3AK and Jeffrey Kennett have been very smart to immediately target 3AW’s vulnerable Drive audience now that Steve Price has taken off to Sydney. Tune in to 3AK from 4pm to check it out by clicking here.

So much for the March 25 start date. 3AK is desperate for Kennett to lift their ratings out of the present cellar-level of 2 per cent.

Jeff performed reasonably well but he should have been more controversial rather than tip-toeing through the tulips.

Crikey crashed the Kennett press conference announcing his deal with 3AK in the Old Treasury Building with Laura in the baby pouch last week and on walking in we shook hands and Jeffrey said: “Is that yours or did you borrow it for the day.”

Laura sat peacefully listening to Data & Commerce chairman Kevin Campbell and CEO Jeff Chatfield but she arked up when Kennett started talking so we had to leave and listen from the door.

Kennett was obviously being his greedy, cantankerous self because the 4 year contract was only signed 5 minutes before the press conference began.

The time slot now looks like it will be Drive and Jeffrey has taken a shareholding and will be joining the company’s board.

There were plenty of classic Kennettisms at the presser as he talked about Australia being the best country in the world and his goal to look ahead 100 years and improve our world.

Naturally he gloated about saving the state from despair and he clearly is looking forward to exercising a bit of power as he stressed that radio is the most powerful medium.

Crikey was delighted to hear Jeffrey pour scorn on broadcasters who get paid extra to do “live read” advertisements (Jones, Laws, Price, Sigley etc). He won’t be doing that and he’ll also vet any cheap advertising off his program.

Jeff was the greatest political fundraiser the Liberal Party has ever had and he’ll basically repeating that process accept that his contract gives him a slice of the revenue because Data & Commerce can’t afford to pay him a decent salary.

All those businesses that want to thank Jeffrey for the wonderful things he did for their bottom line can now just advertise on his program. I’m betting the likes of Crown, Tabcorp, Tattersalls, Philip Morris, The Grand Prix Corporation and a few big developers like Mirvac, Lend Lease, Grocon and Baulderstone Hornibrook will be regular advertisers on his program. And given that Transurban investors have made a 500 per cent return, expect them to shift much of their advertising from Austereo and 3AW.

Given that Felicity Kennett got a free BMW when Jeff was Premier and Jeff now runs the Heinekin golf classic for BMW, you can expect the luxury car company will pump plenty of ad revenue through his program too.

Jeffrey has bought a shareholding in Data & Commerce and let’s hope he got in at 10c earlier this week because they are now up around 18c.

This boy is a market mover alright, putting 80 per cent on the value of the company as he promised the media he would try to help turn DCL into a major media player as opportunities arise with changes to media laws.

Jeffrey’s record on public company boards is mixed. As chairman he’s more than doubled the National Telecoms Group shares price from 50c to $1.10 but poor old SofCom was floated at 35c and is now wallowing at 6c.

3AW’s political reporter Craig Wilson piped up that any successful presenter needed a good producer and Kennett said no-one had been selected but he agreed it was all about team work.

A 3AK insider emailed this through to Crikey this afternoon:

“Stephen, word on the street is that although the late Mike Frazer has put his hand up for the job of producing JK at AK, Steve Murphy looks like getting the nod.”

Despite Murphy’s vehement denials, this might stack up because Murphy was Kennett’s media attack dog for almost 10 years in politics and he has a history in radio at 3AW and the old 3DB.

Murphy is currently working for Telstra but he was keeping a low profile at the back of the press conference. His wife is also tipped to return to radio from maternity leave this year.

Another great Kennett mate Alister Drysdale was also at the press conference. Drysdale was Kennett”s top adviser and specialist gambling adviser who went down and worked for Tattersalls, receiving about $3 million over 6 years.

Crikey’s would like to officially welcome Jeffrey to the airwaves and we look forward to him giving 3AW a run for their money as for too long they’ve enjoyed an effective monopoly over commercial talk radio in Melbourne.

Ironically, it was Kennett who helped make 3AW and former Southern Cross Broadcasting chairman Peter Nixon even told one AGM that Jeffrey had been running around town telling people he was “the voice of 3AW”.

Can Kennett end the legal battle with Tony Bell?

Given that Kennett is so pally with the boys at 3AW, it will be fascinating to see if Southern Cross Broadcasting and their CEO Tony Bell continue with their legal action against Derryn Hinch and Data and Commerce for the following 3AK broadcast by Hinch on February 8 last year:

“Well, it’s true. You haven’t heard the bull roar yet. I tell you one thing, the barnyard door’s now been flung open. For too long I believe 3AW has dominated this town with no opposition, no alternative. And I’ve only just discovered in recent weeks since I came here to 3AK just how ruthless and how manipulative those owners, my former employers, have been in keeping the old 3AK in its place and down in the gutter. How it used financial muscle to get pledges from the old owners not to even compete in the talk format marketplace. And I bet the Australian Broadcasting Authorities would love to see some of that correspondence. Tony Bell, I’ve seen it. But anyway, as of today the bully-boy tactics will not work. Brand new day. Those shackles have been broken. It is a whole new ball game, the bull will roar.”

Shame that Derryn and 3AK did not really live up to their promises and they’ve been in the courts facing the litigious crew at Southern Cross even since. Naturally Crikey does not endorse the Hinch comments as true and correct. We simply report them in the public interest in light of Kennett’s big move and our ongoing interest in defamation battles.

Now, this is what AAP ran with reaction from some of Jeffrey’s radio rivals:

KENNETT NIGHTLEAD

By Alan Gale

MELBOURNE, Feb 6 AAP – Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett faces an awkward baptism as a talkback radio host and, in the estimation of his likely competitors, has too much political baggage for the job.

The former Liberal premier will be looking to the same people who voted him out of office to support him on the airwaves when he joins 3AK.

But both 3AW drive host and station program manager Steve Price and ABC Melbourne morning presenter Jon Faine think it is too big an ask.

For a start, they feel Mr Kennett would have trouble attracting guests.

“Can you imagine (current premier) Steve Bracks or (opposition leader) Denis Napthine would want to be interviewed by Jeff?” Mr Price said.

“The only thing he should be doing is spinning 1950s jazz records … I don’t think he has the discipline for a talkback program,” he said.

Then there’s Mr Kennett’s strident support for a raft of policies which cost him the last state election.

Even today at the media conference called to launch his career change, his apolitical claim went out the window when temptation to make political comment became too much for the hardcore Liberal.

“I am only one of a team – just as I was one of the team that rebuilt Victoria – I will be one of the team that’s going to rebuild 3AK,” he said.

This propensity for comment would cloud his image and make it hard to attract guests to the low-rating 3AK, Mr Faine said.

“I would have thought that even if the ratings doubled and then doubled again most guests would put 3AK a distant third (behind the ABC and 3AW) on the list of priorities,” he said.

Mr Kennett also becomes a director of station owner Data and Commerce Ltd, whose shares jumped as much as 40 per cent on confirmation of the deal.

Both Mr Faine and Mr Price said this conflict of roles and Mr Kennett’s reputation for unguarded comments could land him in legal hot water.

“This is the man who (as premier) nearly aborted a criminal trial and was warned by the Director of Public Prosecutions to be more careful about what he said,” Mr Price said.

“He would need a big staff around him (for protection) and 3AK hasn’t got the money to do it.”

Mr Kennett’s dual role as employer and presenter would make team work difficult, Mr Faine said.

“He has obvious ability and talents and networks; the difficulty is whether he will accept direction,” Mr Faine said.

“If he is a shareholder and a director and a presenter it is difficult to see if he will take advice from anyone else.”

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks was coy about any appearance he may make on his predecessor’s coming program.

“I’ll treat that on its merits if that request comes in to me,” he said yesterday.

Shares in Data and Commerce finished 4.5 cents or 33 per cent higher at 18 cents.

ends Don’t forget to listen live to Jeffrey on 1116 3AK from 4-6pm tonight or on the web by clicking here.

Peter Fray

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