Welcome to a New Year

Frank Avis by | January 8, 2024 | 2020s

This month let us salute one of the most unheralded figures in Provincial radio history – especially in the 40s, 50s and 60s – the Chief Announcer.

When I arrived at 2MG, Mudgee it was Ron Camplin (who went on to own his own radio network), at 2LF, Young I'm pretty sure it was Col Humphries (later to GB and CH), Keith Graham had the role at 7HO in Hobart (later to 2WS), but probably the name I remember best is 3BO's Russ Pilley. I'm indebted to Bendigo Radio/Newspaper legend Graeme Turpie ("Turps") for the background on Russ. We know he worked at Grafton for a time (2GF?) and there's evidence he actually worked as an actor in Sydney radio in the early days. Turps remembers Russ re-playing an episode of "Dr Paul" in which he apparently featured. Anyway, we know he arrived at Bendigo on the train from Melbourne in 1948, the same journey I took a decade later. He was part of the furniture for years, famous for celebrated shows like "Round the Bandstand" and "Chalet Requests". Trying to find out when he retired but Russ was still going strong well into the 60s, almost certainly through the 70s. He was a central plank at 3BO for over 20 years... As Turps says, "That smooth, friendly, relaxing voice." Wouldn't you kill for a voice like that!

Is there a changing of the guard in Sydney Radio... Is the King dead? I pose the question because Kyle and Jackie O have had another victory in the Breakfast arena, a session held for so long by 2GB. It's still close with KIIS FM at number one on 16.7%, just over half a point clear of Ben Fordham's 2GB. But the FMers have done it again and will we see this as a pattern in 2024? The News-Talk giant GB is still on top overall, .6 clear of KIIS. So the whole thing is perilously close as we see out the year. SMOOTH continues to sit happily in third, not far away. The biggest story of the radio year is that Kyle and Jackie O have signed a record $200m ten-year deal which will see them remain at KIIS until 2034 or the end of the Universe, whichever comes first.

Kyle and Jackie O

Financial theorists and lots of political followers are having a field day through '23-'24 hoping to get the answer to the question: how much do wage rises – especially across the board – impact on a national economy, where the country is already battling inflation? Australia... What a case study... We're right in the middle of it. Victoria pretty much started things off with a series of pay increases that actually saw workers come in from other states to grab the extra money on offer over the border. A lot of economists were shocked, warning that Dan Andrews had turned the place into a basket case. As it transpires, he ended up cancelling the 2026 Commonwealth Games because Spring Street had run out of money... Couldn't afford to stage them, thus doing massive damage to Australia's reputation abroad. As I write this, I still don't think anyone has put their hand up to take over, so the '26 Commonwealth Games may well have to be airbrushed from history. In the concluding chapter Dan – the Great Leader from the South – gets on his horse and rides into the sunset (excellent photo opportunity) having proved conclusively two of the great adages of history: "The money has to come from somewhere" and "The buck stops here". The arrival of a new Federal Labor Government and the election of the Minns State Labor Government in NSW sends wages off and running again. Can't blame the new Prime Minister and Premier, they were pretty much elected on that clear understanding. To do otherwise, whatever inflation had decided to do, would have invited all out union rebellion. Actually things got quite nasty on the streets of Sydney for a while as Chris Minns took a few extra months to overview the state of the economy. The key unions didn't mess around: they headed straight out in the street carrying signs labelling the Premier "a liar". That didn't look good in Macquarie Street on Channel 9 News. Meantime Anthony Albanese, clearly our greatest Prime Minister since the last Great Prime Minister (whoever that was), was coming under pressure to step in a save the '26 Games, with a scaled down version, maybe spread over a couple of states? So Albo put the concept to his team of pencil sharpeners in the back room. "What are the chances?" he asked. The answer came back fairly bluntly: "Forget the Games Sir. We've spent so much money that we're gonna be lucky to save the bloody country." You see, those adages eventually get you in the end. "The money has to come from somewhere." Ask Dan the Man... He can tell ya. It was therefore inevitable that Canberra would get out the pruning scissors and whip $7.3 billion dollars of debt off the ledger, cancelling anything that moved. This includes a key motorway linked to the new Badgerys Creek Airport, already half built, and a rail connection in Queensland, critical to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. And now, anyone who's read Thomas Hardy knows that when you think things are bad they're only going to get worse, we come to the ultimate indignity... The possibility that Brisbane will pull out of the Olympics and cancel '32! Ah, isn't it wonderful to watch Australia reduced to the level of say, Nicaragua. (With apologies to Nicaragua)

Now I don't want to rain on the Coalition's Parade but I just can't see Peter Dutton leading the Libs back into power at the next election. He's clearly a solid Conservative and certainly strong enough to make tough decisions under the national spotlight, but the sad truth is he just doesn't present well. In the era of PR that is tough to overcome. I've seen a fair amount of Dutton over the years and there is little charisma. Albo leaves him for dead in the personality stakes, which is saying something. The other thing working against the LNP is history. I suspect that the economy might well be looking quite promising come 2025: inflation will probably be under control, the cost-of-living will be easing, employment will continue to be robust and major projects now in train will be coming to fruition, pushing up the national "feel good" index. The key mover and shaker however will be our exports which will continue to go gang busters. Gas and coal will be in huge demand, as will iron ore orders from China, adding massively to our trading balance. Australian resources will continue to generate monumental income through the late 20s-30s, well into the 50s.

It is with considerable pride I exit the old year able to boast that I have survived these 12 months without having to watch even one episode of the following: The Farmer wants a Wife, Married at First Sight, Home and Away, My Mum Your Dad and The Real Housewives of Sydney. I feel a better person for it. (Editor's note: The editorial staff wish to point out that though the claim by the author is technically correct, by the time you add up all of the promos he was forced to watch through 2023 he probably actually got to see about six episodes of each.)

"...I wander on thy sea-girt shore, or climb with eager haste thy barrier cliff,
To catch a glimmer of the distant skiff, that ever and anon breaks into light,
and then again eludes the aching sight, 'til nearer seen she bends her foaming way
Majestic onwards to yon placid bay, where Sydney's infant turrets proudly rise,
the new-born glory of the Southern skies: Dear Australasia, can I e'er forget thee, Mother Earth?"

— William Charles Wentworth (1790-1872)
Wentworth is one of the most celebrated identities of the era – Statesman, lawyer, adventurer (he was part of the team that became the first Europeans to find a way over the Blue Mountains), landowner and as revealed above, budding poet.

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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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