Steve Blanda: Life after 2UE

The brutal reality of the Fairfax-Macquarie merger came as a shock to a fair few within the industry.  That so many people of high calibre were ‘let go’ was astounding.

Many, many good were made redundant across all areas of the operation: on-air, news, production or ‘back of house’.  Fortunately, many have moved on to something better.

Legendary newsreader Steve Blanda is one of those who have fallen on his feet, returning this week to the Sydney airwaves on smooth FM.

He opens up to Radio Today’s Nikole Gunn to talk about life after 2UE and the jump from AM to FM.

Nikole Gunn: First of all; commiserations for what happened a couple of months ago, but congratulations for the smooth appointment.   How have you found the transition?

Steve Blanda:  The transition has been really quite easy. FM is something I have done before.  I was at Fox many years ago in the early 80s.  Gavin Wood was doing breakfast and I was reading his news.

I’ve always thought that ‘radio is radio’, regardless of whether it’s AM or FM, you’re communicating with your audience. I’ve always done the news in a slightly conversational way, even on 2UE.  I’ve eased back more on Smooth to fit the format.

So, going back to FM has been quite easy.  I was going to use the word ‘smooth’, but that would have been a bit ….

Nikole:    So it hasn’t been hard to get your head around, going from that ‘hard news’ format of 2UE to the music format of Smooth?

Steve:  I’ve been a fan of Smooth since its inception.  I love the music. But I really appreciate what they’re doing in giving news a higher profile. They’re bringing a better news service to an older generation and giving the audience everything it needs.

And being a listener, I know that when a big story breaks, Smooth is there live and reporting on it. In fact, I was doing a school pick up on the afternoon that Kevin Rudd re-took the leadership from Julia Gillard. I heard Ron Wilson reporting on it with crosses to Canberra and I knew then that Smooth takes the news seriously when it needs to.

Nikole:  Monday was your first day, please tell me even someone of your experience had a little bit of nerves..

Steve:  I absolutely shat myself.  Are you allowed to print that?

Of course I was nervous even after more than 40 years in radio. If you don’t get nervous on big days like that, there’s something wrong with you and you shouldn’t be in the industry anymore. The nerves settled on day two and as the week progresses, I’m getting used to the equipment, it’s becoming as natural as it was at UE.

Nikole:    What about 2UE?

Steve:  Actually I’m happy not to be part of the so-called ‘merged’ entity because I think it’s more of a ‘take over’ by 2GB than a ‘merging’ of the stations and the networks.  A lot of good people are gone. I wish those who are still there all the best, but I’m glad that I’m not part of it.

Nikole:    Being an outsider looking in, it was just heart breaking to watch it all happen. 

Steve:  Not only heartbreaking.  It’s hard to even think of the right words because 2UE news has been such an institution for so many decades. For this to happen is just unforgiveable.  It’s unfortunate that radio has reached the stage where it has happened.

Nikole:    I’ve got to tell you, there were a lot of FM journos, who said ‘oh no, Blanda’s on the FM dial, I’ll never win a bloody ACRA”!

Steve:  (laughs) Yeah, I won a few when I was on the FM.  I won an award while I was at Fox, won a few at 2WS when it converted to FM.  I was so pleased when Glenn Daniel picked up the FM award last year.  I thought that was fantastic.

But I just want to clear up one little misconception about this year’s ACRAs and that I was not able to nominate to possibly win a 19th

Joan Warner and CRA have been very gracious in allowing me and any of my former colleagues at 2UE to make personal entries for an ACRAs. So, I will be in the running and it’s in the laps of the judges as to whether they think I deserve another award.

So, yes I am one of the entrants in the news presenters category and I know my former colleague, Amelia Birnie, is in the Brian White category.  She’s put in a personal entry as well.

The team at CRA was very willing for us to do that. No problem with them at all.  It’s unfortunate that our former employers decided that they were going to turn their backs on us.  That shows more about them than us”.

Nova Entertainment has made a smart move in snapping up Steve Blanda; a much respected and admired journalist and newsreader. His appointment will go some way in positioning Smooth as a station that answers the needs of its target audience.

I suspect ACRA number 19, 20 and 21 are very much on the cards for the man once regarded as “Mr Safe”.

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