Broadcasting
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Broadcasting

Radio predictions for 2014

Posted December 23rd, 2013 by debritz

As promised, here's my annual list of predictions for Brisbane radio.

It'll be a closely fought race for top position overall and in breakfast, with some failures along the way. More than one show won't make it to the end of the year in its initial form. It will be a year of further cutbacks, job losses and low tolerance for failure. (And, sadly, not much room for experimentation, meaning homogenisation on the mainstream music airwaves. This has already manifested itself nationally with ARN's hiring of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie Henderson, and the reformatting of Mix in Sydney to tackle 2Day an Nova head-on.).

I say with no pleasure but some confidence that 2014 is the year when reality really will begin to bite in the Australian media. While the free-spending days are long gone, many businesses are still spending beyond their means (or at levels that reflect better days). The advertising pie is being sliced more thinly and, despite efforts by industry bodies to spin it otherwise, traditional broadcast radio has lost, and will continue to lose, audiences to other media. It's not out of the question that one network will fail altogether. Despite the brave (some may say arrogant) face they present to the world, the networks know this, and that's why they are investing in online services and digital offerings that may help plug the gaps in their mainstream programming.

For the record, although I was initially enthusiastic about it, I have long believed that broadcast digital radio is a turkey. Its coverage is woeful -- I have friends living just 20 kilometres from the CBD who can't pick it up, making it unsuitable for commuters (even if there were receivers in their cars) -- and its content offering can't even begin to match what's available on the internet. Once new cars are wi-fi (LTE/4G) enabled, it'll be "Goodnight, nurse" for DAB+ in Australia (although digital will continue to be successful in th shortterm in more compact markets).

These predictions are based on the assumption that the new ratings methodology won't throw in too many surprises (and my inclination is that they won't, otherwise Commercial Radio Australia, whose jobs it is to support the status quo, wouldn't have signed up the new provider).

+ 612ABC's Spencer Howson will remain no.1 in breakfast at least for the first half of the survey, as the others sort themselves out. Across the board, 612's fate is linked to how well or how badly 4BC's complete makeover works. If BC flops, 612 will benefit. At the same time, with consistency on its side, the AM crown is Aunty's to lose.

+ It's going to be tough for 4BC to get where it wants to be. An almost-all-new line-up provides an opportunity to rebuild, but I suspect their retooling creates a void in the market rather than fills one. As much as I dislike it personally, right-wing, lowest-common-denominator talk radio is where it's at in the commercial world. Trying to be the "ABC with ads" may make some sort of sense for 2UE in Sydney (which can't hope to beat 2GB at its own game while Alan Jones and Ray Hadley are in place), but it's going to hard to build an audience with that format in Brisbane. As much as I admire Ian Skippen, I don't think he's the right person for breakfast. The station needs a strong, opinionated voice that will bring the listeners in and keep them glued to the station. I'd put Skip in the afternoon slot, where he could provide the post-lunch change of pace with consummate ease. I think Patrick Condren is the strongest of the new bunch recently signed by 4BC, and he's got a good chance of giving 612's Steve Austin a run for his money in the morning shift. Of course, everything could change if the long-mooted merger between Fairfax and Macquarie actually goes through in 2014.

+ The return of Ed Kavalee to the Brsbane airwaves is welcome news -- particularly since he'll actually be in Brisbane this time. But it raises two questions: Is Triple M the right station for his talent and skill set? Will there be enough chemistry between him and Greg "Marto" and Michelle Anderson? My inclination is to answer no on both counts, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. I'd have built a new show around Ed. He's an underrated talent who needs to work with people who are on the same page. (It's such a shame that Tony Martin is persona non grata at Southern Cross Austereo.)

+ Triple M's sister station B105 has a challenge on its hands. In the grand scheme of things, it's not doing too badly, but it's not the must-listen-to station that it used to be. At the time of writing, Southern Cross Austereo has chosen not to tinker with the breakfast show line-up, as doing so would almost certainly lead to an at-least-temporary ratings slump. However, given it is launching new breakfast shows on its Today stations in Sydney and Melbourne, it must have been tempted to do so as part of a network wide facelift. While it ain't really broken, it does need to be fixed. The real battle is with the music offering. The programming experts can say what they like, but many teenagers and young adults follow the songs rather than the on-air talent.

+ 97.3Fm runs the risk of falling victim to "friendly fire". The launch of Kiis 106.5 in Sydney will mean some further tinkering with the successful Brisbane format to accommodate a Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O "best-of" in the evenings, and Ryan Seacrest in the nights. They risk losing at least some of the female grocery shoppers coveted by advertisers, and that doesn't seem like a particularly wise move to me. Having said that, the breakfast show should remain strong if they don't change the music too much.

+ Nova 106.9 is looking good for a strong year, although changes behind the scenes -- especially the loss of foundation station manager Sean Ryan -- could be felt on air. My advice to the DMG bosses down south is to realise the uniqueness of the Brisbane market and to give the station some credit for succeeding as well as it has. Ash, Kip and Luttsy are likely to remain near or at the top of the commercial tree in breakfast. The loss of Brisbane favourite Meshel Laurie, who has moved from network drive to Melbourne breakfast, may be felt.

+ The fates of 4KQ and Magic 882 (formerly 4BH) are intertwined. If Magic gets a bit too contemporary with its music choices, KQ will reap the benefit. If KQ doesn't mind its knitting, Magic may steal the advantage.

+ The "dark horse" to watch is Triple J, which did very well in the Brisbane market at the time. I believe that the Js are batting above their average because of dissatisfaction with the mainstream FM music stations. As I said at the beginning, this brave new world of commercial radio leaves little room for experimentation. Playlists are conservative, and people who want to find new music are looking to Triple J and the internet.

Never mind the Logies, here are the Logics

Posted April 12th, 2012 by debritz

Let's face it, the Logie Awards don't make any sense. Every year, the best and brightest of Australia's television industry gather at a function arranged by a magazine with a very low circulation to give out gongs to people who really haven't earned them.

Actors and presenters whose shows next-to-nobody watched are rewarded, while the creators and stars of the top-rating shows go home empty handed. (Why, by way of example, was Ben Elton widely ridculed last year when his Live from Planet Earth show actually attracted more viewers than the Today show, whose star Karl Stefanovic won the Gold Logie?*)

Because of these discrepancies, I have initiated the Logic Awards, which acknowledge programs and talent on the basis of the only true measure of popularity in the world of TV -- the ratings.

These gogns are based on the actual ratings -- the most accurate available measurement of a show's popularity -- not just a poll of a small subsection of the population who read a magazine or visit a certain website. These are the shows and the stars Australians actually watched in 2011.

Where the winners are from overseas, thus making them ineligible for a Logie award, I've added Australian runners-up.

(No methodology is perfect, but I've explained mine at the end of this post.)

GOLD LOGIC for Most Popular Personalities

Prince William and Kate Middleton, stars of the most-watched program of 2011, The Royal Wedding.
Australian: The cast of Packed to the Rafters

SILVER LOGIC Most Popular Actor
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
(Australian: Erik Thomson, Packed to the Rafters)

SILVER LOGIC Most Popular Actress
Laura Carmichael, Downton Abbey
(Australian: Rebecca Gibney, Packed to the Rafters)

SILVER LOGIC Most Popular Presenter
Tie: Grant Denyer**, Australia's Got Talent and Scott Cam, The Block

MOST POPULAR NEW MALE TALENT
Ryan Corr, Packed To The Rafters

MOST POPULAR NEW FEMALE TALENT
Hannah Marshall, Packed To The Rafters

MOST POPULAR DRAMA SERIES
Packed To The Rafters

MOST POPULAR LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT/COMEDY PROGRAM
The Big Bang Theory
(Australian: The Gruen Transfer/ Gruen Planet)

MOST POPULAR LIFESTYLE PROGRAM
Better Homes And Gardens

MOST POPULAR SPORTS PROGRAM
The Melbourne Cup

MOST POPULAR REALITY PROGRAM
The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
(Australian: tie between Australia's Got Talent and The Block)

MOST POPULAR FACTUAL PROGRAM
Seven News

Audio link: Brett talks to Josh from the MolksTVTalk podcast
(Full podcast here.)

Notes about the methodology: For the purpose of these awards I've made a few adjustments to the categories and elegibility rules, and used some "best guesses". For example, I've extrapolated that if Downton Abbey was the most popular drama on TV, then its headline stars are the most popular actor and actress.
In the comedy category, which I bundled with light entertainment, while the debut of Ashton Kutcher in Two and Half Men was a huge ratings success, the show spectacularly lost two-thirds of its audience -- a sure and swift sign of unpopularity -- so it cannot be reckonned to be as big a success as The Big Bang Theory, which rated consistently well, even in its many repeats.
In the case of The Block, its audience average over the season was slighlty lower than Australia's Got Talent, but its huge finale helped compensate. I've declared the difference between these shows and their hosts as too close to call.
While I largely ignored the official TV Week Logie Awards nominations, I was somewhat guided by them in categories that I felt were unclear. The distinctions between light entertainment, reality, lifestyle and factual seem blurry to say the least. In the factual category, logic dictated that it must go to the highest-rated news program, even though the Logie nominees did not include news and current affairs programs. As nted above, I included comedy programs in the light-entertainment category.
I have not included the "most outstanding" award catgeories, which require a more subjective approach than used here.
In compiling these results, I am indebted to reasearch done by David Dale for his excellent blog, The Tribal Mind. Any misreadings of the data, however, are mine.

* Yes, I am aware of the difference between breakfast and prime time, but viewers are viewers, and I would argue that viewers in the morning aren't anywhere near as engaged with the box as those at night, so LFPE actually had command of far more eyeballs and ears.

** As an anonymous commenter points out (see below), I originally wrote Luke Jacobz here in error. Apologies to all.

Spencer's at South Bank

Posted January 27th, 2012 by debritz


ABC Radio has its first permanent home in Brisbane in five years. 612ABC's top-rating breakfast host Spencer Howson (pictured, above, on the ABC webcam) was the first voice to be heard from the new South Bank studios this morning, when his guests included Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk (below).

Along with other ABC employees, 612, Radio National, News Radio and Triple J staff abandoned the broadcaster's long-time Coronation Drive, Toowong site after the discovery of a "cancer cluster". The local radio staff have spent the past five years in temporary premises at Lissner Street in Toowong, while other ABC employees have been working from different sites in Toowong and on Mt Coot-tha.

You can listen to 612, and see images from the webcam, here.

Update: Howson also welcomed to the new studio veteran ABC announcer Russ Tyson (below, right), and his colleagues Phil Smith, Tim Cox and Kelly Higgins-Devine.

Breakfast of champions

Posted January 19th, 2012 by debritz

While there's been a lot of talk about the sacking of Nova 106.9's Camilla Severi and further controversy surrounding 2Day's Kyle and Jackie O show, the new kid on the breakfast radio block hasn't had a lot of coverage.

Francis Leach has confirmed on Twitter that his new brekkie show on ABC Grandstand Digital (you'll need to have a DAB+ receiver or use internet streaming to listen) will run Friday to Monday from 6am to 10am AEDT.

It starts on February 3.

While I'm well in favour of variety on radio, and I wish Francis and his team good luck, I do have one modest proposal: that instead of a sport report every hour after the news, there's an arts and entertainment report. Surely this is well in keeping with the ABC charter -- and I'd be happy to lend a hand in creating it!

A long day in radio

Posted January 17th, 2012 by debritz

Update Camilla Severi is reportedly leaving the Nova 106.9 breakfast show by "mutual decision" but will remain with the Nova network in a new role to be announced in coming weeks.

The station issued this statement this morning: "Nova 106.9 and Camilla Severi have made the mutual decision to move her out of the breakfast show.". (Courier-Mail report here.)

There were fireworks on the first weekday of the official 2012 radio ratings survey yesterday.

As reported exclusively here, Camilla Severi was a no-show at Brisbane's Nova 106.9 (I'm still trying to get to the bottom of that, there's been no response from Nova either in Brisbane or from HQ).

Meanwhile, Queensland's Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser (@AndrewFraserMP) took to Twitter to lash 612ABC's mornings announcer Steve Austin over what he dubbed "conspiracy theories" aired regarding the State Government's involvement with a sand-mining company. Fraser also quit his spot on 612ABC's weekly political panel.

And Sydney's 2Day FM Kyle and Jackie O breakfast show briefly had a new sponsor, until public pressure forced them to pull out within 24 hours. Early in the day, weight-loss company Jenny Craig was saying it "doesn't judge" people, including the controversy-proned Kyle Sandilands.

However, the company changed its tune after its Facebook page was bombarded with protests about Sandilands, who late last year called a journalist who reported on poor reaction to his TV special a "fat slag".

Complainants also pointed out to Jenny Craig's US-based parent company that Sandilands had previously made a comment linking former JC ambassador Magda Szubanski to a concentration-camp victim.

I knew Australian radio would be interesting this year, but I didn't realise things would get off to such a fiery start.

Brisbane radio in 2012

Posted January 9th, 2012 by debritz

Is Brisbane just a branch office, or is there serious money to be made here with the right kind of investment?

That's a question many businesses have been asking over the years, and the media is no exception. Sadly, we've lost a few players in the market over the past decade or two, especially when it comes to newspapers (down from three Brisbane dailies and two Sunday papers in the mid-1980s to one of each now) and our television stations are producing less and less local content (with, it must be said, some notable exceptions, but it's still a far cry from the 1960s and 70s, when Brisbane TV screened local variety shows, panel games, children's shows and current affairs programs).

So what about radio? Will it remain a bastion of localism, or will networking continue to encroach on precious airtime in the cause of cutting costs? Sadly, the early signs for 2012 are not good for those who like it live and local.

The local graveyard shift is pretty much a thing of the past. Overnight shows are either networked or voice-tracked: i.e. the talking bits are pre-recorded during the day and the program is compiled and broadcast by a computer. Even at 612ABC, the local announcer goes home at 10pm, meaning that, when you add in the networked current-affairs content, more than a third of total weekday airtime is broadcast from interstate. On weekends, only the breakfast show and news come from Brisbane. With one or two exceptions -- notably 4BC -- commercial radio stations in the River City pretty much turn out the lights at 6 or 7pm.

The good news is that, when it is local, it's competitive -- and no more so in 2011, when five stations were battling it out for overall ratings supremacy. It's a far cry from the 1980s when first FM104/ Triple M and then B105 were the bolters, and every other station was an also-ran. Competition is strong, and that can only be good news for listeners.

With all that in mind, here are my predictions for Brisbane radio in 2012, first my six best guesses, then predictions by network:

1. The axings are not over; everybody is on notice.

2. Another breakfast team to be shown the door by the end of the year.

3. Expect some lightning raids from southern bosses implementing strategies that might please the accountants but not benefit Brisbane audiences.

4. The likelihood of at least one station changing hands.

5. Crowding at the top of the ratings ladder will continue, but one station will make a break from the pack by year's end.

6. There will be far too much talk about babies on stations that ought to be pitched elsewhere.

ABC

612 ABC breakfast host Spencer Howson to continue to do well in the numbers game. As the commercials try to poach each other's younger audiences, he'll be king of the 50-pluses. Howson will remain No. 1 in breakfast at least until the commercial stations sort themselves out.

All eyes will be on Steve Austin, who has just reclaimed the morning current-affairs slot. Ratings should be healthy, especially in the lead-up to and aftermath of the state election.

Tim Cox, although largely unknown to Brisbane audiences, should be able to maintain, and perhaps build, Aunty's audience in drive, while Kelly Higgins-Devine will bring some new energy to the problematic afternoon shift (common wisdom is that people suffer "talk fatigue" after lunch and either switch off or switch over to music stations). Rebecca Levingston (pictured) is likely to bring a different approach to evenings, but I don't think anybody will expect her to better the huge ratings Austin has built up in the timeslot over many years.

Radio National fans will be very vocal if the line-up changes this year don't pan out well, but Triple J, which has been known to out-rate some of the commercial stations in Brisbane, seems set for another big year. If the programmers get the music mix right, it will continue to be the station of choice for younger listeners who don't like intrusive advertising, being treated as idiots or being taken for granted (yes, I'm looking at you, commercial FM).

Austereo (B105 and Triple M)

Southern Cross-Austereo spends up big to maintain its audience, but it's no longer the sure-fire cashcow it used to be. For the all-important female market, B105 faces strong challenges from Nova 106.9 and 97.3FM (which aims a little older).

The focus will be on whether the addition of Abby Coleman has sufficiently freshened-up the breakfast show or whether further surgery is needed. The one-time new kids on the block, Jason "Labby" Hawkins and Stav Davidson, will have to work hard to keep their show

Triple M pretty much has the blokes to itself, but there aren't as many advertising dollars in that market. As it proved with its axing of The Cage last year, Austereo is no longer shy about making dramatic moves, even mid-race, and maybe one or two more changes are just around the corner.

Australian Radio Network (4KQ and 97.3FM)

In my books, the biggest threat to the resurgent 97.3FM (co-owned by DMG) comes not from the other stations, but from within.

ARN has already shown disturbing signs of tinkering with the local formula that has made 97.3FM more successful than its sister Mix stations in Sydney and Melbourne. The breakfast team of Terry Hansen, Robin Bailey and Bob Gallagher (pictured above) is very competitive.

Memo to HQ: it ain't broke, and heavy handed interference won't fix it, especially if SC Austereo decides to pitch B105 older and go after your audience.

Meanwhile, 4KQ needs to keep an eye on what 4BH does music-wise. There are at least two distinct audiences there, because not everybody over 40 likes the same music. And, despite the focus on youth at the commercial FM market, there's money to be made from people who actually listen to, and act on, advertising.

Fairfax Radio (4BC and 4BH)

The product is pretty good, but the audience isn't there in the numbers Fairfax would like like. Still, 4BC consistently wins awards for advertising sales and is a very sound business (no joke intended). The challenge will be to find a way to break through the single-digit barrier.

As I've said before, there is no reason why commercial talk can't do as well in Brisbane as it does elsewhere. The big question will be whether to stick with the current line-up and try to build, or to try something new and risk alienating new listeners. That decision will most likley be made at HQ, not in Brisbane.

I think we'll see on-air changes, but I'm not convinced it will be for the better -- unless they find the elusive "Brisbane Alan Jones", whoever that may be.

4BH operates efficiently and complements its sister station by playing music for those "oldies" who don't like talk radio. They both face a challenge from 612ABC for audience, but not for advertisers' dollars, so the real "enemy" is 4KQ. (See above.)

DMG (Nova 106.9)

Nova is in a take-no-prisoners battle with 97.3FM and B105 for the younger female audience. There are actually two audiences -- late teens and twenty-somethings, and the late-twenties and thirties -- but the lines seem to have been blurred lately as each station struggles for every listener it can get.

The return of orignal anchor Kip Wightman (pictured above) to the breakfast show may mean some extra oomph, but the music mix -- which has become much more like the Austereo offering in recent years (thus benefitting Triple J, which is the destination of choice for new-music lovers) -- will be critical.

The new national drive show, featuring former Brisbane breakfasters Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell, will come under close scrutiny. It's doing OK in Brisbane, but hasn't kicked-in yet in Sydney and Melbourne, and success there is crucial.

Photos: ABC, ARN

PS: My more general Australian radio predictions are here.

The year ahead in radio

Posted January 8th, 2012 by debritz

By popular demand, here are my predictions for Australian radio in 2012. There'll be some Brisbane-specific predictions in a future post. (Update: they're here.)

1) The drift away from old media will continue, with tradional radio audiences exploring online alternatives.

2) As a consequence of this, 2012 will be the year that advertisers start to wise up. Times are tough for business, especially in retail, and nobody can afford to throw around advertising dollars unless they know their ads are going to hit the mark. The demand will grow for better audience research and if the networks and Commercial Radio Australia aren't prepared to provide it, then the dollars will go elsewhere (mostly online). Sticking with the current diary system for ratings suits broadcasters because it is fluffy, but when websites can tell you exactly how many left-handed, red-haired, 29-year-old females earning $60K or more are tuning in at 7.38am, then a book that's filled in at the last minute by people with faulty memories, an extremely low care factor, and a tendency to write down the name of the station that did the most marketing during the survey period rather than the one they were actually listening to, looks pretty shabby.

3) More on-air changes mid-stream. Shows that don't work will be yanked quickly, just as they are on television.

4) Lots of backroom changes, with further consolodation of managerial power at HQ (not necessarily a good thing for the "local" medium) and mergers of sales teams.

5) A make-or-break year for Fairfax Radio. The big problem is 2UE in Sydney, which is struggling to remain in the talkback race against the mighty 2GB. You haven't got a network if you're not competitive in the nation's biggest market. When the sale of its radio assets was abandoned last year, Fairfax said it wanted to create synergies with its newspaper and online businesses. But how to share resources between "soft left" papers pitched at a wealthy demographic and a right-leaning radio station pitched at the lowest common denominator? If the answer isn't found, former suitor John Singleton could end up with the bargain of the century.

6) An increasing awareness that digital radio is not the panacea for free-to-air radio's ills. While many of the multichannels are offering great content, not too many people are listening. There has been some movement towards getting digital radio receivers into cars, but that's problematic because digital currently only works in metro areas. An in-car 3G- or 4G-enabled internet device that could pick up radio from around the world, as well as receive video and other data, send emails, do social networking and make phone calls, would wipe the floor with DAB+. And it's not too far away now.

7) As a result of tough times in the commercial sphere, more questions will be asked about the ABC. If, as seems probable, the Federal Coalition comes to power this year or next, Aunty will be under pressure to explain and curtail its spending on radio services and its expansion into new media, especially where it is perceived to be competing with commercial operators. This has already happened to the BBC, which has been forced to abandon or reduce some of its services.

8) Even more networking. It's cheaper, but not necessarily smarter. One big thing radio has going for it is the fact that it can dance to the local beat.

9) As a consequence of this, local audiences and advertising could begin to drift away, in the first instance to the slicker community stations (whose true listening figures the commercial networks will continue to conspire to conceal) and eventually, perhaps exclusively, online.

10) The importance of star power will begin to wane in every format except talk or older-skewed music stations. Somewhere, some bean counter is already weighing up the savings to be made from jettisoning big-name, big-bucks stars against the potential loss in revenue from ratings declines. Another bright spark in the programming (sorry, content) department of the youth-oriented stations will realise that, mostly, it's all about the music. If they play the songs the kids want to hear, they will survive.

4BC announces summer stars

Posted December 8th, 2011 by debritz

Former Brisbane television newsreader Jillian Whiting will team up with onetime 4BH and 4BC breakfast host Kim Mothershaw to present the breakfast show on 4BC over summer.

They will replace Peter Dick and Mary Collier, who are taking a Christmas break, from December 19 until December 30.

From January 2 to 6, Mothershaw will be joined in the breakfast chair by Dean Banks, a radio veteran who was once part of 3AW's breakfast line-up.

Meanwhile, 4BC has also confirmed that garden guru Colin Campbell will be hanging up the microphone after almost 30 years on air.

His last show will be on Sunday, January 1. His co-host Clair Levander, a qualified horticulturalist, will continue on in the popular show.

In a statement, 4BC general manager David McDonald said: “This is an extremely sad time for Col’s listeners and staff at 4BC. He has had nothing but a positive influence on both the station and the gardening industry over many, many years.

"I would like to personally thank him for his major contribution and wish both him and his wife Beverly all the very best for his pending retirement.”


Colin Campbell photo from 4bc.com.au.

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.)

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.

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 Mumbrella.com.au, 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.

Kyle Sandilands: was it live?

Posted July 30th, 2009 by debritz

Promotional photo of 2Day's Kyle Sandilands and Jackie OI'll try to make this my last post about Kyle Sandilands, at least for a while ... but a friend who works in radio has just reminded me that when Austereo stations around Australia began doing these lie-detector tests, they recorded a batch of them at once, because they only had access to the expert and his polygraph machine for a short time. As I've said before, the segment should have been on seven-second delay, and should have been cut off earlier, but what if it was pre-recorded? In that case, there would be no excuse at all for putting it to air. Perhaps there has been a definitive statement on this, but I haven't read it.

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