We survived the bushfires, now we've survived the floods. This truly is the land of "flood and fire"

Frank Avis by | May 14, 2021 | 2020s

Radio ratings, COVID 19, Bert Newton, Meghan Markle, Taxation. AFL v NFL, Golf and television.
We survived the bushfires, now we've survived the floods. This truly is the land of "flood and fire".

"Core of my heart, my country, her pitiless blue sky...

But then the grey clouds gather, and we can bless again...

the steady, soaking rain." – Dorothea Mackellar


The latest Sydney radio survey is less than dramatic. GB lost a little ground but remains on top while ABC also fell slightly but holds on to second spot overall. Interestingly, the only two news/talk stations left in the market both suffered slight losses. Smooth leads KIIS on the FM band also Kyle and Jackie O took the KIIS Breakfast show back to number 1 in FM. WS FM has also moved back up the charts with a lift of 1.7. The COVID disaster has hit commercial radio fairly hard with the industry's revenue down 14.5% in the first 9 months of the current financial year. Radio audiences actually improved during the pandemic but advertising revenue has not managed to recover as well as television.

I'm still sitting here trying to make some meaningful conclusions about COVID 19 and its' economic impact. As we analyse the latest figures, the UK is reporting significant improvement in recent months, there's also much room for optimism in the United States but – on the other side of the coin – India and Brazil are disaster zones and several European nations, such as France, have gone into lockdown again following another wave of the pandemic. I'm looking at a lot of business pressure in the UK for PM Boris to re-open more air traffic with Europe and the USA this northern summer. And I'm thinking "are you kidding me?" I hope ScoMo doesn't relent here in Australia because the truth is it only takes a dozen COVID cases to sneak in through our borders to start the whole thing again. We have actually come out of this in reasonable shape so far. To example this, the Spanish Flu, just over a century ago, claimed around 15,000 lives in Australia. The COVID death toll at this stage is just under a thousand.

There's shocking news this afternoon that one of the giants of our trade, Bert Newton, is suffering serious health issues, having had a leg amputated in a life-or-death operation recently. Everybody knows Bert as a TV superstar in IMT and The Logies but there was also a time when he was a major player in radio, having taken 3UZ to number 1 in two different eras with completely different formats. I just want him to be well. The West has finally surrendered to reality and is pulling out of Afghanistan. Australia, which lost 41 lives in this infernal place, will leave by September. The Taliban has won and will exact an absolutely awful revenge. Thousands of women, who aspired to education and social parity, will be stoned to death. Thousands of other Muslims who tried to organise a moderate, decent political system will be publicly beheaded. As an old army friend remarked, "It's just a merry-go-round over there. Trust me, we'll have to go back within a decade."

This, hopefully, will be my final comment on Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Disaster. I didn't get to see her infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Goddess of Gossip, but by the time I'd seen a dozen news bulletins, panel discussions and various newspaper articles I had a pretty good idea of what went on in it. What really grabbed my attention was the odd footage of Prince Harry who also featured in sections of "the interview". If you get time and have the inclination, see if you can watch poor old Harry working desperately to patch the holes as Meghan lobs mortar shells into the Palace. He's saying how he loves his grandmother and grandfather and how he hopes to talk with his father and brother in the near future, desperate to keep the lines of communication open. It's actually terribly sad to watch.

I think I might have mentioned that some years ago I was one of many workers in my industry who fell foul of the Tax Commissioner. Basically, we all got a demand for thousands of dollars alleged to have been owed over a number of years. The message was simple: pay up now. You can challenge the assessment via the courts if you choose to do so, but – if you fail – you'll face a penalty roughly equally your tax owed. Most of us just waved the white flag and moved on. I'm reminded of this sorry saga in the latest commentary by economist Robert Gottliebsen (The Australian) headlined "Taxing our Tolerance" in which he says, "the Tax Commissioner has been given dictatorial powers that no other person in the land possesses and that structure goes against our entire legal system."

Some years back I did an analysis of the AFL versus the NRL, a statistical appraisal using crowd figures and TV ratings. The results were stunning and not the sort of stuff NRL fans would want to hear. Recently the saga resurfaced when the NRL's head honcho, Peter V'landys, launched one of his popular tirades against the AFL. Apparently, he described the AFL as "boring", observing that he'd prefer ‘"to watch the Flintstones". Now AFL followers shouldn't get too excited about all of this. Mr V'landys is a bit of a stirrer, an expert at manipulating the media to draw attention to himself and his favourite sports, NRL and horse racing. But it got the attention of the Australian's Will Swanton who did a bit of his own research on the two codes showing total AFL club memberships have hit 992,000 as opposed to Rugby League with 283,000. In League heartland, the AFL Lions have more members than the famous Brisbane Broncos while the Sydney Swans and the Giants have more members than any League club. Even Russell's mighty South Sydney is 18,000 below the Swans. It's the old story, really, when you have to measure these things: do the fans "put their money where their mouth is"? In NFL land there's a lot of people talking about it, but are they actually doing it? And, just doing a quick check of 2021, the opening round of the AFL saw a quarter-of-a-million "bums on seats" and TV audiences hitting a total average of 4.53 million. So, the trend continues in the new season.

I'm a bit shocked going through my latest edition of Australian Golf Digest (love this magazine) to find one of our most-respected international golf writers throwing his support behind the idea of a fifth major. Maybe the celebrated writer Evin Priest has been covering the US tour for too long... Maybe he's had too much mustard on his hot dogs... But it's his belief that Golf should have a 5th major – The famous Players Championship. Evin argues that it's the best field assembled in golf for the year, it carries $2.7 m for the winner and – in his view – this is the moment for golf to "adapt and thrive or remain stagnant and get left behind". Sorry mate, you just lost this Australian veteran. First off, I hate the idea of adding a major (yes, I know the ladies have done it successfully). Why would we change all that history? But if we have to do it, please Evin, don't let them stick it in America, I'm begging you. There've already got 3 majors out of the 4... You really want to make it 4 out of 5? Does anybody understand what's going on in world golf in 2021? There is massive audience growth across Asia – South Korea, Japan, China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and so on. Not to mention Europe, the Pacific and Africa. People across the globe are crazy on golf – watching and playing it. This is bigger than America folks – we're talking about most of the civilised world. So, if they want to give us another major, let's take it around the world.

Finally, let me update you on my latest exposure to my favourite TV crime dramas. Watched Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant (in excellent form) in The Undoing. Top class production with good script but it all fell in a heap in the last 30 minutes. Darleen and I headed into the final episode wondering what surprises were in store... In that classic phrase: Whodunnit? Shouldn't have bothered as it all descended into a Midday Movie. So good up to then. Different story for the British crime drama, Unforgotten, which turned into a mini-masterpiece. If you get the chance to sit down and enjoy it, please do so. The final episode is absolutely magnificent.

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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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