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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.

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?).

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

Cirque goes full circle

Posted August 25th, 2010 by debritz

Cirque du Soleil is returning to Australian next year, with a fresh production of Saltimbanco, the show that introduced Australians to the Cirque experience 12 years ago. Rather than under the big top, it'll be in theatre mode at entertainment centres. Dates include Perth in April, Melbourne in May and Brisbane and Sydney in July. Tickets on sale October 18. Details here.

One final fame game

Posted August 10th, 2010 by debritz

It was my last regular 612ABC spot this morning (before I head overseas again) and, to celebrate, Spencer Howson and I went to the streets to ask people if they could provide surnames to match 10 "famous" Brisbane first names. The results are here. Interestingly, the three people everybody knew were Anna Bligh, Kevin Rudd and Wally Lewis. In a bonus segment, not put to air, we showed people some photos of famous faces and sought names. Results here.

Jamie Dunn ready to re-sign?

Posted August 8th, 2010 by debritz

He may have threatened to pull the pin back in March, but the word around the Brisbane media traps is that Jamie Dunn is signing on the dotted line again as breakfast host at 4BC. While Dunn and co-host Ian Calder's audience share has grown a little lately, they are yet to reach the ratings heights of commercial talk stations in other state capitals. The next bunch of figures, to be released on Tuesday, will be interesting.

Spot the difference

Posted August 6th, 2010 by debritz

1. What's the difference between a motoring holiday and one taken on the tilt train? Well, according to the Queensland Rail ads, the train is particularly relaxing if you leave your screaming, kicking child at home.
2. Can anybody tell me why the only ads on Brisbane trains are for QR or for sports teams etc. that QR sponsors? I would have thought space on trains would be attractive to advertisers. I'm happy to consult with QR on getting a slice of the advertising action; it might help keep fares down.
3. Oh, and on the subject of fares, it's outrageous that the fares for trains to the Ekka carry a supplement. Sure it costs more to provide the service, but there are more passsengers, which should even things out.

Let's take over the Ekka!

Posted August 3rd, 2010 by debritz

Attention Brisbane readers: If you think the annual Exhibition could be better, here's your chance to make it happen. As I said on the Spencer Howson program on 612ABC this morning, some years ago a few friends of mine decided that they could take over the local bowls club if enough of them joined up and created a voting bloc at the annual general meeting and rolled the office bearers. I speculated whether membership of the RNA would give you the same power over the Ekka. The answer, according to a caller off-air, is yes. So if you've got a big enough beef about the agricultural show, and you have enough like-minded friends, you could soon be running it!

Fresh is best

Posted August 2nd, 2010 by debritz

Outside a cafe in Wickham Terrace, Brisbane's specialist medical precinct.

At least customers would be in the right place if they'd consumed old sushi.

Deja-vu all over again

Posted July 30th, 2010 by debritz

The quickened pace of the news cycle continues to confuse traditional media. For newspapers, one of the big questions these days is: should we publish something in print after it's already appeared online, especially on our own websites? In the case of the Courier-Mail today, the answer was yes (in regards to a picture on page 14 which was all over its webpage yesterday). Today, the printed C-M finally caught up with the death of the world's oldest Twitterer, Ivy Bean, who passed away on July 28. A two-day lag for news from Britain used to be commonplace, but it's not now. Meanwhile, mX surely set some kind of record yesterday with an item about this controversial new website, Sorry to burst the bubble, but it's been around since June, 2006 (do a search on the Wayback Machine if you doubt me)! A hip'n'groovy, youth-oriented paper like mX oughta know stuff like that.
PS: This intro from the C-M could have been written by the copywriter for a washing powder commercial:

NEW tests have smashed Queensland's first case of DNA innocence testing after analysis found a convicted killer was 45 billion times more likely to be linked to blood from the scene.

More likely than who or what?

Not the one any more

Posted July 26th, 2010 by debritz

In an ever changing world, some things stay the same. One of those things used to be the fact that Channel 9 broadcast the highest-rating commercial television news service in Brisbane and, indeed, in Australia. That success was built on solid news judgment, selective hirings from other networks (particularly the ABC) and a reputation for trustworthiness. Somewhere in the past few years, though, the banner has been passed to Channel 7. Sure Nine is still the home of Laurie Oakes, the journalists' journalist, and a few other heavy hitters, but people aren't buying it like they used to. In Brisbane, Seven is now the viewers' station of choice. Today, Seven claimed the ratings year for news and current affairs. In a media release, the network said its News, Today Tonight and Sunrise had an "unassailable lead in the 40 week ratings year in south east Queensland". The statement continued:

7 News and Sunrise have both won 22 from 22 weeks while Today Tonight has won 21 from 22 weeks in the 40 week ratings year. Max Walters, Managing Director of Seven Brisbane said,“ This is the fourth year running that our flagship news and public affairs programs have won the ratings year in south east Queensland, a wonderful achievement in such a competitive market . SEQ audiences continue to turn to 7 News, Today Tonight and Sunrise to keep them informed on local, national and international events.”

PS: In its media release, Nine claims overall SEQ victory last week (by a whisker), bringing its total this year to 17 out of 22 surveys.

Search for a star

Posted July 24th, 2010 by debritz

We live in an age of celebrity. You can't pick up a newspaper or magazine, or switch on the TV, radio or internet, without seeing something about Brad and Ange, Tom and Katie, Lindsay or Britney. Like it or not, they've become the subject of many a watercooler conversation and, dare I say it, are genuine "household names". On the national front, there are the big names of TV (Bert, Kerri-Anne, Eddie and Ray among them), plus a smattering of musicians and, largely now-expat, movie makers (Hugh, Russell and Nicole). Recently, the finalists of MasterChef, Callum and Adam, have joined that hallowed society -- but for how long is anyone's guess. You'll note here that I've mentioned only first names but I reckon almost everybody reading this would know exactly who I'm referring to. Which brings me to the big question for Queensland readers only: Who are Brisbane's household names? Which homegrown talents, in whatever field, are instantly recognisable to a large portion of the population (not just the media junkies who read this blog) by their first name or nickname? I've got a few ideas of my own, but I won't be writing them down just yet. Suggestions by email or by Tweet, please. When I've assembled a list, I'd like to test the theory with members of the GP. Maybe we'll all get a surprise as to who's really on the A-list and who isn't.

Brisbane Festival: What's it all about?

Posted July 20th, 2010 by debritz

The big question about the Brisbane Festival is: who is it for? As I said on 612ABC this morning (the audio is here), there is plenty for people who like contemporary dance but not a lot of breadth or depth to the "high arts" program, and precious little for the Average Joe or Jo (apart, of course, from Riverfire). The community section seems to be targetted more at the community that creates art than the communities who might want to consume it, and there's not much in the way of family entertainment. A lot of this year's program was obviously put in place by former artistic director Lyndon Teraccini; the challenge for the new AD, Noel Staunton, is to decide what the festival is all about and put his own stamp on it. Hopefully, he will decide that it's not just for elites; that it should include some truly popular entertainment that will engage the entire Brisbane community. As I've said before, I'd love to see the return of a Warana-style community parade, built from the grassroots up, and we definitely need an Edinburgh-style fringe festival to inject a little fun into proceedings.
PS: This is a personal thing, but I think the new logo is amateruish; remiscent of the rush of wacky typography we saw when computer users discovered the likes of ComicSans.

Hats off for a good cause

Posted July 17th, 2010 by debritz

Anne Wood and the cast of Mamma Mia, the Divas, the cats of Jesus Christ Superstar, David Hamilton Puppets, Greg Moore, Velocity Dance Company and Oscar Theatre Group are among a growing bill for the Hats Off Briz-Vegas concert at the Playhouse, QPAC on August 23. Tickets $40; proceeds go to the Oz Showbiz Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS charity. Book here.

Treated with contempt

Posted July 16th, 2010 by debritz

In the Courier-Mail today (July 16, 2010), Matt Condon writes of his frustration with the stock reply he received from the Premier's office when he wrote, as a private citizen, to ask Anna Bligh to intervene on behalf of Brisbane's Regent theatre, which is scheduled for part-demolition to make way for an office tower. About 20,000 people have joined Facebook groups to protest the proposed development, and an online petition to state parliament has more than 6000 signatures.
Condon writes:

I also know enough about life to understand that any government that treats its people and their concerns as unworthy of mindful consideration, that deems it satisfactory to subject them to cut and paste mimeographhs on matters that go to their hearts, and that frankly disrespects them as fools who know no better, has lost its grasp of democracy, its purpose and its obligation to the people it pretends to represent.

I think everybody who received the same form letter should write again to the Premier with specific questions -- such as: How long will the deal to screen films in the "cinema" in the new tower, albeit it on a limited, weekends-only basis, remain in place?; Why is this tower necessary when Brisbane already has a glut of office space and even the government is dentralising its staff?; and Why did the state government change its mind on this issue after initially ordering the protection of the whole building?) -- and demanding real answers. Don't let the Premier and her team treat us with contempt.
(Cross-posted, with additions, from

Rock for the Regent!

Posted June 25th, 2010 by debritz

What a line-up - a reminder that the big names of the arts and music industry are opposed to the current plans for the redevelopment of the Regent. Be there if you can!

Credibility crisis for the Cage

Posted June 23rd, 2010 by debritz

At the time of writing, Kevin Rudd has just held a press conference saying there'll be a leadership ballot tomorrow morning. While Rudd is likely to get rolled by Julia Gillard, he's still PM tonight. That doesn't seem to have sunk in properly for whoever updates Facebook for Brisbane radio station Triple M's the Cage breakfast show, though:

I was not alone in commenting that it ain't quite over yet for KRudd. It's a sage lesson for people who rely on Facebook (or commercial FM radio) for their news.
PS: Times shown in screen grabs are UK. Add nine hours for AEST.
Update: To be fair, here's what Channel 7 tweeted in the heat of the moment:

Wicked delay

Posted June 20th, 2010 by debritz

It's great news for Brisbane theatregoers that Wicked! will finally open at the Lyric Theatre in January next year. But that will be two-and-a-half years after its Australian premiere in Melbourne -- in which time, according to its producers, it has played 866 shows seen by more than a million people. In other words, the lion's share of the return from the show in terms of arts tourism dollars has gone into the Victorian coffers and, to a lesser extent, to NSW. Of course, if Brisbane had another large venue -- say a renovated Regent Theatre -- such big shows could be debuting in Queensland, rather than coming in at the end of their run after the diehard fans have already spent up big on package tours to see them.

As Des says ...

Posted May 31st, 2010 by debritz

Des Partridge, the longtime cinema critic for The Courier-Mail, supports the cause to Save the Regent. Here's some audio of him telling 4KQ's breakfast team of Laurel, Gary and Mark how this last-of-a-kind venue will be lost barring a last-minute change of heart by the State Government.
Update: I had my say on the Regent in this segment with Spencer Howson. It's towards the end after the usual (hopefully) entertaining fluff.

Farewell, but not goodbye

Posted May 30th, 2010 by debritz

Birch Carroll and Coyle's lease on the Brisbane Regent is coming to end, culminating with a farewell on June 6. The details are on the poster below. Attend the event, but please remember that the fight to Save the Regent goes on.

Marty joins the Nova party

Posted May 20th, 2010 by debritz

Nova picture of Marty SheargoldAfter an on-air trial, Marty Sheargold is now officially part of Nova 106.9's breakfast team, joining Tim Blackwell and Meshel Laurie, and replacing Ash Bradnam. His bio is on Nova's website here. It's interesting, given the reasons for Bradnam's departure, that Sheargold is described as a "beer drinker". And is Sheargold's obsessive interest in sport a sign that Nova is chasing more male listeners?

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