Here we go with another year... good luck to you all

Frank Avis by | March 18, 2021 | 2020s Radio (general)

Here we go with another year... good luck to you all. I don't know whether you'll label me a pessimist or a realist but I'm repeating my persistent warnings from earlier days that the real coronavirus impact will come around mid-year, when the world will get a clearer view of the financial ramifications. I keep thinking they'll rival the Global Financial Crisis earlier in the century.

We still don't know how long it'll take the world to regain its financial momentum but I can give you one warning from here in Sydney that suggests there are some unexpected implications we'll have to factor in. Spoke to a colleague recently who went to have lunch in a shopping centre smack in the heart of a massive business centre in the city's northwest. This place is a gold mine, surrounded by office blocks as far as the eye can see which in turn are surrounded by thousands and thousands of new houses, built for the workers in those office blocks. He walked into the shopping centre food court right on lunchtime and found JUST FOUR PEOPLE eating there. He was stunned and had a quick chat to a mate who ran an eatery in the centre. His friend explained that most of these businesses, about a dozen of them, had been working desperately to just hang-on waiting for the decline of the pandemic and the return of the office workers. They'd extended their loans and even taken out new ones to keep things going 'til the good times returned. Trouble is, the workers didn't come back. Only about 20% of the workforce is back in their buildings. Most of them are continuing to do their shifts at home. Companies right across the region are trying desperately to cancel their leases.

Somebody else told me of a major international finance firm which welcomed back 100 workers, who'd been operating from home, promptly sacked 80 of them, closing down an entire wing of their office block. It's cheaper to run your staff from home unless they absolutely have to operate from one central area. And of course you can ditch the office block and make monumental savings. Just imagine if we get to May-June '21 and find this behaviour repeated across the globe... in London, Paris, New York. Are there 100's of 1000's of small businesses just hanging on waiting for the workers to return only to realise that they're not coming back - EVER? It's not just the collapse of these businesses but the collapse of their loans, which means the banks will start foreclosing and it'll be back to the good old GFC which triggered a financial meltdown over a decade ago.

The Covid death toll in the UK, USA and all over the world is totally monumental. I don't know how much worse things can get. I was discussing this with someone a while back and they stopped in mid-sentence, looked me in the eye and said, "Is this the end of the World"?

As we travel into 2021, more bad news on the passing of a true legend, with the death of one of the most celebrated figures in the radio industry, John Brennan. "Brenno" left us recently at the age of 89. He was the Prince of PD's having led three blockbuster stations to No. 1 with 2SM and the Good Guys, 2UE news/talkback and 2GB with yet another essay into the News-Talk arena. He walked among giants... indeed he trained quite a few of them in a long illustrious career. In the trade he is simply known as "The Kingmaker".

John Brennan (book cover)

Word has just reached me about the death of another industry veteran with the passing of 63-year old Jim Graham, brought down by a dreaded heart attack. He was particularly well known south of the Murray. I know our paths crossed... was it 3DB... 3MP? But I Just can't confirm where we worked together. I do know he had one of the best baritones you ever heard. When people reacted to his death in recent times I noticed they were using terms like "dulcet" and "mellifluous". Yep, that was Jim. Actually, I'd completely forgotten the name then one night I was listening to the ABC and guess who popped up reading a national update? I knew that voice straight away.

2GB still holds the high ground in the latest Sydney Survey, up slightly to 14.4 but the ABC had a corker, rising over 3% to 12.2. Smooth remains the overall leader in the FM band while our old mate 2UE moved back over 2%. In the world of TV, I'm being promised a new series shortly of the top-class British crime drama, Unforgotten. The other good news is that this is going to be the final year of the IQ-numbing Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Countering this, however, is Channel 9's confirmation that MAFS (Married at First Sight... guys... come on, get with the programme!) is coming back in 2022. It's not my fault... Do not shoot the messenger.

Imagine my astonishment while watching the 9 News recently to see a high profile wheeler-and-dealer announce an amazing revolutionary concept. His firm was building a massive shipment area out in the western suburbs which would connect Port Botany via rail. The plan, he announced proudly, was to rail more goods and cut the number of trucks on our roads. Woweeee, and this only 40 years after I started campaigning back at 2 DAY FM to convince Government to reopen our rail cargo networks in order to get those dangerous trucks off the motorways and road systems. What will happen now? Will I see another interview in the months ahead where another businessman suddenly discovers that we can bring our agricultural products from the country to their markets by train - freeing up our clogged roads for car traffic? Why... we may even realise that this is a two-way-street: we can SEND supplies out to the bush on the same train that'll be used to transport the produce to the cities. I like where this is going!

I'm not offering any further comment on the Trump White House, especially in the wake of those incredible scenes in Washington recently. Analysis of this bizarre conduct needs a lot more academic preparation. I only did Psychology 1: you'd need a Doctorate out of Harvard to figure this lot out.

Allow me if you will to quote Sherpa Tenzing (1953) "We done the bugger". In this case the "bugger" is a political Everest, "Brexit". The UK and EU finally did a deal, well sort of, to finish their political relationship but I still have no idea where it'll all finally go in the end. I know Britain will regain its rights and its freedom as an autonomous unit but I still can't decide whether it'll be a financial benefit, mainly because I've got no idea of the long term impact on complex areas like the London financial sector and a range of manufacturing which has been directly linked to the EU. Will I live long enough to analyse the results around 2040. (I think I already know the answer to that so don't bother sending me any funny emails)

And do you mind if I indulge myself in a little Australian Colonial culture, quoting one of the original bush poets, Adam Lindsay Gordon, from 1870?

"Hold hard Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade...
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave..."

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This is the history of radio newsman Frank Avis who worked in the Australian electronic media from 1954 to 1996.


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