Like it or not, Sydney radio is old hat and the talkback genre seems to be passing, even at the ABC; some new talent and ideas are needed.

The ABC and commercial radio in Sydney could do no worse than to look to Melbourne for some ideas: radio is working down there, especially at 774, the ABC local radio station in that market and the best performing of any ABC radio outlet in the country

The announcement by Virginia Trioli to leave 702 mornings in Sydney for the comfort of the less stressful ABC TV gigs she has of The Sunday Arts program, Friday Lateline and a couple of other odd projects, means the ABC now has to find a replacement for her and its evenings announcer, James O’Loughlin.

At the same time Fairfax Media has to replace John Laws in mornings on 2UE and either re-sign Mike Carlton in 2UE breakfast at a lower pay, or find a replacement. His co-host Peter Fitzsimmons quit yesterday saying he wants to spend more time at home and writing his books, seeing his family and supporting wife Lisa Wilkinson who is co-host of Nine’s Today. Fitzsimmons knocked on the head any talk of a Richard and Judy on Today and co-hosting with his wife.

It’s rare that such high profile positions in the country’s biggest radio market have fallen empty at the one time.

Fairfax/2UE tried to get Andrew Denton to replace Laws. Denton has the only Laws interview on Enough Rope on Monday night coming and already there has been one snipe at long time rival, Alan Jones in a TV promo.

The ABC will look to replace O’Loughlin within the pool of existing standby or occasional presenters: it’s actually a gig that can be auditioned on air.

Replacing the underperforming Trioli will be harder. She matched but never bettered her predecessor, Sally O’Loane, who is now working in corporate PR. Her ratings fell in a heap mid-year after she had moved past Laws into second place in mornings behind Ray Hadley on 2GB. Trioli’s ratings in the past survey were around 6.7, up 0.9. They have been higher.

Working Sydney radio has required opinions and lots of them and she was a more understated and intelligent version of her commercial rivals. But is that needed any more?

Melbourne radio is a bit more sedate, less competitive in AM talk than Sydney (its basically 3AW and 774, in Sydney it’s 2GB, 2UE and 702), so a bit of yelling and crazy rightwing opinions (Jones, Laws, Price, Hadley) have been though the only way to get ahead. But 3AW and 774 are far more successful operations than anything in the now Fairfax Radio business or in the ABC.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.