Commercial radio is in middle of its biggest shake-up in years, but there was no sign of fresh content as the new breakfast all-stars hit the airwaves today. Crikey tuned in.
Never in recent memory has there been such anticipation in media circles about the start of a new radio ratings year. Everywhere you look — from AM to FM, Sydney to Melbourne, commercial to the ABC — old programming schedules are being torn up as new presenters take over key slots. Reputations, ratings success and millions of dollars of advertising revenue are on the line.
For those who’ve lost track of the musical chairs, here are some of the key moves:
After 13 years at Southern Cross Austereo, Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O have taken their top-rating Sydney breakfast show from 2Day FM to Kiis FM (formely MixFM).
Replacing Kyle and Jackie O at 2DayFM are Merrick Watts, Jules Lund, Sophie Monk and, making special guest appearances, former Spice Girl Mel B.
Fairfax’s director of news media Garry Linnell has joined with radio veteran John Stanley to host breakfast on 2UE Sydney.
Robbie Buck will take over ABC 702 breakfast slot in Sydney following Adam Spencer’s departure after eight years.
Virginia Trioli will replace Tony Eastley as the host of ABC’s AM on Local Radio.
In Melbourne, Nova’s Meshel Laurie and Tommy Little are inheriting the top-rating breakfast slot from Kate Langbroek and Dave Hughes.
At Fox FM, Fifi Box and Dave Thornley replace long-running hosts Matt Tilley and Jo Stanley.
Everything, it seems, except the content. Rather than scandals — or even surprises — Crikey heard presenters relying on tried-and-tested formulas when we tuned in this morning.
The biggest buzz, of course, was about Kyle and Jackie O’s Kiis FM debut — where the strategy seemed to be: if it ain’t broke, why fix it? There were plenty of big-name guests, including Kylie Minogue, Matthew McConaughey and Kardashian matriach Kris Jenner. Sandilands slipped up at one point by saying he was on 2DAY FM. “Okay wow, I meant KIIS FM,” he said.”Big mistake, big mistake.”
Jackie O gave her regular round-up of Hollywood gossip and told listeners about her summer holidays. A low point came at Christmas when she received nasty comments after posting photos on Facebook and Instagram of a new Chanel bag. If anything, this was a far safer, more demure offering from the days when Kyle called a female journalist a “fat slag” and put 14-year-old rape victim on a lie detector test.
It was much the same over at 2Day FM, where Sandilands and O’s successors also interviewed Kylie Minogue (apparently theirs was an exclusive though). The singing budgie — who’s spruiking her upcoming gig as host of Nine talent show The Voice — also made an appearance on Fifi Box and Dave Thornley’s debut show on Melbourne’s Fox FM.
On the AM dial, breakfast ratings king Alan Jones is still on holidays and Robbie Buck is yet to start on the ABC. But Linnell and Stanley were hard at work at Fairfax’s 2UE, where the cross-promotion was in overdrive. Fairfax business editor James Chessell, Sydney Morning Herald gossip writer Andrew Hornery and SMH columnist Paul Sheehan were among the guests. Perhaps this will quell some newsroom mutterings about Linnell taking on the challenging gig while still overseeing The Age and SMH.
Alcohol-fuelled violence, of course, was the hot topic of the morning in Sydney. Menacing dogs off leashes got a run; so did the vexed issue of dumping rubbish in your neighbours’ bins. Linnell — a former Daily Telegraph editor and Channel Nine news boss — showed he still loves a scoop by reporting that Tony Abbott is unhappy about the direction of the Anzac Day centenary celebrations. There was a nod to balance too with a discussion about a Daily Tele yarn on the best chips in Sydney.
The show was blokey, but avoided the hectoring and editorialising of Jones and Ray Hadley on 2GB.
Radio newcomer Linnell told Crikey this morning: ”I’m full of adrenaline. When the switchboard lights up with calls it is so exciting. I was buzzing for an hour after we came off air.”
Linnell says there is still room for improvement, and it will take time to build chemistry with Stanley. There are no grand plans to overtake Jones in the ratings — or even come close. “I’d hope we can pick up a point or two,” he said. “These things take a long time to turn around.”