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Camilla: What happened?

Posted January 17th, 2012 by debritz

Just eight days ago, I predicted that the Brisbane radio sackings were not over and that another breakfast team would be shown the door.

Yesterday, Camilla Severi did not appear on the re-tooled Nova 106.9 breakfast show, and I was the first to report speculation that she was leaving the station. Today, her departure has been confirmed, and the station was quick to change the branding for the show (see above).

Severi will apparently fill another role with the DMG network, although exactly what that is has not been announced. Her departure, in the first week of the all-important ratings survey period, presumably creates an opening at Nova (it seems unlikley that they would stick with an all-male line-up).

Many pundits will have plenty to say on who will (or should) get that job. Already, 612ABC pot-stirrer Spencer Howson is putting forward the names of Lisa Kingsberry (from ABC Mt Isa), Natalie Bochenski (4BC news), Katie Clift (96.5FM) and Kat Davidson (sometime ABC announcer/producer, standup comic and wife of B105's Stav Davidson, which would make things really interesting.)

I'll throw in the possibility of a return by Meshel Laurie (perhaps on landline from Melbourne, where she hosts the national Nova drive show, maybe on a "guest" basis for, say, the 7-8am morning prime time until a permanent replacement is found), thus completing the return of the successful original Nova 106.9 line-up.

The question at hand now is: What happened that caused this parting of the ways and undid a strategy that began in the middle of last year when Nova lured Severi away from rival B105?

Without knowing the details, I feel sorry for Severi, given that her amazing career trajectory, from Big Brother "turkey-slapping" victim to radio star, to subject of a bidding war between networks, all happened at such a relatively fast pace and a young age. I hope she can and does bounce back from this.

Rival radio industry sources have suggested Severi had some personal "issues", which I'm not going to speculate on. Perhaps more to the point is that the stakes are high, and no station can afford to start the year with anything but their strongest team committed to winning at all costs.

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.

And another thing ...

Posted January 11th, 2012 by debritz

As my Australian radio predictions published on this blog in recent days have proven so popular, here's a bonus media prediction for 2012:

+ More than one person will be fired, or very seriously reprimanded, for something written on social media. The public broadcasters will need to be the most vigilant in this respect -- because they are, as they are constantly reminded, spending taxpayers' money, and somebody is always waiting for them to slip up -- but some people in the commercial media may also find themselves overstepping a mark they weren't even aware was there. Users of inappropriate language and bad-taste jokers beware. My advice: don't say anything on Twitter you wouldn't say on air or in newsprint. Even if the opinions are yours, your employer will almost certainly be monitoring the content.

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.


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.

Shock, horror, probe! Words on the way out

Posted January 1st, 2012 by debritz

I believe the much-heralded death of newspapers is a long way off -- but it has occurred to me that, when newsprint does disappear, so, too, will a wonderful slice of modern English usage.

I'm thinking about "headline words": impactful, monosyllabic alternatives to words in more common usage that have the advantage of being short enough to fit into the small amount of space provided by tabloid newspapers.

Since web-page designs are often more flexible, and the common online practice is to use a lot of words in headings for search-engine-optimisation purposes, it's likely that many headline words are on the way out.

Here are some examples:

Hike: as in "price hike". (The more common word "rise" has the same letter count, but hike conveys more urgency, or even sinister undertones.)

Raft: not your basic boat, but a "raft of new laws".

Bid: attempt. Often used as a verb, as in "Brett bids for title."

Probe: inquiry.

Grab: theft (real, or as a result of a tax hike).

Nab: when "grab" is too long.

Lash, slam, blast: to criticise.

Wanted: staff for closed business

Posted December 25th, 2011 by debritz

The Wear Valley Mercury in County Durham has become the 32nd newspaper to close in Britain this year. I'm not sure how hastily the decision was made, but on the paper's web page, the announcement of the closure is under an advertisement seeking an advertising sales executive for the title.

Gone ... and forgotten

Posted December 17th, 2011 by debritz

Spot the difference. From the same page within minutes:

Australia's loss, Aunty's win

Posted December 13th, 2011 by debritz

The bosses at 612ABC Brisbane were saved from making a difficult decision yesterday, thanks to the poor performance of the Australian cricket team.

The hapless boys in baggy green were bundled out just as news broke of Premier Anna Bligh's decision to split up the mammoth Queensland Health department following a string of scandals.

The early end of the cricket meant a return to local programming, enabling full coverage of the unfolding political drama (- following a scramble back to the studio by ABC staffers who were soberly celebrating the Christmas season at the Royal Exchange Hotel in Toowong along with Spencer Howson, Kelly Higgins-Devine and a group of their on-air contributors and Twitter friends.

Had the cricket not ended early, though, somebody would have been faced with a very difficult decision as to whether, or to what extent, to pre-empt a cliffhanger sporting event for a big local news story.

Howson shows how it's done

Posted December 13th, 2011 by debritz

612 ABC breakfast host Spencer Howson has made it a clean sweep of the Brisbane radio ratings, with the year's final survey confirming him as the capital's No. 1 cereal thriller.

Howson has been the listeners' choice in the cornflakes session since the middle of last year.

Overall, the winner was 97.3FM, ahead of a packed field, with Nova, B105 and Triple M close behind, all within 0.4 percentage points, then 612ABC, 4KQ, Triple J, 4BC and 4BH following.

In breakfast, 97.3FM's Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher tied with Triple M's Grill Team with Greg "Marto" Martin for second place, and B105's Labby, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman tied for fourth with Nova 106.9's Ash Bradnam, David "Luttsy" Lutteral, Camilla Severi and Dan Anstey (standing in for Kip Wightman, who will return to the station in January). They were followed by 4KQ, 4BC, Triple J and 4BH.

Ratings for 4KQ and 4BC softened in breakfast, but they had gains overall, and 4BH rebounded from a shocker of a survey last time to gain 1.9pc in breakfast and 1.0pc overall.

In the drive session, B105's Fifi and Jules/ Hamish and Andy combo losing 2.8pc, leapfrogged by 97.3FM's Paul "Campo" Campion, and Nova' Meshel Laurie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell down 0.5pc but still No.1.

In the evenings, there was a 4.0pc shift to Triple M's Peanut Gallery, but it was not enough to get ahead of B105's Hot 30 and 612ABC's Steve Austin, who both lost audience share.

In other breakfast radio news, it's been revealed that acting 612ABC Mornings host Terri Begley will be on the road next year as roving reporter for the afternoon show, to be hosted by Kelly Higgins-Devine, and Tim Cox's new drive show.

Sandilands' ratings remain high

Posted December 13th, 2011 by debritz

Controversy seems to have paid off in the ratings for Kyle Sandilands, with the 2DayFM breakfast host gaining points in the final radio ratings survey for 2011.

The Kyle and Jackie O show netted 11.2 per cent of breakfast listeners, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous survey, and 2Day was the highest-rating FM station.

However, they remained behind longtime breakfast leader Alan Jones, at 2GB, and 702ABC's Adam Spencer.

The "rolling survey" included the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of Sandilands' outburst against a journalist who published a news story including negative comments about the Kyle and Jackie O Night with the Stars TV show. 2Day also remained dominant in tits target 10-17, 18-24 and 25-39 age demographics.

However, much of the survey was conducted before the scandal emerged.

Despite the withdrawal of many advertisers, and a petition signed by more than 25,000 people, 2Day owners Southern Cross Austereo have confirmed that the Kyle and Jackie O Show will return to the airwaves next year.

Light fantastic

Posted December 9th, 2011 by debritz

Lighthouses come under the, er, spotlight in a new project by the ABC's cross-media journalists.

According to an ABC media release, travellers can download audio tours from the website, then take them to the sites of popular lighthouses and enjoy the hidden stories about the people that lived and worked there and the coast around them.

The statement says:

Lighthouses are a popular destination during the holiday season and there are plenty of iconic sites to choose from, dotted along Australia’s vast coastline.

From Rottnest Island on the west coast to Cape Byron on the east coast, there are audio tours available for many lighthouses across the nation.

Clancy McDowell, state editor (WA), said the initiative aims to enrich the experience and build the knowledge of those visiting our lighthouses.

“Many of Australia’s lighthouses were built in stunning locations and each boasts their own piece of history. Our new website and audio tours aim to share the hidden stories behind these functional yet very romantic buildings.”

The audio tours will also also be downloaded for free at iTunes.

It's all here.

Ryan Seacrest to be heard in Brisbane

Posted December 8th, 2011 by debritz

Update: More changes at ARN: Jocks' Journal hasreported that 97.3FM mornings host Jo Henderson is "taking a break" and that Mix 106.5's Anthony "Becks" Toohey has been ordered by doctors to have an extended rest. There are also internet rumours about the future of Mix host Marnie T.

American Idol and E! Entertainment star Ryan Seacrest will be heard on Brisbane's 97.3FM from January 16, according to media website Mumbrella.

On Air with Ryan Seacrest is already heard on Sydney and Melbourne stations owned by the Australian Radio Network (ARN), and will also be heard in Adelaide from next month.

Mumbrella quoted ARN national content director Duncan Campbell as saying: "After a review of the station’s programming we felt there was an opportunity to seize the market in the early evening. Ryan Seacrest has access and connections to all the big celebrities and happenings in Hollywood .

“Ryan Seacrest has proved very popular for our target market in Sydney and Melbourne and we are excited to expand nationally in 2012, now offering this program to listeners in Adelaide and Brisbane.”

Radio industry sources have told me that Kip Wightman, who is currently heard on 97.3FM in the early afternoons, will be rejoining the breakfast team at Nova 10.6 breakfast team "by April at the latest". It is possible that the addition of Seacrest to the 97.3FM line-up could mean Wightman moves earlier - although the latest news from ARN (see update at top of story) perhaps suggest there may be a different opportunity for him at 97.3, which is co-owned by ARN and Nova owner DMG Radio.

The other inference to be drawn from the move is that 97.3, which has been resisting networking (and has been successful in doing so), is being brought more into line with ARN's Mix brand.

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

A dirty, fishy business

Posted December 7th, 2011 by debritz

It's being billed as the biggest marketing blunder of the year. Advantage SA and Advantage Adelaide sent out goldfish to promote South Australia in bowls carrying the slogan: “Be the big fish in a small pond and come test the water.”

Sadly, "a number" of the fish were dead on arrival at their destinations.

However, those in the media with long memories will remember a time when journalists were deliberately sent dead fish (and I'm not talking about the barramundi sent to Media Watch.)

When the John Cleese film A Fish Called Wanda was released in Brisbane in 1988, the publicists sent a live goldfish to movie journalists. As far as I know, they were all still alive when delivered.

A rival firm publicising the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels then sent a dead gold fish to the same journalists, including a close colleague of mine.

Somehow I don't think anybody will be doing that again any time soon.

Tribute to Artie Beetson

Posted December 4th, 2011 by debritz

A state memorial service for rugby league legend Arthur "Artie" Beetson will be held at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday, December 18, at midday.

Premier Anna Bligh also announced that a bronze statue of Beetson would be cast and exhibited at the northern plaza of the stadium. The statue will be funded equally by the Queensland Government, the Former Origin Greats (FOGs) and Channel 9.

Beetson, who died while cycling on the Gold Coast last week, was the first indigenous Australian to captain his country in any sport.

He also captained the first Queensland State of Origin team.

Tim's a'changing

Posted December 4th, 2011 by debritz

Gold Coast breakfast radio host Tim Cox says he's excited about packing his bags and moving to Brisbane.

As part of a series of changes at 612ABC, Cox (at left in picture) will be hosting the daily drive program in 2012.

Cox, who has most recently been heard on 91.7 ABC Gold Coast and had a long career before that on ABC Tasmania, won't be joining the ranks of the Coast-to-city commuters. He told me he will definitely be moving to somewhere in Brisbane, where he'll be working from the new ABC studios at South Bank.

"We have a few areas in mind but want to be settled before I start on-air," he said.

Cox said the priority was getting his young son settled in a new school.

"[I'm] very excited about the move - for me, 612 embodies all that is great about ABC Local Radio."

Meanwhile, Steve Austin (right in picture) says he's honoured to be asked to take back the reins of the 612 morning shift, which he hosted in the early 2000s before moving to evenings.

"I can't think of a more exciting time then now to be returning to mornings. 2012 is shaping up one of the most interesting periods in my lifetime. You can expect some quality debates, panels, distinguished guests and a bit of fun along the way," he said in an ABC media release.

"I look forward to the challenging role and hope the listeners will be both surprised and entertained as we bring the realities of the world closer to Brisbane.”

"I'm looking forward to being a part of that and all that Brisbane has to offer."

Photos from

Dan's stand set to end

Posted December 3rd, 2011 by debritz

In answer to questions about the Nova 106.9FM line-up for 2012, my information from a self-described "extremely credible source" is that Stand-In Dan Anstey will be only warming the seat anchoring the Ash, Camilla and Luttsy show until early in the new year.

Former Nova anchor Kip Wightman, who is currently being heard on Nova's half-sister station 97.3FM, is expected to return to the job in April.

Anstey will remain with the station in an as-yet-unspecified role.

Pay for no play?

Posted December 3rd, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Davis has replied to me via Twitter:

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

612 ABC media release

Posted December 2nd, 2011 by debritz

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

Today 612 ABC Brisbane announced its line up for 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

"I can't think of a more exciting time then now to be returning to Mornings. 2012 is shaping up one of the most interesting periods in my lifetime. You can expect some quality debates, panels, distinguished guests and a bit of fun along the way. I look forward to the challenging role and hope the listeners will be both surprised, and entertained as we bring the realities of the world closer to Brisbane.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights for 2012


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

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

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

Stacey's the summer stand-in

Posted December 1st, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

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

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

Don't stop the presses

Posted December 1st, 2011 by debritz

The controversial Civil Union legislation passed through Queensland State Parliament at 11.10pm yesterday.

So, you'd expect it would be all over the capital's only daily newspaper this morning. Um, well, no - at least not in the home-delivered editions received by people I know who live as close as 4km to the Brisbane CBD, and surely no more than 15km from the paper's presses.

The story in the edition I saw said - on page 9 - that gay couples (and the rest of us, presumably) would "know this morning" if the bill had passed.

When I worked for the now-defunct Daily Sun, the deadline for the final edition was 1.30am on the day of publication - and for a big story, it could be pushed even further. Interestingly, even back then a colleague noted that every time new technology was introduced - such as the conversion from hot metal presses to "cold type" - the deadlines moved earlier, not later as you might expect.

P.S. You can read about the passage of the bill here and here.

Fidler gives up his afternoon job

Posted November 30th, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

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

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

If player does not appear, the audio is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from

Catholic tastes?

Posted November 25th, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

We need to talk about Kyle

Posted November 23rd, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia's got better talent

Posted November 22nd, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo of Kyle and Jackie O from

Tabloid shock horror? I blame us!

Posted November 19th, 2011 by debritz

Imagine this: A major metropolitan newspaper runs, in huge type on its front page, the bombshell headline: "Gillard quits!" No equivocation; just that bold statement presented as fact.

Inside the paper, the story quotes an unnamed "friend" of the prime minister claiming she has resigned, or at the very least is seriously thinking about doing so. The report does not include a statement from the PM herself or her spokesperson, nor does it indicate that any attempt has been made to contact her or to verify the story by any other means. The report does not present any tangible evidence that the claim is true, and no other media is carrying the same story. In fact, some other media outlets have stories and pictures of Gillard carrying on her normal duties.

A week later, Gillard is still in the Lodge and life continues as normal. The newspaper in question does not mention its scoop again, and yet hundreds of thousands of people continue to buy this paper in the full knowledge that it has misled them - and not for the first time.

Does that sound like a crazy scenario? Who would buy a newspaper that presents lies as truth? Well, that's what happens just about every week - except not with politicians and newspapers, but with celebrities and glossy magazines.

Issue after issue, these publications mislead their readers, and yet people still buy them (admittedly in smaller numbers than before, but they are still going strong). They report rumour as truth, they don't even carry out the most basic journalistic checks on their stories, and occasionally they simply make up quotes and other "facts".

In their defence, some of the writers will say that they know a story to be true, but they can't get the information from a source willing to be identified. That's a bit like the policeman who fits up a suspect on a bogus charge because they know he is guilty of something.

Another common justification is that they are simply filling a demand, just like drug dealers do. The argument runs that the writers and editors are not to blame for publishing fabricated stories, we, the readers, are - because we not only tolerate lower standards in showbiz coverage than we would in other areas of journalism, we demand it.

Why? Because we want those lurid stories to be true; because they fit into our theory that all showbiz people are dysfunctional or degenerate or, at the very least, not as happy as they make out to be. Their misery, even when it's made up, makes us feel better about our lot in life.

Of course, it could also be argued that it's just harmless fun, and nobody really believes what they read in the pulp glossies. I disagree. If even a small section of the media is prepared to present untruths, or even unverified truths, as fact, and to do so shamelessly and on a regular basis, then we all have serious reason for concern.

Those of us who work in the media and strive for accuracy and fairness in everything we do - the vast majority, in my experience - should be doubly worried that our profession is being hijacked by cowboys who care about nothing except selling a story.

From a consumer's point of view, every time we buy one of these "tabloid" magazines, or we watch or listen to somebody who lies to us, we are sending a signal that we don't much care for the truth. Maybe we can't handle it.

Clarification: I'm referring here specifically to the presentation as lies or gossip as fact, not the upfront reporting of rumours, or differing versions of events, or speculation. That's all fine as long as it's identified as such, not presented as fact when it has not been verified. I also acknowledge that professional journalists sometimes have to protect their sources, and therefore do not identify them even though the sources do exist and the facts have been checked.

The real Big Harto bows out

Posted November 9th, 2011 by debritz

I couldn't let today's resignation of News Ltd CEO and chairman John Hartigan go by without comment.

Harto, as he was universally known to everyone who worked for and with him, gave me my break in metropolitan newspapers by hiring me as one of the foundation staff of the now-closed Daily Sun newspaper in Brisbane.

He and the brilliant team he assembled - many of whom rose to great heights in News and elsewhere - taught me much of what I know about the media (but don't blame them for my failings).

Harto is a great networker, and he exudes great charm. It's difficult not to like the man - even those who have had battles with him concede that point.

Although one of the inside jokes at News Ltd is that everybody is called "Mate", one of Harto's great talents is remembering names and faces, even as the years go by. Whenever he walked into the Queensland Newspapers office, he'd remember everybody he had worked with by name and he would always find time for a chat with the workers on the "shop floor".

The last time I saw him was at a Daily Sun reunion four years ago, where he was especially generous with his time and his words.

While not everybody was a committed fan, many a glass will be raised as a toast to Harto tonight and on November 30 when he steps down.

According to online reports (here and here), Harto will be replaced by Foxtel's Kim Williams as News CEO and by Rupert Murdoch as chairman. Richard Freudenstein will take over at Foxtel.

In a message to staff, Mr Murdoch said : “John’s decision will end a distinguished 41 year career with News in which he has given us exemplary service and incredible leadership.

“John was an outstanding reporter, an editor with few peers and has been an inspiring executive, initially as Group Editorial Director and, later, as Chief Executive for 11 years and Chairman and Chief Executive for the past six.

“Few people have contributed as much as John to the quality of journalism in Australia. He has earned enormous respect among both colleagues and competitors.”

Checking out the crystal ball

Posted November 1st, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

I also wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change gives Triple M a boost

Posted October 31st, 2011 by debritz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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