We've made it half way through 2021

Frank Avis by | June 18, 2021 | 2020s

Sydney radio, Bill Marsden, Five Things that Could Wipe out Life on our Planet, When Will We Open the Borders and Patrick White.
We've made it half way through 2021: let's rejoice in that triumph and just keep pressing on without surrender.

The latest Sydney Radio ratings, as industry experts continue to track the performance of 2GB post-Alan Jones, are riveting. Let me remind you of the theories I enunciated when the breakfast Superstar departed. Firstly, the great dilemma when you hire a "one of a kind" identity. Yes, it has an electrifying impact and Jones certainly had that. But it means the station is totally at his mercy and what do you do when he goes? That's the 2GB conundrum in 2021 and we get to watch it live right in front of us. It's like doing a couple of semesters in Radio Programming at AFTRS. Except this isn't theory... it's actually really happening. As we discussed at the time, the fascinating issue is that GB has pretty much got the News/Talk format to itself. There's the ABC but that isn't a commercial competitor: it's not taking any advertising revenue. So, how will GB cope with losing a ratings colossus, given that it doesn't seem to have much competition in its format. The answer with the latest Sydney figures is NOT WELL. The station has dipped another 1.7 down to 11.7 – still number 1 overall but coming under increasing pressure. It's Breakfast ratings are also holding at number 1 but GB has retained only a marginal lead over ABC and KIIS FM where Kyle and Jackie O are launching a dramatic bid to overhaul the AM Breakfast giant later this year. As I say, this is a Programmer's ultimate dream... to see all those theories about mass audience behaviour tested in the kitchen, where the heat is definitely on. So, GB is still up on top, closely shadowed by SMOOTH and KIIS FM. Don't you just love this stuff?

Bill Marsden


A little personal history now with this photo of the late Bill Marsden, my first ever radio manager at 2MG, Mudgee. He was just the most terrific bloke: met me at the railway station, settled me in and along with Assistant Manager Ron Camplin introduced me to the trade. He left to take over 2LF Young as Manager and was kind enough to hire me as the Breakfast Announcer. Thanks for all you did Bill in getting my career underway.

Some years back – was it on the old Mike Walsh Show or at 3MP? – I was asked to come up with the Five Things that Could Wipe out Life on our Planet. It's interesting to revisit that list, as best I remember it, as we sit here today waiting for the Pandemic to pass.

1. PANDEMIC - the attack from within. Who knows what those mysterious viruses and bacteria have in store for humans? We certainly know what they've done in the past. For some 600 years THE BLACK DEATH repeatedly threatened our species. It returns even today, in these enlightened medical times, with the odd case or two, to remind us that it's still there ready to pounce. We survived the PLAGUE, and all of the associated threats – The Spanish Flu, Ebola, Australia's Hedra Virus, Sars and Covid 19. How many times can you dodge a bullet?

2. THE THREAT FROM THE HEAVENS. They're out there – millions of them – NEO's or Near Earth Objects. And it only takes one of them to sneak through our atmosphere and take out life as you know it. If you have any doubts ask the dinosaurs... they can tell you how it ends.

3. SUPER VOLCANOES. There are average volcanoes and then there are these guys – about a dozen of them are left (including Yellowstone and Lake Taupo in New Zealand) and the eruption of any one of them could threaten us with extinction.

4. GAMMA RAY BURSTS. A very nasty little piece of work indeed. Out in deep space there are giant Black Holes surrounded by masses of stars and even whole galaxies, spinning at close to the speed of light. Every now and again this giant mass of energy explodes into life, sending our bursts of violence across the universe. Scientists say a Gamma Ray burst is the biggest explosion we've seen since the original Big Bang. Anything in its path is toasted.

5. THE GREAT DOUBLE WHAMMY. All of the nasties above COULD happen. Number 5 is definitely GOING TO HAPPEN. Thankfully, it's about 4 billion years away but when it happens we can say goodbye to our favourite Solar System and goodbye to any life still left in it. First of all the Sun will go out. It will probably die a violent death, with a gigantic explosion, ending our life here. At around the same time, neighbouring galaxy Andromeda will collide with our Milky Way. I can't even imagine what that'll be like but it won't be good. No wonder they call this The Great Double Whammy!

There's a massive debate going on Downunder on the critical issue of When Will We Open the Borders? I keep reading this recurring phrase about Australia "will become the laughing stock of the world" if we continue our Covid isolation. I'll bet they're not laughing in India today, nor in Vietnam, Brazil and Malaysia. The head of Virgin Airlines recently suggested – very realistically – that we would have to open up and accept that the Covid virus would remain among us for some time. In her view we would just have to live with that reality. It would even mean some Australians would die from a virus being reintroduced here from overseas. This created a lot of negative comment but when you assess the situation she is probably right. We're going to have to start opening up some international routes later this year and dealing with the consequences. I do say this in defence of Scott Morrison's "fortress Australia policy". A pandemic is just like a war. The first thing we do is repel the enemy. Only then do we start worrying about the other stuff.

I always try to update my tv and movie encounters and I have of late been soaking up an HBO TV crime series "Mare of Easttown". Kate Winslet ,as the troubled lead detective, is absolutely sensational, along with an excellent cast and a super script. It produces a shock twist at the end – no I didn't pick that one – and a classic Agatha Christie-style "red herring" where Guy Pearce does a walk-on as the handsome stranger and we all start muttering things like "They haven't brought Guy in there just as a love interest... what's he really there for?" Mmmh! Don't you dare miss Mare.

Australia has produced just the one Nobel Winner in Literature, the enigmatic Patrick White. He gave us several brilliant pieces including "The Tree of Man" and my personal favourite "Voss" This is the story of a German explorer who heads west, leading an expedition of discovery, only to be lost, never heard from again. He dies out there in the Never Never while those at home are left to wonder.

"So you see, we are in every way provided for, by God and Nature, and consequently must surivive."

"Oh yes a country with a future. But when does that future become present? That is what always puzzles me."

"Now."

"How ----now ?" asked Mr Ludlow.

"Every moment that we live and breathe, and love, and suffer and die."

"That reminds me, I had intended asking you about this – what shall we call him? – this familiar spirit whose name is upon everybody's lips, the German fellow who died?" "Voss did not die," Miss Trevelyan replied, "He is there still, it is said, in the country and always will be. His legend will be written down eventually, by those who have been troubled by it."

"Come, come. If we are not certain of the facts, how is it possible to give the answers?"

"The air will tell us," Miss Trevalyan said.

(Voss by Patrick White, 1957)

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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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