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Brenden's back

I said they'd be mad to get rid of him, so I'm glad Mix 1065.FM has reinstated producer Brenden Wood. According to this report, the decision came after breakfast show Sonia Kruger threatened to walk unless the station reinstated Wood, who apparently copped the blame for Kruger's co-host Todd McKenney's on-air attacks on Channel 9's Mark Ferguson, leading to Nine withdrawing advertising from the station. (Are you following all this?) However, Mix boss Anthony Fitzgerald says the issue has been blown out of proportion. "Brenden just had a few days off but he'll be back on board tomorrow," Fitzgerald said yesterday. The station's next big challenge comes when McKenney fronts court over his arrest for drug possession. McKenney's defence, apparently, is that he was slipped a mickey, then somebody planted the stuff on him. Whatever the outcome, all this is publicity you simply couldn't buy.
PS: I note that, during the entire drama, Wood's picture (right) and profile never disappeared from the Mix website.

Phoning it in

If you've not been following the scandal in Britain, where the ITV network has received a massive fine for faking phone-in competitions, take the time to Stephen Brook comments on the latest chapter in a long-running saga here. Brooks's Media Guardian colleague Roy Greenslade also has his say here. Of course, there is great potential for similar things to happen in Australia, where Big Brother evictions and other TV events are decided by audience phone-ins and text messages which make the shows' producers quite a lot of money. But can we be assured that everything is above board, or would an audit or inquiry turn up something abnormal in the way the votes are collated? Similarly, when a radio station says it's going to take the fourth caller for a competition, is that always the case? What if the producer discovers off-air that the fourth caller isn't "good talent" - perhaps they dither, or stutter, sound unsympathetic or aren't from the station's core demographic? I'm already aware of a few tricks of the producer's trade, but anybody from the industry who wants to share some specific dirty secrets can do so anonymously via the comments or feedback links.

Brenden gets the boot

Former B105, 4BC and 4KQ-97.3FM producer Brenden Wood has reportedly been "benched indefinitely" by management at Sydney's Mix 106.5 after announcer Todd McKenney (a Channel 7 personality) sledged Channel 9's Mark Ferguson on air, leading to the station losing $1 million in advertising from Nine. Wood is one of the most enthusiastic and professional producers in the business, and his hard work was just starting to pay off at the long-time low-rating Mix. The official version is that Wood is "just taking a few days off pending a review of his position with the program." My opinion: they'd be mad to sack him. With signs that the Sydney FM breakfast radio market is starting to open up, and lots of jostling among the lower-ranked players, Mix needs an experienced hand at the wheel more than ever.

Drive dilemma

I was going to post an item saying how well Nova 106.9's Dan and Ken had done to beat the all-conquering national Hamish and Andy show in Brisbane radio's drivetime shift. That was until I got an email from B105 claiming that Hamish and Andy had won the 4-6pm drive shift nationally. According to the figures I have (which are not as "broken down" as the figures the radio stations get), B105 rated 16.0 in the 4-7pm shift and Nova rated 16.2. If Hamish and Andy did indeed win 4-6pm, it means B105 lost a lot of listeners at 6pm. Guess who comes on air in Brisbane at 6? Step forward, the omnipresent Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. On Nova at the same time are Merrick, Rosso and Kate Ritchie. Hmmm.
Disclosure: On top of the past two disclosures, Brett Debritz forgot to add that he was also dumped from the breakfast show on 4BC a few years ago apparently because he said something mildly negative about Kath and Kim

Jamie Dunn's last laugh?

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

In early March, Brisbane radio B105's content director Mitch Braund said former top-rating Brisbane announcer Jamie Dunn was out of touch after he criticised some of the current crop of radio stunts. According to the Sunday Mail Braund "believed B105's breakfast show gave audiences what they wanted". Oh, really? Well, I just looked up the ratings results from 2005, Dunn's last year at B105 before he moved to Zinc 96.1 on the Sunshine Coast. Dunn and Penny Cooper finished up with a rating of 13.1 - compared to B105's current breakfast rating of 8.9. Now in case you're thinking that that was a nostalgia-driven number, Cooper and Dunn began 2005 with 11.4 percent of the available listening audience, had 12.3 in survey 3 and 11.7 in survey 5. The current team of Labrat, Camilla and Stav may have had a shocker this time, and the show could well rebound (and, as they are nice people, I hope it does), but when you take the statistics into account - and especially the fact that Dunn, Ian Skippen and Donna Lynch (later Robin Bailey) once commanded more than a third of the entire Brisbane audience (albeit when there were fewer listening choices) - I don't think anybody is qualified to knock Dunn's instincts for what makes good radio.
Disclosure: Brett Debritz was dumped from a small weekly spot on the B105 breakfast show in the middle of last year, and he and Jamie Dunn once worked together on a book which may or may not ever see the light of day.

Radio ratings surprise

Results of the third 2008 radio ratings are in, and the big gainer in Brisbane is 97.3FM, which has added about 2 percentage points overall, apparently at the expense of B105 - and is now in third position after Nova 106.9 and Triple M. 97.3's breakfast show, hosted by Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher (pictured), has also moved into third spot, just ahead of 612ABC's Spencer Howson, who has rebounded from losses last survey in what seems to be a straight swap with commercial talk station 4BC. Both stations had ordinary daytime numbers, but did very well in the evenings, with Katrina Davidson* on 612 equal first with Nova's 19s program. B105 must be disappointed with the results for its much-lauded breakfast show, which is now seventh in that all-important area. The breakfast team of Labrat, Camilla and Stav have almost half the audience of the networked drive show hosted by Hamish and Andy. Interestingly, a lot of B105's younger (aged 10-17) audience seems to have defected to 97.3 and B105's own stablemate Triple M, both of which are skewed much older. Maybe the kids have to listen to what Mum or Dad wants to hear in the drive to school (which could mean B105's edgier strategy is failing.) Triple M has good reason to celebrate, not just for the success of The Cage at breakfast but because the gap between it and market leader Nova has narrowed overall. In Sydney, breakfast market leader Alan Jones on 2GB had a 1.3 percentage point drop but is still way ahead of 2Day's Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O (who also dropped, by 1.2 points, despite all the TV crossover publicity the pair received in the lead-up to Big Brother). ABC702 is third in breakfast, two points clear of Nova 96.9's Merrick, Rosso and Kate Ritchie. The next ratings will show whether Ritchie's Gold Logie win has any impact. Mix 106.5's Sonia Kruger and Todd McKenney improved by 1 point, although they lag behind the winners. The impact of McKenney's arrest should become clear in the next survey, too. Overall in Sydney, it's 2GB just one point of 2Day, with Nova 2.5 points behind. There was no significant movement at Vega 95.3, Nova's problem-child sibling, despite high-profile presenters.
PS: Yes, I know I'm a crtiic of the ratings methodology, but it's the only system there is right now. I'd love to know what a peoplemeter system would have made of it all.
* Katrina is the wife of B105's Stav Davidson, who must be envious of her audience share.
Disclosure: Brett Debritz is occasionally heard on 612ABC's Breakfast with Spencer Howson

Tributes to Andrew Harwood

It seems that a lot of people have been Googling the words "Andrew Harwood" after the popular former television host and radio announcer was included in a Logies montage of stars who died in the past year. many of them came to this site, one of the few places on the Internet that paid tribute to him at the time of his death. You can read some fresh comments on one of my original items about his passing here.

Rating the ratings people

I've long been a critic of the radio ratings methodology, but now there seems to be even more reason to be worried about the folks at Nielsen Media who put the figures together. These two snapshots appear on the website for the 2008 survey two results:

The Gabby, Mike and Stav show finished on B105 almost 18 months ago; the current breakfast lineup is Labrat, Camilla and Stav. And Mick Molloy is long gone from Triple M. It's a little hard to expect us to take the ratings seriously if nobody at Nielsen knows who's actually on air.

Logies update

Thanks to Kuttsywood for these insights on the Logies, which thankfully are not broadcast in China. If you want a full list of winners, they are here.
If you're not that interested in the full list, the Gold Logie went to Kate Ritchie (which means I was wrong about Chris Lilley). I wonder if that will translate into more listeners for her radio show.

Time to tune in

All things being equal, I'll be on Spencer Howson's show on 612ABC on Monday morning, May 5. You can listen to the stream here. (Yes, I know it's the website I've been bagging, but it does lead you to content from a very good radio station.)

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