The ABC is planning to axe When Saturday Comes, a popular Victorian program hosted by Triple J’s Francis Leach. Senator Robert Ray, Crikey and others think this is a bad move but ABC management are sticking to their guns.

Great news from the ratings books this week for Francis Leach’s ABC Victoria AFL program “When Saturday Comes” which continues to climb the ratings ladder, jumping from 8.3% of the 10am 12pm Saturday Morning audience in Victoria to 9.8% in survey number 5.

This comes off the back of a similar rise in Survey number 3 of this year – an audience which was held in survey 4 as well.

Francis is known nationally for hosting Triple J’s morning show and also does Boundary Riding for Fox Footy.

When you consider that before he took the program on in 2001 the ABC Sport Departments Grandstand was languishing with around 6% of the audience it’s been a wonderful achievement to turn it around.

Given another season, and The Coodabeens wouldhavebeen hasbeens.

Sadly, 774 don’t see it that way and are planning to axe the program next year because it supposedly hasn’t built a big enough audience.

We reckon Francis runs a great show there, so if Aunty makes the mistake of not renewing their contract in 2003, Francis’s team should slot into another line up easily.

ends

Robert Ray joins the When Saturday Comes campaign

It was good to see Senator Ray stick it to ABC management for their plans to sack Francis Leach’s When Saturday Comes. This is his well argued positon:

By Robert Ray

Senate, August 21, 2002

“It is recognised that programming decisions are the right of the ABC management and not of the executive or this parliament. However, this should not inhibit members of parliament from reflecting the views of their constituents.

Every now and then what one might term the ABC’s cultural snobbishness gets the better part of their judgment. A number of years ago, the ABC had the program The Could Have Beens on Saturday mornings. It rated well and it was doing really well.

It was axed for reasons of fiscal rectitude and went on to be a massive success on an-other commercial radio station We got all sorts of excuses at the time as to why it was not continued and we heard recently that the program When Satur-day Comes is due for the hatchet.

When Saturday Comes is a two-hour football review with a variety of innovative and entertaining features. It seems to have a particular appeal for female listeners. The highlight of every show is hearing from the coaches in the outer and all their knockabout views on tactics. That is a really humorous section but it is not the only one that is quite innovative.

So what do we now hear? The ABC is not going to renew it. We are going to have some more lifestyle programs put in its place. All right, maybe sport is covered extensively in Australian society. Maybe too muchwho knows? But so too are lifestyle issues.

Currently we get five ABC stations beaming into Melbourne. We have PNN to cover the news. We have loud music on Triple JI could not tell you where it is on the dial, but I am glad it is there for the younger people in society.

We have Classic FM playing a variety of music, and we have Radio National catering to every esoteric cultural group on the earthand it rates a little less than Silver Top Taxis in terms of listening audience.

Then we have the fifth stationthe old 3LO, now renamed 744 ABC Melbourne. I suppose we paid some consultants a pretty hefty fee to change its name. But what we get on a Saturday morning now, from seven o’clock through to 10 o’clock before When Saturday Comes, is a variety of lifestyle programs.

We get home renovationsa matter of intense disin-terest for me. We then get share trading. If you looked at my pecuniary register, you would realise I am not too interested in that. We get half an hour on pets. I know how to throw the moggy out at night; I do not need any further advice. We get half an hour on gardeninganother thrilling subject.

That is what we have at the momenta whole series, 2 hours, on lifestyle trivia. I put up with that; I do not mind that. What is missing on a Saturday morning is then picked up by ABC Radio on a Sunday morning. There we get news on films, restaurant reviews, the latest concerts and all the other things that we from the latte glitterati really love and lap up.

So why do we want another lifestyle program on what should be a gateway to a day of sport in Melbourne? Sports Grandstand from 12 to six o’clock has been a massive success, and having Francis Leach’s When Sat-urday Comes as a lead-in can only further enhance this.

What a tragedy it will be if this gets shunted off to commercial radio a la The Could Have Beens. It might be argued that the program does not rate well enoughhardly a first for the ABC. If that is to be a criterion, we had better get the axe out right now.

I made the decision to speak out in protest on this many weeks ago, but subsequent to that I noticed there was an excellent article in the Green Guide of the Age. What did we learn from that? Actually, rat-ings are going gang busters for When Saturday Comes.

It is actually highly competitive with any commercial competitor. We then read the views of the manager of the ABC in Melbourne. He is looking at the over-40s demographic, he tells us. That is why we are going to have lifestyle programs. Well, I am over 40 and I want my 8c a day back. At the moment, I love these lifestyle programs being on between seven and 10, because it drives me out of the house.

I go off on my exercise walk. I go down to Prahran Marketdown to Russo’s the greengrocers or to Claringbold’s for the fish. It gets me out and about. Then I just get home in time to turn on Francis Leach and listen to two hours of football while her indoors is giving me instructions as to what to do.

It is a tragedy that this is happening. But I tell you what has really gotten me incensed: to hear the man-ager quoted in the green pages saying all this decision is based on focus groups. There is nothing more worthless than focus groups. I know a lot of political apparatchiks are rapt in them, but they are greatly and grossly overrated in their effectiveness because of the internal dynamics of groups getting together.

In conclusion, on behalf of my constituentsand there are a few of them about; all party voters, I might say, as they do not vote for me individuallyI want to make a demand that the ABC come to their senses and that they restore this program for next year and the year after.

It will wear out its welcome mat sooner or later. I cannot make such a demand on the minister. It is not up to him to intervene in programming matters, but I do call on Minister Alston to come out and sup-port me. If he does not, I hope Mrs Alston gets him working on home improvements picking up tips from the new lifestyle program.

As Senator Mackay said, get him out gardening or washing the dog. Get him all the benefits of the over-40s demographic. But I do hope he will join me in at least making representa-tions we cannot direct the ABC; we can only cajole itfor the return of When Saturday Comes.

Look after the biggest minority in Australia, the old couch potatoes like me that like listening to the radio on a Saturday morning. That is the sports morning. I do not care what they have on Sunday mornings or the rest of the week.

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Why the ABC is ditching When Saturday Comes

We haven’t heard from ABC management on this issue – until the August 29 Crikey sealed section which contained the following:

Here’s a very civilised exchange of views between a “When Saturday Comes” listener and the ABC’s head of Vic local radio, Ian Mannix. Unfortunately, no joy yet again for Francis Leach’s show, which we’ve gone into bat for a few times. Labor Senator Robert Ray has also been strongly supportive, something noted when we crossed paths in the local noodle takeaway on Coventry St in South Melbourne last Friday.

Anyway, it looks like another ABC treasure will be picked up by the commercials as this subscriber writes:

“Dear Whistleblowers,

Below is the response I had from Ian Mannix, program manager at the ABC, in response to my email which I have included at the bottom. I sent the email to register my disappointment at the ABC show When Saturday Comes being axed.

Ian obviously has no interest in keeping me as a listener.

It’s obviously not “my” ABC.

Thought you might be interested.

Cheers, Ben”

—–Original Message—–

From: IAN MANNIX

Sent: Wednesday, 28 August 2002 7:46 AM

To: ben

Subject: RE: Save “When Saturday Comes”

Dear Ben

I agree with much of what you say, and I too felt WSC is an excellent program. However few listeners agree with you. Somewhere between 30-50 percent of our existing audience turns off at 10am on Saturday morning and they come back on at noon.

We are not in the business of attracting a new, fresh young audience. That’s why there is nothing else on our radio for younger people. I realise many listeners come to us for our news and current affairs, but most people begin listening to talk radio a little older.

We will use the funds released by the WSC decision to create several new programs.

I am sorry this won’t please you, but I am confident it will please a great many other people.

Ian Mannix

Manager

ABC Local Radio

Victoria

—–Original Message—–

From: 774 ABC Melbourne

Sent: Tuesday, 27 August 2002 13:10

To: Ian Mannix

Subject: Fwd: Save “When Saturday Comes”

To Ian Mannix and the program Managers at 774

The ABC has been a bastion of quality broadcasting since its inception. As an avid sports fan, particularly a football fan, I enjoy the insightful, passionate, intelligent and accurate broadcasting of our fantastic game whenever the 774 team is broadcasting a match. Tim Lane is without peer as a football commentator.

However, I also enjoy the intelligent humourous side of football, which is what When Saturday Comes has been all about. I love listening to the Coaches in the Outer, the Footy Brain quiz, the Four Noels, and all the other guests and segments that Francis and the team concocted on a Saturday morning.

To give you an idea of my demographic, I am 27, and I occasionally tune in to 774 in the mornings and afternoon, but mostly listen to the ABC for the football, and the news. When Saturday Comes has been the best thing to happen to 774 for a long time. Humour with intelligence, and the people, the fans given a chance to have their say and have a laugh, or show their knowledge of the game.

I implore the ABC program managers to reverse their decision to axe When Saturday Comes. I know that a number of my football friends have a actually come over to the ABC and have stayed there on the strength of Francis’s program. And there is nothing else out there like this program, and isn’t that what the ABC, and its charter, is all about?

I feel confident the ABC has the grey brigade firmly in its grasp. If the ABC is fair dinkum about attracting a fresher, younger, and newer audience to its airwaves, leave When Saturday Comes where its belongs, on the air.

I think it would be incredibly short sighted of the ABC if they let this program go. There is no doubt its concept will be picked up by rival station should you let this gem go.

Regards, Ben”

ends

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