Brisbane

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Nine claims one, Ten goes bust*

Channel 9 Brisbane is claiming a "dramatc turnaround" in the ratings and says it has won the first half of the year. In a press release, Nine says it beat Seven 12-8 in the 20-week survey period and is also No.1 in the "advertiser-preferred" 25-54 age demographic. Meanwhile, the stats reveal that Pamela Anderson's appearance in the Big Brother house only managed to lift that program to sixth position overall in the Week 28 results. With 291,000 viewers in Brisbane, Pamela Anderson Enters the House was beaten by 60 Minutes (362,000 viewers), Seven News Sunday (345,000), The One - Australia's Most Gifted Psychic (327,000), CSI (303,000) and Seven News (293,000). Privately, the folks at Ten must be asking: Was Anderson worth the reported half-million bucks she got and the grief she caused sponsor KFC? Publicly, of course, they will pull out some demographic-driven figure and say it was all a huge success.
* After all the other headlines, I just couldn't resist the B-word.

Stav on stage

B105 breakfast funnyman Stav Davidson is burning the candle at both ends with a series of night-time standup comedy gigs in and around Brisbane. You can catch him at the Albion pub tonight (July 12) and on July 18 and 26, and on August 1, 15, 29 and 30; the Dockside comedy club at Kangaroo Point on July 25; the Springlake Tavern on August 21; the Stones Corner Hotel on September 4; and the Paddington Tavern from September 11-13.

Baby boom

There are few things more annoying to crusty regular theatregoers than a crying baby or naughty child in the auditorium. That's why cinemas have special "babes-in-arms" screenings. Now, the live smash Busting Out is doing the same at the Twelfth Night Theatre in Brisbane's Bowen Hills. If you're not a parent with a baby and you go along to the 11am show on August 27, you've only got yourself to blame if the noise of children annoys. Show details are here.

Back to school

I've given them enough stick over the past few weeks, so it's about time I gave Brisbane radio station B105's breakfast team a plug. On Friday, Labrat and Stav will broadcast from the same bus they both used to catch to school. The Labrat says: "Everyone always talks about the good old days of high school, when the best bit was the fun you got up to going to and from! For my fellow commuters and I, it was all about the journey, less about the destination; Perving on hotties but never having the guts to say hello; Reading and adding to the filthy messages on the back of the seats and not standing up when old people got on board.” I hope they've chartered a vehicle for the occasion; I wouldn't want to be planning a radio show around the Brisbane City Council's bus timetables.

Merrick, Rosso no more?

A few years ago, I interviewed Merrick Watts (or maybe it was Tim Ross) and he told me that the Merrick and Rosso team wouldn't be around forever. The word from down south is that that day may soon be approaching. Following swiftly-denied rumours that the boys don't get along with new Sydney Nova 969 co-host Kate Ritchie is the tip that the comedy duo will pull the plug at the end of this year. At this point I feel obliged to reheat my own rumour of a year or two ago that Brisbane Nova 106.9's Meshel Laurie could well be lined up to move to Sydney. I know she's happy where she is, but the Nova 1069 show is strong enough now to withstand her departure (especially as its direct competition at B105 is doing so poorly) and, although we Queenslanders like to think otherwise, Sydney and Melbourne are really where it's at in the Australian entertainment world. If Merrick and Rosso do go, Nova would want to pick well, because the right team has a very good chance of knocking 2Day's Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O off their perch as the No. 1 FM breakfast team in Sydney.
Update: Watts is now saying the duo are "not going anywhere". With the ratings year only half over, he would say that, wouldn't he?

Sign of the times

Another first for Brisbane's Sit Down Comedy Club: Julia Morris will perform her first-ever sign language show at the Paddington Tavern later this month. The It Takes Two winner and internationally popular comic will perform her regular gig, with Auslan interpreters making it accessible to deaf members of the audience. There's more here.

Berkoff returns

British actor Steven Berkoff will bring his one-man show, One Man, to Brisbane from September 29 to October 1 as part of a national tour. Berkoff has been to Brisbane a few times, notably with Salome many years ago and Shakespeare’s Villains in 2005, and tickets for these performances - a double bill of the Edgar Allan Poe-derived Tell-Tale Heart and Berkoff's own Dog - are sure to sell quickly. Details here; tickets here.

Rat's in the room

B105's Labrat, Camilla and Stav are going national on the Austereo radio network. The Brisbane breakfast trio will be hosting an hour-long show on Sundays at 5.30pm called The Diary Room, dedicated to gossip from TV's Big Brotherprior to the televised eviction show. Of course, given that BB isn't exactly top of the TV ratings tree and that the Labrat, Camilla and Stav breakfast show isn't setting the Brisbane radio world alight, cynics might see this as attempt to revive two failing franchises. Not me, I think it's an inspired way to improve the profile of both shows.
Disclosure: See previous disclosure.

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.

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