More from radio and beyond...

Frank Avis by | January 12, 2016 | Radio (general)

This is definitely beyond as it relates to my persistent warnings about the impact of modern technology. Today we live in an "electronic atmosphere". When I walk through a shopping centre I have to repeatedly dodge people who are walking straight at me with their eyes down, looking at their latest text message. Children, on a 5-hour car trip, sit mesmerised by their gadgetry. They no longer look out the window at the gorgeous little towns they're passing.They don't see the horses, cows and sheep in the paddocks. They don't see the fields of wheat being fanned by the afternoon breeze. When, years later, they look back on their annual holiday trip to the coast, what will they remember?

This era is best summed-up by a friend of ours who tells the story of going to have dinner with a family who live in a palatial, 2-storey mansion in an exclusive Sydney suburb. Our friend is greeted at the front door by his mate and enquires about the man's wife, who is setting the table for dinner on the first floor. The host gets his mobile out and rings his wife on her mobile upstairs. They're in THE same house!

As I get more and more nostalgic I keep returning to earlier days in the industry. I can even hear some of those famous lines. If you listen carefully maybe you can you hear them too?

"Hi Ho everybody" - Jack Davey.

Jack was the giant of the golden age of radio through the 40's and 50's. Think of Bradman and Phar Lap: that's the sort of legendary status he occupied.

"This I believe" - Eric Baume.

He was riveting as he launched his opinions on 2GB Macquarie.

"Howdy customers, howdy", "Happy lathering Customers" - Bob Dyer.

The hillbilly who conquered Australian radio and TV with his famous quiz shows (eg. Pick a Box).

"Ere I am Young 'Arry", "Cop this young Harry", "Strike me Lucky", "Don't come the raw prawn with me" - Roy Rene.

The beloved Mo McCackie. They won't give you an Australian passport if you don't know Mo. "It's me Mr McC... Spencer the Garbage Man"... McCackie Mansions again.

"When a girl marries... Dedicated to all those in love and all those who can... Remember"

From the radio classic that dominated the womens' shows way back when. I have a sneaking suspicion the VO was courtesy another giant in the business, Brian Henderson (need confirmation).

"Hello World... This is Long John", "And you be kind to each other" - John Laws.

One of the most stunning debuts on Sydney radio. A star from the first 15 seconds. Amazing presence in virtually any format.

"'Arper 'ere... Now I'm gonna read ya an ad" - John Harper.

How do you describe such a classic Aussie performer? "Ol' gravel voice" did the Morning slot on 2KY and the city absolutely loved this bloke.

The 2015 radio season closed pretty much as it opened with 2GB dominating overall especially in the critical breakfast/morning slots. True, the audience is well beyond middle age but I go back to a roundtable I had with Brendan Sheedy and Paul Thompson at the old 3DB (what is it called nowdays?) in the 70's when we were discussing a news-info-talkback format (never happened folks) and I was arguing that an audience of over 55's wasn't that bad. I remember saying the 55's of the 70's were the 45's of the 50's. Today,the 65's are the 55's of the previous generation. They travel more... A lot more... They buy new cars, sell the old home and move into a new, smaller one on the coast and generally upgrade their lifestyle like somebody 10-15 years younger. It's as true today as it was when we were debating the issue in the 70's... you can make a very nice living with a strong showing in the plus-55 demographic.

I get a lot of enjoyment, both professionally and as interested audience, from TV and movie scripts.I even enjoy good scripts for commercials, which is clearly a worry.

I've especially liked the UK crime series DCI Banks in recent years, although it seems they manage to make just a couple of episodes occasionally. But the show features an excellent male senior detective assisted by two women officers... one young and pretty, the other a little older, less pretty and somewhat socially challenged. She's advised to stop being so uptight socially which leads to some delicious one-liners. This scene – featuring Det. Helen Morris – is set in the police station where one of the officers has been doing a check on porn sites on the internet.

And he can't believe how much there is and how weird it gets.

Det. 1: The number of web sites for fans of gun porn is dwarfed by those for connoisseurs of, well, dwarfs, for a start... not to mention nylon, bubble wrap, puppets...

Dec. 2: Puppets?

Dec. 1: Puppets!

DI Morton: And I thought men were after no-strings sex.

I want you to know before I launch into my latest critique of the ABC that Aunty is pretty much the only radio I listen to these days... Newsradio/BBC at night and occasionally the ABC's PM show at 6 o'Clock.

I have to report a couple of incidents involving ABC TV's channel 24, the all news operation.

It was a weekend in March 2014 and we were driving home from having our regular Gloria Jeans coffee, when I heard a brief report that a Malaysian Airliner had "vanished" on a flight from KL to Beijing. The report said "vanished" which certainly piqued the interest of an old journo.

When I got home I immediately headed for the TV but quickly realised the commercial networks were into hard-wired weekend programming and that we'd be lucky to see anything meaningful from them before 6. I'd never tried channel 24 before but thought "well... this is the ideal time to give it a try". So I switched on to see the reader – a bit wooden but quite serviceable — reporting the story of the mysterious disappearance. I watched for half an hour, waiting to see some real coverage, a bit of inventiveness to put the story into context. And I just kept waiting and waiting.

I'm sitting there watching this predictable, dead straight reporting, thinking to myself, "Guys, this is a freebie. You've got no free-to-air competition for hours and hours. This story is yours... Go get it." The Frank Avis fundamental tenet remember in any of my newsrooms is OWN THE STORY FROM THE FIRST MOMENT. Never fail to meet your audiences expectations. 45, 60 mins went by and now I've gone into full journo mode because the hair is standing up on the back of my head... I know this is a big, big story. Darleen starts looking at me with concern as I begin talking to the TV.

"Come on guys... Do something. You've got a weather specialist there so get him on with a map of the route... Tell us what the weather was like at the time. Was there a major storm in the area?"

Nope... Channel 24 just kept soldiering on in a dead straight, unthinking, totally boring path.

By now I'm yelling, "Get an international pilot on screen to tell us about the route... Is it common for airliners to hit sudden unexpected storm fronts? Are you flying mainly over water?"... etc etc. Talk to a specialist on camera. "What sort of plane is it? Any problems recently? What about the airline... its maintenance/safety record?" I mean doing this job is so simple really: ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS ANSWER THE QUESTIONS YOU KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE IS ALREADY ASKING.

After some time I just took my bat and retired not out, heading over the cable news where they were doing most of the things I'd just been yelling out. I was really upset to be honest and didn't return to channel 24 for a long, long time. Recently there was another story running and I thought that I'd give it another go, back to test the water.

Now what I'm telling you about these incidents is absolutely true. I'm not dressing this up.This is just how it happened.

I cross to channel 24 and there's a news reader, obviously saying something, but I can't hear him.

"Damn it," I curse. "Where's the remote, I've left the sound down." Nope, just as I'm about to adjust my sound the man starts to speak, low at first but eventually being faded up. Yes, they had his mike closed. Within seconds the reader crosses to an outside reporter for an on-the-spot update.

His lips are moving. I know he's saying something but just can't hear it. Silence. Then up he comes as they fade up the mic.

I haven't returned to channel 24. Too scared.

Incidentally radio fans, our resident Reunion Host, Andrew Kilpatrick, tells me he's planning our next get-together in March. We meet at the Pymble Hotel and it's a really nostalgic afternoon and they do a nice hot cappuccino. Will keep you posted.

Oh, and you be kind to each other.

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Carole Miller, OAM

by Carole Miller, OAM | April 9, 2016

Okay my second try at leaving a comment. Frank words almost fail me I adore you website. Geoff Brown guided me here yesterday and I'm so glad he did. I've been chuckling, nodding my head and shaking it ever since. I'm currently back in Oz up here in the Far North at a place called Yorkeys Knob at Uni (Jame Cook campus) where I did my B.A. in English and History just 10 years ago (no money to go to uni back in 1958) anyway researching at the moment for my thesis on regional commercial radio. Felt I had to, so few of us have committed anything to writing. So God bless you! Kindest regards Carole


Hilton Prideaux

by Hilton Prideaux | May 23, 2016

I agree with you Frank regarding News 24. I've seen those (or similar) events and, as and old radio/TV operator, I, too, yell at the TV hoping to invoke some semblance of a real TV news operation.


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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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