There is frustration in radioland, much tearing of hair and beating of breasts. Nothing they do seems to make much difference to generally dismal ratings and they showed a national decline in revenue at the end of this financial year.

With the newly released ratings, a princess and prince of the airways were pushed to the axeman’s block. Much loved Myf Warhurst and Peter Helliar were not loved enough. Their one percent drop to 3.2 in their Triple M breakfast slot sealed their fate.

One of the few stations to do better was sports station SEN, so Triple M’s Austereo management is said to be turning towards a sportier lineup with Eddie McGuire and Shane Crawford waiting in the pits.

Myf and Pete’s boss explained that while they were very good they weren’t “different enough” to pull the listeners. Which can be said for most of the other commercial radio stations.

Top of the pile is 3AW with its loyal listeners still growing, this time by 4.3 percent in the breakfast slot. Most of the other stations would give their right arms for just that growth figure, while the actual rating of 21.6 will forever stay in their dreams.

It’s interesting that 774 is next in line with 15.7. Now, they’re different. And if you added all the ABC stations together they come out on top with some 26 percent.

So why isn’t commercial radio delivering? Can it be that we’ve all heard enough Barry Manilow and Madonna and would rather listen to some politician rattling on?

And what does that do to your advertising budget? Because for sure the cost of your advertising doesn’t follow the ratings down.

Of course it’s not only the stations that deliver boring repetitive old tat. So do you, the advertiser. It’s no mischance that in this year’s Cannes Festival Australian radio did not win so much as a single bronze lion. We got nix, nil.

The reason is that Australian radio commercials are terrible. Horrible. Boring. And so that is what the stations sound like too.

I despair when I listen to commercial radio. The problem starts with you the client. You don’t take radio seriously. You’re not willing to pay for better written, better recorded commercials. You settle for a boring description of your products and insist on the phone number at the end.

As in all fields of life, you get what you pay for and without taking risks you never achieve success.

All right maybe you’re not the actual client. Your boss is or the marketing manager. But you know exactly the kind of ads I’m describing here. By now they are such audio wallpaper that maybe you don’t even notice them any more.

As the TV commercials keep reminding you, we have just entered an era of digital radio. I’m not really sure how different that is from stereo FM but we are promised a new and better listening experience.

Listening to what? Twenty year old pop songs and hysterical spruikers?

The industry is concerned that the public is showing a lack of interest in upgrading their radios to all the new digital sets now on offer. If you’ve been reading the blogs, most of the comments say “why bother?” Especially when the cheapest sets seem to be priced over $150.

Instead of taking off, this duck could end up as dead as stereo AM. But don’t blame the listeners. Until the stations — and the advertisers — lift their game, radio will continue to wallow in the marshes.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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