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Carousel is still spinning

Posted December 1st, 2010 by debritz

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

Opportunity knocks twice at 4BC

Posted December 1st, 2010 by debritz

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

Power and the passion

Posted November 25th, 2010 by debritz

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

Battle of the bands

Posted November 25th, 2010 by debritz

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

Do they know it's Christmas?

Posted November 19th, 2010 by debritz

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

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

From the glasshouse ...

Posted November 16th, 2010 by debritz

Presumably this blurb was meant to read "non-bank lenders". Getting a loan from a non-lender is, by definition, impossible.

B105's big challenge

Posted November 5th, 2010 by debritz

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

Shock and awe

Posted November 5th, 2010 by debritz

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

Must read what?

Posted November 5th, 2010 by debritz

I know I'm not in Kansas any more, but this blurb from a Thai magazine cover highlights one of my pet peeves. If you're going to use English on a signage, in print or even as a simple design element, why the ---- wouldn't you run it past a native speaker first to make sure it makes sense? And surely it's especially important to do so if you're in the publishing business.
PS: I once worked for a newspaper where a salesman decided to run a "fancy Chinese border" around an ad for a Chinese restaurant. Not only were the characters he used not Chinese (they were Japanese), they advertised another restaurant.

B105 and 97.3 share the glory

Posted November 1st, 2010 by debritz

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

More dramas at 4BC

Posted October 30th, 2010 by debritz

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

Tim Cox mystery solved

Posted October 29th, 2010 by debritz

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

Dunn gone, who's next?

Posted October 29th, 2010 by debritz

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

A tweet too far?

Posted October 28th, 2010 by debritz

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

From the glasshouse ...

Posted October 27th, 2010 by debritz

Is this heading from The Courier-Mail missing a line or has the word "sodden" somehow changed parts of speech?

Sharing the love

Posted October 21st, 2010 by debritz

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

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

Cox 'not a starter'

Posted October 20th, 2010 by debritz

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

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

Slip is showing

Posted October 17th, 2010 by debritz

At, they don't seem to realise that, while it is located on an island, the country with Belfast as its capital is Northern Ireland.

Another miracle?

Posted October 17th, 2010 by debritz

According to, the clocks are moving more quickly than usual in the lead-up to the canonisation of Australia's first saint. Last time I checked, all hours were the same length.

Bad medicine

Posted October 17th, 2010 by debritz

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

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

Social media: The big question

Posted October 14th, 2010 by debritz

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

Gone but not forgotten

Posted October 10th, 2010 by debritz

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

How soon we forget

Posted October 6th, 2010 by debritz

In its otherwise excellent timeline of the Brisbane nightclub scene, published this paragraph:

The author and/or sub managed to mis-spell both the first name and surname of the state's longest-serving premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. As some of the oldtimers who enjoyed the article might now be saying, it wouldn't have happened in my day ...

Out of the Mix

Posted September 26th, 2010 by debritz

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

Talk of the town

Posted September 22nd, 2010 by debritz

Further to my item about Macquarie Radio Network and its plans to go national, I note that the website is already registered. You might be surprised who owns it (I'll let those of you who can fathom the mysteries of whois find out for yourself; for others, here's a hint) and where it points.

Macquarie to move north?

Posted September 20th, 2010 by debritz

"A national talk radio network has massive appeal." So says Macquarie Radio Network chairman Russell Tate in this story in The Australian today. Tate says 2GB star Ray Hadley's new weekly Sky News television show - presumably an attempt to turn Hadley into Australia's version of Fox News's Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck - presents an opportunity to give the Sydney announcer a national profile. If MRN wants a national radio network (despite so far poor results for its MRT station in Melbourne), it would need a presence in Brisbane - which could be a very good thing for the market. But where would MRN obtain a signal? Fairfax is unlikely to sell 4BH if the buyer's aim is to compete with 4BC, and ARN's 4KQ may not be setting the world on fire, but selling it would leave the broadcaster with just half a licence in Brisbane (it co-owns 97.3Fm with DMG). Would a joint venture (as MRN has in Melbourne) be out of the question? If a new licence did become available, where would the audience come from? Well, as I've noted far too many times on this blog, commercial radio underperforms in Brisbane, so you'd have to assume there's a good 10% of people who are currently listening to something other than 4BC (or 612ABC) but would make the switch if the product was right. Then there'd be a significant amount of movement between the three talk stations. And if MRN did have a Brisbane station, whose voices would it feature? You'd have to think that Spencer Howson - the city's No.1 breakfast announcer - would be high on the poaching list (even though ABC announcers have enjoyed mixed success in the commercial world). Also, I'd be looking at some commercial FM people who may suit the talk format as they mature. Meshel Laurie, perhaps? Other than that, Mr Tate, I'd be thinking outside the box. There's plenty of Brisbane talent that isn't on air (or even in the country) at the moment.
Disclosure: Until last month, Brett Debritz had a regular spot on the top-rating Breakfast with Spencer Howson program on 612ABC. Prior to that, he had a long-running stint on 4BC. He is no longer heard on any Brisbane radio station, but ...

Aunty's big result

Posted September 14th, 2010 by debritz

The domestic sparkling wine corks will be popping at the ABC in Brisbane, with big gains for 612ABC in the ratings across the board, including a giant-killing 15.4pc market share in breakfast for Spencer Howson (pictured). B105 also had a good survey, winning overall and leading the commercial stations in the cornflakes shift helmed by Labby, Camilla and Stav. Overall, B105 was followed by 612ABC, 97.3FM, Nova 106.9 and Triple M on the share, by demographic, figures, with Triple M just leapfrogging a tied 97.3FM and Nova on the share by session figures. In the breakfast shift, it was 612, B105, Nova (Meshel, Tim and Marty), 97.3 (Robin, Terry and Bob), Triple M (The Cage with Ian Skippen), 4BC (Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder), 4KQ (Laurel, Mark and Gary) and 4BH (Moyd and Loretta). B105's overall result was helped by a huge 22.3pc result in the drive shift for Hamish and Andy, who have announced they are leaving the Monday to Friday grind at the end of the year. It was a particularly good survey, too, for Steve Austin, whose 612ABC shift now dominates the night-time ratings. Significantly, ABC youth station Triple J is ahead of 4BH and 4KQ overall, and beating BH in breakfast - proving (as Hamish and Andy have so successfully in drive) that the right networked product can be competitive in what's supposedly a "local" medium. It's only a matter of time before a commercial operator attempts a networed breakfast show. Yes, I know Triple M failed disastrously with this a couple of decades ago, but the economies of radio, and audience expectations, have changed. At the very least, I'd expect stations to use their extra DAB+ signals to rebroadcast interstate signals. In Melbourne, the big story is the continued lacklustre performance of new talk station MTR, with a 1.1pc overall share and 1.3 in breakfast, compared to 3AW's 14.6 and 17. In Sydney, 2GB and 2Day continue to dominate, but DMG's Classic Rock (the rebranded Vega) had a shocker.
(Brett Debritz was heard on the breakfast show on 612ABC for much of this survey.)

Radio's land of opportunity

Posted September 6th, 2010 by debritz

Fairfax Media has made a few appointments to its board with the view to "renewal" in the lead-up to the retirement of John B. Fairfax. The new board member who interests me most is former Austereo boss Michael Anderson. Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett says Anderson "has had a very distinguished career in another part of media that is also very strongly orientated towards digital media but also has a very strong bias to sales and sales is an important part for all media companies''. I would be very surprised if Anderson isn't already running a mental ruler over Fairfax's east coast radio assets and asking why, with the very honourable exception of 3AW, they are doing so poorly. At least 2UE has the excuse that it's in a competitive market and that its competitor, 2GB, has the services of Alan Jones. In Brisbane, 4BC is the sole commercial talk station and it's not scoring too many listeners. Its 7.9% overall share by session, audiences 10+, looks pretty ordinary against 3AWs 15.4%. (In breakfast, 8.2% plays a massive 19.2%.) The thing about BC, of course, is that (as far as we know) it does well financially -- thanks to an award-winning sales team that punches well above its weight. But imagine, as any board member must, how much money BC would make if it was rating in the mid-to-high teens rather than in the less-than-tens. It's easy -- and, to my mind, very wrong -- to say Brisbane audiences are different to their southern cousins and that there's no more to be gained from the market. It's equally easy and wrong to lay all the blame on breakfast host Jamie Dunn for dragging the station down. Dunn is a great talent who's been moved out of his comfort zone and is doing his darndest. But, in common with voices on commercial radio right across both the AM and FM dials, he's sounding tired and old-fashioned. And in saying this, I'm pointing the finger not so much at the talent as at the programmers. At B105, which has regained the lead in the market by throwing a lot of money at advertising and having Hamish and Andy on in the afternoons, there's a great youngish breakfast talent in standup Stav Davidson. But he's doing "gotcha" calls, because (so the general wisdom has it) that's what you do on commercial FM. A new talent should be doing new things not just on air, but online (where Austereo's, and DMG's, strategy seems to be limited to posting Twitter links to US showbiz gossip). There's now a great moment of opportunity in the Brisbane radio market because there is no natural No. 1 station. Nova 106.9 is in a rebuilding stage after losing Kip Wightman (whose contribution to the onetime Np.1 breakfast program was, I think, greatly underrated), David "Luttsy" Lutteral and Ash Bradnam. I believe (and hope,for her sake) Meshel Laurie will also move on, and achieve great things elsewhere. Triple M is being propelled largely by the skill of its breakfast team, especially Brisbane radio stalwart Ian Skippen, not by its format. Only 97.3FM seems to be on track, with a female-and-family friendly format that snares the grocery buyers. When Hamish and Andy leave Austereo at the end of the year, the weekday drivetime slot and stronger across-the-board figures in Brisbane will be up for grabs. The station that can go in to 2011 with the right line-up, a clear, workable online strategy and a sense of purpose has an opportunity that hasn't presented itself for more than 20 years. There's no reason why that station can't be 4BC, not least because its natural audience is out there somewhere, listening to something else. I know there are some at BC who think drivetime announcer Michael Smith is the answer. Smith certainly is trying hard, but if he's not kicking goals in the afternoon with his rightwing rhetoric, borrowed from the very different US market -- and not, as some may think from Alan Jones, whose strength is not his political stance but his skill as a persausive orator -- he won't produce better figures at breakfast. What all the stations need are programmers willing to throw away a textbook that's clearly no longer relevant in the digital age, and talent that's prepared to engage with the audience and potential audience - be it by, shock, horror, catching a bus or train, strolling through a few suburban shopping centres, going to a show (not just the footy*) or getting online and finding out what's really pushing people's buttons. Nobody in commercial radio land is doing that at the moment, and it's reflected in the ratings.
* I have written before, and will almost certainly again, about how the potential audience's interest in sport is vastly overrated by the media.
Disclosure: Brett Debritz is no longer working for any Brisbane radio station, but he's open to offers.

Spot the difference

Posted September 5th, 2010 by debritz

Just who is calling the shots in Australia's hung parliament? The ABC seems to be suggesting on its homepage that Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai and independent MP Rob Oakeshott are one and the same.
Update: After quite some time, the error was corrected.

It's the message, not the medium

Posted September 1st, 2010 by debritz

Are television stations becoming irrelevant? When we thought of television just a few years ago, it was often in terms of the most successful network. For example, in the US it was NBC's Thursday-night lineup of great comedies; here in Australia Channel 9 was a powerhouse across the board. There was an audience out there that almost never changed channels. Now, the focus is very much on individual shows. MasterChef is the perfect example: with it, Channel Ten earned supreme ratings glory, without it, Ten was relegated to fourth place on some nights. The fact is that, despite the stations' sneaky attempts to keep us glued (usually by running popular shows beyond their scheduled finish time), we are more willing than ever to switch stations to follow the programs we like. We'll also record, time-shift and download the shows we want to see and often, horror upon horror, fast-forward through the ads). That's why the longterm future for successful TV networks won't be as simple broadcasters, but as producers and distributors of the content people want to see. In the short term, though, they are creating digital channels in the hope that their mix of reruns and cult-appeal first-run shows will attract the audience members who aren't tuning in to the main stations. Eventually, though, we'll all be able to download legally whatever we want whenever we want. The channels' biggest hope then will be to create more and more "event" television, like MasterChef, that relies on us all watching it at once, tweeting about it as we go, and chatting about it over the watercooler the next day.

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