Wow, two chapters in quick succession after such a long interruption... What's going on here?
And not a medical bulletin in sight. We'll take this as another episode of the ravings of a former radio man... You tend to rave a bit in my industry. Some members even do it on air. I haven't altered my view that radio these days is overwhelmingly fake but have to admit that this concern is not shared by the audience who seem very happy with what they're getting.
Have you noticed that young kids are increasingly watching animated material... On their iPads, computers, even the major commercial movie successes for the under-17's appear to be animated product. As each year goes by we get fewer and fewer humans. Example "The Simpsons". Bart and Homer are the new reality and you have to wonder what is going to happen when these kids get into the 18 to 25 demographic. Will the new Seinfeld and Friends be animated? Take this a step further to start making predictions about radio. Will the day arrive when, with state-of-the-art technology near perfect, that the breakfast show on Mix 106.5 is done by a computer? There'll be the guy, the girl, the traffic reporter and the news presenter all done by the computer. It's the end of egos. No more hissy-fits and incredibly economical, needing just one nerd sitting at the controls. "Hal... Let me back into the control room... Why have you locked me out? Hal... Hal!"
"Sorry Dave but somebody had to do something about the ratings..."
Now, having given the ABC a bit of a spray in my memoirs it's only fair that I pay tribute where it is due in repeating my view that ABC NEWSRADIO is going really well considering how it was absolutely dreadful when it kicked off more than a decade ago. I tend to hear it in the evening when I'm bedding down for the night, listening to the quarter hour updates plus the input from the programme's partners, the BBC and US NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO. The show rolls on really well, the interviews are just enough but not too long and the presenters get better daily. I have a keen interest in its success because I'd tried from 1975 to interest commercial operators with the format, especially 3DB and 2GB.
But ABC NEWSRADIO is nothing like FRANK AVIS NEWSRADIO. The problem with the this sort of format in the commercial sector is that it is so expensive the host station needs to "on sell" it at least state wide and, in a perfect world, nationally. So most of these operations tend to see news from a national overview. That's so with most of the US formats and also the case with the ABC variation. You need it picked up nationally to make it work. My concept took the opposite view... My NEWSRADIO WAS TOTALLY LOCALLY BIASED. Hence it was only financially viable in the major markets. You couldn't syndicate my concept. You could sell a lot of its product but the buyer would have to tailor that material to suit his needs. That's labour intensive. It couldn't be pre-packaged by the originating station. My concept is LOCAL, unabashed, unapologetically so. If SYDNEY was deluged with 2 inches of rain in half an hour that would be my story... Without any qualification. It would be the only thing my audience wanted to know about. But it certainly wouldn't constitute the most important information for listeners in Adelaide, Perth or Bendigo.
This is the NEWSRADIO dilemma. How do you tailor the format to sell it nationally without compromising your local audience? One possibility is to aim your format straight at the listener in the host city and build in a 3 minute "local break" in the format hour where your affiliates can address their domestic issues. But I've listened to a few variations on this principle and from the affiliates point of view it just doesn't work. And often seems to demean the local news. It's sort of tacked on somewhere... Makes the locals feel as if they're down the bottom of the news food-chain.
The big issue of the day, as I write this chapter, is the Kevin and Julia Show. It's like Days of Our Lives and the Bold and the Surgically Enhanced, only it's real. It's happening in front of us. The ALP is tearing itself to pieces in full view of the voters. The one thing we'd all been asking is: Could Labor possibly replace another sitting Prime Minister? Having assassinated Kevin 07 would the party then be capable of doing a complete about-turn and knifing Julia Gillard? (Oh God I Iove this stuff... It's like Greek or Shakespearean Tragedy.) And the answer is: YES, YES. Not only would they do it, but THEY ACTUALLY HAVE... THEY'VE JUST DONE IT! Kevin 07, the man described by his own party as a psychopath, a narcissist, in fact I think one leading figure said he was "clinically insane"Â, is now back as Kevin 13. And here's the absolutely incredible thing: for a while I actually thought HE COULD WIN. Huh Huh Huh... Don't you love it! Kevin is back walking the walk while his ALP opponents retire in droves. I've lost count of the Labor MPs who are jumping ship or joining the mutiny against Captain Gillard. There was Bill Shorten - Julia's staunchest supporter and one of the insiders who help bring Rudd down in 2010 - going on national TV telling the world he'd just informed Julia he was going to vote for Kevin in order to save the party. There were rats and traitors everywhere. Remember when Julia knifed Kevin in 2010 and how he was totally humiliated, in full public view? Remember how we wondered why he didn't just get out... Why would he stay on with that lot for Heaven's sake? REVENGE, dear reader, plain old REVENGE. And he got it. He knifed Julia and then watched her totally humiliated in public... On TV, on the front pages... BBC's lead story do you mind? Now, that's humiliation.
And Kevin, for a week or two, really turned the opinion polls around. Out there on the street they were chanting, "Kevin... Kevin... Kevin," and Tony was near invisible. But my political friends just winked and said, "The honeymoon's going to end soon." And it has. Labor's stocks are declining weekly as we head into the run home. You know things are turning nasty when a radio station revamps the lyrics of the Platters classic, The Great Pretender, to become, "Oh oh oh... Yes, Rudd's the Great Pretender... Dooby dooby."
Can a party sack two sitting Prime Ministers in 6 years and survive? Can a party be driven with unremitting venom and vitriol and survive? Er, probably not but it'll be wonderful drama on election night. And I still have this gut feeling that it's going to be a lot closer than the polls suggest. I'll be transfixed watching on 9 or maybe the new Fox Election Channel? Dooby dooby do...