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Pay for no play?

Posted December 3rd, 2011 by debritz

Over at the excellent Mumbrella website, Jason "Jabba" Davis provides an insider's view of commercial radio.

His piece is very entertaining, and he makes several interesting observations about the nature of radio and the people who inhabit it.

But it was this bit, where he addresses why he quit his show on Nova, that really caught my attention:

The truth? I didn’t feel I would ever go anywhere in the organization, I was uncomfortable with my on-air partnership, and I couldn’t take the repetition of turning up for work every day to deceive an audience who were barely listening in the first place.

Each night I would urge the show’s young fan base to “call now and vote for your favourite song”. Of course the playlist was determined at 4pm that afternoon.

Davis is apparently saying that the kids who called in to vote were being misled; that they were wasting their money because, no matter which song they voted for, the ones that would be played were predetermined.

If that's the case, are there grounds for all those people to claim back the cost of their calls? Should government agencies be investigating?

Update: Davis has replied to me via Twitter:

sure. Refund the dozen or so "vote" calls... People mainly rang to get a code word for prizes and that aspect was 100% legitimate.

612 ABC media release

Posted December 2nd, 2011 by debritz

Further to the story about the 612 ABC line-up for 2012, here's the official press release.

Today 612 ABC Brisbane announced its line up for 2012.

Steve Austin will be the new host for Mornings, Kelly Higgins-Devine will host Afternoons, Tim Cox will host Drive and Rebecca Levingston will host Evenings.

"The change in the line-up offers an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the wealth of talent within the ABC,” said Jen Brennen ABC Local Content Manager Queensland.

Number one Breakfast presenter Spencer Howson continues to host the weekday breakfast program in 2012. Spencer retained the number one position throughout 2011 (source A C Nielsen) and is an active user of twitter which allows him to converse with his audience far beyond his on air hours of 5 - 7.45am.

Steve Austin returns to the Mornings role from Statewide Evenings where he has consistently rated first or second in the market.

“I’m honoured to be asked by the ABC to take on the role,” Steve said.

"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. 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.”

Richard Fidler has stepped down as host of the Afternoon program to concentrate on Conversations between 11 and 12, which will continue to be broadcast from Brisbane.

"I've had six years of extraordinary fun with Afternoons," said Richard. "However, Conversations has expanded beyond its Brisbane origins into Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Tasmania and it now requires me to give it my fullest love and care."

Kelly Higgins Devine will now take on the Afternoons role between 1 and 3 pm.

“I am looking forward to reconnecting with the Afternoons audience having presented the program for two years back in 2004/5. I enjoy the eclectic mix of stories you can cover in that part of the day," said Kelly Higgins-Devine.

Tim Cox, former Breakfast presenter on sister station 91.7 ABC Gold Coast, will host Drive. "I have long admired the relationship 612 has with the Brisbane community and its entertaining, thought-provoking output. I'm looking forward to being a part of that and all that Brisbane has to offer," said Tim.

Rebecca Levingston who anchored 612 ABC coverage in breakfast during the floods earlier this year and has been familiar to audiences as field reporter will now host Evenings.

"Tim and Rebecca will complement our existing presenters and ensure we continue to engage with our audiences and deliver what is expected from 612 ABC Brisbane," said Jen Brennen.

Weekends remain an important part of the schedule. Phil Smith will continue to present Saturday breakfast as will Warren Boland with Weekends.

Grandstand will continue with local hosts Quentin Hull and Alistair Nicholson.
The new line-up comes into effect from Monday 16 January 2012.

Highlights for 2012


Breakfast5am - 7: 45amSpencer Howson
Mornings8:30am – 11amSteve Austin
Conversations 11am – 12Richard Fidler
Afternoons1pm - 3pmKelly Higgins-Devine
Drive3pm - 6pmTim Cox
Evenings7pm - 10pmRebecca Levingston

Breakfast 6am - 9am Phil Smith
Weekends 9am - 12pm Warren Boland
Weekends 10am - 12pm Warren Boland

Please note the Afternoon program can also be heard on 91.7 ABC Gold Coast and 90.3 ABC Sunshine Coast. Evenings with Rebecca Levingston can be heard state-wide across all ABC Local Radio stations. Weekends is broadcast state-wide from 10am Saturday and throughout Sunday.

612 names 2012 lineup

Posted December 2nd, 2011 by debritz

Brisbane's Radio 612ABC has announced its weekday line-up for 2012, with two new voices and a reshuffle of exisiting talent.

Steve Austin is returning to the morning shift, which includes the ABC's agenda-setting State political and current affairs coverage from 8.30am, and will be replaced on the evening shift by Rebecca Levingston (pictured), an experienced announcer and producer who has filled many roles on 612 in recent years.

Kelly Higgins-Devine is moving from Drive to the afternoon shift, to be replaced by Tim Cox, who is currently the breakfast announcer on ABC Coast FM on the Gold Coast.

The full line-up, which represents the first change for 612ABC in five years, is:

  • Breakfast with Spencer Howson

  • AM
  • Mornings with Steve Austin (who moves from Evenings, but was the Mornings host before recent incumbent Madonna King. He has also been the program director at 612.)
  • Richard Fidler's Conversations
  • The World Today
  • Afternoons with Kelly Higgins Devine (who moves from the Drive shift to replace Fidler, who is winding back his on-air time.)
  • Drive with Tim Cox (a highly regarded ABC announcer who recently moved to the Gold Coast from Hobart.)
  • PM
  • Evenings with Rebecca Levingston (replacing Steve Austin).

Meanwhile, B105 and Triple M have confirmed that they will go into 2012 with their current line-ups. It is also believed the line-up will stay the same at 4KQ, where Laurel Edwards, who co-hosts breakfast with Gary Clare and Mark Hine, recently celebrated 20 years in the job.

B105 and Triple M both changed their breakfast teams this year, with The Grill Team with Greg Martin replacing The Cage with Ian Skippen on the Ms.

At B105, Abby Coleman joined Jason "Labby" Hawkins and Stav Davidson, replacing Camilla Severi, who joined Nova 106.9's breakfast show, along with Ash Bradnam, David "Luttsy" Lutteral and "Stand In" Dan Astey. The former breakfast team of Meshel Laurie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold now host the national Nova drive show.

Most stations will be going into summer mode in the next few weeks, with many programs originating from Sydney or Melbourne.

B105 will be taking the national Summer Fill In Show with Andy Lee, Glenn Robbins and Cackling Jack for two weeks from December 5. Will and Woody will take over until January 6.

612ABC's breakfast show will be hosted by Stacey Milner. Spencer Howson will return to the airwaves in time to present the show from the ABC's new South Bank Parklands studios on January 27.

The official 612 ABC media release is here.

Photo of from

Stacey's the summer stand-in

Posted December 1st, 2011 by debritz

612 ABC Brisbane producer and journalist Stacey Milner will present the station's Summer Breakfasts show from Monday, December 5.

Milner describes herself on Twitter as "mother of two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, semi-serious runner".

Regular presenter Spencer Howson, who announced Milner's appointment this morning, will take Christmas leave and is scheduled to host the first breakfast show from the ABC's new South Bank Parklands studios on January 27.

Breakfast will be the only local ABC Radio program during the move to South Bank, which will eventually house Aunty's various departments on the one premises for the first time since the abandonment of its Toowong site, which has been linked to more than a dozen cases of breast cancer among employees and former employees.

The ABC is expected to announce its full 2012 radio line-up tomorrow afternoon. While the extent of the changes is not known, it will include new voices in the Mornings and Afternoon shifts, replacing Madonna King, who has left the ABC, and Richard Fidler, who will concentrate solely on his networked 11am Conversations with Richard Fidler program.

Fidler gives up his afternoon job

Posted November 30th, 2011 by debritz

Brisbane radio 612ABC afternoons host Richard Fidler has confirmed that he will give up the 1-3pm weekday program to concentrate on his networked 11am Conversations with Richard Fidler program.

Fider, who is on leave while being treated for burns to his hands sustained during a "cooking misadventure", returned to the show today to tell fill-in host Chris Welsh of the move, which was first reported here at

Fidler said the burden of doing two shows was becoming too great, but "I did it for as long as I could".

Sources have told me that current Drive host Kelly Higgins-Devine will move into the afternoon slot. 612 ABC's line-up for 2012, expected to be announced on Friday, will include at least two new voices, in Drive and the flagship Mornings program, which was vacated by Madonna King last month. Terri Begley, who has been filling in for King, is believed to be among a long list of announcers considered for the position.

I understand that several "names" from other media have put themselves forward for the Mornings job.

If player does not appear, the audio is here.

On air this afternoon, Fidler explained how his shirt caught fire while lighting a methylated spirits burner used to cook a Vietnamese dish. He used his hands to put out the flame, and they were badly burnt.

He said he was recovering quickly but would be required to wear compression clothing similar to cycling gear for about a year.

"I'm up and about and walking as you see, perfectly unencumbered," he told Welsh.

Fidler said he was thankful for the medical attention he had received, and was grateful that his children, who were in the room during the incident, were unharmed.

He also said he had gathered a lot of scientific insights from the experience of having skin grafts.

"Part of me is going 'ow' but part of me is going 'cool'."

Photo from

Catholic tastes?

Posted November 25th, 2011 by debritz

Update: Email received from ACU on Monday, November 28: "ACU pulled its advertising from the Kyle and Jackie O Show last week."

A screenshot from the 2DayFM website. Exactly how does this align with the values of the advertiser, the Australian Catholic University? Oh, and today is White Ribbon Day - presumably 2Day star Kyle Sandilands will take the opportunity to "hunt down" a "fat slag" journalist.

I have contacted the ACU media office for comment. (See update above.)

We need to talk about Kyle

Posted November 23rd, 2011 by debritz

Update: Holden has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Kyle and Jackie O show.

Yesterday, when I wrote this, I was in a conciliatory mood towards Kyle Sandilands.

I said he was a good, possibly great radio broadcaster, but he - especially when teamed with his 2Day co-host Jackie O - couldn't carry a TV show, and that the television networks should be looking for fresh talent rather than spending more money on him.

Then I became aware of this rant. Sandilands had used his breakfast radio show to make a personal attack on a journalist who had merely reported criticisms of his Night with the Stars TV program (which turned out to be a ratings flop).

He called's Alison Stephenson a "fat slag" and a "piece of shit", and he criticised the size of her breasts and her hairstyle.

Well, Kyle, I hope you feel like a big man, because you're not just the King, as you like to call yourself, you're the Emperor - the Emperor With No Clothes. And it's time for somebody to tell you so.

Back when Sandilands was hosting the Hot 30 program, I interviewed him over an incident where he put to air a confrontation between a schoolgirl and her mother, who had been having sex with her daughter's boyfriend.

A psychologist I interviewed for that story called what Sandilands was doing "child abuse".

During our interview, Sandliands complained that nobody acknowledged all the good work he was doing raising funds for and awareness of Kids' Helpline.

As experts pointed out, this was a case that should have been referred to Kids' Helpline, not broadcast across Australia. Even Jackie O tried to stop it going to air, but Sandilands proudly boasted to me that he overruled her because he had "more experience".

Well, Kyle not only survived that one, he got promoted and has been
emboldened. Is strapping a teenage girl to a lie detector, where it emerged that she had been raped, or calling a woman a "fat slag"*, helping kids in any way? No, it's setting an extremely bad example.

I tweeted something about Sandilands last night, and one of my followers said I was just giving him "more oxygen". I disagree, and prefer to run with the tweeter who said that there was no point in having programs against bullying in schools if the No. 1 bully - who, by virtue of his primetime status on TV and radio, has a large following among young people (many of whom have body-image issues) - is allowed to get away with unacceptable behaviour again and again.

(It's worth remembering that his rant against Stephenson was not only aired on 2Day, it also made it to the program's podcast, meaning other "adults" at Southern Cross Austereo were involved in spreading this poison.)

I was wrong to think even for a minute that Sandilands had changed his ways.

We not only have to talk about Kyle, we have to make sure that his employers - Southern Cross Austereo and the Seven Network - do something to rein him in.

And the authorities must make it clear that if his employers don't do something about Sandilands, the Australian Communications and Media Authority will.

* Do you detect a pattern here? The victims of his rants are often women. David Penberthy has more on that here.

PS: A petition at is calling for Sandilands to be sacked.

Australia's got better talent

Posted November 22nd, 2011 by debritz

Update: Mumbrella has charted the show's dramatic fall from 1.4 million viewers (inherited from The X Factor) to 255,000 at the end. It has also reported on Sandilands' extraordinary on-air rant, in which he threatened to "hunt down" a journalist who wrote about the show.

I chose not to watch Kyle and Jackie O's Night With The Stars last night. In that decision, I was not alone.

Now, obviously I can't comment on the show itself (although others have) - but that's my point. Like so many other Australians, I deliberately did not watch it because I knew I wouldn't like it.

According to the OzTam figures, NWTS had only 560,000 viewers, coming 20th for the night and coming a poor second in its timeslot to The Mentalist (790,000 viewers). I haven't seen the demographic breakdowns, which I am sure the Seven Network will be eager to push if they suit whatever pitch they made to advertisers, but when the premiere of a show with "name" stars does that badly overall, there's not a lot of good news to be had.

I admit I have issues with Kyle Sandilands, including his cavalier approach to what he does and his astounding lack of self-awareness, but I also concede that he is a good, perhaps even great, radio broadcaster and he is undoubtedly a very successful one. However, apart from the brief screentime he enjoys as the acerbic judge on various talent shows, he is not a television star.

Sandilands has, at least, earned the right to have a go (and probably has a contractual arrangement with Seven to give him a platform beyond the talent shows). Jackie Henderson should just be thankful she comes as part of the package, because no programmer who was even vaguely aware of her track record would give her a gig.

The fact is that Henderson on her own, and she and Sandilands as a double act, have had enough chances on TV. It's somebody else's turn.

Every precious amount of airtime, and every dollar spent, on NWTS could have been more wisely invested. There are so many talented Australians who never get a look-in with television work because the usual suspects are clogging up the airwaves.

It really is time for television executives to get out a bit more and see some of our stage talent, and to consider pitches that come from beyond the small, exclusive club of creators and producers whose shows dominate our screens.

Yes, Australia has got talent, but are television bosses are not really looking for it. At a time when free-to-air TV is struggling, that is simply not good enough.

(Photo of Kyle and Jackie O from

Checking out the crystal ball

Posted November 1st, 2011 by debritz

Among the predicitons I made for Brisbane radio at the beginning of this year was this:

In the radio ratings, the top end and bottom end of the ladder will become more crowded, with a clear division emerging between the winners and the also-rans. In Brisbane, this could mean one or two commercial stations dipping well below the current minimum of 6-7 points. (This is not something I want to see, but I really think it will happen.)

The seventh (of eight) surveys released yesterday saw four stations crowed very closely together at the top. A statistically negligible 0.1 percentage point separated Nova 106.9 (on 11.8pc) at No.1 and Triple M and B105 at equal no.2, with 97.3FM just 0.3 points behind them. Meanwhile, 4BH's share sits at 5.2pc - up 0.2 points from the previous survey - but well below the 7.2pc it had this time last year and the 7.7pc it had the year before.

I also wrote:

The drive-time slot will become more competitive following the departure of Austereo's Hamish and Andy.

Sure enough, Nova 106.9's new drive show featuring the former Brisbane breakfast team of Meshel Laurie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold, on 15.9pc, has overtaken B105's networked Jules Lund and Fifi Box show (14.5pc). 97.3's homegrown show with Paul "Campo" Campion is also well in the race, on 12.5pc.

I didn't get (or haven't yet got) everything right but some other predictions that have proved correct are:

+ "Spencer Howson will continue his winning ways in breakfast on 612ABC."

+ "More job casualties, on air and behind the scenes, at Australian radio stations, with big names almost certainly among them." I also said there would an "early to mid-year departure of more than one announcer or team". I was right about the change, but my timing was a bit off - it happened to Ian Skippen and the the Cage crew at Triple M in September.

+ "2011 won't quite be the year of digital radio ... the existing analogue stations will continue to be the main game for a long time."

Change gives Triple M a boost

Posted October 31st, 2011 by debritz

Installing the new breakfast team of Greg "Marto" Martin, Michelle Anderson and Pete Timbs seems to have paid off in the ratings for Brisbane's Triple M. It's breakfast show, which saw a major line-up change in the past month to be reinvented as "The Grill Team", is now No.2 in the cornflakes slot, behind long-time leader Spencer Howson on 612 ABC.

However, the "rolling" nature of the survey means it also covers the period when Triple M's former Cage crew were on air, making it unclear whether the change has led to the ratings boost, or it was due to another factor - such as the station's coverage of the Rugby World Cup, which began before the line-up change. It may even be down to the amount of publicity the change attracted, bringing attention to the station and putting it back into the minds of the people filling in the survey books.

Nova 106.9's new team of Ash Bradnam, David "Luttsy" Lutteral and Camilla Severi, and 97.3FM's Robin Bailey, Bob Gallagher and Terry Hansen, were third and fourth in breakfast, with onetime leader B105 back in fifth spot. Only 3.1 percentage points now covers the entire commercial breakfast pack (with the exception of wooden-spooner 4BH) - and that means it's a very competitive field.

Triple M also came up trumps overall, when counted by share movement by session, Monday to Friday. But it was No. 2 to Nova 106.9 in share movement by demographic (people aged 10+, Monday to Sunday) . In the latter count, four percentage points covered the two leaders, 97.3FM and B105.

There were mixed blessings for Fairfax Media, which last week decided not to sell its metropolitan radio assets. Talk station 4BC dropped a little in breakfast but remained steady overall, while 4BH had a slight increase in its audience but remains well behind the rest of the commercial pack.

It wasn't a great survey for B105, which lost audience in the drive shift to Nova 106.9. The new national Nova drive team - formerly the Brisbane breakfast team of Meshel Laurie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold - registered an increase in Melbourne but lost audience in Sydney. Again, however, the line-up changes were too recent to be fully reflected in this survey.

The Australian Radio Network also had mixed results, with 97.3FM going slightly backwards, but 4KQ enjoying a boost to bring it even with 4BC in breakfast and overall (by demographic).

PS: The Australian is reporting that a decision on the future of struggling Melbourne talk station MTR "could come as early as tomorrow". In today's ratings, MTR had just 2.0pc of the total audience.

Fairfax stations off the block

Posted October 28th, 2011 by debritz

Talks to sell Fairfax Media's metropolitan radio assets have fallen apart.

Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood said in a statement: "As it transpired, the major bidder [generally thought to be John Singleton's Macquarie group] could not construct a finance package that was acceptable to us. The stations are terrific media operations, and we are committed to their growth and prosperity."

Significantly, Hywood added that Michael Anderson, a non-executive director of Fairfax Media and former CEO of rival radio group Austereo "has agreed to lead the development of a new strategic plan to drive the performance of the business".

In other words, while some employees may be sighing with relief that Singo hasn't got his hands on their station, it doesn't mean their won't be changes - not so much at the top-rated 3AW but almost certainly at 2UE in Sydney and 4BC in Brisbane.

Anderson's task will be to create efficiencies (i.e. save money) at the same time as engaging new audiences and advertisers. That will undoubtedly involve on-air changes for the 2012 year.

It also means Singleton will have to rethink his grand plan, probably starting with ditching the talk format on MTR in Melbourne, which has failed to attract audiences despite having such high-profile talent* as Andrew Bolt, Steve Price and Steve Vizard on air.

* I originally referred to them as "heavy hitters", which, as one tweeter point out, they demonstrably have not been.

Television on the road to nowhere

Posted October 26th, 2011 by debritz

I know the broadcast media is having a tough time at the moment, but some of it is due to a complete lack of foresight and a head-in-the-sand attitude.

It's well known to readers of this blog that I love radio, so it may not come as a surprise when I say that I think radio is more future-proof than broadcast television.

Why? Because radio is still largely about the creation of content; there are real, live people talking to you, devising and organising program elements (interviews, songs, comedy bits) to entertain and/or inform you.

Meanwhile, television is often just about broadcasting shows that have been made by somebody else - sometimes quite a long time ago. There are exceptions, such as news and current affairs programs, but they are very much in the minority in the schedule.

Radio can also react immediately to its audience's needs, to trends and to breaking news, in a way television still cannot. A radio show can change direction midstream as dictated by events, or simply on a whim. Television has to overcome many more technical and physical obstacles.

Given that it relies heavily on "bought-in" programs, television, especially free-to-air television, is going to have to adapt very quickly, or it will die.

Increasingly, TV stations simply act as "middlemen", trying to second-guess what kind of programs the audience wants to watch and when they want to watch them. There was a time when TV programmers made those decisions for us - variety shows on a Saturday night, movies on a Sunday, sport on weekend afternoons, news at 6pm nightly - and we had no choice but to go with the flow.

The VCR changed that, meaning we could record shows and watch them at our convenience. Now, with almost everything digitised and available on the internet (legally or illegally), each one of us can make personal programming decisions.

Television as we know it may play a role in introducing us to new material but if we're hooked on a particular show, we won't be waiting for them to decide when and how often to screen it, we will download it ourselves. Thousands of people are already doing this, and as their numbers grow, legal attempts to stop them will be increasingly ineffective.

It's a small world, and we're not going to wait weeks, months or years to see programs that have already been screened on free-to-air television in their home markets. (The second series of the popular UK drama series Downton Abbey is an example of something Australian viewers will have to wait too long to see on FTA TV.)

It's only a matter of time before content producers demand that their contracts with broadcasters are redrawn to also allow one or both parties to sell the shows directly to the public via download.

Producers and broadcasters who try to defy the tide of the torrent clearly haven't been paying attention to what happened in the music industry. When Apple gave people the option to download songs at a reasonable price, many of them did so - thus ensuring that the creators of the product got some compensation from people who were previously taking a free ride thanks to technology.

The challenge for the TV networks is to make production their core business, not just something they have to do (for example, to meet Australian content
requirements). Make great shows that people want to watch, and the future is assured, whatever the method of delivery happens to be.

Trying to make a buck simply buying product and screening it at leisure after stuffing it with advertisements (sometimes cutting the show to make way for them) is a certain road to ruin.

Madonna King's next move

Posted October 21st, 2011 by debritz

Madonna King, the host of 612ABC mornings program, has signed off from the Brisbane airwaves for the last time - and told her listeners what she'll be doing next.

King, who has hosted the show for six years, said she was restricted from saying too much on the ABC but she would be starting a "solo business" that revolves around emceeing and journalism.

She said rumours that she was retiring were "not exactly right". She said she would still be working full-time but "not in a way that means I have to get up every morning at 3.40".

She also said rumours that she was running as a candidate for a political party were wrong.

This morning's program included heartfelt tributes to King from across the political spectrum and the many charity and welfare groups she has supported, plus her listeners.

King acknowledged her ABC colleagues, including her producers over the past six years, her managers and Rebecca Levingston, who King said "could have any job in this building she wants".

Terri Begley will fill in as host of the 612 morning show, which covers Queensland state politics as well as family and lifestyle issues, until a permanent host is named.

Update: As foreshadowed on this blog here, Channel 9 has confirmed that King will be a part of its Brisbane royal visit coverage on Monday. And she has just launched a website,

King already on the road?

Posted October 18th, 2011 by debritz

Tongues are wagging, as they often do, in Brisbane media circles today regarding the absence of Madonna King from the 612ABC airwaves. King is ill and was unable to host her morning show.

While some are saying that her temporary (and perhaps permanent) replacement, Terri Begley, may now be officially in the chair, it seems unlikely that King won't be back to farewell her audience, and let us know what her plans for the future are.

PS: The word I'm hearing is that she may be involved in some way in the television coverage of the upcoming royal visit.

Rugby remnants

Posted October 18th, 2011 by debritz

Missives from the front line of the Rugby World Cup, courtesy of the Grill Team on Brisbane's Triple M:

Host Greg "Marto" Martin, a former Australian rugby star, was asked to appear on the New Zealand version of This is Your Life to pay tribute to Kiwi flanker Zinzan Brooke, who played 58 tests for the All Blacks.

However, Marto said he Marto turned down the request to speak on the show because he "doesn’t like the bloke and couldn’t trust myself".

He says the Wallabies used to call Zinzan "Tim Tam" Brook, because he’s "soft in the middle and melts under heat".

It seems there's not a lot of love lost on either side, as Marto revealed that his wife Cath copped a huge amount of heckling at the Wallabies v All Blacks World Cup semi-final on Saturday night.

For 80 minutes she was taunted by an 11-year-old kid and his dad, apparently leaving her in tears after the game.

Kyle's back in from the cold

Posted October 16th, 2011 by debritz

(Image from 2Day website)

Congratulations to the winners of the Australian Commercial Radio Awards, which were presented on the Gold Coast last night.

Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O (2-Day, Sydney, and other Austereo stations) may get a lot of negative press (a lot of it well deserved in the light of their stunt quizzing a child about her sex life) but they also got the big prize from their peers. They were named best on-air team (FM) over the likes of three-time winners Hamish and Andy (Austereo), Jonesy and Amanda (WSFM, Sydney), Fitzy and Wippa (Nova), and Matt and Jo Show (Fox FM, Melbourne).

The AM equivalent was won by Ross Stevenson & John Burn of Melbourne's 3AW breakfast show. Their colleague Derryn Hinch, who is court-ordered to stay out of the limelight, won the award for best current affairs report, which was accepted by his wife Chanel.

Brisbaneites among the winners were the 4BC sales team (who have been recognised before as the best in the business) and Nova 106.9 promotions director Dee Curtis.

Awards also went to Luke Bradnam from the Gold Coast's Hot Tomato (for best comedy segment), Neil Mitchell from 3AW (best talk show), Ray Hadley (best networked show) and Jules Lund of Austereo (best newcomer) , and the gongs were handed out by US actor Kelsey Grammer (one the grounds that he famously who played radio psychologist Frasier Crane on television).

There's an ABC report here, and the full results are here at Mumbrella.

PS: Neil Mitchell referred to the impending sale of the Fairfax Media radio stations, including 3AW, in this tweet last night:

AW cleaned up the awards. Derryn, Ross and John and me. Great result. Does our price go up now?

PPS: Despite a newspaper report today, Kyle and Jackie O do not have the most listened-to breakfast program in Sydney. In the most recent survey, they had a 10.1pc share of the breakfast audience. Alan Jones on 2GB had 19.2pc and Adam Spencer on 702ABC scored 14.2pc.

Who'll listen to the radio?

Posted October 14th, 2011 by debritz

"To those who say, that the radio over the internet will overtake broadcast radio I have just one thing to say – it won’t!"

So, according to, Commercial Radio Australia chair and DMG boss Cathy O'Connor told the National Radio Conference on the Gold Coast.

O'Connor went on to qualify her statement:

“The fact is there is not, and is unlikely to be in our lifetimes, enough bandwidth for reliable, robust, good quality services that can do what broadcast can do. That is – effectively communicate simultaneously, free to air and dependably to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people, anywhere, anytime.”

Now, I think Ms O'Connor is being overly optimistic in trying to predict advances (or lack of advances) in technology that didn't even exist less than a generation ago. I think it entirely probable that internet radio will match and exceed the abilities of broadcast radio within my lifetime.

What that will mean is increased competition - perhaps unfairly, from players who didn't have to invest in broadcast licences - but that should be seen as an opportunity rather than an insurmountable challenge.

What won't change is that good broadcasting will triumph over bad. Everyone in radio - and in the media as a whole - should be concentrating on producing quality, targetted content for a wide range of audiences, and let the means of delivery sort itself out.

Begley bags King's gig

Posted October 10th, 2011 by debritz

Terri Begley will be hosting 612ABC's flagship morning program when Madonna King vacates the chair later this month. Begley, whose first show will be on October 24, is also believed to be in the running to host the show full-time next year. (My list of potential candidates for the job has attracted a lot of interest.).

King, who intends to spend more time with her family, write a book and facilitate conferences, announced the transitional arrangement on her show today.

The same, but different

Posted October 3rd, 2011 by debritz

Is this the future of broadcasting? In the UK, Absolute Radio has four digital channels playing different formats: 80s, 90s, 00s and classic rock. They also have a big star announcer in comedian Frank Skinner, and they want him to be heard as widely as possible.

The solution: Skinner will be heard on all four stations, but the music will be different.

The Guardian reports:

The programme will be re-edited so that most of the words remain the same but the tunes will change depending on which station you listen to. So saying "I really like Frank Skinner but I just don't like the music" will no longer be an excuse for not tuning in. At least, that's what Absolute Radio bosses hope.

Merrick Watts joins Triple M

Posted September 28th, 2011 by debritz

Update: According to this report, Watts' signing at Trilple M means the HG Nelson and Roy Slaven show will end. Now that's sad news for Australia radio. I hope somebody picks them up.

When his breakfast show was axed from Nova in Sydney, DMG said Merrick Watts was staying in the "Nova family". Not so. Here's a Southern Cross Austereo media release:

Triple M today announced it will deliver national radio favourite Merrick Watts for the drive home in 2012, and he’ll feel right at home on the iconic rock station with his uniquely Australian sense of humour.

Merrick will hit up the Triple M airwaves in Sydney and Brisbane from 4-6pm weeknights, building on the ratings success of The Grill Team with Matty, MG and Gus, plus complementing Triple M Brisbane’s new Grill Team with Marto, Pete and Michelle.

Merrick will also feature in Melbourne and Adelaide from 6-8pm nightly and around the country on Southern Cross Austereo’s network of Triple M regional Localworks stations.

Merrick Watts, Triple M drive host said, “I’m stoked to be doing drive at Triple M next year. Footy, rock and comedy is a trifecta of good times for me. Can’t wait to start.”

Craig Bruce, Head of Content for Southern Cross Austereo said, "We're incredibly excited about Merrick joining us in 2012. He's the perfect choice for Triple M which is gathering momentum right around the country. Triple M will have rock, sport and comedy in spades for the drive home next year.”

Some questions:

Will Watts be competitive against Nova's new national drive team of Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell?

And will, as the persistent rumours have it, Andy Lee and Hamish Blake be returning to the Today network drive show five days a week in 2012? Well, Blake denied it in a tweet, saying: "Newspaper reports we're doing 5 days a week radio in 2012. Wrong. 5000 days a week! Also wrong. 1 day a week? Right. H "

Ian Skippen: comeback king?

Posted September 26th, 2011 by debritz

Dumped breakfast radio host Ian Skippen says he has had "some interesting offers" since parting ways with Brisbane's Triple M last week.

Skippen, who has been with the company now known as Southern Cross Austereo for more than 20 years, told 612ABC's Spencer Howson that he was "open to everything" because "radio is my passion".

But he indicated a preference for breakfast radio over a hypothetical offer to do the night shift on 612.

"I'm very privileged and humble to have been able to do what I've done," he said.

Asked about the future of the medium, Skippen said "radio will never die because it embraces and it invites you in and it's portable - we're in cars.[Many of our] listeners are in cars, in trains or on bikes."

But he also noted that listeners now have more choice than ever.

"They're not as loyal," he told Howson (who is the city's No.1 breakfast host) "except to you."

Skippen also said digital radio will grow as the hardware gets cheaper but conceded that on-air breakfast teams may have had their day.

"Maybe it's too expensive," he said, citing the economy and declining advertising revenue.

You can hear the interview here.

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.

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