Hadley is not entirely to blame

Rob McCasker is a former radio programmer and now freelance writer.
Belittling anyone, anywhere, at any time is unacceptable. I’m not here to defend Ray Hadley but nor is he entirely to blame.

Unless you’ve been buried under a carpark for 300 years you would be aware Hadley has a temper. Said to be volcanic, with tirades that leave victims traumatised and on stress leave.

At 58 Hadley hasn’t suddenly developed aggression. He’s been angry for most of his life. Anyone will tell you he’s never short of an opinion believing his is the right one. Disagree with him and it’s unlikely he’ll change his mind leaving you with the impression your contribution was welcome. Piss Ray off and there are plenty of stories of him becoming deeply personal with his abuse. His threats of violence are appalling (and on You Tube) and it seems nothing is off limits – even if there’s nothing in your family history to suggest spasticity.

The point is Hadley has been allowed to get away with this for too long. While he is the one responsible for the way he reacts it’s time to highlight people up the food chain who allow the damage to continue.

I’m not aware of what went on recently between Hadley, the staff member and 2GB but imagine this hypothetical scenario involving a top rating morning host on talk-back radio.

Something goes wrong and the hosts tears strips off an employee. He threatens a loss of hearing with the sudden removal of ears, questions the employee’s mental deficiency then screams; “Fuck you, I’ve had enough, you’ve lost my support I’m going to the boss and you’ll be lucky to still have a job when I’m finished. By the way you’re a fucking idiot.”

The boss, in this case the General Manager, does the right thing and hears both sides. First from the still-ranting morning host whose been bellowing around the office for an hour and then from the now very fragile employee. The GM across all the facts explains to the morning host because the server was down the piece could not be uploaded any quicker to the website and that his behaviour towards a colleague was reprehensible and cannot be excused. As such, following a written apology, he is to be suspended for the rest of the week.

Not at all happy with the outcome the morning host unleashes an attack. He reminds the GM of the revenue his top-rating show makes for the station and without it the GM wouldn’t have food on the table for his family.  He tells the GM with many years’ experience he’s forgotten more than the GM knows about radio. The morning host then storms out yelling he’s surrounded by staff underdeveloped mentally and he will call the bloke who hired him – the owner.

Now at radio stations where best practise is a habit and not lip-service any contact from talent to an owner is met with clarity. Clarity in that, while ratings and revenue are crucial, abuse will not be tolerated. Decisions made by executives will be supported as anything less shows a lack of trust and no one person, even the high rating morning host, is above the other 60 employees and the culture within.

That’s best practise and in this scenario the morning host begrudgingly accepts his behaviour is unsustainable; he apologises, serves his suspension and now thinks about the cost of further abuse. Before long the quick temper is still there and so is a new found respect for the role everyone plays.

Here’s the same hypothetical scenario with a variation.

When cowboys (and cowgirls) own or run stations it can be very different. They love it when the irate stars call them to bitch. They feel important as it feeds their ego. When the pissed off morning host calls this time the owner agrees with everything the star says. An expensive lunch is arranged where they get drunk and bitch some more. Insecure and panicking about losing a big name plus the revenue and potential publicity, the owner phones the GM (while still at lunch) reversing the decision to suspend the morning host. The staff member who was abused is to be shifted to work on another show.

The GM objects and relays both sides to the owner and, as it turns out, most of the details left out by the morning host. The GM explains the memo has gone out to staff regarding the importance of company values. The owner pulls rank and says the conversation is over. He’s backing the morning host and because he will no longer follow through on his threat to resign the GM’s job is safe too.

The fall-out from this is devastating. Toxic. Different rules for different people. The GM is de-positioned with the clear message if you don’t get your own way then call the owner. Morale is low and staff begin to look for other gigs because they know working in an environment where you are witness to – or the subject of – violence and abuse is not acceptable and in no way can be tolerated. Everyone has the right to feel safe at work.

While these examples above are completely fictional we do know after his most recent attack on a staff member Ray Hadley phoned owner John Singleton and soon after a decision to suspend Hadley was reversed.

How does that leave the staff feeling within 2GB, and what does this say about radio in general?

Rob McCasker has over 20 years radio experience and now writes for a living. Rob’s on Twitter @robmccasker

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