A senior executive at the Lachlan Murdoch-controlled Nova FM group has dismissed conflict of interest concerns after he shoehorned a UK boy band managed by his father onto high rotation.
The Wanted, a five-member teen pop outfit manufactured in 2009, are represented by Global Talent, a subsidiary of British radio behemoth Global Radio. Global’s executive president and programming director is Richard Park, the father of powerful Nova FM group programming director and former Capital managing director Paul Jackson.
Official AirCheck data obtained by Crikey shows that despite an initially-disappointing chart placing, the clean-cut popsters’ latest single, Glad You Came, has been thrashed hard on Nova’s eight Australian affiliates, with 1025 plays in the six weeks to September 21.
The boys have also received wall-to-wall promotional support with Pepsi spruiker-turned Nova announcer Dylan Lewis joining angelic frontman Max George on-stage with a piano accordion during a special visit two weeks ago. The band then fronted up to Nova’s boardroom to perform an intimate acoustic show for lucky competition winners.
Nova insiders say Jackson’s relentless pushing of Glad You Came, which features a falsetto intro that quickly bleeds into an underwhelming Ibiza-inspired rave-up, has met with heavy resistance.
“Every Nova station in the country was given a directive by Paul Jackson to add the song to across the board (24-hours-a-day) rotation…there has been saturation airplay on Nova for this band. They have even run contests on the air on Nova to meet the band,” the ex-staffer said. They say Glad You Came‘s path to glory was a slow burn with Jackson’s edict coming well before the track had cemented itself in the national consciousness.
But Jackson was having none of it when contacted by Crikey, saying he found the conflict of interest allegations “hilarious”.
“My job is to pick the hit records, which we’ve done time and time again,” he said.
Jackson said The Wanted had been the best-selling band in Britain and Europe for the last 12 months and that it wasn’t just Nova that had jumped on board — the band had also enjoyed a flogging from Channel Seven’s Sunrise and Channel V. Last week Austereo stations, led by Melbourne’s Fox and Sydney’s 2Day FM, also added the track after the initial Nova push.
Jackson admitted he championed the track (“that’s my job”) and that he was glad that he did because “the listeners love it”.”Thank you for highlighting that Nova is ahead of the game,” Jackson added.
It seems the father and son offensive has born fruit.
Yesterday, Glad You Came surged 16 places in the ARIA charts to number 20 and a similar move next week would secure a spot for the band among an anodyne top 10 dominated by French club king David Guetta.
Jackson’s dad has form syngergising The Wanted’s wan offerings among his media properties. As UK Daily Mirror gossip column 3am reported in October last year, fans of rival teen sensation Joe McElderry were outraged after Capital allegedly kept McElderry off the top of the UK charts in favour of their charges. According to one account, The Wanted were played 2148 times by Global stations in a 30-day period but the network refused to play McElderry at all.
Global Radio is the dominant radio company in the UK and owns the top three radio stations in the country — Heart, the Capital network and Classic FM alongside the “alternative” station Xfm. Its corporate website says its network boasts over 20 million listeners — about a third of Britain’s population.
Frank Verasso from leading media promotions and publicity company Verasso PR was reluctant to back the preferential treatment theory based on the family ties between Jackson and Park: “It may seem like a conflict of interest and it could be perceived that way but the song’s charting well; it’s a good song. Austereo added it last week so it’s not a fly-by-night thing.”
Verasso told Crikey that pop outfits are an increasing presence on Nova, despite the station’s initial concern with left-of-centre music that “sounds different” (the network’s Melbourne arm famously played The Avalanches’ Since I Left You as its inaugural track in 2001, in an apparent attempt to signal an edgy direction).
“Nova is now very much a pop station,” he said. “Since the departure of Hamish and Andy all of the radio networks have decided to take Austereo head on.”
A torturous Crikey morning survey of Melbourne’s Nova 100’s playlist appeared to confirm the change of tack. It showed that while no boy bands were featured, the new “fresh hits” approach was very much in evidence. Former N-Sync lead vocalist Justin Timberlake cropped up, as did three tracks by or featuring increasingly mainstream Scottish producer Calvin Harris. Just one Australian act — Rockhampton folksters Busby Marou — was played.
The Australian radio market is no stranger to allegations of favourable treatment owing to family bloodlines. Mushroom publishing mogul Michael Gudinski’s daughter Kate Alexa has been accused by rival poppets of making an outsized impact thanks to Gudinski’s famed industry connections.
Crikey contacted the producer of Alexa’s 2008 cover of Womack and Womack’s Teardrops, Molly Meldrum, but he declined to comment on the fracas.