Can Brisbane Talk work with Sydney Talent?

Staff Writer

We are just a few short weeks into the new 4BC line-up of Alan Jones and Ray Hadley in the Brisbane market.

The shake-up at a number of former Fairfax sites has seen a mass exodus of talent across the country. For Brisbane’s 4BC it saw the boning of local programs including the breakfast team of Ian Skippen and Loretta Ryan, Mornings host Patrick Condren and Nights with Walter Williams.

Replaced in prime shifts like breakfast by Alan Jones and mornings with Ray Hadley.

But will it work?

Earlier this week Mark Day from The Australian said: “I hate to say this, but it won’t work. I predict that before the year is out MRN’s 4BC will be looking for new breakfast and morning presenters.”

Mark Day’s article is a great read – in some respects a “Been there and done that” example.

Mark speaks of his experience almost three decades ago with Kerry Packer, then owner of the Nine Network and  couple of talk radio brands being Sydney’s 2UE and Melbourne’s 3AK.

“I’m still carrying the scars of a near-identical radio catastrophe nearly 30 years ago when Kerry Packer owned 2UE in Sydney and 3AK in Melbourne.”

Mark describes how Kerry’s plan was to run the stations as “a news/talk powerhouse”, destined for big dollars and lots of listeners.

Unlike 4BC which is 100% from Sydney in a prime shift like breakfast, back in Mark’s time they kept local breakfast programs in Sydney and Melbourne with networking in other dayparts including Alan Jones and George Negus.

According to Mark, they spent an absolute motza on marketing, leveraging Television on Channel Nine, outdoor with buses and smaller billboards around each city.

For Melbourne the incumbent which was 3AW took a logical and simple marketing tact against the new player:

“3AW’s advertising campaign against us was devastating, simply posing the question: “Sydney Radio. Who needs it?” It was a line that went straight to the core of the problem — radio is a local ­medium.” said Mark.

In Marks words: “And we failed dismally. I had the largest drive-time audience in Australia on my previous station 3AW …. but when I went to 3AK I was on first-name terms with both my listeners. The station was in the pits. In Sydney, 2UE slumped and within three survey periods the game was over.”

Brisbane in 2015 unlike Melbourne or Sydney for that matter only has one commercial talk station. For 4BC it’s up against 612 ABC, who is the only station in the same space.

Mark then talks some real common sense around networking:

“Music can be networked because it is universal. It’s the announcements between the tracks that are the tricky bits — they can be local to the extent that they provide information about where bands are performing and so on, or not, such as Hamish and Andy who eschew local chat and rely on the universality of their humour to attract audiences without borders.”

Here’s Mark Day’s kicker:

“But you can’t do this with talk. It is, by its nature, all about over-the-fence information, sharing local happenings, local politics, goss about local personalities and, vitally, local sport.”

Mark also talks about the delicate balancing act of not swaying program content to favour one city or audience over another. And he gives credit where  due saying:

“Alan Jones does a great job covering national politics in his inimitable way and there’s no reason why that would not transfer equally to Brisbane.”

But if it becomes too Brisbane centric, then the cash cow of Sydney and 2GB could be impacted. Mark Day also identifies Ray Hadley as being even more Sydney centric and if Ray cannot provide his Brisbane audience a showing then why would they listen?

So who’s got it right?

Will the MRN plan work with Alan Jones and Ray Hadley or is it about counting the cost savings and drawing a line in the sand with ratings versus local talent expenses overall?

Perhaps we let Mark Day have the last say from his article:

“It’s a good theory but it fails at the first hurdle — talk radio programs must be relevant to their audiences.”

You can read Mark Day’s full article in the Australian here.



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