Clark Forbes – We have the right people in place

Staff Writer

Following yesterday’s survey, we chatted with Four Group Programmers. Earlier was Nova Entertainment’s Paul JacksonSCA's Craig Bruce and Duncan Campbell from ARN.

Now we will line up Clark Forbes from Fairfax Radio for a chat on Survey #5 for their group.

Blair Sullivan: So let’s start off in Sydney. 2UE has improved nearly a point to 4.6 ahead of 2CH and just behind Triple M, that must make you guys happy.

Clark Forbes: Yeah, we are pretty happy with that. We thought it would take a little time to bed in. We changed the line-up at the beginning of the year and there has been a lot of change in that station. You can’t make a talk station in one survey and people tend to forget that.

And I think it is starting to pay off, it’s still a long way to go, and there are some pretty good signs there. Pretty good signs right from the get go, it’s nice to see it pay some dividends.

BS: If we have a look at Fairfax for Melbourne, 3AW – you are back where you want to be, Number 1 position overall.

CF: Yeah, I don’t like to sound arrogant about it. We are in a position where 3AW tends to live in terms of trading range in terms of survey figures. And everything came back on song, footballs back to number 1, the M.A.D’s (daytime) either number 1 or just missing number 1 by the proverbially Bees diaphragm. And weekends were strong too, so the whole station sort of just feels right again, and the ABC slunk back to the position it occupies probably 95% of its time On Air.

The ABC gets a roll-on every now and then, every few years. They won the odd survey off us, they will probably do it again in the future at some stage.  3AW had a fantastic record over the last 10 to 15 years, the station has reasserted itself, it’s right back in the game.   

Having said that, you can go around the country and people would kill for the figures we had last survey. We are just talking about the difference, being an absolute crushing number 1 or just slightly behind number 2. Still, some pretty good figures. To beat the wave the ABC had coming into survey is just fantastic.

BS: Rounding out the Melbourne market, let’s have a quick look at Magic. They have gone up a little bit as well.

CF: Yeah, Magic has gone up I think .7, and that once again was off a low wave. We have done a lot of work in Magic over the last six months/8 months. Restructured the music, tied up the station a bit. We want to keep that audience we have got for Magic.  It's very much a heritage audience but we also want to be competitive. And we certainly are if you look at the figures, weekend in particular, Magic is stronger than some of the FM stations around the city. For an AM music, which is really hard, it’s a pretty damn good result. If you put 3AW and Magic together its makes a very strong commercial statement for Fairfax Radio in the Melbourne market.

BS: Looking at Brisbane, again not the best story there for 4BC, both stations (4BC/Magic882) are in re-building mode.

CF: We are in a re-build mode there. It’s all changed at the beginning of the year but those people are settling in.

You know two of them have never worked in radio before. Patrick Condren and Ben (Davis), they are both newcomers to the craft. They are still learning the game and they are going to be absolutely fantastic. I can see Patrick being Brisbane’s version of Neil Mitchell and Ben being the same position as Tom Elliot now occupies in Melbourne. They are the sort of people we want there.

They are young, they are smart, they have got a lot of street cred and it just requires the audience to get to sort of know them and start taking notice of it. That will require a bit of marketing, we have got to spend a bit of money in that direction probably.

Over at Magic882, pretty much all changed there in terms of the music. A lot of work has gone into that.  One or two new people in the line-up. We are going very well mornings, afternoons and drive and some of the weekend shows. We are just missing out on breakfast at the moment. We will continue to work on that, but I think that we have got 4KQ firmly in our sights and they better watch out.

BS: And the final stop for Fairfax is Perth with 96 and 6PR.

CF: 96 a solid result, very strong mornings, afternoon and drive listening. TSL is through the roof. Look they are going very, very well. Came back half a point I think it was, but still a very strong station and very competitive. It is a very hot FM market I would have to say.  And when you consider , we spent money in marketing the station, but compared  to the other FM’s market, we are a minnow in that field. We just don’t have the resources to go toe to toe with the likes of a Nova or MIX. To get the results we do , 3 number 1’s last year, consistently in the top 3 this year, and more to come this year. It’s a tribute to Brad and the boys keeping real music alive. If listening to the station you can tell the quality, it’s a really good music station. If it was here in Melbourne where I am based, I would be listening to it. It’s got proper music on it.

BS: Proper music, so Melbourne hasn’t got proper music, is that right?

CF: In the FM world, it certainly does not.

BS: And the final one is 6PR

CF: Absolutely blinder on 6PR. They have knocked off the ABC the other talk station there, an absolute heritage station 702. For 6PR in the space of 5 surveys to come pretty much from nowhere, once again totally a new line up  to knock off the reigning talk champion is just sensational.

Basil and Steve are doing an 11.8 in the morning in breakfast. Gary Adshead, he is into double figures. Some really strong figures across the day.  We put Chris Illsey into evenings and he is pulling 12.5 or something. Really strong, so we are actually wrapped in that, couldn’t be better. We knew the boys would go well, we didn’t think it would happen quite so soon. And look chances are along the way there is going to be the odd hiccup.  What we have done is taken a very radical step in restructuring the stations. We had too, there wasn’t any alternative to that.

All things being equal, we would probably prefer to leave things the way they were, but you can't stand still in this game and we had the guts to make the hard decisions. Which something the opposition is not prepared to make..

We are in for the long haul and we have the right people in place. One survey doesn’t make a summer as they say, and there is a lot of hard work ahead.

BS: If you look across the Fairfax group, what is the one big highlight for you?

CF: A bit hard to say. I am really pleased Sydney has some momentum going. I think that’s really fantastic.  I really love the fact that 6PR is solidly into double figures, they are really performing well.

It’s really hard to say Blair. Any one of them I am really happy with, but to get a spread like that, it’s very good for an old  punter like me.

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