We launched spring this year with another Radio Reunion at our favourite Pymble Hotel with numbers a bit down on normal.
"Spring has sprung, the grass has rizz, I wonder where the birdies is."
I always think of that poem at this time of year because it was one of the favourite sayings of 7HO, Hobart radio giant John Loughlin back in the 60's. John ruled the city with a 60%+ share in Breakfast. In fact we shared the 9-10 segment, called "The Good Morning Club" for 5 years which actually recorded an audience of 75% one survey. I know it was a comparatively small city and with just AM to worry about but I think I was told at the time that the figure was without parallel. Anyway I'll just pause for a second here and remember Locko, one of the iconic figures in Tasmanian radio.
So the regulars got together for another radio roundup recently and I got to have a long chat to the doyen of radio historians Wayne Mac ("Don't Touch that Dial") and enjoyed every bit of it. The thing that I think we all understand about Wayne's view of the industry is that he goes way beyond the on air component. Yes he's done all of that... the on air bit, PD but when you listen to him he knows everybody else and understands their crafts. He knows Production, the Techs and in the old days The Panel Ops. I keep saying that these are the people students of radio need to sit down and talk to, because radio is like Broadway: you need to know the territory. You need to know the history and to pay tribute to those who went before you. You need to soak it up.
Having a look at the recent Sydney ratings, it was interesting to see UE move up to 4.8%... lifting nearly a % in the month. GB remains a runaway truck up over 12's while the FM's just keep battling away, looking to stay competitive at 9.5%+. ABC's 702 held nicely in that area perhaps with a slight lift from the Rio games, although I don't know that I'm that convinced about the impact of the Olympics on radio anymore ??? The issue which I'm sure keeps Channel 7 executives awake at night is whether the Olympics have any long-term impact on TV? It's wonderful while Usain is ripping down the straight but how long does the Olympic flame stay alight in TV land?
As we sit down discussing these issues John Singleton's parent Macquarie operation is still trying to exit 2CH. Macquarie already owns 2UE-2GB and having the 3rd outlet puts it in breach of government regulations. They've been trying to offload CH for a while, apparently, but so far there've been no takers. CH has 3.6% of the audience which would give the combined 3-stations a shade over 20% if they remained in the one stable.
I really don't want to bore you with another political outburst but Prime Minister Turnbull has taken "brazen" to new levels of hypocrisy. Recently I saw him parading before the UN, advising the world leaders that they needed to adopt Australia's border protection policies to save Europe from the mass immigration crisis it is now facing. Now Turnbull is correct. Europe needs to act immediately and reverse the tide of migrants. But our successful border protection policies have nothing to do with him. These are the work of the Abbott Government and the key minister Scott Morrison. Indeed if I'm to believe the rumours from many political insiders at the time... Malcolm wasn't exactly a 100% supporter of the plan. I spoke to a lot of Labor and Greens operators who all held the view that Malcolm wanted to water down the whole policy and I'm talking about a lot of water here folks. Now we have him on centre stage in New York boasting about our handling of the boat people crisis.
Just as a matter of interest, former PM Abbott actually addressed a European think tank group and advised Europe to adopt Australia's policy over a year ago. Ah Malcolm you have no shame.
On the international scene, Americans are about to vote in a President that basically nobody wants. No one wants to vote for Hillary I can tell you that. She is everything voters hate in 2016... a professional politician, a Washington insider, a glorified bureaucrat, with no attachment to the real world out there, and as fake as plastic spaghetti. But on the other hand there's Donald Trump whose behaviour is now so bizarre that one political columnist I've been reading is actually saying publically that he thinks Trump is deliberately trying to lose, that he doesn't want to win the Presidency but doesn't want to be labelled a quitter. Told you it was getting bizarre.
And just another note on the complex post-Brexit scenario for the new British PM. One of the surprise financial pluses of recent years is the bounce back by UK car manufacturers, one of the feel good stories in the Old Country over the last decade or so. But the figures I'm reading suggest that most of those cars... about 75%... are being exported to Europe. What happens to those car makers and all those workers when the Brits make a very hard Brexit in 2017-18? There are 800,000 workers employed in the UK car industry. Boris... Boris... What have you done?
Here is another confirmed Avis passion: the hatred of modern technology. The following story "says 2016" better than any other tale I can offer up today. I'm in a big Shopping Centre where the Management has rented out a space in the middle of a walkway to a temporary vendor. So the shoppers have about a metre either side of the vendor's table to make their way through. Suddenly two women stop dead in their tracks to take a text on their mobiles. They don't seem connected. It looks as if the two texts came in at the same time as pure coincidence. Both remain right in the middle of the walkway and are then seen to be responding to the messages by sending their own text back. Meanwhile I'm standing behind them with a queue of shoppers building up, waiting to get through. The two women have no idea we're there. They are now in technological heaven, trading texts with someone or other. I realise that I've got to do something positive so I flatten myself against the window of the shops on the left and make my way past the roadblock and the rest of the shoppers follow suit, walking crablike past the two ladies. I eventually break clear and look back to see what's happened and the two are still exchanging texts, without a clue of the shopper carnage they're leaving in their wake.
And let me move on to my next hate. As I travel by rail around Sydney – easily the best way to make your way around the City – I see more and more car parks established at stations where peak hour travelers can leave their car in order to make their way to work.
I think there must be 60 of these station car parks just on the section I travel alone. My guess would be that there'd have to be at least 300 right across the city from the Blue Mountains to Hornsby down to Cronulla. And each car park is probably hosting around 300 vehicles. Some are clearly holding 500-600. They're gigantic. Now let's do the maths here. We have say 90,000 cars driven down to a car park near a station and left there all day – for between 9-12 hours – and then driven back home at the end of the day.
The cars could be doing as little as 30 mins travel each day, up to 6 days a week. You don't have to have done Economics 111 at Yale to figure out that this is a joke. You've got 270 million dollar's worth of cars sitting there doing absolutely nothing for the bulk of the year.
I've put one solution to the NRMA and various traffic authorities which has drawn so little interest it's almost invisible. Knock down 90% of these parking stations and sell them off the developers for units or shopping centres. Use the income to set up hundreds of people movers. These are mini vans – run by owner operators – who drive through designated areas in our suburbs during the peak hours 6-9AM and 4-7PM collecting passengers from their nearest street corner and running them down to their local station and vice versa. The whole operation is run through the Opal system. For example, a commuter who travels daily from Penrith to the City Return, get his mini-van travel free. It comes as part of his rail ticket. The bottom line is we've cut the number of these parking eyesores, putting the area to much more productive use... Saved over $250-million worth of useless vehicles and set up a suburban extension of our public transport system which is cost effective. I know that the boofheads in the Dept of Paper Shuffling will respond by asking what'll happen to all those mini-buses during the rest of the day? Well, they're already assured work for at least 6 to 7 hours and as they're all owner operators surely can they rent themselves out to schools, nursing homes, retirement villages or whatever between 9 and 4... Can't they? I know this is a bit lateral but don't we have to stop these railway station parking lots from contaminating any more parts of our cities? Where's John Bradfield when you need him.
Before I go, a new British TV crime drama which I loved. Some critics were less than impressed but I was knocked out by the version of "Maigret", set in France just after WW2. It's a terrific job of recreating the era and – wait for it, wait for it – Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is just about perfect as the Detective who always gets his man. Well, he did in this episode anyway.
Oh and we've got a new series of DCI BANKS starting next week. Tremendous quality show.