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.
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."
Posted August 23rd, 2012 by debritz
Expanding on my tweet about digital radio ... Three years ago, I was quite excited by the technology and rushed out to buy a digital radio.
But it didn't take long to realise that, at best, it's a "bridging" technology (and an expensive one at that). Streaming media over the internet, heard mostly on mobile device is the future. Why?
+ Why buy a digital radio to get, maybe, 20 or 30 extra stations that are still controlled by the same handful of Australian operators when you can have every radio station, commercial or public, professional or amateur, in the world?
+ Digital only works in metro areas in Australia, and it would be a waste of money to extend it further. No real point in putting it in cars unless you live inner-city.
+ Older listeners won't buy digital sets, they'll stick to their transistors.
+ Younger listeners all have iPhones or other smartphones; why would they want to carry around another device? And what's the incentive for manufacturers to put DAB+ capability into smartphones?
+ With better technology and faster wireless speeds, smartphones will soon reach digital quality (or near enough that few will notice or care about the difference).
+ Yes, it's a quality product, but so were 8-track cartridges and Beta videotapes, but there's something that's more user-friendly if not technically better right now. (Were cassettes better than 8-tracks, or VHS better than Beta? No, they were just more popular.)
+ It looks like a duck but it doesn't quack. It's dead, Jim.
Update: Following a Twitter conversation, I'm prepared to go further. It is morally and ethically wrong for the radio industry to push digital receivers on to people when they are already obsolete for everyone except those who don't have home internet access and/or a "smart" device, which is mainly the older audience who are quite happy with their current AM/FM radio thank you very much. To convince an elderly person with limited funds that they need to buy a DAB+ set when all they do is listen to talk radio on AM is obscene.
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.
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.
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 Crikey.com.au.
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.
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.
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.
Posted February 23rd, 2012 by debritz
97.3FM bolted away from the pack to led the field overall in the first official 2012 Nielsen radio ratings for Brisbane, ahead of 612 ABC, which picked up audience in all daylight shifts and convincingly won breakfast.
The ARN-owned 97.3 scored more than 14pc of the available audience, followed by 612 on almost 11pc, then Nova 106.9 (10.5), B105 (10.2) and Triple M (9.4). Then followed 4BC, 4KQ, Triple J and 4BH.
In the important breakfast market, Spencer Howson at ABC 612 won a whopping 15.1pc audience share, followed by 97.3's Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher on 12.9pc, Nova's new blokey breakfast with Kip Wightman, Ash Bradnam and David "Luttsy" Lutteral on 10pc and B105's Labby, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman on 9.7. They were followed by Triple M (which lost audience across the day), 4KQ, 4BC, Triple J and 4BH.
The combination of cricket and a new line-up saw 612ABC raise its audience in all shifts except evenings, where there was a small decline. 97.3 had huge gains across the day.
In Sydney, Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O's 2Day show dropped 1.1 points but was still the dominant commercial breakfast performer. It was soundly beaten by 2GB's Alan Jones and 702 ABC's Adam Spencer.
2Day, along with FoxFm in Melbourne, also dramatically lost share in its target 18-24 year old market (down from 20.3pc to 15.4 for 2Day) and in 25-39s. This is not good news for parent company Southern Cross Austereo, which has already taken a huge hit from an advertising boycott spurred by Sandilands' offensive on-air remarks about a female journalist last year.
That share of the young audience has directly transferred to 2Day's arch-rival Nova 969, although the breakfast audience seems to have gone to Triple J.
SC Austereo's Melbourne station FoxFM also had a poor survey. Both it and 2Day lost audience in the Drive shift to Nova's Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell, but still managed to stay ahead of the commercial FM pack. In Brisbane, Nova lost Drive audience but still remained ahead of B105 and Triple M. 97.3FM won the Drive shift
Disclosure: Brett Debritz was a guest on two 612ABC panels during the ratings period.
Posted January 31st, 2012 by debritz
Commercial Radio Australia has announced changes to the way radio ratings will be gathered and compiled this year.
According to a CAR media release, "The radio industry will start a trial of online data collection for the radio ratings, closely followed by the introduction of a world-first application for tablets and mobile phones, which will allow people to input their listening habits via these devices."
The release said the "innovative approaches" were implemented as a result of recommendations put forward by the its research committee which "has been investigating best practice for listenership audience measurement in a changing digital environment".
“Australian radio has one of the most robust listenership measurement systems in the world but that doesn’t stop us investigating ways to improve it further,” CRA chief executive Joan Warner said. “It also should be remembered that one of radio’s major strengths, its mobility and reach into all situations, conversely provides one of the major challenges for radio audience measurement.”
“Research company, Ipsos, will commence a trial of online data collection in March which will be a supplementary measure to the existing diary system, This will be followed by a world first development of an m.site/application which will allow people to fill in ratings information on tablet devices and mobile phones, which the industry believes will be a unique step forward and one that we are sure will be welcomed by the advertising industry.”
Ms Warner said the first phase of online data collection would begin in Sydney, with a group of 300 people able to enter their radio listening habits online.
The CRA release said the current tender for the radio ratings, held by Neilsen, would expire at the end of next year, and tenders would be called later this year for 2014, "with proposals for online and mobile applications to supplement the paper diaries, to be part of the process".
Comment: I have long said Australia needs a new means of compiling radio ratings. Perhaps this a step in the right direction but it appears to be flawed because it still requires people to fill in their own data. Only when technology can passively record exactly what people are listening to* -- rather than what they say they are or were listening to -- and the survey includes all their listening options -- including community stations and others not currently included in the survey -- can it truly claim any accuracy and authority. This is what advertisers should be pushing for. BD
* In her release, Ms Warner noted that CRA was monitoring developments in this field but "no other electronic device has proved to be reliable enough in terms of data collection to warrant further testing".
Posted January 27th, 2012 by debritz
ABC Radio has its first permanent home in Brisbane in five years. 612ABC's top-rating breakfast host Spencer Howson (pictured, above, on the ABC webcam) was the first voice to be heard from the new South Bank studios this morning, when his guests included Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk (below).
Along with other ABC employees, 612, Radio National, News Radio and Triple J staff abandoned the broadcaster's long-time Coronation Drive, Toowong site after the discovery of a "cancer cluster". The local radio staff have spent the past five years in temporary premises at Lissner Street in Toowong, while other ABC employees have been working from different sites in Toowong and on Mt Coot-tha.
You can listen to 612, and see images from the webcam, here.
Update: Howson also welcomed to the new studio veteran ABC announcer Russ Tyson (below, right), and his colleagues Phil Smith, Tim Cox and Kelly Higgins-Devine.
Posted January 24th, 2012 by debritz
The webcam at the 612 ABC Brisbane's temporary studio in Lissner Street, Toowong, has captured images of its own demise. This series of snapshots appears to culminate with a worker reaching towards the camera to take it down:
612 ABC staff, who have been at Lissner Street for five years, are moving into the new purpose-built State ABC headquarters in South Bank this week.
First to air from the new permanent studio overlooking the Brisbane River will be breakfast host Spencer Howson on Friday morning. Howson will broadcast from the ABC's Sunshine Coast studios on Wednesday morning, and take Australia Day off.
Posted January 19th, 2012 by debritz
While there's been a lot of talk about the sacking of Nova 106.9's Camilla Severi and further controversy surrounding 2Day's Kyle and Jackie O show, the new kid on the breakfast radio block hasn't had a lot of coverage.
Francis Leach has confirmed on Twitter that his new brekkie show on ABC Grandstand Digital (you'll need to have a DAB+ receiver or use internet streaming to listen) will run Friday to Monday from 6am to 10am AEDT.
It starts on February 3.
While I'm well in favour of variety on radio, and I wish Francis and his team good luck, I do have one modest proposal: that instead of a sport report every hour after the news, there's an arts and entertainment report. Surely this is well in keeping with the ABC charter -- and I'd be happy to lend a hand in creating it!
Posted January 18th, 2012 by debritz
It's always easy to be wise after the event, and I guess there's been a lot of learned discussion inside and outside Nova 106.9 about the events that led to the sacking of Camilla Severi from the station's breakfast program earlier this week.
One of the reasons given in the past few days is that Nova's audience did not warm to Severi. Interestingly, Nova knew that would be the case back in August after they'd poached her from rival station B105.
How do I know they knew? Because I took a snapshot of the comments stream Nova was publishing on its own website back then (see beow).
I wondered at the time why Nova published all this negativity, and I wondered then -- as I do now -- how come Nova didn't know that Severi was not a good fit for their audience before they poached her. This could have been discovered by doing some simple research among their listeners about attitudes to various on-air personalities.
Those into conspiracy theories might suggest, as somebody did on Twitter, that hiring Severi was not designed to help Nova but to hurt B105. But if that's the case, why was she on air for the second half of last year and why, as late as last week, was she being promoted as being one of Nova's 2012 breakfast team? And who intervened to stop her going to air on Monday?
It's a very unfortunate set of circumstances for Nova, and especially so for Severi, whose only "crime" was that she was, apparently, the wrong person for that particular job all along.
Posted January 17th, 2012 by debritz
Just eight days ago, I predicted that the Brisbane radio sackings were not over and that another breakfast team would be shown the door.
Yesterday, Camilla Severi did not appear on the re-tooled Nova 106.9 breakfast show, and I was the first to report speculation that she was leaving the station. Today, her departure has been confirmed, and the station was quick to change the branding for the show (see above).
Severi will apparently fill another role with the DMG network, although exactly what that is has not been announced. Her departure, in the first week of the all-important ratings survey period, presumably creates an opening at Nova (it seems unlikley that they would stick with an all-male line-up).
Many pundits will have plenty to say on who will (or should) get that job. Already, 612ABC pot-stirrer Spencer Howson is putting forward the names of Lisa Kingsberry (from ABC Mt Isa), Natalie Bochenski (4BC news), Katie Clift (96.5FM) and Kat Davidson (sometime ABC announcer/producer, standup comic and wife of B105's Stav Davidson, which would make things really interesting.)
I'll throw in the possibility of a return by Meshel Laurie (perhaps on landline from Melbourne, where she hosts the national Nova drive show, maybe on a "guest" basis for, say, the 7-8am morning prime time until a permanent replacement is found), thus completing the return of the successful original Nova 106.9 line-up.
The question at hand now is: What happened that caused this parting of the ways and undid a strategy that began in the middle of last year when Nova lured Severi away from rival B105?
Without knowing the details, I feel sorry for Severi, given that her amazing career trajectory, from Big Brother "turkey-slapping" victim to radio star, to subject of a bidding war between networks, all happened at such a relatively fast pace and a young age. I hope she can and does bounce back from this.
Rival radio industry sources have suggested Severi had some personal "issues", which I'm not going to speculate on. Perhaps more to the point is that the stakes are high, and no station can afford to start the year with anything but their strongest team committed to winning at all costs.
Posted January 17th, 2012 by debritz
Update Camilla Severi is reportedly leaving the Nova 106.9 breakfast show by "mutual decision" but will remain with the Nova network in a new role to be announced in coming weeks.
The station issued this statement this morning: "Nova 106.9 and Camilla Severi have made the mutual decision to move her out of the breakfast show.". (Courier-Mail report here.)
There were fireworks on the first weekday of the official 2012 radio ratings survey yesterday.
As reported exclusively here, Camilla Severi was a no-show at Brisbane's Nova 106.9 (I'm still trying to get to the bottom of that, there's been no response from Nova either in Brisbane or from HQ).
Meanwhile, Queensland's Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser (@AndrewFraserMP) took to Twitter to lash 612ABC's mornings announcer Steve Austin over what he dubbed "conspiracy theories" aired regarding the State Government's involvement with a sand-mining company. Fraser also quit his spot on 612ABC's weekly political panel.
And Sydney's 2Day FM Kyle and Jackie O breakfast show briefly had a new sponsor, until public pressure forced them to pull out within 24 hours. Early in the day, weight-loss company Jenny Craig was saying it "doesn't judge" people, including the controversy-proned Kyle Sandilands.
However, the company changed its tune after its Facebook page was bombarded with protests about Sandilands, who late last year called a journalist who reported on poor reaction to his TV special a "fat slag".
Complainants also pointed out to Jenny Craig's US-based parent company that Sandilands had previously made a comment linking former JC ambassador Magda Szubanski to a concentration-camp victim.
I knew Australian radio would be interesting this year, but I didn't realise things would get off to such a fiery start.
Posted January 17th, 2012 by debritz
How blokey does Triple M's relative new Grill Team want to be? Enough to folow the lead of the good folk of Sonkajärvi, Finland, who since 1992 have been conducting annual Wife Carrying Championships.
Brisbane men have been challenged to step up to the plate, with their wives on their backs, at the Queensland Government’s 2012 Australia Day Festival being held at the Parklands, South Bank from 10am on Thursday, January 26.
The winners will get to represent their state at the Finnish festival in July.
The Grill Team's Pete Timbs says: "It’s the only time you will ever want your beloved to not get off your back.”
Get it? Details here.
Posted January 16th, 2012 by debritz
Brisbane's radio rumour mill went into overdrive this morning when, on the first week day of the 2012 rating survey, Nova 106.9 star Camilla Severi was a no-show.
Nova manager Sean Ryan is overseas and the station spokesperson was not available, but a source from another broadcaster said they believed Severi had left.
Nova breakfast co-host Ash Bradnam told me he had heard nothing about Severi leaving the station and simply believed she was ill.
Bradnam welcomed the return to the show of original anchor Kip Wightman, saying working together again was "like putting on an old sock".
Update: As of midday, no content from the Monday breakfast show had been posted on the station's website, although a logo prominently displaying Wightman's name (above) appeared on the breakfast page without an accompanying photograph.
Posted January 11th, 2012 by debritz
As my Australian radio predictions published on this blog in recent days have proven so popular, here's a bonus media prediction for 2012:
+ More than one person will be fired, or very seriously reprimanded, for something written on social media. The public broadcasters will need to be the most vigilant in this respect -- because they are, as they are constantly reminded, spending taxpayers' money, and somebody is always waiting for them to slip up -- but some people in the commercial media may also find themselves overstepping a mark they weren't even aware was there. Users of inappropriate language and bad-taste jokers beware. My advice: don't say anything on Twitter you wouldn't say on air or in newsprint. Even if the opinions are yours, your employer will almost certainly be monitoring the content.
Posted January 9th, 2012 by debritz
Is Brisbane just a branch office, or is there serious money to be made here with the right kind of investment?
That's a question many businesses have been asking over the years, and the media is no exception. Sadly, we've lost a few players in the market over the past decade or two, especially when it comes to newspapers (down from three Brisbane dailies and two Sunday papers in the mid-1980s to one of each now) and our television stations are producing less and less local content (with, it must be said, some notable exceptions, but it's still a far cry from the 1960s and 70s, when Brisbane TV screened local variety shows, panel games, children's shows and current affairs programs).
So what about radio? Will it remain a bastion of localism, or will networking continue to encroach on precious airtime in the cause of cutting costs? Sadly, the early signs for 2012 are not good for those who like it live and local.
The local graveyard shift is pretty much a thing of the past. Overnight shows are either networked or voice-tracked: i.e. the talking bits are pre-recorded during the day and the program is compiled and broadcast by a computer. Even at 612ABC, the local announcer goes home at 10pm, meaning that, when you add in the networked current-affairs content, more than a third of total weekday airtime is broadcast from interstate. On weekends, only the breakfast show and news come from Brisbane. With one or two exceptions -- notably 4BC -- commercial radio stations in the River City pretty much turn out the lights at 6 or 7pm.
The good news is that, when it is local, it's competitive -- and no more so in 2011, when five stations were battling it out for overall ratings supremacy. It's a far cry from the 1980s when first FM104/ Triple M and then B105 were the bolters, and every other station was an also-ran. Competition is strong, and that can only be good news for listeners.
With all that in mind, here are my predictions for Brisbane radio in 2012, first my six best guesses, then predictions by network:
1. The axings are not over; everybody is on notice.
2. Another breakfast team to be shown the door by the end of the year.
3. Expect some lightning raids from southern bosses implementing strategies that might please the accountants but not benefit Brisbane audiences.
4. The likelihood of at least one station changing hands.
5. Crowding at the top of the ratings ladder will continue, but one station will make a break from the pack by year's end.
6. There will be far too much talk about babies on stations that ought to be pitched elsewhere.
612 ABC breakfast host Spencer Howson to continue to do well in the numbers game. As the commercials try to poach each other's younger audiences, he'll be king of the 50-pluses. Howson will remain No. 1 in breakfast at least until the commercial stations sort themselves out.
All eyes will be on Steve Austin, who has just reclaimed the morning current-affairs slot. Ratings should be healthy, especially in the lead-up to and aftermath of the state election.
Tim Cox, although largely unknown to Brisbane audiences, should be able to maintain, and perhaps build, Aunty's audience in drive, while Kelly Higgins-Devine will bring some new energy to the problematic afternoon shift (common wisdom is that people suffer "talk fatigue" after lunch and either switch off or switch over to music stations). Rebecca Levingston (pictured) is likely to bring a different approach to evenings, but I don't think anybody will expect her to better the huge ratings Austin has built up in the timeslot over many years.
Radio National fans will be very vocal if the line-up changes this year don't pan out well, but Triple J, which has been known to out-rate some of the commercial stations in Brisbane, seems set for another big year. If the programmers get the music mix right, it will continue to be the station of choice for younger listeners who don't like intrusive advertising, being treated as idiots or being taken for granted (yes, I'm looking at you, commercial FM).
Austereo (B105 and Triple M)
Southern Cross-Austereo spends up big to maintain its audience, but it's no longer the sure-fire cashcow it used to be. For the all-important female market, B105 faces strong challenges from Nova 106.9 and 97.3FM (which aims a little older).
The focus will be on whether the addition of Abby Coleman has sufficiently freshened-up the breakfast show or whether further surgery is needed. The one-time new kids on the block, Jason "Labby" Hawkins and Stav Davidson, will have to work hard to keep their show
Triple M pretty much has the blokes to itself, but there aren't as many advertising dollars in that market. As it proved with its axing of The Cage last year, Austereo is no longer shy about making dramatic moves, even mid-race, and maybe one or two more changes are just around the corner.
Australian Radio Network (4KQ and 97.3FM)
In my books, the biggest threat to the resurgent 97.3FM (co-owned by DMG) comes not from the other stations, but from within.
ARN has already shown disturbing signs of tinkering with the local formula that has made 97.3FM more successful than its sister Mix stations in Sydney and Melbourne. The breakfast team of Terry Hansen, Robin Bailey and Bob Gallagher (pictured above) is very competitive.
Memo to HQ: it ain't broke, and heavy handed interference won't fix it, especially if SC Austereo decides to pitch B105 older and go after your audience.
Meanwhile, 4KQ needs to keep an eye on what 4BH does music-wise. There are at least two distinct audiences there, because not everybody over 40 likes the same music. And, despite the focus on youth at the commercial FM market, there's money to be made from people who actually listen to, and act on, advertising.
Fairfax Radio (4BC and 4BH)
The product is pretty good, but the audience isn't there in the numbers Fairfax would like like. Still, 4BC consistently wins awards for advertising sales and is a very sound business (no joke intended). The challenge will be to find a way to break through the single-digit barrier.
As I've said before, there is no reason why commercial talk can't do as well in Brisbane as it does elsewhere. The big question will be whether to stick with the current line-up and try to build, or to try something new and risk alienating new listeners. That decision will most likley be made at HQ, not in Brisbane.
I think we'll see on-air changes, but I'm not convinced it will be for the better -- unless they find the elusive "Brisbane Alan Jones", whoever that may be.
4BH operates efficiently and complements its sister station by playing music for those "oldies" who don't like talk radio. They both face a challenge from 612ABC for audience, but not for advertisers' dollars, so the real "enemy" is 4KQ. (See above.)
DMG (Nova 106.9)
Nova is in a take-no-prisoners battle with 97.3FM and B105 for the younger female audience. There are actually two audiences -- late teens and twenty-somethings, and the late-twenties and thirties -- but the lines seem to have been blurred lately as each station struggles for every listener it can get.
The return of orignal anchor Kip Wightman (pictured above) to the breakfast show may mean some extra oomph, but the music mix -- which has become much more like the Austereo offering in recent years (thus benefitting Triple J, which is the destination of choice for new-music lovers) -- will be critical.
The new national drive show, featuring former Brisbane breakfasters Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell, will come under close scrutiny. It's doing OK in Brisbane, but hasn't kicked-in yet in Sydney and Melbourne, and success there is crucial.
Photos: ABC, ARN
PS: My more general Australian radio predictions are here.
Posted January 8th, 2012 by debritz
By popular demand, here are my predictions for Australian radio in 2012. There'll be some Brisbane-specific predictions in a future post. (Update: they're here.)
1) The drift away from old media will continue, with tradional radio audiences exploring online alternatives.
2) As a consequence of this, 2012 will be the year that advertisers start to wise up. Times are tough for business, especially in retail, and nobody can afford to throw around advertising dollars unless they know their ads are going to hit the mark. The demand will grow for better audience research and if the networks and Commercial Radio Australia aren't prepared to provide it, then the dollars will go elsewhere (mostly online). Sticking with the current diary system for ratings suits broadcasters because it is fluffy, but when websites can tell you exactly how many left-handed, red-haired, 29-year-old females earning $60K or more are tuning in at 7.38am, then a book that's filled in at the last minute by people with faulty memories, an extremely low care factor, and a tendency to write down the name of the station that did the most marketing during the survey period rather than the one they were actually listening to, looks pretty shabby.
3) More on-air changes mid-stream. Shows that don't work will be yanked quickly, just as they are on television.
4) Lots of backroom changes, with further consolodation of managerial power at HQ (not necessarily a good thing for the "local" medium) and mergers of sales teams.
5) A make-or-break year for Fairfax Radio. The big problem is 2UE in Sydney, which is struggling to remain in the talkback race against the mighty 2GB. You haven't got a network if you're not competitive in the nation's biggest market. When the sale of its radio assets was abandoned last year, Fairfax said it wanted to create synergies with its newspaper and online businesses. But how to share resources between "soft left" papers pitched at a wealthy demographic and a right-leaning radio station pitched at the lowest common denominator? If the answer isn't found, former suitor John Singleton could end up with the bargain of the century.
6) An increasing awareness that digital radio is not the panacea for free-to-air radio's ills. While many of the multichannels are offering great content, not too many people are listening. There has been some movement towards getting digital radio receivers into cars, but that's problematic because digital currently only works in metro areas. An in-car 3G- or 4G-enabled internet device that could pick up radio from around the world, as well as receive video and other data, send emails, do social networking and make phone calls, would wipe the floor with DAB+. And it's not too far away now.
7) As a result of tough times in the commercial sphere, more questions will be asked about the ABC. If, as seems probable, the Federal Coalition comes to power this year or next, Aunty will be under pressure to explain and curtail its spending on radio services and its expansion into new media, especially where it is perceived to be competing with commercial operators. This has already happened to the BBC, which has been forced to abandon or reduce some of its services.
8) Even more networking. It's cheaper, but not necessarily smarter. One big thing radio has going for it is the fact that it can dance to the local beat.
9) As a consequence of this, local audiences and advertising could begin to drift away, in the first instance to the slicker community stations (whose true listening figures the commercial networks will continue to conspire to conceal) and eventually, perhaps exclusively, online.
10) The importance of star power will begin to wane in every format except talk or older-skewed music stations. Somewhere, some bean counter is already weighing up the savings to be made from jettisoning big-name, big-bucks stars against the potential loss in revenue from ratings declines. Another bright spark in the programming (sorry, content) department of the youth-oriented stations will realise that, mostly, it's all about the music. If they play the songs the kids want to hear, they will survive.
Posted December 19th, 2011 by debritz
Brisbane is officially on the radar of one of America's most popular syndicated radio shows and podcasts. The Queensland capital was mentioned in a question on the "Not My Job" section of the National Public Radio news quiz Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!
After also exhibiting some knowledge of cricket, the contestant, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, correctly answered that Brisbane is the home to the world championships in cockroach races.
The question also gave Wait Wait host Peter Sagal the opportunity to make a joke about the drinking habits of the crowd for the event.
No doubt McCarron, Sagal, judge Carl Kasell and the Wait Wait panel would be welcome guests if they decide to pop in for the races at the Story Bridge Hotel, Kangaroo Point, on Australia Day.
Audio of the segment is here.
Posted December 13th, 2011 by debritz
The bosses at 612ABC Brisbane were saved from making a difficult decision yesterday, thanks to the poor performance of the Australian cricket team.
The hapless boys in baggy green were bundled out just as news broke of Premier Anna Bligh's decision to split up the mammoth Queensland Health department following a string of scandals.
The early end of the cricket meant a return to local programming, enabling full coverage of the unfolding political drama (- following a scramble back to the studio by ABC staffers who were soberly celebrating the Christmas season at the Royal Exchange Hotel in Toowong along with Spencer Howson, Kelly Higgins-Devine and a group of their on-air contributors and Twitter friends.
Had the cricket not ended early, though, somebody would have been faced with a very difficult decision as to whether, or to what extent, to pre-empt a cliffhanger sporting event for a big local news story.
Posted December 13th, 2011 by debritz
612 ABC breakfast host Spencer Howson has made it a clean sweep of the Brisbane radio ratings, with the year's final survey confirming him as the capital's No. 1 cereal thriller.
Howson has been the listeners' choice in the cornflakes session since the middle of last year.
Overall, the winner was 97.3FM, ahead of a packed field, with Nova, B105 and Triple M close behind, all within 0.4 percentage points, then 612ABC, 4KQ, Triple J, 4BC and 4BH following.
In breakfast, 97.3FM's Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher tied with Triple M's Grill Team with Greg "Marto" Martin for second place, and B105's Labby, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman tied for fourth with Nova 106.9's Ash Bradnam, David "Luttsy" Lutteral, Camilla Severi and Dan Anstey (standing in for Kip Wightman, who will return to the station in January). They were followed by 4KQ, 4BC, Triple J and 4BH.
Ratings for 4KQ and 4BC softened in breakfast, but they had gains overall, and 4BH rebounded from a shocker of a survey last time to gain 1.9pc in breakfast and 1.0pc overall.
In the drive session, B105's Fifi and Jules/ Hamish and Andy combo losing 2.8pc, leapfrogged by 97.3FM's Paul "Campo" Campion, and Nova' Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell down 0.5pc but still No.1.
In the evenings, there was a 4.0pc shift to Triple M's Peanut Gallery, but it was not enough to get ahead of B105's Hot 30 and 612ABC's Steve Austin, who both lost audience share.
In other breakfast radio news, it's been revealed that acting 612ABC Mornings host Terri Begley will be on the road next year as roving reporter for the afternoon show, to be hosted by Kelly Higgins-Devine, and Tim Cox's new drive show.
Posted December 13th, 2011 by debritz
Controversy seems to have paid off in the ratings for Kyle Sandilands, with the 2DayFM breakfast host gaining points in the final radio ratings survey for 2011.
The Kyle and Jackie O show netted 11.2 per cent of breakfast listeners, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous survey, and 2Day was the highest-rating FM station.
However, they remained behind longtime breakfast leader Alan Jones, at 2GB, and 702ABC's Adam Spencer.
The "rolling survey" included the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of Sandilands' outburst against a journalist who published a news story including negative comments about the Kyle and Jackie O Night with the Stars TV show. 2Day also remained dominant in tits target 10-17, 18-24 and 25-39 age demographics.
However, much of the survey was conducted before the scandal emerged.
Despite the withdrawal of many advertisers, and a petition signed by more than 25,000 people, 2Day owners Southern Cross Austereo have confirmed that the Kyle and Jackie O Show will return to the airwaves next year.
Posted December 9th, 2011 by debritz
Nova 106.9 has confirmed that Kip Wightman will return to host the breakfast show from January 16. Current anchor Dan Anstey will stay with the station.
Anstey will host the morning session, from 9am to midday, replacing Whippy, who is moving to Melbourne.
The move, first signalled here on debritz.net, represents an early departure for Wightman from the afternoon shift on 97.3FM, which is half-owned by Nova owner DMG Radio.
Wightman will host the breakfast show alongside his former colleagues Ash Bradnam and David "Luttsy" Lutteral, and Nova newcomer Camilla Severi.
Nova 106.9 general manager Sean Ryan said the move was months in the making and the outcome was exciting for Nova staff and listeners.
“When Kip departed in 2010 to go on his overseas odyssey he left a legacy that Nova has never forgotten,” Ryan said in a media statement.
“Kip feels that strong connection with our station and our listeners and I know he is just as excited as we are to be returning to the studio where it all began.”
Posted December 8th, 2011 by debritz
Update: More changes at ARN: Jocks' Journal hasreported that 97.3FM mornings host Jo Henderson is "taking a break" and that Mix 106.5's Anthony "Becks" Toohey has been ordered by doctors to have an extended rest. There are also internet rumours about the future of Mix host Marnie T.
American Idol and E! Entertainment star Ryan Seacrest will be heard on Brisbane's 97.3FM from January 16, according to media website Mumbrella.
On Air with Ryan Seacrest is already heard on Sydney and Melbourne stations owned by the Australian Radio Network (ARN), and will also be heard in Adelaide from next month.
Mumbrella quoted ARN national content director Duncan Campbell as saying: "After a review of the station’s programming we felt there was an opportunity to seize the market in the early evening. Ryan Seacrest has access and connections to all the big celebrities and happenings in Hollywood .
“Ryan Seacrest has proved very popular for our target market in Sydney and Melbourne and we are excited to expand nationally in 2012, now offering this program to listeners in Adelaide and Brisbane.”
Radio industry sources have told me that Kip Wightman, who is currently heard on 97.3FM in the early afternoons, will be rejoining the breakfast team at Nova 10.6 breakfast team "by April at the latest". It is possible that the addition of Seacrest to the 97.3FM line-up could mean Wightman moves earlier - although the latest news from ARN (see update at top of story) perhaps suggest there may be a different opportunity for him at 97.3, which is co-owned by ARN and Nova owner DMG Radio.
The other inference to be drawn from the move is that 97.3, which has been resisting networking (and has been successful in doing so), is being brought more into line with ARN's Mix brand.
Posted December 8th, 2011 by debritz
Former Brisbane television newsreader Jillian Whiting will team up with onetime 4BH and 4BC breakfast host Kim Mothershaw to present the breakfast show on 4BC over summer.
They will replace Peter Dick and Mary Collier, who are taking a Christmas break, from December 19 until December 30.
From January 2 to 6, Mothershaw will be joined in the breakfast chair by Dean Banks, a radio veteran who was once part of 3AW's breakfast line-up.
Meanwhile, 4BC has also confirmed that garden guru Colin Campbell will be hanging up the microphone after almost 30 years on air.
His last show will be on Sunday, January 1. His co-host Clair Levander, a qualified horticulturalist, will continue on in the popular show.
In a statement, 4BC general manager David McDonald said: “This is an extremely sad time for Col’s listeners and staff at 4BC. He has had nothing but a positive influence on both the station and the gardening industry over many, many years.
"I would like to personally thank him for his major contribution and wish both him and his wife Beverly all the very best for his pending retirement.”
Colin Campbell photo from 4bc.com.au.
Posted December 4th, 2011 by debritz
Gold Coast breakfast radio host Tim Cox says he's excited about packing his bags and moving to Brisbane.
As part of a series of changes at 612ABC, Cox (at left in picture) will be hosting the daily drive program in 2012.
Cox, who has most recently been heard on 91.7 ABC Gold Coast and had a long career before that on ABC Tasmania, won't be joining the ranks of the Coast-to-city commuters. He told me he will definitely be moving to somewhere in Brisbane, where he'll be working from the new ABC studios at South Bank.
"We have a few areas in mind but want to be settled before I start on-air," he said.
Cox said the priority was getting his young son settled in a new school.
"[I'm] very excited about the move - for me, 612 embodies all that is great about ABC Local Radio."
Meanwhile, Steve Austin (right in picture) says he's honoured to be asked to take back the reins of the 612 morning shift, which he hosted in the early 2000s before moving to evenings.
"I can't think of a more exciting time then now to be returning to mornings. 2012 is shaping up one of the most interesting periods in my lifetime. You can expect some quality debates, panels, distinguished guests and a bit of fun along the way," he said in an ABC media release.
"I look forward to the challenging role and hope the listeners will be both surprised and entertained as we bring the realities of the world closer to Brisbane.”
"I'm looking forward to being a part of that and all that Brisbane has to offer."
Photos from abc.net.au.
Posted December 3rd, 2011 by debritz
In answer to questions about the Nova 106.9FM line-up for 2012, my information from a self-described "extremely credible source" is that Stand-In Dan Anstey will be only warming the seat anchoring the Ash, Camilla and Luttsy show until early in the new year.
Former Nova anchor Kip Wightman, who is currently being heard on Nova's half-sister station 97.3FM, is expected to return to the job in April.
Anstey will remain with the station in an as-yet-unspecified role.