fitzgerald and Michael Wipfli). That, of course, meant there was a vacancy in national drive. Meshel Laurie has long wanted to return to Melbourne, so she and her fellow Brisbane brekkie hosts, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold (who had already hosted Austereo's Shebang drive show some moons ago), were natural choices for that gig.

While all that was underway, Southern Cross Austereo was also plotting to ditch The Cage breakfast show on Triple M Brisbane, to create a more sports-oriented show like the ones it has in Melbourne, with Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy, and Sydney, with Gus Worland and Matty Johns.

Now this might seem a bit strange, because both those shows are doing worse in the ratings than The Cage was. But, it's not only about numbers, it's about demographics. SCA presumably figures it can make more advertising moolah by having two different but complementary offerings in each market -- a "girly" station playing top 40 hits with funny banter, and a "blokey" one playing rock and talking a lot about sport.

Greg "Marto" Martin has been confirmed as the host of the Brisbane Triple M show, and there's been a lot of speculation about who the other team members are. The announcement will probably made in one of the weekend papers. (If I was still Sunday Mail entertainment editor, I know I'd want to run it - but I'd also want to run an interview with Ian Skippen.)

The timing is perfect with the NRL and AFL grand finals imminent, and the Rugby World Cup ongoing, but can they sustain their energy during the long summer of cricket? I guess a networked show will chew up some of the non-ratings time, though (and maybe paved the way for more interaction between the different teams, perhaps with a long-term view of a national breakfast program).

So, what next? Will the Australian Radio Network, which owns 4KQ and half of 97.3FM (with Nova owner DMG), want to make some changes too? Probably not at 97.3 -- at least not in breakfast, where Robin Bailey, Bob Gallagher and Terry Hansen are doing well -- but maybe at KQ.

I can almost guarantee there will be changes at 4BC and 4BH, but not until after the issue of ownership is settled. Fairfax Radio, which also owns 2UE in Sydney, 6PR in Perth, 3AW in Melbourne and other stations, has put all its assets on the block. The successful buyer is expected to be announced very soon, and they're likely to want to move quickly to be competitive in 2012. BC isn't doing anywhere near as well as commercial talk stations elsewhere in the country, and 4BH is not doing terribly well at all (it's not easy being an AM music station, which is also KQ's problem).

There's been a lot of talk online -- some of it started by me -- about the future of Triple M's Ian Skippen, a seasoned announcer with a strong personal following. If I were running ARN or whoever is buying BC and BH (probably John Singleton's Macquarie Media group but maybe not), I'd be chasing Skippen now. His appeal among longtime Brisbane listeners would definitely be a bonus for KQ, BH or BC. I wouldn't be surprised if Skip is fielding calls right now.

Now, what about 612ABC, whose morning show host Madonna King announced her resignation today? Well, that subject is deserving of a post of its own, and I'll be writing that one soon.

Ian Skippen image from Triple M Brisbane website tribute to The Cage

Madonna King to leave Brisbane radio show

Posted September 23rd, 2011 by debritz

Brisbane 612ABC's Madonna King is leaving her morning show on October 21 to pursue a new career moderating conferences and writing a book.

King told her audience she wants to spend more time with her young children and her husband. She said she had been considering the move since the start of this year.

King foreshadowed the announcement earlier in a conversation with breakfast host Spencer Howson, saying: "I have not been arrested and I am not carrying twins."

Premier Anna Bligh paid tribute to King this morning, saying the only person who could replace her was ABC political reporter Chris O'Brien. Bligh was talking to O'Brien at the time.

It's already known that there will be a change to the 612 line-up next year, because Richard Fidler will give up his early afternoon slot to concentrate on the national Conversation Hour at 11am. Author John Birmingham has been filling in for Fidler during the past week.

The 612ABC weekday line-up of Howson (who is Brisbane's No.1 breakfast announcer), King, Fidler, Kelly Higgns-Devine and Steve Austin has remained stable for the past five years.

The past few weeks have already seen changes at B105, Nova 106.9 and Triple M, where Ian Skippen and the Cage are hosting their final breakfast show today. Radio insiders expect even more changes to come for 2012.

Update: Here is some audio from this morning's Madonna King program, beginning with her winding-up a chat with Minister for Employment, Skills and Mining Stirling Hinchliffe and LNP parliamentary leader Jeff Seeney.

Skippen through the years

Posted September 22nd, 2011 by debritz

While speculation mounts about who will replace Ian Skippen on the Triple M breakfast show, The Courier-Mail has rightly given over some space today to pay tribute to the veteran broadcaster.

Skip, or Skippy, as he's known on air (it's compulsory for everyone to have a nickname on commercial radio), has been a part of Brisbane's breakfast diet for decades, and he's a good bloke to boot.

However, these paragraphs raised at least one of my eyebrows:

On air for 42 years yet only 51? My, he did start young.

I sincerely hope we haven't heard the last of Skip. There are a few stations in the Brisbane market alone that could do with someone with his experience and proven audience appeal. For example, the soon-to-be-announced new owners of 4BH and 4BC might want to take a close look at his resume (not to mention the ratings figures).

Somehow, though, I think we can rule out a reunion between him and his old B105 sparring partner Jamie Dunn, but that could make compelling gloves-off radio.

Who are Marto's Triple M mates?

Posted September 21st, 2011 by debritz

Update: This subject has provoked spirited comment on Twitter and TV. One tweeter says both names are wrong, others say Michelle Anderson (former Nova) - or perhaps Mel Anderson - will be part of the show, and names including Jason "Aker" Akermanis and Richard Campion have been thrown in the mix. Once again, I've sought clarification from Triple M ...

Update 2: (Sep 22) The Courier-Mail is also tipping Anderson and Akermanis, along with Jamie Charman.

I'm sure I'll write about this more, and at greater length, but the rumour doing the rounds is that Paul "Fatty" Vautin and Ben Ikin will be the "mates" joining Greg "Marto" Martin on air on Triple M Brisbane's rebooted breakfast show.

As tipped here yesterday, and confirmed this morning, The Cage breakfast show has been axed after six years. Out the door are Ian "Skippy" Skippen, Emily-Jade O'Keeffe and Greg "Sully" Sullivan, but Martin remains.

I guess if you're going for a blokey show to complement Triple M's offerings in Sydney and Melbourne, then it makes sense to have two rugby league pundits on your panel. But what happens when the cricket season rolls around, and who's going to cover off on AFL?

The Cage closes

Posted September 21st, 2011 by debritz

Another week, another change in the Australian radio landscape: Triple M Brisbane has announced that its long-running breakfast show, The Cage with Ian Skippen, Greg "Marto" Martin, Greg "Sully" Sullivan and Emily-Jade O'Keeffe, is coming to an end.

Only Martin will remain with the station, to host a new sport-themed program with "a few of his mates".

The final Cage show will be broadcast this Friday, September 23, with a celebration of its six years on air.

Southern Cross Austereo Brisbane general manager Richard Barker said making the decision to end The Cage was "incredibly tough".

“This is a decision which has been one of the hardest to make. It involves a team of people who are highly talented, supremely professional and genuinely likeable. It has been a privilege to have them in our team for so long," he said.

“Brisbane as a city is growing incredibly fast; it’s changing constantly and our listeners are reflecting the change. Enabling us to reach our targeted audience is critical to the success of Triple M, and we have made a decision to change our breakfast show. As a result, the cycle for The Cage format has come to an end.”

“The Brisbane radio landscape probably hasn’t seen this much change across the board since the introduction of the last new FM licence in 2005, and after listening to those that listen to us, we are keen to introduce the new show and new format as soon as possible."

Barker described Skippen, who formerly captained the B105 Morning Crew for two decades, as "an institution on the radio landscape of Brisbane" and as "true radio royalty".

"The man has made an indelible mark on Brisbane and we thank him unconditionally for working with Triple M, and prior to that, sister station B105,” he said.

From the Triple M website

Broom hits Brisbane radio?

Posted September 20th, 2011 by debritz

A strong rumour has emerged that a Brisbane radio station is poised to sack its entire breakfast team. I have been told which one, but in fairness to all those involved, I am seeking a comment from management before publishing anything else. I'll update this blog as soon as that happens, or other confirmation emerges.

Update: No word from station management yet, but I believe other media are chasing the story. Remember, you read it here (or saw it on my Twitter feed) first - and that I'm doing the right thing by waiting for official confirmation or other comment before posting the name of the station or names of the individuals involved.

Aunty's finest

Posted September 16th, 2011 by debritz

As a judge in two of the categories, and a keen radio listener, I'd like to extend my congratulations to the winners of the ABC Local Radio Awards. I know it's usual and polite and boring to say that the standard was very high, but it really was, and all entrants do deserve commendation. It's a privilege to have heard so much great program-making and community engagement from all around Australia. The full list of winners is here.

97.3 consolidates ratings success

Posted September 13th, 2011 by debritz

Brisbane's 97.3FM has hung on to its overall lead in the radio ratings, despite a small drop in audience, and is ahead of a neck-and neck B105 and Nova 106.9, with a resurgent Triple M not far behind.

612 ABC's Spencer Howson (pictured) remains No.1 in the battle for breakfast.

4BC has also had a ratings rebound, which put in back in front of 4KQ overall and equal fifth (approaching double figures for the first time in ages) in breakfast. However, the results are bad news for 4BH, which has dropped to a recent-memory low of a 4.6pc share overall (5pc on the by-demographic figures) and 3.8 in breakfast.

4BC may have gone in the right direction in breakfast, but 612ABC's Madonna King had a good survey, scraping ahead of BC's Greg Cary in the morning shift. Aunty's Steve Austin also did well, and is now No. 1 in nights. 4BC's Walter Williams also did well in nights, with a 2.7 percentage points rise.

The 4BH and 4BC figures are significant in a month where their sale from Fairfax Radio, possibly to the Macquarie Media group, is expected to be announced.

The breakfast results were: Spencer Howson 612ABC (13.4pc audience share); Nova 106.9's Mashel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell (11.3pc); and 97.3 FM's Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher (10.7pc).

Overall, by session, the order was: 97.3FM, B105, Nova 106.9, Triple M, 612ABC, 4BC, Triple J, 4KQ, 4BH, ABC Radio National, ABC FM (Classical) and ABC News Radio.

B105's Labby (Jason Hawkins) and Stav Davidson rated 9.8pc, a recent low for the former high-rating team, which suffered the turmoil of losing co-host Camilla Severi to Nova 106.9. The addition of Abby Coleman to the show is not fully reflected in these results, for June 26 to September 3.

B105 was ahead of Triple M's The Cage, with Ian Skippen, Emily Jade O'Keeffe, Greg Martin and Greg "Sully" Sullivan (9.4pc), who tied with Peter Dick and Mary Collier on 4BC. 4KQ's Laurel Edwards, "Handy" Gary Clare and Mark Hine (8.5pc)were next, followed by Triple J's Tom and Alex (6.6pc) and 4BH's Michael Price.

The survey 6 results have been released in a week that sees more changes in the radio soundscape.

The figures also do not reflect the changes at Nova, which launched a new breakfast show in Brisbane this week featuring former B105 personality Camilla along with ex-106.9 cereal stars Ash Bradnam and David "Luttsy" Lutteral, and a new national Drive show with the most recent Brisbane breakfast team of Meshel, Marty and Tim.

In Sydney, 2GB and its star attraction, breakfast host Alan Jones, are both up in the ratings and in No.1, ahead of 702 ABC and Adam Spencer, and 2Day and Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O.

2UE, another Fairfax station on the block, is down overall and in breakfast, although Nova 96.9 and its departing long time breakfast host Merrick Watts had a slight rebound.

In Melbourne, 3AW and its John Burns and Ross Stevenson breakfast juggernaut, continue to lead the way ahead of Fox FM and 774ABC. Triple M's Eddie McGuire put on listeners as the AFL season draws to its climax.

Despite big names including Andrew Bolt, MTR is languishing at the bottom of the ratings pile. Its future seems sealed if and when its operator Macquarie gains control of its superior competitor 3AW.

While Hamish Blake and Andy Lee may not be setting the television world on fire, they are being missed on radio. In their hometown of Melbourne, Fox lost a ratings point in the Drive shift they now only host once a week, and numbers were also slightly down for B105 and 2Day.

Is that Kelsey?

Posted September 10th, 2011 by debritz

As this is a forum topic, I suppose the editors of this website didn't make this error. But they really should fix it:

As recommended by ...

Posted September 5th, 2011 by debritz

Today is David "Luttsy" Lutteral's birthday. Next week, he and his old pal Ash Bradnam will be returning to the airwaves on Nova 106.9 as breakfast hosts alongside former B105 star Camilla Severi. Reason enough, I reckon, for me to revive this old video of Ash and Luttsy endorsing this blog:

Just like the Beatles, nicht wahr?

Posted September 4th, 2011 by debritz

This man's name is Klaus Beyer. He has just completed a 13-year project to translate into German and re-record all the Beatles' albums. My only comment on his vocal style is that it's unique. Read this story and check out his jukebox. If you only listen to one song today, make it Kommt zusammen.

What the public wants

Posted August 30th, 2011 by debritz

One of the first things I learned in newspapers is that an editor should not pay an undue amount of attention to the content of letters to the editor. Mostly, I was told (and later discovered for myself), they were written by the same people grinding the same axes, and they were in no way indicative of the consensus of the general (or targetted) public.

The fact though was that, if you wrote to the newspaper enough, the chances were that you'd get published often and you'd have a disproportionate say. The same is true of callers to talk radio - ring in a lot and, especially if you're provocative or a bit simple (so they can poke fun of you), or it's a slow time of day, you'll get to air. Now, the same is true in the online world - post a lot of comments and no matter how awful, inane or inflammatory they are, they will appear.

However, letters to the editor are almost always read carefully and edited by professional journalists who understand the laws of defamation, contempt of court and sub-judice, and have a fairly well-honed sense of what is appropriate and fair, and what isn't. Many papers also go to the effort of confirming the true identity of the writer.

On radio, producers vet callers before they go to air, and "live" broadcasts are on a 5-to-7-second delay, meaning the announcer or panel operator can press a "kill" button if things get out of hand and the offending words won't be heard by the listeners.

But, as I noted on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, it seems that some media websites are not paying enough attention to the comments being posted on their websites. I wrote this in regard to Sydney's 2UE, which was still publishing comments referring to allegations about Prime Minister Julia Gillard which The Australian newspaper had already acknowledged were false.

I asked: Where was the moderator? To my mind, many of the comments on that issue, and many other issues, should have been edited or not published at all. It's got nothing to do with my political views, it's the simple fact that if any media site publishes a defamatory remark and it does get sued, it will only have itself to blame.

Meanwhile, over at the Nova 106.9 website, a potentially more dangerous game was (and, as I write, still is) being played. They were running a Twitter feed displaying any tweets using a particular hashtag, plus Facebook comments from a fan page, about their new breakfast show. I'm assuming the process is completely automated, which may be cheap but it is in no way in the station's own interests.

As it's turned out so far, it's meant that Nova has been "publishing" some rather unflattering and potentially hurtful comments about its own new breakfast star, Camilla Severi. I feel sorry for her but I'm also tempted to say, good on Nova for allowing people to express their views freely, even if they are at odds with the company's own commercial aims.

Presumably Nova's research indicates that the comments are wrong, and the new show will be a success. Maybe they think any publicity is good publicity. (However, I'm sure if somebody rang in and started bagging the station or its stars, they'd be "killed" pretty quickly.)

But there's a more serious issue here than simple abuse: what if somebody were to tweet an extremely defamatory or racially offensive remark using the Nova-nominated hashtag and it ended up on the company's website for a sustained period of time? What if somebody sued? Who would be responsible: the author (if they could be identified) or the publisher?

Surely a test case on this issue is not far away.

PS: I've posted some of the comments here.

It's Ash, Camilla and Luttsy

Posted August 29th, 2011 by debritz

As predicted on this blog, Ash Bradnam and Camilla Severi will host Nova 106.9FM's breakfast show.

I also reported (here) that David "Luttsy" Lutteral and Kip Wightman had been in talks to join the show, which replaced the Meshel (Laurie), Tim (Blackwell) and Marty (Sheargold) program, soon to be heard nationally from 4-6pm.

Luttsy has been confirmed as part of the line-up, and I believe Kip may also join (unless he's had a better offer from ARN, for whom he hosts the 97.3 afternoon show), as the show's anchor. He's certainly got the chops for another primetime gig. A non-scientific survey of online reaction suggests that would be a popular move (although some Tweets and posts have been less than cool about Camilla - see the edited extract from the Nova tweet feed, below.)

Nova says Ash, Camilla and Luttsy will be on air from September 12, suggesting Severi has been released early from her contract with B105, which reportedly runs to the end of the year.

They will be going head-to-head in the hits music arena with and the revised line-up of Labby (Jason Hawkins), Abby Coleman and Stav Davidson on B105. the resurgent Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher on 97.3FM are playing a slightly older-skewed music list but are still chasing many of the same advertisers.

As I've been writing for months now, stay tuned for further changes in Australian radio in the coming weeks and months. 2012 will be a do-or-die year.

Pineapple juice

Posted August 26th, 2011 by debritz

A media release announcing the sale and relaunch of Queensland's iconic Big Pineapple tourist attraction notes:

The Big Pineapple burnt down and was rebuilt in 1978, and during its life has been owned by various operators, including Rupert Murdoch during the 1880’s ...

Oh, come on. Rupert's not that old.

PS: It's good news that the new owners, Big Pineapple Corp. Pty Ltd, plan to "rejuvenate the site, restore the Heritage-Listed icon and create a market hub for locals and visitors alike".

Movement at the stations

Posted August 26th, 2011 by debritz

As revealed exclusively on this blog 10 days ago, Nova 106.9's Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell have confirmed they are moving to the network's drive shift. Drive incumbents Fitzy and Wippa will move to the Sydney Nova 969 breakfast show, replacing longtime host Merrick Watts, and will be heard on other Nova stations in a daily 6-7pm highlights spot.

The drive move will occur on September 12, giving Nova a headstart in the race for the 2012 ratings crown. Meshel, Tim and Marty - who will be broadcasting from Melbourne, not Brisbane (as I also predicted) - will name their Nova Brisbane breakfast replacements on Monday. I've long been tipping Camilla Severi and Ash Bradnam for the job. I also understand that former breakfast team members Kip Wightman and David "Luttsy" Lutteral have been in talks with Nova over the past few weeks.

As I have repeatedly stated here, there will be more changes to come, on both Nova and at other stations, as the battle for listeners' and advertisers' hearts, minds and dollars continues apace.

Update: In other radio news, the Fairfax press is reporting that Fairfax Media's "plan to sell its radio stations ... are in an 'advanced' stage". The assets include 3AW, 2UE and 4BC, and John Singleton's Macquarie Radio group, which owns talk stations 2GB and MRT, has long been tipped as as the buyer for all or some of the stations.

Private equity group Ironbridge Capital has also been named as a potential purchaser. Whatever happens, belt-tightening, including changes on air and behind the scenes, is inevitable.

Choppergate: 3 sacked, boss quits

Posted August 25th, 2011 by debritz

Two journalists - Melissa Mallet and Cameron Price - and producer Aaron Wakeley have been sacked, and Channel Nine Queensland news director Lee Anderson has resigned over what's become known as the "choppergate" affair. (The Courier-Mail has the story here.)

The decision to broadcast twice from Mt Coot-tha while pretending to be on location "near Beerwah" clearly embarrassed Nine News, which is trying to reclaim its No. 1 status on the back of qualityand trustworthy reporting.

I have known Lee Anderson for a very long time (we met while studying journalism at different universities) and I have always known him to be a man of integrity and great ability. According to reports, Anderson was not on duty when the decision to fake the "live crosses" was made, but he has fallen on his sword - perhaps in protest at the sackings, as Channel 10's Hugh Riminton has suggested on Twitter. However, Nine's media release says the sackings happened "subsequently" to Anderson's resignation.

Update: Price has tweeted: "Thanks for all the support. I believe what happened today is completely unfair .. And I am seeking advice on the matter." Mallet has called it "a difficult day to fathom". (Thursday pm)

Update 2: Price's Twitter status has been changed to "Walkey and Clarion nominated Journo. With a clear conscience." (Friday am)

Exactly how the decisions to fake the crosses came to be made may never be known, but the incident highlights not just a lack of professional judgment and breach of ethics (by whom?), but also the pressures under which journalists operate. In the case of TV reporters, the mantra is to have "vision" at all costs.

As one of my Facebook friends wrote earlier tonight, will the spotlight now fall on the practices of some other TV news and current affairs reporters and producers?


Posted August 25th, 2011 by debritz

From ninemsn:

It's Labby, Stav and Abby

Posted August 25th, 2011 by debritz

Brisbane's B105 has announced that Abby Coleman will replace Camilla Severi on the breakfast show. The timing of the announcement on Wednesday night would seem to have been designed to steal some of the thunder from Nova, which is announcing nationwide changes on Friday morning.

My understanding is that this will involve new breakfast shows in Sydney (with Wippa and Fitzy) and Brisbane (with Camilla, Ash Bradnam and Kip Wightman) and a national drive show with the existing Brisbane breakfast team of Meshel Laurie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold.

The big question is: has B105 released Camilla from her contract to work immediately at Nova 106.9, or will she be on the bench until January 1?

Faking it

Posted August 24th, 2011 by debritz

One of the great criticisms newspaper and radio journalists often make of their television colleagues is that they work by the mantra that "if we haven't got pictures, it isn't news".

Some news, however, is too big to ignore - and that was the case for Channel 9 in Brisbane, which twice faked live crosses to the scene where remains believed to be those of missing schoolboy Daniel Morecombe were found. While the news crew pretended their helicopter was "near Beerwah", it and its crew were, in fact, at or near the station's studios on Mt Coot-tha.

Of course, TV news isn't the only culprit in the faking department. Newspaper journalists have been accused of making up quotes and facts, and, well before Photoshop made it oh-so-easy, doctoring photographs. Radio also has a long charge sheet in this department. As I was reminded just recently, ABC cricket commentators used to do "live broadcasts" of the game from the studio, using cables that gave the scores and other bare facts, then making up the rest.

As we progress in the digital age, where anybody can provide "news" online, one thing professional journalists have going for them is their integrity and sense of ethics. How can "real" journalists rail against the bloggers and aggregators when they themselves are found wanting?

Ruled by ratings

Posted August 22nd, 2011 by debritz

A contestant is singing on a TV talent show and suddenly, in the middle of the first chorus, she is yanked off the screen and we cut to another vocalist singing a completely different style of tune. On another channel, a newsreader introduces a report, but when we come back, there's somebody else in the anchor's chair; we never see the first guy again.

Welcome to a possible not-too-distant future when television ratings don't just come in the next morning - as they did in Australia today, showing huge numbers for The Block and Underbelly - but can be viewed in real time by the station's programmer, who will make instant decisions on the future of a show. If viewers start to change stations, the program will change immediately

Fanciful stuff? Well, perhaps not. Back in February this year, not long before Live from Planet Earth was axed after just three episodes, host Ben Elton complained that it wasn't being given enough time to bed in. He cited a list of extraordinarily good programs that rated very poorly in their first few episodes or seasons.

In today's economic climate, time isn't on anybody's side. If a show doesn't rate on TV (or radio for that matter), it will be pulled sooner rather than later*.

Does that mean we'll be missing out on some great TV that wasn't allowed to find its niche? Probably, yes. But then, as an old newspaper editor of mine once said, what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve.

* There are some exceptions to this rule, driven usually by a broadcaster's personal or political agenda or by the laws dictating Australian content.

Shannon's royal routine

Posted August 18th, 2011 by debritz

One of the reasons I love radio is that is (or can be) a "local" medium. However, whoever's tweeting as @B105Brisbane on behalf of the Brisbane FM station right now doesn't seem to know the Queensland capital very well. When was the last time anybody north of the NSW border called the Ekka the "Royal Show"?

Through the looking glass

Posted August 16th, 2011 by debritz

This blog is starting to look like a one-topic wonder, but it's all happening in the Australian radio industry right now. The latest regarding 2012 is that Meshel Laurie will be hosting a national Nova drive program, from Melbourne, possibly with Marty Sheargold but maybe with Merrick Watts and an anchor (Tim Blackwell?).

Breakfast on Brisbane's Nova 106.9 will be Ash Bradnam and Camilla Severi, maybe with Kip Wightman as anchor and David "Luttsy" Lutteral as roving reporter (speciality: sport). Fitzy and Wippa, who currently host the national Nova drive show, will be parachuted into breakfast on Sydney's Nova 969, to replace the Merrick and Dools show.

Meanwhile, there's a growing rumour that if John Singleton's Macquarie Radio Network succeeds in buying the Fairfax Radio network, 4BC in Brisbane will be basically relaying 2GB in Sydney. If true, in my humble opinion, it's a big mistake. While BC isn't currently setting the world on fire, talk radio is a very local thing. To my mind, replacing Greg Cary, who is BC's best performer ratings-wise, with Ray Hadley would be madness. Singleton and co. only need to look at the performance of MTR in Melbourne to know this is not a good idea.

Still, the elephant in the room is the fact that things are tight in the radio world, and the revenue gained through national marketing and sacking local staff might be worth the loss of ratings points through networking. In this case, of course, the listeners (and the jettisoned loyal workers) will be the losers.

Brisbane radio update

Posted August 15th, 2011 by debritz

Updated @ 12.38pmAEST
The Brisbane radio rumour mill has been running overtime over the past few weeks, with contract negotiations in full swing. Today, B105 has denied a report in the Courier-Mail that Jason "Labby" Hawkins is following Camilla Severi out the door. I've been told by a station spokesperson that Labby is definitely "not going anywhere".

Meanwhile, Meshel Laurie, who has been rumoured to be leaving Nova 106.9 at the end of this year, denied on air this morning that she was moving to Sydney. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that Meshel Laurie is definitely leaving Nova 106.9 and Brisbane, but not going to Sydney. Also, I've heard that the names of Kip Wightman, the former Nova breakfast anchor now heard in the afternoons on 97.3FM, and David "Luttsy" Lutteral (now an ambassador for Fourex), have been linked to those of Ash Bradnam and Camilla Severi in relation to the Nova breakfast show next year. (If they all signed up, it'd be back to the future, reinstating the original Nova Brisbane line-up with Severi replacing Laurie -- although Laurie comes from a standup background Severi doesn't.)

There are also (possibly mischief-making) rumours on Twitter about further changes at 612 ABC next year (in addition to replacing Richard Fidler in the afternoon slot.) I have asked some more questions, and will update the situation if I hear more.

As one source told me this morning, "This industry is weird." One thing I will repeat with authority is that radio in Brisbane won't quite sound the same in 2012.

Buy the book?

Posted August 14th, 2011 by debritz

It's common broadcasting wisdom that one way to know which radio stations are going to do well in an upcoming ratings survey is to count the number of billboards, TV commercials, sponsorships and taxi-backs the various stations have bought.

Those ads are not just there to get you to listen to the station, they're also there to get the name of the station uppermost in the minds of the anonymous individuals who are actually completing the survey. You see, some people aren't too bright and/or they don't really take the survey seriously, so they'll just tick off the box for the station whose name they remember, rather than the one they were actually listening to (if, indeed, they were listening at all.)

It's one of several flaws in the diary system of radio ratings, and the networks are not too shy to exploit it. You'll also notice that the stations throw around a lot of cash prizes at strategic times during the survey, with the hope of getting a good "book". So, when there is an unusual result, as there was in Brisbane last survey, some people in the industry are bound to accuse some other people of "buying" the book.

Now, I wasn't around in Brisbane to count the billboards or add up the value of the giveaways, so I coudn't possibly comment on that. In any case, this method isn't guaranteed to work -- perhaps it never has -- and, for its many faults, the survey generally gets it right in tracking trends, if not in putting absolute numbers on who's listening to what. Even if it didn't, it guides advertisers and ad agencies on how much they should spend with each station, so it's extremely important to commercial radio. The stations also do their own research, and they know what's working on air and what isn't.

Of course, knowing is one thing, being able to fix it is another thing altogether. Nevertheless, there's already a lot of manoeuvring behind the scenes, some of which has spilled over into the public arena. Camila Severi has been poached; Meshel Laurie is (reportedly) leaving; Ash Bradnam is back. And, as I've repeatedly said, that's not the end of it.

One theory is that most, if not all, Brisbane commercial stations will take the opportunity next year to reinvent their line-ups, especially in the breakfast shift, and tweak their formats. Some of them have to, to replace the people who are moving on, but others may take the opportunity to change, too, on the basis that it's going to be a whole new ball game, and there'll be a lot of audience 'sampling" of stations early in the year. Something entirely new, from left field, might just click.

The other factor over-arching all this is that times are tough. The networks simply don't have a lot of cash to throw at their talent. While some people obviously have very good deals in place, others might be forced to take pay cuts or be priced out of the market altogether. Good news if you're a rising star who doesn't want to earn a fortune straight away, or if you're an established name who's already got a deal in place. Not so good if you don't fall into either of those categories.

Whatever happens, radio in Brisbane won't quite sound the same in 2012.

Exciting, isn't it?

A social occasion

Posted August 14th, 2011 by debritz

It's three years since I signed up for Twitter. In that time, I've sent out more than 6000 short missives, and had quite a bit of fun along the way. The first big thrill was getting an email, in December 2008, announcing that "Stephen Fry is now following you on Twitter!"

Since then, I've used Twitter to keep in touch with people in far-flung places, to let family and friends know what I'm up to, to keep in touch with events back home during my many travels, to exchange ideas about the things that interest me, to promote this blog, and to discuss many other matters both trivial and profound.

In the past few weeks, I've had a fun exchange with British actress Sallly Thomsett (I had a crush on her when I was a kid and she was the star of Man About the House), and a quick conversation with the Seven Network's social media boss Adam Boland about his decision to quit Facebook in favour of Google Plus (I've joined G+ too, but I'm still updating my Facebook page).

I suppose a lot of what I've tweeted has just been more unnecessary "noise" on an increasingly crowded channel, and, arguably, I could have spent the time taken up tweeting in more profitable ways. But I've never held a virtual gun to anybody's head and made them read what I have to say, and it seems that, without my really actively seeking followers, there are 1644 "people" (yes, I know some of them are bots) interested in what I have to say - or, at least, they see some advantage in connecting with me.

I like Twitter because it allows me to do what I've always done: to jot down ideas as they occur to me, and to broadcast things that interest me. I also like to know what others are thinking and how they're feeling. It's the perfect tool for a journalist with broad interests, so I'm going to carry on tweeting.

I'm also going to embrace the next thing that comes along, and the one after that - and I guess that, like that Bebo account I signed up for but never really used, my Twitter account will one day go quiet. But I won't.

Nova's new show: Camilla and Ash

Posted August 12th, 2011 by debritz

Radio sources say Ash Bradnam, who left Nova 106.9 nearly two years ago due to personal problems that led to his arrest on drink-driving charges, has been re-signed to the network to front its breakfast show with Camilla Severi next year. Severi quit Austereo's B105 last week amid rumours she would be going to Nova, and Bradnam has recently been heard on B105's sister station Triple M as weekend breakfast host. I am told he will not be heard on the Ms tomorrow. Nova breakfast lynchpin Meshel Laurie is said to be serving out her notice, and if the latest reports about Severi and Bradnam are true, it leaves her co-stars Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell in the lurch.

It's a friendly business

Posted August 9th, 2011 by debritz

Here's an interesting instance of social networking (the Meshel in quetion is Meshel Laurie from Brisbane's Nova 106.9):

Interesting, that is, given the rumours about where Camilla, who just quit B105 (presciently on the eve of not-so-flash ratings news), will be working next year.

97.3FM tops Brisbane radio ratings

Posted August 9th, 2011 by debritz

The champagne corks will be popping in the Brisbane suburb of Stones Corner, with 97.3FM celebrating a win in the radio ratings. In second place is B105, which last week lost one-third of its breakfast trio, followed by Nova. In fourth place, in a tight field, was Triple M (based on by-session results) or 612ABC (on demographics). 612ABC's Spencer Howson remained the No.1 choice for breakfast listening, followed by 97.3's Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher, B105's Labby (Jason Hawkins), Camilla Severi and Stav Davidson, and Nova's Tim Blackwell, Marty Sheargold and Meshel Laurie.

In another surprise, 4KQ's Laurel Edwards, Mark Hine and Gary Clare overtook Triple M's The Cage with Ian Skippen, Greg Martin, Greg Sulivan and Emily-Jade O'Keeffe, to claim fifth place in breakfast. 4BC's Peter Dick and Mary Collier held steady to be be seventh place, and 4BH claimed the wooden spoon among commercial stations, both in breakfast and overall. (It was also beaten by ABC youth network Triple J.)

The results are especially good news for the Australian Radio Network (ARN), which owns 4KQ and half-owns (with DMG) 97.3, but not so good for Fairfax which is trying to offload its radio network, including the lowly ranked 4BC and 4BH. While commercial talk stations are blitzing the field in Sydney and Melbourne, BC is being outgunned by 612ABC in every session except mornings (where Greg Cary has a slender lead). And while 3AW is the bolter in Melbourne, it's the John Singleton-owned 2GB that's winning in Sydney, with Fairfax's 2UE taking another hit in the latest Nielsen survey. Back in Brisbane, Farifax's 4BH is clearly losing the battle for the golden oldies to ARN's 4KQ. (While BH is claiming an increase in cumulative audience to 190,000, its audience share is down.)

Austereo, owners of the once all-conquering B105 and Triple M, also has cause for concern, with the departure last week of Camilla Severi adding to its woes. The new management following Austereo's merger with Southern Cross was probably expecting a better outcome. While it's far from a dire result, I think there will be some retooling of both the B105 and MMM breakfast shows.

DMG-owned Nova 106.9, which led the way in breakfast for several years, is holding steady, mostly gaining listeners across the day, but will be keen to regain the top spot in breakfast - especially, if rumours that Laurie is leaving, to be replaced by Severi, are true.

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