Brenno: The Life and Times of a Media Godfather

Staff Writer

Iconic Sydney radio programmer, John Brennan, retired from the industry after 62 years back in 2012.

John’s legacy is impressive, having identified and mentored some of the biggest names in Sydney talk radio – John Stanley, Stan Zemanek, Peter Overton, although unquestionably the biggest two careers he has launched were those of Alan Jones and Ray Hadley.

He is the one who helped introduce Talk Radio and the format into the Australian marketplace in the 1960’s and who lead the powerhouse that was 2UE at its peak.

In October John publishes his new memoir “Brenno: The Life and Times of a Media Godfather”.

His memoir covers the early days, the talent, the ego’s; even the owners.

John Brennan also talks about the humiliation of the ABA’s Cash for Comment enquiry. In The Australian today John commented on his appearance saying:

“If only the persons concerned were transparent with the company first up and we were aware of the clients’ intentions and the seducing way they used to get the host’s agreement. Two things. Firstly, I was unaware of the “deals” that had been struck with the advertisers. I was completely unaware that the personalities were encouraged to hold a certain view on air in return for a commercial consideration. Secondly, I hire presenters for their opinions and have never questioned nor influenced their editorial position. There is no restraining of literary expression ever by me. The murky waters have been removed and thankfully things reverted to normal and our compelling and infectious hosts performed in their usual energetic manner. They still do.”

Since retiring John had in the past consulted 2UE, his thoughts now on the struggling station?

“I doubt whether 2UE can ever be fixed under current ownership.”

“Sadly I find 2UE seems to be bent on pursuing a progressive talk format, a format devised to present views very much opposed to conservative talk radio. Progressive talk resonates with much of the ABC audiences but commercial listeners by and large are a conservative lot. I can’t see 2UE putting a dent into the formidable ABC audience. 2UE needs to be a visionary.”, John said in the Australian

For a man who still to this day has such a passion for the industry and format that has been his lifes work, he also gave his thoughts on current radio management and how they have “Dropped the ball” in preparing for the future.

He goes onto say in The Australian:

“Regrettably in this harshly commercial environment stakeholders are demanding immediate returns on investments. In radio and TV programmers are being forced to find immediate solutions to underperforming day-parts. Gone are the days you’d identify talent, foster and train them, then give them time to settle into a shift and hone their skills. Not to mention allowing the audience to become familiar with them. I would think if Alan Jones, John Laws, Ray Hadley, Stan Zemanek were starting out today to become a radio star, I doubt whether new management would have the balls to give them the time (at least two years) needed to develop their radio skills.”

Brenno also tackles the Glass Ceiling and discusses the lack of Female talk talent on commercial radio.  His dream was to find a backer and create an all female line-up talk station. In his memoir he even discusses the female talent pool. For the Australian he said:

“We’re not short on talent for this incredible move. As I sit here I’m just pulling to mind such names that would be successes as: the stunning Helen McCabe, Amanda Keller, Katherine Greiner, Rebecca Wilson, Chrissie Swan, Angela Bishop, Lisa Wilkinson, Julia Morris, Geraldine Doogue, Chris Bath, Debra Knight, Gretel Killeen, and so on it goes. They are big names.”

John Brennan’s memoir “Brenno: The Life and Times of a Media Godfather” will be available from October 1.

You can view his entire interview with The Australian here.

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