2023 is up and running

Frank Avis by | March 17, 2023 | 2020s

2023 is up and running. I recently got a call from an old mate of mine, Ian Nicholls, who reminded me that he'd turned 85, that I was also 85 and that the station where we worked together in the mid-50s, 2LF Young, had just turned 85 as well. We did a bit of digging and found out the station had had a big on air celebration recently but was planning a special 85th commemorative dinner later on to include former staff members. I transferred to LF from 2MG Mudgee in '55. Actually, the MG manager, Bill Marsden, moved over to Young as GM and took me there with him, which was very kind. I remember quite a few people there. Bob Milne was Chief Engineer, a good bloke, but the highest-profile on-air personality was John O'Reilly, the man who called the local Group 9 and Maher Cup Rugby League. I was in Sydney some years later and called in to see John and had a good chat when he was in charge of ABC Sport in NSW.

John O'Reilly

Just had a long discourse with a veteran industry guru who raised the question of how much longer we should all be bothered with analysing traditional, mainstream radio. He told me the story of a major auto dealer in Sydney who had done his own radio research for decades, checking the programming in car radios, on vehicles that had come in for servicing or as trade-ins. He basically did his own surveys in order to help his marketing people make decisions about where to put their advertising dollars. Want to know the number one setting on these car radios in recent times? Spotify. There are big changes going on folks... In radio and TV. It's a jungle out there. That being said, we must observe the niceties of the trade and confirm a massive ratings change in the number one survey in Sydney for '23. An 18-year-old dynasty has come to an end with KIIS FM taking over as number one station overall, sending the AM giant 2GB into second place. Not just overall either, Kyle and Jackie O have just unseated Ben Fordham in Brekky, making more history here in the "Big Smoke". SMOOTH FM meantime is dodging all this flack and just happily sailing along at number three.

We've just endured another long and nasty Australia Day debate with no sign of a resolution. To be fair, it's difficult to see any middle ground for compromise. One side, the settlers and the immigrants who have flooded in by the millions, rejoice in January 26, 1788 as the day England declared a colony in the "Great South Land" and the creation of a democracy which aimed to trade with the rest of the world and establish a nation, offering a fair go for everyone. On the other side of the political ravine is the Indigenous population which calls January 26 "Invasion Day" and wants to see it transferred to a more appropriate date. But what date? There aren't a lot on the calendar. I can't see Cook's arrival at Botany Bay being acceptable. A lot of critics support January 1,1901 as the day we became a nation, a federal state with a Constitution. This just seems to me to be a "manufactured" day when we're looking for an obvious, iconic date to celebrate the arrival of Australia on the world stage. You keep looking at January 26 as near perfect, marking the division between the two Australias... The end of the ancient era, the time of the hunter gatherers and the start of the new: the decision to build permanent homes and gather together in settlements... To grow our own food... To join these settlements with roads and for shipping to connect us via the sea and connect us beyond this continent. To grow our produce... Raise animals and to dig our land for the resources below, trading with others for the common good. It's so hard to ignore January 26, 1788 as the date that redefined the Great South Land.

There's been all sorts of "carry on" in recent months over America's decision to shoot down a couple of Chinese weather/spy balloons found cruising sixty thousand feet over US territory. But forget the balloons guys, the real devil is in the detail, the part where it confirms the US military also shot down several other mysterious "objects" over Alaska and Canada. These were metallic and much smaller than weather balloons, discovered flying around much lower, around 40,000 feet, smack in the middle of the cruising height of commercial airliners. The US Defense department apparently decided these intruders were too dangerous and opted to send up some F22 Raptors to take them out which is a bit peculiar because these strange objects have been flying around North America, at 20-40 thousand feet, for over 70 years. And it's been a gentlemen's agreement by the world's nations for all that time not to antagonise these strange craft, unless they directly threatened somebody. We have hundreds and hundreds of reports of these mysterious items flying around North America, small/large metallic craft variously described as cylindrical or disc shaped. Nobody knew what they were and where they came from, so we labeled them Unidentified Flying Objects, UFOs. This is the first time to my knowledge that any Government has opted to fire on them. The official reports of these targets are really interesting... variously described as "small balloons" or "metallic objects about the size of a car". Anyway, the Pentagon brought them down and now comes the interesting part... When we find the wreckage and bring in the experts to finally tell us what they are. Oops... Sorry about that folks. Searchers have looked everywhere but not a sign. Nothing to see here. In fact, officials have now called off the search completely. "The truth is out there" but unfortunately no one on Earth is apparently going to know what it is. Jeez... Where's Scully and Muldur when you need them?

It's still 12 months off but I'm looking ahead with glee at the next Olympics in Paris in 2024. In case you haven't noticed this will be the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant games in Olympic history, those in Paris in 1924, the Olympics that went on to establish the great International tradition. And, yes, these are the games of Chariots of Fire, the beloved movie that recorded the heroic exploits of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who sprinted to Gold Medal victories all those years ago. It's not for me to second guess the French organisers but can we hope that the coming games can somehow sneak in a few bars of the Vangelis 1981 masterpiece from Chariots of Fire as the centrepiece, the anthem for the Games of 2024?

I can't offer you a lot of comfort in the movie/TV world of recent times. Not a lot happening on the big screen, although I have yet to see Elvis, which may offer something memorable for viewers. We did enjoy "Where the Crawdads sing", a quality romance/crime drama with a mischievous little ending. It's certainly my favourite for Best Title of the Year.

As for the small screen, well TV is a wastleland: rubbish begets rubbish.

"We haven't had 15 years of television at all. We've had one year's television 15 times."
— Critic Phillip Adams, 1970)

"The air, the sky, the land are objects entirely different from all that a Briton has been accustomed to before. The sky clear and warm, in the summer very seldom very overcast, or any haze discernible in the azure; the rains, when we have them, falling in torrents... the land, an immense forest, extended over a plain country... covered with venerable majestic trees, hoary with age, or torn with tempest – in a word the easy, liberal mind will be here filled with astonishment."
— Thomas Watling, transported as a convict, quoted from his Letters From an Exile at Botany Bay, 1794)

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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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