Something quite bizarre occurred over the summer

Frank Avis by | April 1, 2022 | 2020s

Alan Jones, Cameron Williams, Geoff Harvey, Ukraine, COVID, sport and television.
Something quite bizarre occurred over the summer – well, I thought it was pretty bizarre – with the exit of Alan Jones from the industry. Half way through 2020 the veteran was the King of Radio talkback, the most celebrated name in the trade. Then in the blink of an eye he was out of radio and contracted to FoxNews, joining people like Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray in commentary. Now, 18 months later his contract isn't renewed and Alan Jones has all but disappeared from view. I know he's getting on – I think he's about 80 now – and that he's not totally suited to the TV medium. And they keep telling me he lost around 50 percent of his ratings in the last 18 months. But, seriously this is a monumental fall from grace, whatever the reasons.

Continuing the bizarre theme for the year is the sudden, dramatic disappearance of 9's Sports Presenter, Cameron Williams. Easily the best TV sports reporter in the last 20 years, his shock loss is even more pronounced coming at the start of the Rugby League season. Haven't got a clue what happened here.. Some say ill health, others a massive row with senior executives. If there is bad blood there my earnest advice to Channel 9: "patch it up guys... this bloke is seriously good".

So the summer is disappearing, making way for a new year and the start of the radio ratings. 2GB, with Ben Fordham and Ray Hadley in hot early form, have kept the giant in front overall with ABC in second spot ahead of KIIS, number one in the FM band.

Sad to record the loss of one of the most recognised faces in our entertainment industry with the death of "The King of the TV orchestra", Geoff Harvey, aged 83. You saw that face everywhere, mainly on the 9 Network, alongside Don Lane, Mike Walsh, Ray Martin and all the other stars. I mean this bloke actually wrote the theme for The Sullivans. We're talking TV royalty. Sorry to see the loss of another giant.

Geoff Harvey

As we trek through early 2022 there is still no resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. Russia has massed over 100,000 troops with assorted tanks and missile launchers along the border threatening to invade at any moment. World leaders are flying to Moscow facing President Putin at his Long Table desperate to talk him out of invasion while the leaders from Washington and London work their hot-lines in a bid to defuse a situation which could so easily explode into a European war. Vladimir the Great remains inscrutable. Which way will he jump? Only Vladimir knows. But he is bathing in the limelight as he sits there, the Centre of the Universe. He loves it. Russians love it. The bear is loose again and the world trembles. But I just sit here, an innocent observer, wondering what the hell this is all about. And how can invading Ukraine be productive mid to long term, remembering that this is all going on as the world battles a pandemic. While leaders from all over the world fight desperately to save our civilisation from this silent marauder, Vladimir the Terrible offers military chaos. Oh dear, he just pressed the red button and the invasion is on with the Ukraine, fighting for its survival. This is a massive moment ending two decades where Russia has been re-connecting with the real world. They've been cooperating with NASA in space and doing a series of critical trade deals with Europe, especially in relation to oil and gas supplies. For a time there the Russians appeared to be coming in from the Cold. Then today... bam, bam. All those deals are shattered and the truth is nobody in Europe is going to trust them for another 50 years. There is, as I reflect on this crisis, some nasty parallels with the 1930's. Back then we had two superpowers, both led by rampantly nationalistic governments, seeking to conquer and divide the planet. Here we are, just over 80 years later, with two madly nationalistic nations – both nuclear armed – who seek to conquer and divide the world: Russia to rule all of Europe, right across to the UK, and China to fan out to the east and south, swarming over South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South East Asia, India and into the South Pacific. It looks pretty much the same to me... Vladimir... Vladimir... Where are you taking us?

Where are we with COVID 19? Has it hit a plateau or is there another variation waiting around the corner, ready to pounce? COVID has killed around 5.6 million sufferers worldwide (we lost an estimated 40-50 million in the last great pandemic, the Spanish Flu) but researchers I'm reading suggest the real tally is higher... A lot higher. They argue that several nations including India, China, Russia and a couple in South America have deliberately falsified their totals, fearing that the real figure would impact on their status internationally. And another statistical issue may well be under-quoting the toll across Europe and the USA. Many victims are just not being diagnosed appropriately. Let's say a woman is rushed to Hospital from an aged care centre in Britain, diagnosed with COVID. They treat her in ICU for three weeks or so till the patient recovers to the point she can be transferred back to aged care. Sadly, she dies a fortnight later but, as her date of death comes more than 28 days after the original diagnosis, she is officially listed as a victim of kidney failure or heart attack, when the truth is she was killed by COVID. Sometime later, when COVID is long behind us, the experts are going to have to re-write the story, taking this disparity into account. They'll have to examine the overall death rates for the period, taking an historical average, and then adjust the number for the COVID years to a more realistic level.

I can't let this time of year pass without reference to an extraordinary Australian Open Tennis championship. It started dreadfully with Novak Djokovic refused entry after failing to have the required COVID vaccinations. This was a disaster... A disaster for Novak and for the Australian Open. I sympathise completely with Djokovic, sharing his view that nobody can order him to put something in his body if he doesn't want to. I went through the same debate and in the end opted to have the vaccination. Essentially because we're trying to save our species and the best scientific advice we've had now for over 200 years is that vaccinating is the best defence. So I've had my jabs and booster. In the end it's a bit like war really: there's stuff we do in a war that we really don't want to. Everybody has to just roll up the sleeves and pitch in until the emergency passes. And I note that Formula One has taken the same stance. Nobody gets into Formula One at the moment unless they can prove vaccination... Not the drivers, not the pit crews, not the execs, not the girlfriends or the various hangers-on. You want to be there? Then get vaccinated. What we can say about this year's Australian Open is that after the initial setback things just got better and better culminating in a magnificent Rafael Nadal comeback for his 21st title and an Ash Barty second set that is now firmly enshrined in our national sporting folklore. And Barty's amazing fightback underlines a classic argument among sports psychologists. It goes beyond tennis and probably beyond sport. The decision that had to be made is probably universal. There she was, down 1-5 in the second set after taking the first quite convincingly. This is the classic fork in the road. One path says, "Look, the set's gone... You can't get back from here, so don't waste any extra energy on this one... Preserve all you've got for the third decider." And that makes perfect sense. Generals do this in war all the time.. Don't waste your resources on a battle you can't win. Regroup. Barty chose the other path. You could almost see her thinking through the dilemma as she stood at the back of the court down 1-5. Her response was to fight for every point all the way, to take the momentum back so that if she did lose, she would at least, have the momentum in the final set. Psychologists are going to get Doctorates for studying this stuff.

I don't want to get you over-excited as we head into 2022 but am I detecting a slight thaw in the Great Chinese Trade War with Australia? Just saw an announcement, tucked away deep in the financial pages, that Beijing had agreed to a 5% increase in the tariff-free quota for Australian wool this year, marking a rise of 10% in the last two years. I know we're still on the "naughty boy's list" for wine, coal, barley and timber but maybe we're seeing signs that the warmth is returning.

Of course, no easing of stress between Beijing and Canberra is going to assuage the deep concerns of Western leaders who are finding it harder to sleep at night looking at a raft of troubling actions coming out of China in recent times... The move to take possession of the South China Sea, threats to invade Taiwan, aggressive poaching by Chinese fishing fleets across the region including the Philippines and the South Pacific Islands, the "belt and Roads" initiative to gain port access throughout ASIA and the Pacific, the use of minority groups in the country as slave labour and the odd angry shot still being fired along the Indian border. All of this is so brilliantly described by journalist Nathaniel Taplin, in the Wall Street Journal, as a series of "political sinkholes".

My award for the MOST IRRITATING VOICE ON TV goes to the lady who does the voice-overs for Foxtel's E Channel. I've never summed up enough mental strength to actually watch the channel but from the 500 promos I've had to endure each week it must be just as irritating. I'm still searching desperately for something promising in the Crime Drama category. Mare of Easttown was top class last year but I can't expect a new series of the brilliant Unforgotten with the screenwriters having written off the star in a magnificent final episode. Nor is there any expectation for the beautifully filmed Wallander with the star sentenced to a last episode suffering dementia. And nobody seems interested in a new series of Maigret which was a huge surprise with its overall quality. I still live in the fantasy where Helen Mirren might just be lured back for one final, movie length episode of Prime Suspect or Lewis and "The Boy Wonder" might get back together for another season or two. For the moment I'm stuck with the old favourite Chicago PD and lots of good crime documentaries.

SONG OF AUSTRALIA (1860)

"There is a land where summer skies are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
blending in witching harmonies, in harmonies, and grassy knoll and
forest height, are flushing in the rosy light, and all above is azure bright,
Australia, Australia, Australia."

– Caroline J. Carleton (1820-1874) set to music by Carl Linger.

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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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