The latest radio ratings have put several shock jocks under the pump, as Hugo Kelly reports.

Now at Crikey we won’t be shedding crocodile tears at the prospect of the demise of the former Melbourne radio ratings leaders and Laws, Sydney’s decadent radio rogue. These jocks are paid huge money to win the ratings, and this year has been their annus horibilus.

Laws has plunged to his lowest ratings in 32 years as a radio presenter. Never before has he rated below 11%, and now he joins 2GB hack Ray Hadley with a 10.1% audience share.

2UE has lost nearly 90,000 weekly listeners since August, and dropped from third to seventh place.
The results have ominous implications for Southern Cross’s bottom line. With ad revenues set to plummet, their adventure into Sydney looks increasingly precarious. The company’s share price has dropped some 25% since they purchased 2UE, and promptly lost Alan Jones to 2GB.

The Parrot’s replacement, Crikey’s old mate Steve Price, has been a disaster, slumping another 1.7 points to 8.3%, the first time the station has rated under 10% for breakfast since Marconi was a lad.

Expect Southern Cross management to come out with a pile of excuses and promises to fix the situation. But radio is a brutal game and the fallout from the latest ratings will be felt sooner rather than later. If ratings don’t improve in the next period, expect very big heads to roll.

Mitchell has lost nearly a third of his audience in the past two surveys, losing some 20% of his listeners in the latest period, from July 28 to August 31 and September 15 to October 19, and slumping to third place, behind 774’s Jon Faine and Gold FM.

Yesterday’s ratings put a nail in Melbourne shock jock Steve Price’s Sydney coffin, as the Parrot increased his lead over 2UE in the morning slot.

Jon Faine increased his lead over 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Red Symons increased the steady inroads he’s been making into 3AW’s previously untouchable Lord Lunchalott & Ross Stevenson.

Many of 702 and 774’s new listeners are over 55’s. The Herald’s radio writer Sue Javes speculates that wrinklies are turning to the public broadcaster as the most credible news source in times of international uncertainty – although this hardly explains the rise and rise of old rocker Red Symons.

It may be that older listeners are turning to Symons at 774 as the long-awaited heir to the late great Peter Evans, who held an unassailable ratings lead in the breakfast slot at 3LO for 20 years, before inconveniently dying at the mic 15 years ago and handing the breakfast ascendancy to 3AW’s John Blackman.

Over at RN, morning host Vivian Schenker, under pressure from management, won a 30% ratings increase in Sydney, from 1.9% to 2.6%. This, however, was offset by a perverse reverse effect in Melbourne from 2.6% to 1.9%. Go figure.

AW is down across the day. But the crucial weakness is Mitchell who, having lost five ratings points in the past two surveys, is now getting clearly beaten by Faine.

With Symons throwing down the challenge to AW’s Ross Stevenson and John Burns, Mitchell now gets a less comfortable lead-in, and listeners continue to switch off.

Jeff Kennett has been buying up Data and Commerce shares with ears pinned back. But the company’s flagship radio station 3AK, for whom he is the marquee jock, shows no sign of a pulse.

3AK breakfast is an absolute shocker, although you can hardly blame the incumbents, Don Crawford and James Dunn. The serial sacker who run the station are now looking down the barrel of radio annihilation.

Station heavies Ronnie ‘Pots’n’ Pans’ Hall and ‘Telly Tubbie’ Jeff Chatfield fired John Blackman and Mike Frazer claiming unsatisfactory ratings when they were rating 2.2%. Now the new breakfast shift has lost another 30% of the audiences what plans do they have now?

The good Capt’n Jeff himself is down to 3.4, listing badly and taking water rapidly. If he doesnt get a lift during the Victorian election it will be goodnight to Jeff.

Peter Fray

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