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Hamish and Andy: Austereo's dilemma

Posted October 11th, 2009 by debritz

Austereo picture of Hamish and AndyIt's been an intresting week in radioland, and especially for market-leading FM broadcaster Austereo. Hamish Blake has been named Australia's favourite personality according to the Q Score survey, and he and on-air partner Andy Lee have swept the Commercial Radio Awards. Meanwhile, Kyle Sandilands has limped back on to the airwaves, well aware that Austereo bosses will be watching the official ratings surveys and their own audience tracking very carefully. At last night's awards ceremony, Austereo content director Guy Dobson described Hamish and Andy as a "phenomenon", saying: "They continue to deliver original and entertaining content which we are constantly impressed by." Sandilands and his Sydney 2Day partner Jackie O didn't show at the awards and, despite three nominations, didn't win anything. So, Austereo has a damaged breakfast team in Australia's most important market but a wildly successful national drive team. If Sandilands' and O's ratings continue to slide, there will be a push from some in Austereo to parachute Hamish and Andy into 2Day breakfast. Some in the Austereo boardroom may even be tinkering with the idea of the comedy duo hosting a national breakfast show, although they will be well aware that networking breakfast has failed before because radio is still essentially seen as a local medium. And, of course, the Austereo breakfast shows in other states (including Labrat, Camilla and Stav on Brisbane's B105) are doing quite well. But, as media budgets get tighter, the huge savings to be made by networking must be attractive and, as Dobson said last night, these guys are a phenomenon. And when you've got the hottest act on radio -- most likely the hottest act in the country in any medium -- wouldn't you want them to play to the widest possible audience in the most profitable shift?
PS: Please note, the above comments are made with my management hat on; personally, I remain totally committed to live and local radio. I'd hate to see it go the way of television.

Radio's active aid for Samoa

Posted October 8th, 2009 by debritz

It's great to see commercial radio do something positive for the community, so I'm very happy to give a plug here to Triple M's charity day in aid of the Samoan tsunami appeal. Here, according to a Triple M media release, is what it's all about:

Triple M’s The Cage was so touched by the Samoan tsunami disaster after talking to local Samoan, Miss Jayne Pilia’e, during their breakfast show earlier this week that they have taken very real action, and, driven by Marto’s [Greg Martin's] rugby background and the fact that rugby is part of the Samoan culture, have announced the Fia Fia Rugby Festival, set for Saturday October 17 at Ballymore. Fia Fia is the Samoan word for “happy”.
“Marto struck gold with his suggestion of an exhibition rugby match, knowing only too well that rugby is like a religion in Samoa,” said The Cage’s Ian Skippen. It took only a few phone calls to set the ball in motion so to speak. The QR Reds jumped on board immediately and Marto is now recruiting a lineup of his former Wallaby mates and celebs prepared to pull on the boots and play ball.

Details at the Triple M website.

Mike Ahern tribute

Posted October 6th, 2009 by debritz

As reported here this morning, former 4BC DJ Mike Ahern has died at the age of 67. Today, 4BC played a tribute to him, and here's a sample of that:

4BC has a tribute page here.

Update: Here is Greg Cary's moving tribute to his friend and colleague:

Farewell, Mike Ahern

Posted October 6th, 2009 by debritz

BBC Essex photo of Mike AhernI was saddened to hear of the death of Mike Ahern, the former Radio Caroline and BBC announcer who worked for many years at 4BC in Brisbane. After returning to Britain in the late 1980s, Mike was the UK correspondent for the breakfast show on BC and was recently among those sharing their memories of pirate radio to celebrate the release of the film The Boat that Rocked. He had just turned 67.

Historical revelation

Posted October 5th, 2009 by debritz

Step aside Tim Berners-Lee and pretender Al Gore, apparentty Sir Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert, invented the internet. Or, to be more specific, he foresaw the convergence of media way back in 1937 when opening Melbourne radio station 3LK. It's a shame he didn't share his thoughts on how to monetise the love child of radio and newspapers.
Update: Here is the audio:

Mix viral: too smug?

Posted October 4th, 2009 by debritz

In reference to the Mix 106.5 viral clip parodying Kyle Sandilands, one of my Facebook friends says, and I agree, that its impact is ruined by the "ballsy" voiceover at the end and the smug look on the faces of Mike E and Carmella. The subliminal message is that, given the chance, they'd be just like Kyle, rather than a real alternative. If I was at ARN, I'd be fixing that before putting the ad on TV.

Kyle cops a caning

Posted October 3rd, 2009 by debritz

Sydney's Mix 106.5 is going on the attack to promote its news breakfast show starring Mike E (Etheridge) and Carmela (Contarino). In a tactic that has worked in radio before, the station has leaked a commercial in which a beer-bellied actor wearing a Kyle Sandilands mask decries the state of his ratings, but says defiantly: "Who else are you going to listen to?" Mix, which recently sacked Todd McKenney and Sonia Kruger, has a long way to catch up in the ratings, but the Australian Radio Network realises (as I'm sure other broadcasters do) that Austereo and 2Day are vulnerable in the wake of Sandilands' string of tasteless gaffes. Interesting times lie ahead ...

Meanwhile, Vega 95.3 has sacked its breakfast team of Mikey Robins and Tony Squires altogether, going instead for a bold all-music format.

Debritz and The Brick

Posted October 2nd, 2009 by debritz

On my 612ABC spot I often have a good-natured poke at the rugby league fraternity, so I was on my best behaviour this morning when I was on air with Glenn Lazarus, who was filling in for regular host Spencer Howson. As it happens, the man Roy and HG dubbed "The Brick with Eyes" is a charming fellow with a wide range of interests outside of football. And, if he wants it, I'd suggest he'd have a future in the media too.
Update: You can hear our chat here.

Lessons from the ghost of Stan Zemanek

Posted September 29th, 2009 by debritz

The YG News blog hits the nail on the head with this post about news websites charging for access. Blogger "Young and Grumpy" notes, with a screenshot for evidence, that the Herald Sun's Confidential gossip site still includes a prominent link to a story about shock jock Stan Zemanek going for a drive along the Great Ocean Road -- even though Zemanek died two years ago -- and an item tipping Kate Ritchie as favouriie for the Logies, which were handed out in May. A Y&G says, "I just cant wait to pay for these types of breaking stories." The Zemanek and Ritchie stories are still there as I write.

As news websites struggle to find models that will allow them to charge for content, keeping things up to date should be a no-brainer.

Kyle on the couch

Posted September 21st, 2009 by debritz

In The Sydney Morning Herald, radio writer Sue Javes has played audio of Kyle Sandilands' recent rant at 2Day newsreader Geoff Field to a psychologist. After hearing the attack -- in which Sandilands said Field was "full of dementia", "a mental patient", "a stupid prick", "a moron" and "a bloody idiot" -- the psychologist said Sandilands ...

... displays symptoms associated with narcissistic or borderline personality disorder. He has such a fragile sense of self that when he's challenged or feels a loss of face, he becomes highly agitated and loses rational control. The more stress he's under, the more likely he is to lash out.

Another radio ranter

Posted September 20th, 2009 by debritz

"It was absolute entertainment and if anyone didn't like it they can go and get f---ed."

Bob Francis from 5AA websiteThat's how Adelaide shock jock and complete charmer Bob Francis responded to South Australia's The Sunday Mail when they asked him about a tirade of abuse he directed on-air at an elderley woman. Francis is a serial offender in this regard, and an expert quoted by the paper says it's a matter of conflict creating good radio. Well, it's one thing to have a lively on-air stoush (as my old friend Peter Dick seems to enjoy) and another thing to call an elderly female listener a "dick brain", a "stupid bitch" and, somewhat curiously, a "wanker". The station, 5AA, says it's all part of Francis's act, and the night-time DJ himself says: "It's after nine o'clock and under the rules of radio you can do almost what you like." Really? I wonder if the ACMA will agree when it completes its Kyle Sandilands-driven review of radio standards. I also wonder what this all says about the way Australian society is heading.
PS: Francis, 71, holds 23.6 per cent of the night-time radio audience in Adelaide -- probably not a huge number of actual people but enough to mean that his bosses won't care about broadcasting standards, just about the money he's making them.

Fidler's fate greatly exaggerated

Posted September 18th, 2009 by debritz

Despite reports elsewhere, 612ABC's Richard Fidler (not Fydler) was not suspended for making inappropriate remarks about Kyle Sandilands. That was just stand-in host Julian "The Chaser" Morrow's little on-air joke. Fidler is on holidays.

Footy ratings: a correction

Posted September 18th, 2009 by debritz

An "informed source" tells Spencer Howson, who passed it on to me:

... for the record spencer, riverfire outrated the league in one 15 minute block only. Riverfire peaked for the night at about 340 thousand, the league peaked a little later at 460 thousand. to say more people watched riverfire than the league is plain wrong.

Fair enough. But it doesn't change the thrust of my argument. I've never said that the footy isn't popular, I've just said it's not the be-all and end-all of Australians' interests. When you look at the ABS figures, more of us go to arts events than to sporting events. And, when it comes to television, with the exception of big finals and State of Origin games, it's the arts and entertainment content -- the sitcoms, the dramas, the "reality" shows, the movies -- (and, yes, the news) that day-in, day-out, draw the viewers.
You can hear my arguments here.

Time to take a long, hard look

Posted September 18th, 2009 by debritz

Spencer Howson (pictured here today in holiday mode) and I revisted the subject of "sports-mad Australians" on his 612ABC radio program this morning and I made the point, I hope, that it should be seen in the broader context of changes in the media landscape. Media organisations, especially newspapers and free-to-air television, know that they are losing audiences and are desperate to reverse the trend by whatever means possible. But it seems to me that not everything is on the table. The basic newspaper today looks much as it did 50 years ago -- news up the front, features in the middle and sport in the back. And every radio or TV news bulletin allocates a certain time to sport regardless of whether there is any real sporting news at all. Because sports fans make the most noise, and a lot of them sit in the boardrooms of media organisations, nobody is willing to take a cold, hard look at the facts and say, "Well, not everyone is interested in sport and maybe we plough too much of our time and resources into it for a disproportionate return." To the accountants, I say: count the number of ads in the sport section, count the number of journos working on producing it and the amount spent on sending them to sporting evetns in far-flung places. To the editors, I say: look at the statistics about what percentage of the population is actually interested in sport. After that, take a look at the arts and entertainment section and the revenue it creates and the amount of interest in the area. Or the travel section, for that matter. Until media owners are prepared to put aside their prejudices and the "common wisdom", they will be missing valuable opportunities to make money and keep their product afloat in difficult times. And they will be disenfranchising more and more of their potential audience.
PS: This argument extends to web offerings too. Go to your favourite news website and note how the sports section is always up to date, but the arts section has less content and it often goes unchanged for days.

Kruger, McKenney axed

Posted September 17th, 2009 by debritz

They may be stars on Dacing with the Stars, but Todd McKenney and Sonia Kruger have been axed from their gig on Sydney radio station Mix 106.5. Meanwhile, Kyle Sandilands has had his suspension increased to four weeks, but will return to 2Day next month. As Peter Heliar and Myf Warhust from Melbourne's Triple M and many others know, the only unpardonable crime in radio is failing to rate.
PS: I wonder if this is any consolation to Sammy Power, who was axed to make way for McKenney and Kruger despite earning higher figures than they ever achieved? Still, there have been reports that she'll be making a Sydney comeback.

Sport v arts? You don't have to choose

Posted September 16th, 2009 by debritz

After my good-natured stoush with Peter Dick today (hopefully I'll be able to post some audio here later), has put up a poll "As a Queenslander do you prefer sports or the arts." I don't really think people should have to choose between the two, I just want the media, and the world in general, to recognise that Australians are not simply sports-mad bogans; they have a range of interests, including the arts. But, hey, if you want to vote, go ahead.
PS: Here's the audio from my encounter with Peter Dick on 4BC. You'll notice that he gets the last word:

And another thing, Peter

Posted September 16th, 2009 by debritz

Peter Dick from 4BC websiteWhen he had a go at me on 4BC yesterday, Peter Dick said my argument lacked facts. Well, Peter, here are some facts, courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Statistics*:
Of adult Australians, in the course of one year: 16 per cent attended an AFL game; 9.3 per cent went to a rugby league game; 4.3 per cent went to a rugby union game; and 3.5 per cent went to a soccer game. But 65.2 per cent of us went to the cinema; 34.1 per cent went to a library; 25.2 per cent went to a popular music concert; 22.7 per cent went to an art gallery; and 17.0 per cent went to a theatre performance. When it comes to participation, it's the same story -- we spend much, much more time doing culutral activities than we do on sport. So, there you are, more people went to the theatre than to any one of the football codes, but nobody says we are a "theatre-mad" nation. Yet the sports myth persists, and it gives politicians permission to allow the destruction of old theatres and the trashing of our cultural heritage while channelling endless millions into sporting stadiums. The news media gives a disproportionate amount of time and space to sport (when's the last time you saw a theatre actor or director on the front page of the paper or a story about a theatrical production on the TV news?). And the sight of our Premier parading around in a footy jersey, or our Prime Minister making an "important message" on TV before a football game (which very few of us actually watched), contributes to an international image of Australians being uncultured yobbos when the facts show the opposite is true! I'm not saying that people shouldn't follow sport or that the media shouldn't cover it, I'm just asking for some balance that reflects the reality.
* Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics Perspectives on Sport, May 2009 and Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview, 2008 (Second Edition)]
PS: When I had a spot on the 4BC breakfast show about four years ago, the producer (a rugby league referee, as it happens) wouldn't let me talk about theatre or other arts because they weren't "mainstream" enough. The facts show otherwise -- and, when you factor in the 4BC demographic, it's even more relevant than sport. If 4BC management are reading this, I'm available to host an Arts Tonight program.

Footy: Peter Dick for the defence

Posted September 15th, 2009 by debritz

It's good to know that Peter Dick from 4BC (or his producer, at least) follows this blog. He gave me a bit of a spray today about this morning's deliberately provocative item about Australian not being as sports-mad as we're made out to be. Here's what he said:

While Peter makes a good point about attendances being up for the footy, I think he should also note that big theatre events (like Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliott, Wicked! and Cats) attract far more people during their runs than regular sports fixtures. And, when you account for movies and gallery and museum visits, arts activities are far and away more popular than any sport. But do we see Anna Bligh (who is also the Arts Minister, by the way, but you'd hardly know it) on television wearing a T-shirt promoting the next Queensland Theatre Company play or Opera Queensland production? No! Do we see her pumping tens of millions of dollars into a second major theatre venue -- as she did with the Carrara football stadium on the Gold Coast even after pledging that the new Gold Coast AFL team would have to play at the Gabba (and then doing a spectacular backflip just before the election). No! And do we see any political support for a big community event like Warana? No! I'm simply sick and tired of picking up a newspaper, or listening to the radio, or watching the TV, and being told that the result of last night's footy game was bigger news than anything else going on in the world. Good luck to those who love their footy, but by my reckoning there's at least 18 million Australians who couldn't give a toss. And, somehow, we're the ones who are made out to be "unAustralian" (whatever that means). To portray us all as something we are not does us, and our country, a disservice.

Kyle: is it curtains?

Posted September 15th, 2009 by debritz

Kyle Sandilands' future with 2Day, or his lack of it, lies with the release today of the sixth 2009 metropolitan radio ratings survey (see here for my take on the figures for Sydney and Brisbane). While 2Day retains its lead among commercial FM stations, both in breakfast and overall, it has been wounded by the Kyle and Jackie O Show's lie-detector stunt. Importantly, the station has lost share in the Drive shift, where popular hosts Hamish and Andy have added audience in other markets. The numbers are still very good, but the management at Austereo, 2Day's parent, need to move quickly to stem any potential further losses in regards to Sandilands' remarks about Magda Szubanski and a concentration camp (which fell outside the current survey). It's been suggested that Austereo will impose a strict set on rules on Sandilands, but it may be too late for that. It comes down to how much the station management think they need their one-time star attraction -- and how much he needs them. Sandilands seems to enjoy the high life and, unless there's another multi-million -dollar offer on the cards, he might need the job and will be prepared to do anything to keep it. Although the station has suffered an average 2-percentage-points blow in the ratings, Austereo bosses also know that any new show would probably rate lower than the Kyle and Jackie O Show, especially in its first year while it beds in.

Ratings: 2Day down

Posted September 15th, 2009 by debritz

Sydney station 2Day FM has dropped its share of the radio ratings, both overall and in the breakfast shift, in a survey that reflects the fallout from the controversial Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O lie-detector stunt. While it still remains the No.1 FM station, a loss in audience of around 2 per cent is not a positive sign, especially as the figures don't include the fallout from last week's Magda Szubanski incident. 2Day suffered declines across the day, suggesting a significant general listener switch-off in the wake of the scandal rather than a refusal to tune-in to the breakfast show. While some Kyle and Jackie O Show fans may argue that the 2.2pc drop in brekfast was generated by disatisfaction with 2Day's treatment of the stars rather than with the stars themselves, it's hard to read the result in any positive way for Austereo or for Kyle Sandilands' future at the station*. The drive-time Hamish and Andy show lost 3 percentage points in Sydney, but added listeners in Melbourne, where it is heard on 2Day's sister station Fox FM, and added 1.3 points in Brisbane, where it is heard on B105. In Brisbane, 612ABC's Spencer Howson has won overall in breakfast, follwed by Nova 106.9's Meshel, Ash and Tim and B105's Labby, Camilla and Stav. Just 2.1 points covers the three top stations. Nova won the survey overall (Monday to Friday 5.30am-midnight by session), followed by B105, 612ABC and 97.3FM. Triple M sustained the biggest drops both in breakfast and overall, but remains competitive.

Is Labby the new Kyle?

Posted September 15th, 2009 by debritz

Sydney's Daily Telegraph reports today that B105's Labby (aka Labrat, aka Justin Hawkins) is being lined up by Austereo to replace Kyle Sandilands on 2DayFM. It's an interesting rumour, especially as it comes on ratings day. Given the progress the B105 team of Labby (pictured, right), Camilla and Stav has been making in the Brisbane ratings lately -- coming from well behind to be within a very small margin of FM market leaders Nova 106.9 and Austereo stablemate Triple M -- local management would be reluctant to let him go (although, ultimately, they'll have no choice in the matter). I can see the reasoning -- Labby is slightly on the edge without being offensive. The story also seems at odds with Fairfax reports that Sandilands will be given one final chance, albeit with extremely strict rules in place, and an online movement to boycott 2Day unless Sandilands returns. Worth watching out for today in the Brisbane ratings is the performance of Nova, since this is the first survey for new breakfast anchor Tim Blackwell -- the replacement of Kip Wightman possibly creating an opportunity for Nova's competitors. In Sydney, all eyes will, of course, be on the ratings for the 2Day breakfast show as this survey covers the controversial lie-detector test (but not last week's jab at Magda Szubanski).

Bond blooper

Posted September 12th, 2009 by debritz

When interviewing for radio, it pays to listen carefully to what the talent says -- as this excerpt of 612ABC morning host Madonna King's interview with James Bond film star Roger Moore demonstrates:

Schick sticks with Sandilands

Posted September 11th, 2009 by debritz

I emailed several of the clients advertising on the 2Day Kyle and Jackie O Show website and asked some questions about the Magdagate affair (am I the first to use that term?). So far, I have received one response - from the shaving company Schick. It reads, verbatim and in full:

Dear Mr. Debritz,
“The Company have reviewed the situation and have no plans to change our advertising schedule in the near future”
Thank you

Sandilands: Marx for the defence

Posted September 10th, 2009 by debritz

Jack Marx (not to be confused with Groucho, pictured), a writer whose work I generally enjoy and I sometimes agree with, has jumped to the defence of Kyle Sandliands. Read what he has to say here.

Sandilands suspended again

Posted September 9th, 2009 by debritz

ninemsn screen grabI can't add much to my earlier comments, except to say I'm surprised that 2Day has acted so swiftly in suspending Kyle Sandilands over his offensive remarks about concentration camps. As a commenter on my earlier piece noted, one of the big questions is: why didn't anybody push the delay button that was installed specifically to avoid this kind of thing? Was it because nobody in the studio was adult enough to realise the extent of what he had said, or because they were too frightened for their job to cut off the self-proclaimed king of radio?
Update: How's the ignorant Sandilands supposed to understand what happened when some of the media reporting on him don't get it? Exhibit one: the blurb on the ninemsn website (above). Although his comments about Magda Szubanski's weight were unkind and cruel, surely they weren't the reason he was supsended. It was his casual, yet so offensive remark about concentration camps -- and the implied trivialisation of the victims of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide -- that was the last straw.

Farewell, Ray Barrett

Posted September 9th, 2009 by debritz

Ray Barrett, one of Brisbane's true superstars of the stage and screen, has died at the age of 82. Barrett, who starred in British and Australian radio dramas, films and television -- including the UK drama series The Troubleshooters and as a character voice in the classic children's series Thuderbirds -- died after a fall at his Gold Coast home. I interviewed him several times -- including once to celebrate the anniversary of the Brisbane Repertory Company (which became La Boite) -- and found him to be a true professional and a gentleman who never forgot his roots. When I spoke to him for Brisbane News about 15 years ago, he said it was his dream to play eye specialist Fred Hollows, to whom he had a strong resemblance.
PS: There's an excellent, comprehensive bio of Ray here.

ABC cancer report released

Posted August 25th, 2009 by debritz

The ABC and the Cancer Council have released their findings into the breast-cancer "cluster" that caused the abandonment of the Toowong site in Brisbane. According to the report, the good news is that female employees of the ABC, outside of Queensland, do not have a greater risk of breast cancer than those in the general population. The bad news is that the reason for so many cases occurring among workers at Toowong may never be known. As no further investigations will be made, it will remain a frustrating mystery. The Cancer Council website has a page discussing the results.

The smell of love

Posted August 21st, 2009 by debritz

B105 photo of Labby
“No sleep, no shower, no worries." So says B105's newly single breakfast host Labby (aka Labrat and formerly Jason Hawkins) in a B105 media release about his 50 dates in 50 hours odyssey which will begin at 9am on Friday, August 29. Did somebody say stunt? Well, of course - and an interesting, erm, social experiment too. Whatever. He's a nice guy but if he's not showering, I wouldn't want to be date no. 20 onwards.

New voices on Aunty

Posted August 21st, 2009 by debritz

In the industry they call it a "love in". Officially, though it's the annual internal conference aimed at refreshing and improving 612ABC. So, instead of the usual voices today (Friday), Brisbane ABC local radio listeners will hear Stacey Katter, Ingrid Just and Pat Morrish.
PS: Breakfast host Spencer Howson was on air, however, and you can hear him talking to me here.

A challenge to Austereo

Posted August 17th, 2009 by debritz

Update:Sandilands has responded to criticism about this issue here.
I just saw the video from the Today show this morning, outlining the appalling way 2Day and the Kyle and Jackie O Show treated the family of disabled boy Josh Koman. (It's online here). I think all Austereo stations affiliated with 2Day (including B105 in Brisbane and Fox in Melbourne, and maybe the Triple M stations for good measure) should run a fresh appeal, collect the money and send it on to the family. If you want to donate directly (probably the best idea), here are the details:
Bank: MECU
BSB Number: 803-140
Account Name: J J Koman
Account Number: 815692
PS: To all those people who say it was very generous of Kyle to give $20,000: I totally agree. But he promised $35,000 - in fact, at one stage, I believe he said he'd double it to $70,000 if another caller gave the same amount. It's not a matter of the family being greedy, it's a matter of Sandilands having the integrity to keep his promise after, once again, exploiting ordinary folks to bignote himself.

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