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Man from Aunty topples Nova

This just off the back of a truck ... the breakdowns of yesterday's radio ratings results show that 612ABC's Spencer Howson is No. 1 in the Brisbane market for the period he is actually on air - 5.30am to 7.45am. Yes, he even beats Nova 106.9's Meshel, Ash and Kip, who pick up on average because they remain on air until 9am. (Of course, the Nova people will dismiss this, saying it "doesn't count" because Howson is not on commercial radio.) This statistic raises the question: Are the 15-minute 7.45am news and the half-hour networked AM program a big turn-off for 612ABC listeners? When local programming resumes at 8.30am, Madonna King inherits a much smaller audience share than enjoyed by Howson. Axing the Australian institution that is AM is probably not an option, but the ABC really ought to put some thought into shifting it to another stream when digital radio finally arrives.
Disclosure: Brett Debritz was a guest on Howson's show during the ratings period, and therefore takes some credit for his success.

B105: What went wrong

Clarification: Mitch Braund has called me to point out that he did not attack Jamie Dunn when he spoke to a Brisbane journalist in March this year, but he did challenge the view that some radio stunts were "distasteful" and "lacked integrity". Braund says he and Dunn have since "had a laugh" over the newspaper report.
- June 19

On May 6, I took Brisbane Radio B105 content director Mitch Braund to task because he was quoted as saying that former top-rating announcer Jamie Dunn was out of touch with what audiences wanted. In that post I also noted that B105's current breakfast team of Labrat, Camilla and Stav had "had a shocker" of a result in the third 2008 radio ratings survey, and expressed the hope that they would do better next time (because, as I said then and I still believe, they are nice people). Well, sadly for them, the survey four results are out and B105 has dropped again to what is almost certainly the lowest audience share in its history. In this Courier-Mail online article, Austereo Brisbane general manager Richard Barker has tried to put a positive spin on things, but he - and his superiors in Sydney - must know that the station is in trouble. He notes, correctly, that B105's cumulative audience (cume) remains steady, but he also knows that that is not the figure advertisers look at. People dropping in and out of a station are unlikely to hear the advertisements, and in commercial radio that's all that counts. Barker also knows that in the good times - largely when Jamie Dunn and Ian Skippen were helming the breakfast show - B105 always boasted about its audience share - the figure he is now dismissing. The fact is that, save Triple J, Radio National and ABC News Radio, B105's breakfast show is now at the bottom of the pile - rating even lower than the perennial wooden-spooners over at 4BH (who do a great job for the older demographic). So what went wrong at B105, the mighty station that once commanded more than a third of all Brisbane listeners? I don't expect the Austereo people are listening, but I'll tell them for free. (And before we go any further, do not mistake what I am about to say as a sexist statement; it's a matter of commercial realities.) What went wrong is that Camilla Severi got pregnant. How did that change things? Well, B105 was pitching itself as a hits station aimed at cashed-up young people, with madcap, juvenile stunts and a free-and-easy attitude. Then, out of the blue, its very young female presenter entered the nappy brigade. B105 embraced the situation, by having "yummy mummy" events and other baby-related japes, but the way I see it, all this alienated the audience the station was trying to capture - the 18-24 and 25-29 year olds who are happily listening to Nova 106.9 and haven't even given parenthood a second thought. (Yes, I know Ash Bradnam talks about his kid on Nova, but it doesn't take over the show - and, of course, Nova has an arguably edgier music mix and plays just two ads in a row to counter the dial-surfing factor.) B105 has two choices - it either changes format to actively pursue an audience that's interested in baby talk* (unlikely given that that's a network decision) or it, once again, changes its breakfast show. The latter would be a great pity because the people involved with the show are not just nice, they are also good operators. But after 18 months on-air, it's unlikely that they will do a Lazarus in the ratings. Given the success of Hamish and Andy in the drivetime slot, and the tightening economies in the media, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is a networked or partially networked breakfast show on B105 next year (as there is over the current mid-year break). I know some people reading this will say that networked breakfast shows don't work in Brisbane - but if going from first to last in the space of just four years is "working", I'd like to hear the definition of failure.
PS: Sunshine Coast-based Jamie Dunn is probably wetting himself right now, and he has most likely already phoned several Brisbane radio stations to offer his services.
Disclosure: Brett Debritz briefly presented an entertainment segment on B105's breakfast show, and is still occasionally heard on 612 ABC's Spencer Howson program, which is the No. 2 breakfast show in Brisbane. Brett also once tried to write a book with Jamie Dunn.
Update (i.e. afterthought): * Which would also mean toning down the content for a family audience. Mums on the school run don't want their kids to listen to crude content.

Radio ratings results

The Australian metropolitan radio ratings survey 4 results are in. Highlights include:
+ In Brisbane, it's Nova, Triple M, 97.3FM and 612 ABC overall, and Nova, 612ABC, Triple M, 4BC and 4KQ in breakfast. The biggest gainer in the cornflakes shift was 612's Spencer Howson, who added more than 3 percentage points to rebound from a shocker of a survey last time.
+ Things are not looking bright for the B105 breakfast show, with Labrat, Camilla and Stav now at the bottom of the commercial + metro ABC pile. They now have less than half the rating figure garnered by the networked Hamish and Andy show in the B105 drive slot and are, arguably, dragging the station down. (Sorry guys, but that's the only way I can see to read the numbers.)
+ In Sydney, 2GB still leads the way, but the pack is narrowing and all the majors suffered declines (except Nova, which lifted slightly in breakfast, possibly thanks to Kate Ritchie's Logies win). Alan Jones still leads the pack in breakfast, but ABC702's Adam Spencer has leap-frogged 2Day's overexposed Kyle and Jackie O to claim second spot.
+ Sonia Kruger and Todd McKenney on Sydney's Mix 106.5 had a 0.1 percent rise, which - if it were statistically significant - might be attributed to publicity surrounding McKenney's arrest for drug possession, his stoush with Channel 9 and the brief suspension of executive producer Brenden Wood.
Stay tuned for more details.
Disclosure: Brett Debritz is occasionally heard on the Spencer Howson show on 612ABC and, for various reasons, is no longer heard on the breakfast shows on 4BC and B105 (although he was when they were both getting higher ratings. Coincidence? You be the judge!)

Sisterly love

In case you missed it ... Former Big Brother host Gretel Killeen has diplomatically avoided sledging new hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O - and has revealed that she has avoided watching the current series so she can't be asked to comment on it. But, in an interview with Mix 106.5's Sonia Kruger and Todd McKenney this morning, she also says she's not bitter about being axed. "I was ready to go; I'd done it for seven years." Killeen also spoke about her one-month role as Narrator on the current production of The Rocky Horror Show, starting June 25 at Sydney's Star City.

Not dead yet

In fairness to Kyle Sandilands, here's a link to a story where explains that he has simply been sick, he's not been axed from Big Brother and he hasn't tried to kill himself.
PS: Speaking of cocky TV presenters, Paul "Fatty" Vautin has had to pull his head in after accusing a doorman at Brisbane's Caxton Hotel of being drunk. The guy in question is epileptic.

Strewth! Rolf Harris honoured

Singer-songwriter Rolf Harris and retired broadcaster John Laws are to be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Harris is, of course, best known in Australia for his 1960s hits Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport and Two Little Boys, and for his version of Stairway to Heavenrecorded for Andrew Denton's The Money or the Gun. In the UK, he's been the host of successful children's, animal and art television programs. Here's a little-known fact: Harris also sings the theme tune for Spuds in Duds, the kids' TV series starring Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder that's screened in Brisbane on Channel 31.

Diagnosis: Is Kyle terminal?

Is this the end of Kyle Sandilands? Ten Network bosses are insisting he will return to host Big Brother after he recovers from a chest infection. In TV land, such strong statements of management support are often a cause for concern, and sometimes followed by a "negotiated exit" of the talent in question. I guess if Sandilands does come back, the ratings will decide his fate. Whatever the outcome, it's all good for Brisbane's Mike Goldman, who has been keeping the seat warm on the eviction shows, attracting strong ratings and a lot of online support. I suspect he'll be in very strong position when it comes to renegotiating his contract - and that other stations will be knocking on his door.

Going digital

In this interview Fairfax chief David Kirk reveals, among other things, agrees that digital radio is "good for AM stations". It means his network, which includes 2UE, 3AW and 4BC, will at last be able to broadcast in the same quality as the FM stations. Although Kirk doesn't give too much away, it's obvious that all the radio networks are well advanced with their plans for digital radio, which will also allow them extra frequencies to create new stations. But will the drawn-out digital switchover benefit listeners? Will it deliver fantastic niche stations, or will it just be more of the same? The record shows that I'm cynical about all this, but I hope it's the former.

Be very, very quiet ...

According to this story, Gold Coast radio station Hot Tomato's breakfast program director Rob McCasker is threatening legal action after being sacked because he allegedly "breached confidentiality and spoke of the pending departure of breakfast co-host Renae King to her on air colleagues Luke Bradnam and Kate Carlyle". I don't know exactly what's going on, but it seems to me that there are more civilised ways to part company with someone than by email and then sending their belongings to their home by courier.

Doing the right thing

It's no secret that Aboriginal and Islander people often get a raw deal from the media, so it's interesting to see that Austereo (B105 and Triple M) and Channel 7 have today joined an initiative to create employment opportunities for Indigenous people in the commercial media industry in Queensland. A media release for today's launch at Mt Coot-that says, in part:

The Centre for Aboriginal Independence and Enterprise has developed this project and is pleased to announce that it has negotiated with the Seven television network and Austereo radio network ... to be the partners in this ground breaking agreement.
... Both these commercial media organizations will work with the CAIE in implementing the strategies from this document, which include employment opportunities, cultural awareness frameworks, mentorships and building more productive relationships with the Indigenous communities across Queensland.
General Manager of Austereo Richard Barker stated that their objective in this initiative “is to explore employment and development opportunities for qualified and suitable candidates within the Indigenous community, and in doing so, we hope to work towards eliminating any barriers that may exist. In addition, Austereo is keen to build a highly unique and capable talent bank of potential employees from all communities”.

I sincerely hope good things come from this.

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