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Radio gaga?

Posted March 2nd, 2011 by debritz

Barely a month after Farifax launched its new line-up at Sydney's 2UE, The Australian is reporting analysis that the diversified media group would be better off ditching its radio assets. Now, I'm not in a position to crunch the numbers on that suggestion, but I can pose a few questions about 2UE, Fairfax and radio in general.
1) Why would 2UE want to emulate the far-more-successful 2GB by hiring announcers with similar political viewpoints and on-air styles? The rationale that its younger line-up may one day draw an audience from GB, sometime after Alan Jones and Ray Hadley retire, doesn't make a lot of sense in the short or medium term. And when the long term rolls around, well the whole broadcasting/media landscape almost certainly will have changed (see point 3).
2) Why would anybody want the 2GB audience anyway? Owner John Singleton has been known to complain that his station doesn't get the slice of the advertising pie it deserves on the basis of its large listener numbers. But take a look at who these listeners are. They are over 50, and mostly over 65. Now there's nothing at all wrong with that, but -- as far as I can tell -- they mostly reside on Alan Jones's fabled "Struggled Street". They are on the pension; they don't have the money to spend on big ticket items; so the advertisers aren't especially interested in them. Wouldn't 2UE be better off adopting a more moderate and thoughtful editorial stance and try to lure well-heeled older listeners away from the ABC? Numbers don't count a lot these days, but demographics do. Because 2UE's new political stance and demographic is at odds with at least the perception of where the Fairfax newspapers stand, there is no real synergy to be had between them. If Fairfax wants to have audio on its websites, iPad editions etc., it doesn't have to own a radio network to do it -- just as it didn't need to own a TV network to put video on its sites.
3) What exactly is the value of a broadcasting licence these days? Everybody who's got a smartphone, a netbook or a tablet device also has a portable "radio" that can stream audio from anywhere in the world -- regardless of whether the person operating the "station" has a licence or not. It's as easy to listen to Brett FM broadcast from my bedroom* as it is to listen to the "real" broadcasters who, in Australia and elsewhere, have paid huge amounts of money for their licences. Quality may vary but, as YouTube has proved, dodgy production values are not necessarily a barrier to popularity. While it long been possible to be served a "local" ad on a foreign website, surely foreign broadcasters will soon have the technology (probably already being tested in the Google Labs) to insert Australian ads into their audio streams for Australian audiences. More competition for the advertising dollar, and less opportunity for radio stations to make money.
4) What next? The shape of the future is changing every day (which is why I predicted that many of the predicitions I made at the start of the year won't come true) and all broadcasters -- indeed, all media organisations -- will need to be focused and flexible. They'll also need to be considerably slimmer than they are now.
* This station does not exist -- yet.

No show without ...

Posted March 2nd, 2011 by debritz

I received this picture from B105 in Brisbane of breakfast hosts Labby and Stav with a cake to celebrate the station's 21st birthday. My invitation to the party must have been lost in cyberspace. More importantly, my inquiries as to why original B105 Morning Crew stars Jamie Dunn and Donna Lynch were apparently not invited to cut the cake was met with bemusement. At least I hope Ian Skippen -- another B105 original who celebrated his own birthday over the weekend -- was invited around from sister station Triple M to share a slice of the cake that he, Dunn and Lynch helped make so big.

Radio ratings

Posted February 24th, 2011 by debritz

The first radio ratings results for metropoitan markets in Australia is in - except for Brisbane, where flooding delayed the start of the survey*. In Sydney, talk station 2GB continues to dominate, with the new line-up on 2UE yet to make any positive impact (listener percentages slipped overall and in most shifts, but it's early days yet). 2Day again led the FM pack overall and in breakfast, where Kyle Sandilands had a rebound, although 702ABC's Adam Spencer was second to GB's Alan Jones in breakfast and the station was third overall. Nova 96.9 and Triple M Sydney both shockers, losing across the day (although the Ms had a rebound at night), but Mix 106.5 is finally moving in the right direction after a turbulent few years near the bottom of the ladder. In Melbourne, 3AW, Fox and ABC774 remain the leaders, while relatively new talk station MTR added a few listeners from its very low base. Triple M had a marginal increase overall and in breakfast, but the much-taunted and recently controversial Eddie McGuire still attracted only a 5.9pc share of the cornflakes audience (compared to 20pc for AW's Ross and John). Both 2Day and Fox suffered declines in their drive time audience, reflecting the fact that golden boys Hamish and Andy are now only heard on Fridays.
* Brisbane results will be available on March 29

What changes under Southern Cross?

Posted February 5th, 2011 by debritz

The big media story of the past week in Australia has been Southern Cross Media's takeover bid for Austereo. The Australian has been on the case all week,, culminating in this interview by James Chessell with Southern Cross boss Rhys Holleran. These paragraphs caught my eye:

Holleran believes there are savings to be made by reducing management and combining back-office functions such as IT and audit.
While Holleran won't volunteer his internal forecasts, he agrees with analysts' suggestions that $10-20m in saving are achievable.

There is, of course, a big difference between the two figures, but I suppose Holleran and his team wouldn't be doing the job shareholders expect of them if they didn't shoot for the higher one. So, how can you slice $20m off the combined businesses, especially when the regional network is already pretty much bare bones? I suppose there are some savings to be made in the admin and IT areas, but that won't get them close to the magic figure. So, should local managers be worried? ARN recently sacked the GMs in its state offices, and now runs the business side of things from HQ in Sydney, so that's a possibility. Again, though, it's not going to save a huge amount - and could actually cost in terms of lost revenues if the people they cast adrift, most of them from a slaes background, walk across the street to another network along with their clients*). What Holleran didn't mention - and this has to be the elephant in the room as far ass the listeners are concerned - is whether he expects savings to be made by cutting back on on-air talent and further networking (a strategy that has made the regional network very profitable). While it's hard to imagine immediate axings, you'd have to think that some of the talent is getting a bit nervous - and not just the big names. While the pressure will continue to be on to squeeze maximum value from the high-earning breakfast shows, some of the lower-profile jocks in day and night shifts at local stations may find themselves squeezed out altogether and replaced by announcers in "hubs" thousands of kilometres away. Sadly, radio will eventually go the way of television. As far as they legally can, all the networks will want to consolidate programming until it comes from a single source. Their only fear is that parochial audiences won't go for it, but I think it will work with the right talent - as it has in the drive shift with Hamish and Andy for the past few years. And, of course, almost all late-night and early morning radio in Australia is already networked, even on ABC "Local" Radio. The admirable exception, of course, is during an emergency, such as the recent floods and cyclone crises in Queensland. However, I believe a networked breakfast show on commmercial radio is inevitable. The question is: will Southern Cross be brave enough to be the first to make the leap into prime time?
* There is a precedent for this in Brisbane radio.

My Oz radio predictions

Posted January 8th, 2011 by debritz

1. More job casualties, on air and behind the scenes, at Australian radio stations, with big names almost certainly among them. In Brisbane, I think we'll see changes or programming tweaks at Fairfax (4BC and 4BH), Austereo (Triple M and B105), and ARN (4KQ and 97.3FM).
2. As part of that, I foresee the very dramatic early to mid-year departure of more than one announcer or team who's failed to live up to expectations.
3. I also see sweeping management changes at at least one Brisbane station when the big bosses down south finally start paying attention.
4. The drive-time slot will become more competitive following the departure of Austereo's Hamish and Andy. It will take some time (if ever) before there's a clear winner, but the trend towards national programs in this shift will continue. Within a decade, breakfast is likely to be the only "local" shift on some metro stations (as is already the case in the bush). Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if there's an experiment with a national breakfast show, if not in 2011, then in the next couple of years.
5. 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.)
6. Nationally, with some prominent exceptions, I see the decline of personality-based radio. Many smaller stations will concentrate much more on music programming than on big-name talent.
7. In Brisbane, the ABC will be the one to watch. Spencer Howson will continue his winning ways in breakfast on 612ABC (and the commercial stations will continue to pretend he doesn't exist). It will also be a good year for Triple J, which will build on last year's big finish, and overtake at least one of the struggling commercial tailenders.
8. Among the commercial stations, Nova 106.9 will have a good year in breakfast, with the team of Meshel, Marty and Tim consolidating its gains from 2010. At B105, breakfast stars Labby and Stav may benefit from the increased exposure afforded by their new afternoon gig on digital TV channel Eleven, but that won't necessarily translate into radio ratings. As Eddie McGuire has discovered in Melbourne, success in one medium doesn't necessarily guarantee success in another - and fame can be fickle wherever you find it. While B105 is in a strong position, there were signs of audience leakage last year and that will have to be addressed. Triple M will also face a struggle to remain competitive in Brisbane - but nowhere near the problems it is facing in Sydney and Melbourne. If the addition of Mick Molloy to the mix in Melbourne and Sydney doesn't work, the whole Triple M brand could be scrapped to allow either for stations with their own callsigns under a loose national umbrella, or an entirely new network concept.
9. 2011 won't quite be the year of digital radio, but all the networks will need to focus on their multichannel offerings to have things right for when DAB+ gains real traction. The acceptance of the new TV channels will help pave the way, and make advertisers more receptive. Still, the existing analogue stations will continue to be the main game for a long time.
10. Only half of these predicitions will come true.

Be careful what you tweet

Posted December 20th, 2010 by debritz

Are the gloves off in the battle for Brisbane's breakfast radio listeners? One Brisbane radio station's Twitter account was used by person or persons unknown* to tweet that a new show on another station "is car crash waiting to happen". It continued:

"Too much ego not enough talent another nail in the coffin. You really do suck [name of station]"

The tweet has since been deleted -- but not before others rewteeted it.
* Update: Although I originally chose not to name either station or the people involved, The Courier-Mail has identified the tweeter as Family Radio 96.5's Liam Renton from The Family Show, who told the paper he wrote the item about 4BC's new breakfast team because they made "derogatory" comments about 612ABC's Spencer Howson on a Mediaweek podcast. He said it wasn't meant to offend anyone, and offered an apology if it did. Unfortunately, as the following snapshot shows, the C-M misidentified 96.5 as 95.5.

The radio numbers game

Posted December 14th, 2010 by debritz

"You're kidding, aren't you?" That's the response I got a few years ago when I pointed out to the publicist at a commercial radio station that they had not, as claimed in a press release, won the breakfast ratings, 612ABC's Spencer Howson had. "The ABC doesn't count." Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it does count. While ABC radio doesn't compete for advertising dollars, the fact that it drags so many people away from commercial radio does have an impact on their bottom lines. Imagine if ABC television rated as highly; the commercial stations would be campaigning for the government to nobble it (as they are in the UK, where the BBC regularly trounces ITV and is a thorn in the side of satellite broadcaster BSkyB). Of course, the radio ratings survey itself is designed to not give an accurate snapshot of what people are listening to -- otherwise all the community stations would be included by name in the diaries distributed during surveys. In Brisbane, I can't believe that the 96.5 Family FM audience is negligible, as the "other FM" figures would have us believe. As I've said before, if I was a commercial radio executive, I'd want to know exactly what people are listening to and why. If I knew more about, say 4EB or Bay FM or Logan 101 (not to mention the commercial station in Ipswich, River 949, which is widely heard in Brisbane), I'd be in a better position to steal some of their audience. In the Brisbane market of course, every little percentage point, or part thereof, can count for a lot. So if the commercial station program directors (or content directors as many of them are now called) aren't taking the ABC into account -- and that applies especially to talk stations who are getting beaten by ABC Local Radio stations -- let alone the better-performing community and non-metro commercial stations, then they aren't doing their jobs properly.

And the winners were ...

Posted December 14th, 2010 by debritz

B105 retained its overall lead, but Nova 106.9 is breathing down its neck; recently resurgent 97.3FM slipped back a little, and 612 ABC's Spencer Howson won the breakfast race. In other Brisbane radio ratings results, 4BC held steady in breakfast despite losing announcers Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder mid-survey, but slipped overall - giving it the wooden spoon* in a fairly tight field of commercial players and putting it behind sister station 4BH (suggesting the wholesale changes in next year's schedule are a good idea). In the breakfast battle, Nova's Meshel, Tim and Marty overtook B105's Labby, Camilla and Stav and claimed second place, with 97.3's Robin, Terry and Bob in fourth and Triple M's The Cage fifth. The biggest overall gains were made by 4KQ, which added 1.6 points, and is now only third from the bottom of the field of commercial contenders. One of the biggest surprises was that the last farewell for Hamish and Andy didn't score them a record rating at Brisbane - but with 18.6pc of the audience, it was still the most popular show in the market by percentage share of available audience (with Steve Austin's evenng show on 612ABC in second place). The order overall (all people 10+) was B105, Nova, 97.3, 612ABC, Triple M (down from its glory days), KQ, BH and BC. In Melbourne, the much-touted Eddie McGuire took Triple M backwards from 7.1 to 5.8 in breakfast. A blip or signs that he's not the messiah?
* On the share movement by demographic figures. BH and BC swap places on the by-session figures.
Update: I neglected to mention Triple J, which is level pegging with 4BC on 7.0pc overall. Of course, its audience is coming from a different place, and presumably at the expense of Nova and B105. All done without bus-shelter and billboard advertising.
Correction: I orignally noted here that 4BC's Michael Smith, who has just become part of the line-up intended to revitalise 2UE in Sydney, had the lowest daytime rating on 4BC. Michael tells me, and I am glad to accept it as true, that he, in fact, has the second-highest daytime ratings on 4BC, and had the highest in the previous ratings. My mis-reading occured because the start and finish of his shift do not align with those in the official survey resuts. In any case, I wish him good luck in Sydney.

More change at 4BC

Posted December 14th, 2010 by debritz

The latest word from Brisbane's Radio 4BC, which has just announced major line-up changes for 2011, is that news director and program director Chris Adams has quit to write a book. Adams has recently been on holidays and his name was not attached to the 4BC media release announcing line-up changes for 2011. I hear Tanya Grimwald is to move from assistant PD to PD while former Coast FM announcer Scott Mayman will lead the newsroom.

4BC and 4BH announce 2011 line-ups

Posted December 8th, 2010 by debritz

Update: A 4BC media release confirms these changes
Sources tell me that Brisbane radio 4BC has made an internal announcement today regarding its 2011 line-up, with Peter Dick and Mary Collier confirmed as breakfast hosts, Gary Hardgrave to replace Michael Smith in drive and Loretta Ryan and Moyd Kay to move from breakfast on sister station 4BH to afternoons on 4BC. Former Triple M producer/announcer Michael Price has been named as a possible new voice at 4BH. Are these the changes BC and BH need? As I've said before, I wish them well.
Update: The media release quotes general manager David McDonald as saying: “We are excited about the new 4BC line up and confident about its success as it faces the challenges of 2011 in an ever changing media environment. The market has indicated the need for change so we are confident the balanced team of ‘familiar and new’ faces that we have assembled will provide a great mix of information, entertainment and news.” Another release quotes Price, who previously worked at 4BH at the age of 25, as saying: “I love the variety in the music we’ve always played on 4BH 882 and I’m looking forward to injecting some fun in the morning, sharing the real useful info and on-time local news and ensuring we continue to put on a show that’s safe for anyone in the family to listen to." Program director Geoff Harrison says: “I’ve known Pricey for a good 17 years. He’s more then a radio man that still loves the magic of it, in his heart he’s a 4BH man. His life has been full of more of the good then bad experiences, but he’s had both and he’ll bring that and his current life as a husband and father of two pre-school aged children to Breakfast. He’s real and will be an instant friend-maker each morning."

Spencer gets the call

Posted December 2nd, 2010 by debritz

A minute after he went off air this morning, 612ABC's Spencer Howson received a phone call from 4BC asking whether he had had an offer to join the commercial station. The caller, an on-ar announcer, asked Howson, Brisbane's no. 1 breakfast announcer, "Are you coming? Are you talking [to station management]?" To that point, it was the only call Howson has had from the commercial station, which he and his 612 colleagues have been consistently thrashing in the ratings for the past few years. Of course, the person who phoned was in no position to make Howson an offer, and it seems that staff (even those with perceived influence) at 4BC are just as much in the dark as everybody else about what the station's final 2011 line-up will be.
PS: Meanwhile, I have deleted a comment from a previous item in this blog that made quite seriously allegations about 4BC which I cannot confirm at this time. I did so because I take blogging seriously and, despite what some people may think, this is not a forum for letting loose at a particular station or at certain people -- especially when it is done so anonymously. This blog is a source of news, gossip and the exchange of information on a number of topics, including radio. As I have said on many occasions, I love the medium and I want to see all stations, especially those in my home town of Brisbane, thrive. At the moment, I'm especially keen to see 4BC reach its full potential, and I am puzzled why commercial talk radio is not succeeding as well in Brisbane as it is interstate. I have many friends who now work, or have previously worked, at BC and its sister station 4BH, and I wish everybody there well.

Carousel is still spinning

Posted December 1st, 2010 by debritz

4BC isn't the only Brisbane radio station in flux (see my previous item). Some more line-up changes are likely elsewhere on the dial. You might be surprised who could be on the move.
PS: Paul Murray has confirmed on Twitter that he'll be doing drive on 2UE. Will it be networked or partially networked? Also, UE lineup leans very much to the right; is there room with GB in the same space? Is it a gift to the ABC?

Opportunity knocks twice at 4BC

Posted December 1st, 2010 by debritz

The announcement that Michael "Smithy" Smith will move to Sydney's 2UE next year creates a great opportunity for Brisbane radio station 4BC, with both the breakfast and drive shifts now vacant. But it's an opportunity that can't be squandered, because the wrong choice could backfire badly and have longterm ramifications (rebuilding would take at least two years). I've canvassed all sorts of breakfast options on this blog -- and I've suggested that Paul Murray, the 32-year-old wunderkind signed by Fairfax Radio from Triple M, might be networked (he already has a national profile thanks to a gig on Sky News) -- but what about the drive shift? Well, I reckon it should be considerably lightened off. Folks don't want to be brow-beaten at the end of a long working day. Of course, I'd be looking for someone with some smarts, so they can tackle political issues and breaking news of the day, but also somebodby with a light touch. I can think of a few candidates who are already working for other stations, but if 4BC managers are seeking real change maybe they should really think outside the box and go for somebody not currently in a full-time radio gig*. Whatever happens, I expect there'll be a lot of experimentation over the next few weeks -- although they really should aim to have the 2011 team in place well before the next ratings year begins.
* And, yes, I am available.
Update: The word doing the rounds is that Mary Collier is firming as breakfast co-host on 4BC next year. Meanwhile, it's been announced that Jason Morrison has been poached from 2GB to do breakfast on 2UE next year. Morrison has successfully covered for Alan Jones and, presumably, will win over some of the radio king's audience.

Power and the passion

Posted November 25th, 2010 by debritz

I've been having some Twitter conversations about radio today; some general, some specific about the situation at Brisbane's 4BC, where they are trialling different breakfast combinations after the departure of Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder. Whether it be 4BC or any other station, the breakfast show, more than any other shift (partly because of sacrifices required to work the ridiculous hours), requires passion. The person behind the microphone has to want it badly, do it well and live the job. Earlier this year, I was interviewed by City News about the success of my friend Spencer Howson at 612ABC and I noted that he's always "on". Those who follow him on Twitter will know what I mean. The man is a dynamo, who is always thinking about his breakfast show all through the day and well into the night, and that's reflected in his ratings -- he's been no.1 in breakfast for most of this year. Of course, you need to have talent, but to do radio really well, you also have to have unlimited enthusiasm for the job. I'd suggest that's why Hamish Blake and Andy Lee (pictured) are cutting back their drivetime show on the Austereo network to just Fridays. They want to do more TV shows, and they want to make it in the UK (where they have a weekly radio spot) and the US, so they walked away from what would have to be the biggest pay packets in commercial FM radio to achieve their new passion. John Laws doesn't need to work again, but he's coming back on air to 2SM and a network of country stations next year because he wants to (motivated, I'd suspect, by the desire to prove he's still got it). He probably won't set the Sydney market on fire, but they'll love him in the bush and that'll probably generate enough income to keep him going for as long as he likes. The message is: whether you're just starting out or you're 75 years old, if you don't have the hunger, you won't succeed, even with talent to spare.
PS: I wonder what the odds of Paul Murray being networked by Faifax Radio next year? Pretty good, I'd reckon.

Too many Dicks

Posted November 25th, 2010 by debritz

Peter Dick has been in radio for more than 30 years, but the 4BC website still can't get his name right:

PS: Perhaps "dick dick" is the sound of the clock ...

Battle of the bands

Posted November 25th, 2010 by debritz

A chart battle is about to begin in Brisbane, with radio personalities from across the spectrum involved in different charity musical projects. The Brisbane All-Stars' version of Do They Know It's Christmas will be competing with B105's Labby, Camilla and Stav, plus Alfie Langer and the Faith Lutheran College Choir with the modestly titled Brisbane’s Number One Hit Single. Both will be benefitting charity - the former a musicians' fund and the latter the long-running B105 Children's Hospital Christmas appeal - so, for once, there will be no losers.

Do they know it's Christmas?

Posted November 19th, 2010 by debritz

Brisbane radio announcers Kelly Higgins-Devine, from 612ABC, and Loretta Ryan, from 4BH, were caught on video recording their part for the Brisbane All-Stars upcoming charity single:

The single will be released in the first week of December, with proceeds going to Support Act, Australia's music industry benevolent fund.

B105's big challenge

Posted November 5th, 2010 by debritz

B105, the longtime market leader that lost its way and then became the "comeback kid" of Brisbane radio, narrowly escaped losing its re-won no.1 overall crown in last week's penultimate radio survey for 2010. But there must be a lot of nervousness at B105 when they consider that it was the huge audience for Hamish and Andy's drive time show that helped get them over the line. With H&A leaving five-days-a-week radio next year, their numbers are up for grabs, and 97.3FM may only have to keep an even keel to emerge the winner next year. With its female-friendly format, the station already has an edge in pitching to potential advertisers. It's just a shame that station boss Peter Verhoeven, who nurtured 97.3FM from the go-get (with some mis-steps and some inspired decisions along the way), won't be there to enjoy future spoils of success.
PS: According to Spencer Howson tweet, News Radio's Steve Palmer is also calling it quits, with a change of career. He's a good bloke, and I wish him well.

Shock and awe

Posted November 5th, 2010 by debritz

Brisbane radio folk are in shock today at news of the sacking of local Australian Radio Network general manager Peter Verhoeven, along with other group GMs interstate. Jocks' Journal has a report on it here. It comes in the same week that Verhoeven's baby, 97.3FM, finally cracked the no.1 spot in Brisbane, in a dead-heat with B105. Even 4KQ, which is at the bottom of the Brisbane ratings ladder, is performing much better than some interstate ARN stations (particularly Mix 106.5 in Sydney). It's a shame that ARN senior management believes that radio, which is a very local medium, would be best managed centrally from down south. Of course, Verhoeven's departure -- which follows the axing of Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder, and a raft of other changes (not all yet played out) at 4BC -- shows that nobody is safe from the "don't come Monday". Other radio folk, especially those without contracts for next year, would be justifiably concerned.
PS: Farewell to Brisbane-based ABC Grandstand announcer Gerry Collins, who is retiring at the end of this year. He's one of the truly great sport broadcasters, and I hope he has a long and fruitful retirement.
PPS: The latest rumour from 4BC is that Peter Dick, who will be teaming up for the breakfast shift with Victoria Carthew from Monday, has only committed to five weeks in the hot seat. There is also some talk about a move of some kind for Michael Smith.

B105 and 97.3 share the glory

Posted November 1st, 2010 by debritz

B105 leads the Brisbane commercial radio market again, both overall and in the important breakfast shift - although they shared the10+ audience top spot with 97.3FM, which has gone gangbusters this year. The standout performers in survey 7, the second last for 2010, were Hamish and Andy, whose networked show (which is ending this year) scooped 20.8pc of the available audience in Brisbane (although that's a drop on last survey's result, theirs is by far the most popular show on radio). 612ABC's Spencer Howson was again the winner in breakfast on 13.4pc (down from a huge 15.3pc last survey), beating B105's Labby, Camilla and Stav, 97.3FM's Robin, Terry and Bob, Nova's Meshel. Tim and Marty and Triple M's The Cage. 4BC's now-departed Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder were next in breakfast (7.5pc, down 0.3), followed by 4KQ's Laurel, Gary and Mark, and 4BH's Moyd and Loretta. BH was also last overall in the commercial stations, in a field led by B105 and 97.3, followed by Nova 106.9, 612ABC and Triple M. In the evening slot, 612ABC's Steve Austin is powering away with 16.5pc of the audience, well ahead of the music stations and almost doubling 4BC's nightime figure of 8.8pc. Farifax Radio has some problems, with both 4BH (which added 1.5pc this survey) and 4BC still in single figures, and ARN haslost ground with 4KQ, which has taken the overall wooden spoon among the commercial stations (although its half-owned 97.3 is doing very well). At least the Brisbane station tail-enders look good compared to the bottom-rung players donw south.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, 2GB and 2Day continue to share the glory, but Mix 106.5, which sacked its breakfast presenters after the survey 6 result, continues its decline in the cornflakes shift with a paltry 2.3pc share -- at the very bottom of the table, behind even the low-rating ABC Classic FM. In Melbourne, 3AW continues to show how talk radio should be done, while new competitor MTR barely rates at all with a patehtic 1.1pc overall and in breakfast.

More dramas at 4BC

Posted October 30th, 2010 by debritz

The changes at Brisbane radio station 4BC are not confined to the airwaves. Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder have left the breakfast shift (not of their own accord) to be replaced firstly by Ash Bradnam (on P Plates for a week's trial) and ten by Peter Dick (who is said not to be keen to return to early starts full-time), and three newsroom staff, including veteran broadcaster Rod "Mr T" Tiley, have handed in their notice. Now I'm told that two key advertising sales staff have left and former sales boss Jim Johnston is being rushed back in as a consultant to head-off the potential impact. BC has punched above its weight in the sales area and a double-whammy of on- and off-air uncertainty is the last thing it needs. Of course, renewal could be a good thing, if it's handled properly. Stay tuned.

Tim Cox mystery solved

Posted October 29th, 2010 by debritz

My sources tell me that Hobart broadcaster Tim Cox will be presenting the breakfast show on the ABC's Coast FM on the Gold Coast next year. Reports elsewhere that he would be coming to 612ABC in Brisbane were a little wide of the mark. Meanwhile, there are plenty of rumours concerning 4BC since the departure of Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder, where former Nova announcer Ash Bradnam will be having a trial run in breakfast next week alongside Chris Adams, followed by the return to the cornflakes slot of Peter Dick, probably for the rest of the year. What BC plans for next year has not yet been announced. I'll write more about this in coming days.

Dunn gone, who's next?

Posted October 29th, 2010 by debritz

Update: Ash Bradnam and Chris Adams will be on 4BC breakfast from Monday. All indications are that Dunn and Calder did not jump.
With Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder having quit the breakfast shift at 4BC, the pressure is on station management to find a replacements or replacements who will, in popular parlance, take the station to the next level. AS I've noted before, BC has a long way to go before it matches the success of 3AW and 2GB, which command a huge slice of the listening audience. My feeling is that drive r presenter Michael Smith will lobby hard for the breakfast gig and may well get it, but I'm not convinced that he's the one to take the station forward. I think his strident views will be as much a turn-off as a turn-on, and BC may find itself with a different, but still not large audience. Having said that, Smith has the capacity to reinvent himself -- as he has done many times through his career -- and, perhaps with the right co-host, could crack at least double figures for the struggling station. As for other candidates, I think it unlikely that the high-rating Spencer Howson would be wooed from the ABC, and in any case ABC announcers have had mized success in the commercial media. More soon on this.
PS: I've also heard a rumour that veteran newsman Rod "Mr T" Tiley is leaving BC -- and Brisbane -- to be news director at 6PR Perth, and that Aaron Lucas and Thea Cowie are also moving on from the newsroom; Lucas to Triple M.
UPDATED:Here's the audio of Dunn and Calder signing off today. They speak about what they will be doing next week. Strange for people who allgeedly knew they were leaving.

A tweet too far?

Posted October 28th, 2010 by debritz

I love Twitter; I use it daily and I choose to put my Twitter feed at the top of this blog. But I still have very deep concerns about the way it has been adopted by the mainstream media, and especially by the ABC. Australia's national broadcaster has embraced Twitter to the point where it streams tweets across TV programs, including Q and A, which has a very strong online following, and reads them over the air on radio stations that activly encourage listeners to tweet their opinions. As I write, 612ABC in Brisbane is running a competition for Twitter users only -- and I think it's wrong. I can see why radio stations would see Twitter as a gift. Rather than having to talk to phone callers, they can see and read listeners' thoughts (in convenient short form) on a computer screen directly in front of them in real time. But, exactly who does tweet, and why should their opinions get priority? The answer is that nobody knows for sure yet, but we do know that tweeters are not a representative sample of the Australian public, and especialy not of ABC local radio listeners, many of whom are elderly and unlikely ever to embrace new technology. Being able to tweet gives some listeners an unfair advantage in terms of participating in "our ABC". Tweets are easy to send and easy to receive -- if you have the technology. And the more tweets that are read on air, and the more Twitter is spoken about, the less time there is to broadcast the thoughts of people using that now, oh-so-old-fashioned telephone technology. For one thing, a phone call has to be answered -- and I've sat in enough radio studios in my time (public, community and commercial) to know that many calls go unanswered or callers are fobbed off. I believe the ABC, in particular, should tread carefully in its use of social media. There's a great risk here of marginalising the majority, disenfranchising loyal, longtime listeners and viewers, to indulge the minority. And I say that even though I am a part of that minority.

Sharing the love

Posted October 21st, 2010 by debritz

Competition might be fierce in the world of radio, but the stars from different firmaments do occasionally align. It was an aural love-in in Brisbane last week when Nova 106.9's Meshel, Tim and Marty starting talking about singer-songwriter Scott Spark as well as 612ABC's Spencer Howson and Anne O'Keeffe, with whom Spark works as a producer in his day job. Here's what was said:

Spark's album, Fail Like you Mean It, is available on iTunes here.

Cox 'not a starter'

Posted October 20th, 2010 by debritz

The usually reliable Jocks' Journal is reporting that Tim Cox from the ABC in Tasmania is moving to Queensland to work at 612Brisbane. My sources say Cox, who filled in on the brekkie shift in Brisbane many moons ago, is not going to be part of the 612 line-up next year -- and that the Brisbane staff have been told this officially. Whether that means Cox and his wife Barbara are still heading north for other gigs, I don't know.
Update:JJ seems to have pulled its item. Here's what it said:

October 23 update< Jocks' Journal has replaced the item with: "Following up from an online story from October 20, please note: ABC Tasmania broadcaster Tim Cox will not be joining 612 ABC in Brisbane in 2011." Good on them, but it's more of a correction than a follow-up, I would have thought. I.m not sure where the original report came from, but it may be a case of someone adding two and two and getting five. I believe Cox dropped in to the ABC's Brisbane studios a few weeks ago on a social visit (or was it?).

Bad medicine

Posted October 17th, 2010 by debritz

Hello, come on in. Would you like a cup of tea? Some cake? Please settle down; make yourself at home. Now, tell me, exactly how ugly is my wife?

An unlikely scenario? Sure. But it's not far removed from what one radio station is doing in order to better understand its llisteners and, hopefully, to score a few more ratings points. The station has, apparently, commissioned market research which includes soliciting a "listeners' panel" over social media -- offering to pay the participants -- with the strange expectation that this will somehow provide honest and useful information. The station has already been "outed" as the client, so anybody who joins this focus group will be providing information filtered through this knowledge. People like to be nice, especially to their hosts, so it's extremely unlikely that they will provide any negative feedback (Imagine: "Yes, your wife is extremely ugly indeed, sir. And, yes, I will have another scone.") -- and brutal honesty is exactly what this particular station needs to hear. Ruling out the very real possibility that this is a stunt just to make some listeners feel loved, this is pointless, indulgent research. But, of course, this kind of thing is not limited to radio stations. I've seen similar things happen at two other media businesses: one of them is defunct and the other has seen its huge market advantage drop away dramatically. In both cases, management commissioned "experts" who came back with the answers they wanted to hear (to fit strategies that they wanted to implement anyway), not the answers they needed to hear. So, how should proper, useful research be conducted? Well, for starters, there should be no initial assumptions; the survey should be "blind" -- disguised as a quiz on all media, or at least all radio stations -- it should not contain leading questions and multiple-choice answer options (easy, though, they are to collate), and the panel should be assembled scientifically, not recruited over social media sites (thus limiting and skewing the available demographic). I could write a lot more about this, but I'm not especially keen to give good advice away. I will say, however, that if this isn't a stunt (and I actually hope it is), it's a very silly or desperate move. And it pains me to say that, because I love radio and I want to see vigorous competition, and plenty of audience choice, in the Brisbane market.

Social media: The big question

Posted October 14th, 2010 by debritz

Does size matter? And by that I mean, does the number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have really make a difference -- especially if you're an old media company trying to make it in the brave new digital world? Without naming names, I've done a quick headcount among newspaper and other media Twitter feeds and discovered that a lot of them really aren't cutting it in social media. While a lot of them boast about the figures they are getting for their websites, some of them have miserably tiny numbers of followers on Twitter. Now I wouldn't read too much into this except that I know they are furiously promoting their Twitter streams in print, on air and online, so having just a few thousand (or in the case of some media, a few hundred, and some individual "stars", a few dozen) followers is a pretty poor result. It's also a danger signal for proprietors. With newspaper circulations falling and broadcasting audience numbers stagnating, they've got to make their presence felt online in every way possible. If their Twitter content is not engaging enough to pull in followers, or they simply just aren't on the radar of social-media buffs, then they do have a problem connecting with a potentially huge audience. And if, for example, my personal Twitter feed, promoted only by virtual word-of-mouth, has more followers than a major suburban newspaper group and not a heck of a lot fewer than a national radio network, it's a serious problem. With Twitter itself and some individual users starting to monetise their tweets, it's all revenue that used to go to the big media groups but isn't any more. And, the way they are going, never will again.

Gone but not forgotten

Posted October 10th, 2010 by debritz

Three months after his show was axed, Gold Coast broadcaster Scott Mayman has won a radio award. Mayman, who has been in radio for 25 years, has been a regular winner in the Gold Coast Media and Corporate Club Awards in recent times. His latest "Macca" is for best radio news story, a gong he's also won for the past three years in addition to receiving the best presenter award in 2007. “Now I just need a job!” said Mayman, who left ABC Coast FM when his afternoon program was replaced by a networked show. In a media release, Mayman said: “Since the show was axed, I’ve been working with CBS News in New York as their foreign correspondent covering stories about Australia, but I’d love to get local again if the opportunity presents itself.” In the meantime, he says is going to the States to be part of a team setting up a "new HD news radio format" that he'd like to bring back to Australia.

Out of the Mix

Posted September 26th, 2010 by debritz

Radio can be a ruthless business. About this time in 2007, Sammy Power was axed from Sydney's Mix 106.5 at a time when her ratings in the breakfast shift were sitting between 5.0 and 6.4pc. Since then, two teams have come and gone. Neither Todd McKenney and Sonia Kruger nor Mike E. and Carmela (pictured) could match Power's ratings. The latter double act scored just a 3.0pc share in the most recent survey. Kruger and McKenney rated 3.3 in their final survey before being axed a year earlier. Lars Peterson is now warming the seat at Mix, with suggestions that drive duo Ant (Anthony Simpson) and Becks (Anthony Toohey) will take the helm. Sammy Power, formerly of Triple M in Brisbane and Sydney and daughter of prominent Queenslander Jan Power, is now on air at Zinc 96.1 on the Sunshine Coast, where I hope they are treating her lot better than Mix did.
Update: Of course, everyone at Mix is on a loser to nothing as long as the station tries to go head-to-head with 2Day's Kyle and Jackie O.
PS: This is the time of year when radio stations formalise their 2010 line-ups. I reckon other on-air teams across Australia have reason to be nervous.

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