We have search teams out scouring the suburbs for the lost audience

Frank Avis by | September 20, 2023 | 2020s

We have search teams out scouring the suburbs, after the latest Sydney Survey, looking for "the lost audience". GB is holding number one overall thanks to the heavy hitters, Ben Fordham and Ray Hadley, in breakfast and mornings. But the AM superstar actually lost audience last Survey. KIIS FM is in second place, top FM performer, but it also shed audience. "Hah hah," we all thought, "listeners have defected to the old reliable SMOOTH FM." Seems logical. Nope. Smooth is doing nicely at number three but it too suffered a drop in audience. Where did they go? We can't find them. It seems they didn't move anywhere... They just didn't show up in the first place. Sydney radio numbers were down overall. So now the questions: is this just a momentary fall or are we seeing what many have feared for so long... The gradual decline of radio?

Word has just come in to your reporter of another sad piece of news for the trade... The death of one of our top names, veteran Mike Webb. He was smack in the middle of the action for so long, at 7HO, 2SM, 2WS (where I'm pretty sure he was the inaugural PD) and New FM. You can actually catch an early pic of Mike in my previous post, Frank Avis continues his career in Hobart. There's an excellent photo there showing the old 7HO team and I'm pretty sure that's Mike in the front row, far right.

May I entice you another step or two down the road to nostalgia as I hear those famous lines, "Good Morning Boys. Good Morning Sir", introducing another episode of the 1930s-'40s local classic Yes What. Writer-producer Rex Wacca Dawe is the long-suffering schoolmaster, Dr Pym, attempting to control his class of Bottomly, Greenbottle and Standforth, along with the occasional mayhem created by the caretaker Mr Snootles. Greenbottle was invariably late, spending half the lesson with some extraordinary explanation for why he was held up. Yes What is part of our radio folklore. It started in 1936 and I can report 7HT was still running replays when I got to Hobart in 1959.

Yes What

I know I promised never to assail the ABC again, especially now that long-time treasured colleague Cherie Romaro has been brought in as an impartial outsider to advise on the broadcaster's future directions. But I don't think I can just sit here and shut up, watching this stuff pile up in front of me. I'm sitting there with my morning coffee in the local café and reading how a bunch of climate change extremists forced their way on to the home of Woodside Energy chief Meg O'Neill in City Beach, Perth in the early hours one morning this week... Along with an ABC TV crew. Obviously, questions started to be asked as to how the TV crew knew about the protest. The ABC fought back immediately... "How dare you suggest there was collusion between the ABC and the protest group... We just happened to have a TV crew in the street when the activists arrived... Yes, it was all an incredible coincidence". One insider actually broke ranks and suggested an ABC producer had been working with the protesters as part of a segment for Four Corners... Don't ask me people: it's like swimming in treacle. When I was growing up the ABC was the centrepiece of national unity, with its famous news service and iconic programmes like The Country Hour and Blue Hills, all helping create our identity as AUSTRALIA. In 2023 the broadcaster is a key contributor to national disunity and rancour. Our great national broadcaster sounds divided because it is divided. You're looking at a bureaucracy of separate fiefdoms, all surrounded by defensive moats. No one is there to serve the community: they're all serving what they know... A small, select coterie of the academically elite and high profile "twerps and yo-yos" mainly frequenting the inner suburbs of our giant cities, all totally detached from the real Australia. The ABC used to be so reliable, so dependable and so central to our culture that we even gave it a pet name... "Aunty". Now the national broadcaster is losing more and more traction each year, especially in the suburbs, falling prey to our fractured industry, sharing AM, FM, streaming, even mobile TV on your phone and mini-computer. More and more of my colleagues and other industry observers are asking where the ABC can go in the years ahead. The most common solution I keep hearing is to take the next five to ten years to wean it off the taxpayer's purse (worth about $1 billion per year) and legislate for Aunty to make the transition to a listener-funded model, like PBS in the US. My view is that the ABC would not survive... That it would be a death sentence. And the bottom line for all of us is the same... The ABC has been such a significant part of our life that it cannot be allowed to die. As we put this edition to bed comes confirmation that Ita Buttrose is finishing up as head of the ABC, leaving early in the new year after a 5-year tenure. This comes as quite a shock for radio observers who were expecting Ita to remain at the helm to bed in any major changes recommended by the current review.

On the international political scene I'm desperate to assess two items from the USA... 1) that there's a 15-20% chance that Donald Trump will be convicted and jailed in 2024, and 2) there's a 40% chance Trump will be elected President next year. Anyone who feels capable of balancing these two seemingly conflicting pieces of information is urged to contact me urgently.

Golf fans have just emerged from the last of the season's majors, the 151st staging of the oldest of them all, The Open. It is an annual sporting treasure. I sat there entranced before the TV screen as the camera hovered lovingly across the green, on to the fairway and then over the coastal rocks and windswept beaches out to sea, and into the morning mist still enveloping the ocean. The camera peered through the haze fixing the lens on a magical shape in the distance... A mysterious island perhaps, just beyond our horizons? Suddenly the sun arrived, drawing away the haze to reveal there in the distance the wonder of... Half a dozen huge wind turbines, turning inexorably on and on. The TV director didn't hesitate: one look at that lot and he hit the stop button, sending the audience back to the venerable greens and fairways of the most famous golf championship of them all. Thankfully, we never saw those turbines again.

My neighbor recently gave me this classic piece of life advice, responding to my enquiry on how he was going... He replied, "Good mate, good... Still doin' it and when you're still doin' it, you're still doin' it." Let's see how they deal with that in Philosophy 1 next semester.

In 1515 Italian crewman Andrea Corsali was sailing in the Indian and Southern Oceans when he became the first person to record, and in fact, draw one of the great heavenly sights, our famous Southern Cross. This celebrated constellation of stars – in the distinctive form of a cross – was to become a national symbol, the centerpiece of our Australian flag.

"...Here we sawe a marveylous order of starres," he wrote back to his sponsor, "...Appeareth a marveylous crosse... In the myddest of five notable starres... This crosse is so fayre and bewtiful that none other hevenly signe may be compared to it..."
— Published 1516. Documents that Shaped Australia, John Thompson, 2010

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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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