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The axe falls

Wil Anderson and Tony Lehman (aka Wil and Lehmo) have become the first to go in what may be a bloody season of axings in Australian radio. More here. I can't say I was a regular listener, but I think their demise was to a certain degree outside of their own control. Firstly, Triple M is in disarray in Sydney (although not in Brisbane), and secondly they were up against the juggernaut that is Hamish and Andy, who seem to succeed across the usual demographic boundaries. Triple M is now seeking out an "Awesome Eightes" format. I wonder if that will affect Brisbane, too - and if so whether that decision will imperil the station's performance and play in to the hands of the revamped 4BC.
PS: Back in August, Triple M program director Guy Dobson said: "I've never axed a show because of ratings. Ratings are not the issue. It's about how the show sounds and Wil and Lehmo are sounding great. It's also about how the core audience feels about it and how the advertisers feel, and there are no problems there." I wonder when the problems started to arise.
PPS: It was this time last year that Triple M axed the successful Tony Martin program, Get This. Martin has had the last laugh, but will he be back?

Vive le difference

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross have paid the price for their prank call to Andrews Sachs, but the world is laughing along with French Canadian comic Sebastien Trudel who fooled Sarah Palin into thinking he was French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The difference? I think it's because one was a mean-spirited and personal attack on an elderly man who didn't ask for it, the other exposed the naivety of somebody who has suspended some of their rights to privacy by pursuing high office. You can here it here.

Who's on first

Did somebody say "shameless self-promoter"? Here's a picture I took of myself today in Liverpool. It's also on Spencer Howson's blog as part of a discussion about the next Doctor Who.

Boss quits, Ross out for 12 weeks

Things are happening fast in this escalating crisis for the BBC over the broadcast by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand that cruelly mocked Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs. The latest is that the controller of BBC Radio Two, Lesley Douglas, has resigned and Ross, who is the BBC's highest-paid star, has been suspended from work without pay for 12 weeks. Brand has already quit the BBC, and the BBC Trust has said there will be an on-air apology to Sachs. Meanwhile, Sachs's granddaughter Georgina Baillie has been talking to The Sun, saying - among other things - that Brand was a let-down in bed and that he yelled "Que?" (Manuel's catchphrase from Fawlty Towers) when they had sex. The fact that she seems to be cashing in on the situation has been criticised by some, but it seems to me that it doesn't mitigate the initial harm done to her and, especially, her grandfather.
PS: I as thinking today what would have happened if an ABC announcer did this sort of thing. I think they would be out of the door - permanently - so fast their chair would be still be spinning while they were driving away.

Radio rumbles

A radio industry source tells me that the appointment of Jamie Dunn to the breakfast shift at 4BC next year has prompted an "unprecedented negative response" from the station's listeners and there are fears that it will "end in disaster". My source says the decision to hire Dunn was a deliberate attempt to target Triple M - which makes sense given their neighbouring demographic targets. Speaking of the Ms, the rumour mill also has it that The Cage may lose Sami Lukis next year, as she is being considered for a Sydney-based job with the Triple M network which would mean a radical change in her working hours.

Brand, Ross pay the price

Comedian Russell Brand and talk show host Jonathan Ross have been suspended by the BBC for their offensive prank call to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs. There have been calls for them to be sacked. Whatever the outcome of this case, I hope broadcasters everywhere take note. There is a line that can be - and in this case has been - crossed in the name of "entertainment". Prank and gotcha calls often come at a cost to somebody's dignity and privacy. In the UK, there's also the mitigating factor that the BBC is funded by licence-fee payers (me included). Ross, who hosts a late-night chat and variety show, is on a 6 million-pounds-a-year contract, and Brand reportedly earns 400,000 pounds and was regarded as a "star signing" for the BBC. The average annual pay packet is about 25,000 pounds. The duo repeatedly rang Sachs's answering machine telling him Brand had slept with the actor's granddaughter. They later suggested that Sachs might kill himself after hearing the news, and they joked about breaking into his house and sexually abusing him. The pre-recorded program went to air after being approved by a senior BBC executive. One can only imagine the personal embarrassment to the woman in question, 23-year-old Georgina Baillie, who has a right to expect such matters to remain private. However, her thoughts are with her grandfather, who has no need nor, I would imagine, any desire to hear about her sex life. "What's funny about humiliating a lovely old man who has never harmed anyone in his life," she says. "My grandfather is really upset and says he wants the whole situation to end. It has been awful for him." Moreover, it's been a dark episode in the history the BBC and broadcasting in general.
Update:Brand has quit his BBC Radio 2 program and taken full responsibility for the incident. Presumably, this will take some heat off the highly paid Ross - who, let's not forget, was the first the make the offensive remark to Sachs.

Ratings: Who's on top

The seventh 2008 Australian metro cities radio ratings are out, and it's good news for some and not so good for others - especially with the year coming to the end and some 2009 line-ups yet to be confirmed. In Brisbane, the top five in breakfast are: Nova 106.9's Meshel, Kip, Ash and Luttsy, followed by Triple M's The Cage with Ian Skippen (who must have a smile on his face), 612 ABC's Spencer Howson, B105's Labrat, Camilla and Stav (who are building audience numbers and becoming competitive at last), and 97.3FM's Robin, Bob and Mark. Overall, the order is Nova, B105, Triple M, 97.3 and 612ABC, followed by 4KQ, 4BH and 4BC. There's no escaping that despite the doomsayers - me included - it's a great comeback result for B105, which is clawing back younger listeners from Nova. Special mention ought to go to the Hamish and Andy drive show, which has a 20.5 per cent audience share in its timeslot. It's been a long time since figures like that have been seen in Brisbane. It's a pretty dire result for 4BC, which is at the opposite end of the ratings to commercial talk stations in other capitals and was even beaten overall by its pour-cousin sister station 4BH, vindicating the decision to bring in Jamie Dunn to try to shake things at BC up next year. The Brisbane market is very competitive, which is good news for the listeners. In Sydney, 2GB's Alan Jones still leads the pack in breakfast, a few points ahead of ABC702's Adam Spencer. "King" Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O on 2Day have slipped, but are in third place, just ahead Nova 969's Merrick, Rosso and Kate Ritchie, who are competitive again. At the other end of the scale, Mix 106.5's Todd McKenney may be able to get arrested, but he can't seem to win ratings points in his breakfast double act with Sonya Kruger. They have slipped again - presumably to the amusement of Sammy Power who was axed to make way for them (even though her ratings this time last year were higher) - and, significantly, the station rates better as soon as they go off the air. In Melbourne, 3AW rules the roost in breakfast but not overall, where the resurgent Fox FM is doing well. Fox is also second in breakfast, neck and neck with ABC774.
Usual disclosures apply
Update: A comment from "brw" disputes my reading of the figures. Click on "Comments" for the message, and my response.

No pranks, thanks

Given recent discussion on this blog about radio "gotcha" calls, this news item is timely. UK radio hosts Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross could face prosecution over obscene calls they made to 78-year-old former Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs (pictured, left) for their BBC program. Among other things, they left a series of messages on his answering machine claiming Brand had had sex with Sachs' granddaughter. Amazingly, Ross earns 6 million pounds a year and yet he and Brand can only come up with something so juvenile and hurtful to a now elderly, and apparently deeply religious man. Perhaps we should revise the old saying and replace sarcasm with prank calls when it comes to the lowest form of wit.

October 27 update: The BBC has apologised to Sachs.

New boss = new broom?

ARN, the Australian Radio Network, has a new boss following a reshuffle at the top of its parent company, APN News and Media. Will the appointment of Richard Herring* have any immediate implications for ARN employees? I don't know, but I bet some people at 4KQ and 97.3FM in Brisbane, and the Classic Hits and Mix stations in other capitals, are having a close look at their contracts as the end of the year looms.
* I wonder if his friends call him "Red"?

Operation for Labrat

I guess it was inevitable that somebody called Labrat would end up in a medical facility. The B105 breakfast announcer had severe pain, was diagnosed on air and underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix. There's more, including audio, here. I wish him well. PS: In Sydney, there are growing rumours that WSFM's Jonesy and Amanda will move to Triple M next year. The annual movement at the stations has well and truly begun.
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