And so we say farewell to another year of radio ratings.
Careers are made: careers are lost. But good old 2GB just keeps rolling along at no. 1 with Jones and Hads continuing to occupy the high ground ahead of KIIS FM and WSFM. Smooth ended the year just below 9%. 2CH is hanging on to 4%, while 2DAYFM - once a giant - is slightly below that level and UE LIFESTYLE - also once a giant - battles away at 3.5. There are, I fear, monumental changes in the offing. Rumours abound of some "rebrandings" in 2018.
Recently caught up with Carole Miller - former colleague at 2GB and the teller of many wonderful stories from when she worked with pirate radio in the UK. Carole is researching the whole very complex issue of the future of provincial radio. We had long discussions on local ownership and local content along with the thorny matter of increasing national networking. Both of us are products of the same golden era when the local radio station was central to country life downunder. Also recently made email contact with a 1960's colleague at 3XY, Peter Leslie. So nice to resume long-lost contact. I know I say some harsh things about the ABC from time to time but in my defence allow me to argue that the ABC is the only radio I listen to, really. I still love my ABC SPORT - test cricket and the AFL - and enjoy PM and NewsRadio at night. So I'm allowed a bit of a whinge from time to time. Let me set the stage by telling you about AFL night games and the ABC. What I do - which is something I imagine a lot of other AFL fans do - is watch the big night game on TV and then as I'm settling into bed, enjoy listening to the ABC post-game summary which can run for another 30 mins, sometimes longer. So, I'm like a huge number of sports fans recently watching the Socceroos play their "death or glory" game against Honduras for a spot in the World Cup. Now Soccer may not be the biggest sport in Australia but when you're talking about the World Cup you're talking about either the biggest or the second biggest sports event on the planet. So there is a massive audience watching the Aussies fight their way into the 2018 Finals in Russia. And what do we do after watching the game on TV? As we're settling down for the night we switch on the trusty ABC radio sports channel just in time to hear them say "goodnight". Ok, they've broadcast the game... It's over… We won and they've done their job. This is the disconnect I keep seeing between the ABC and their potential audience. There are almost certainly 1000's and 1000's of sports fans who are doing exactly what I'm doing... Putting on our PJ's and going to bed, sticking the radio on to drift into sleep listening to the commentators reinforce our victory and passage to the World Cup in 2018. Give me more analysis... Who dominated… Where can we improve… Will Ange stay on in Russia? Just go on and on about it... I will revel in our victory. Here you have it all ABC: a totally captive audience just begging to hear how we did it. The commentators and the experts are all there waiting... You've got the channel... You've got the audience... You can go on for another hour if you want to... But all we hear is "goodnight". I don't know... Maybe I was on the wrong station? Jeez… I'm hard to please. One of the tenets of broadcasting, which I constantly reminded my students at AFTRS about, was that the Audience is God. If you don't have an audience don't bother switching on the transmitter.
Never apologise for following your audience.
Which takes me to another intriguing area, involving audiences, the future of soccer downunder. I am constantly amazed when I look at the amount of sponsorship invested in the game and the amount of media coverage it receives. So I am always really interested in its audience figures... Attendances and TV ratings.
Just looked at them and I am still amazed. Remember this is a very high profile year for the sport in Australia. Tim Cahill is back in the A LEAGUE (well for a short spell anyway), the Socceroos are fighting tooth and nail to get into the World Cup again and coach Ange Postegoglou is hinting that he might resign after getting the Socceroos to Russia (incidentally he did resign in what must be one of the most bizarre incidents in Australian sport). Anyway, soccer certainly wasn't short of drama and publicity through 2017. So how do you make sense of the stats so far this season which shows TV audiences down by just under 20 percent for free-to-air and Cable? And what do we say about A LEAGUE attendance dipping 12% with the average crowd now around 11,900.
It is difficult to interpret these figures. I mean an average crowd of 11,900 would send an AFL club into receivership. Rugby League might survive but only if the TV audience was worthwhile.
I follow soccer. Love our Socceroos, avidly follow Man U and Leeds and have more than a passing interest in SYDNEY FC, who are in brilliant form. But look at those numbers will you and tell me what it means? Just imagine you're a Financial Officer with a medium-sized company that is seeking to invest $500,000 into sports sponsorship to lift its national identity. Now, would you recommend putting that money into the A LEAGUE, with TV audiences DOWN 20% or to TEN'S BIG BASH Cricket which is boasting an audience increase of 14% so far this summer.
I find the outlook for soccer in this country very intriguing and one of the great question-marks as we go into 2018. The other question mark relates to our economy and whether the real estate market is heading for a major correction (you can interpret that as "crash"... There, I've brought that dreaded word out into the open).
Federal authorities recently issued another warning about people who take out "interest only loans" on their new home. We're still looking at a figure of around 15% of owner-occupiers who are only able to pay the interest... Nothing off the loan itself. Will they survive through 2018? This is seriously interesting stuff for an observer like your reporter. I hate leaving you with even more homework in the new year but keep an eye on Brexit and tell me what is going to happen to two critical British industries - International Finance and Car manufacture? Because I've got to tell you they both look very shaky to me in the post-Brexit era.
Everyone who reads my mutterings will know I'm a history fanatic. Remember, I wrote the original Historical Notes for Dick Smith's iconic first-ever edition of the Australian Geographic calender in 1980, now a collectors' Item (yes I DO have one in my library - give me a call if you want to have a look). One of the great mysteries I have from our early colonial history is how could the Colony possible have nearly starved to death in first years in Sydney Town. I can appreciate that we were desperately short of fruit and vegetables... I know scurvy would have been a major threat… But STARVATION ? I just don't get it. Here they are living alongside Sydney Harbour with the mighty Pacific down the road and I keep hearing repeatedly how we were lucky to survive.
I understand that you'd get sick and tired of eating fish, but hell if it kept you alive, I'd be inclined to keep eating it. Wouldn't you?
So I went back to the original logs of 1788 to see if there was any explanation.
Again, as I re-read these historical notes, the mystery tends to remain.
"We found fish aplenty, although the harbour is full of sharks... Oysters very large."
Lt. Bradley, February 5, 1788
"Shot a kangaroo... It is nearly the equal in goodness to venison."
Cpt. Phillip, February 12, 1788
"Shot a remarkably large bird today… An Emew... It's flesh proved very good eating."
Cpt. Phillip, March 3, 1788
"Anything shot went into the pot... An emu 7 feet 2 inches 2 was served at my vice-regal table... Young kangaroos eat tender with good flavour... Even crows stew well."
Cpt. Phillip, July 20, 1788
"Kangaroo rats are like mutton... A kind of chickweed tastes like spinach… Ground ivy is used for tea."
Unnamed Woman convict, November 25, 1788
So how close did we come to disaster in those first years? And why?
I need to keep researching.
And I am indebted to Benny Anderson (of Abba fame) for the following quote which is excellent:
"Getting old is not so bad. The problem is that you are going to die soon. The trick is not to think about that too much. It is the same for all of us; death is very democratic."