Fairfax’s poorly-performing Sydney radio station 2UE has chosen former Australian Idol judge Ian Dickson and a relatively unknown news reporter to take on 2GB Breakfast king Alan Jones this year.
2UE programming bosses were struggling to find a presenter to co-host Breakfast with Dickson after plans to draft Channel Ten Breakfast host Kathryn Robinson fell through. The station trialled several presenters with Dickson last weekend including newsreader Sarah Morice, who got the gig, and rugby league broadcaster Andrew Voss. The 29-year old Morice, who began at 2UE as a researcher before working in the newsroom, won the Brian White Memorial award at last year’s Australian Commercial Radio Awards.
“It’s been bloody chaos,” one 2UE insider said this morning before the announcement. “I’ve never heard of on-air auditions for a breakfast host a week before the show’s due to go to air. It’s extraordinary.” Another 2UE staffer said the cash-strapped station — which is trying to adopt a younger, less polemical FM-style tone in 2013 — was being run like a “circus”. “They are trying to make cuts and do something different with the station at the same time,” the staffer said. “They are pulling in different directions. They’ve had all kinds of wild ideas about who to hire but they don’t have the money.”
There is also disquiet at the station leaving longtime presenter and former Channel Ten sports-reader Tim Webster, who had a tumour removed from his lungs in September, in limbo. “A lot of people feel very sorry for him,” a staffer said. “He’s an icon and he’s been around for 100 years. And you don’t treat people who’ve been around for many years like that.”
Others at 2UE are more positive, saying management had to try something different. The most recent reinvention strategy — which saw firebrand conservatives Jason Morrison, David Oldfield and Michael Smith installed in key slots — failed miserably. The final ratings survey for 2012 showed 2UE with a 4.3% overall share of the Sydney radio market compared to 15.2% for 2GB which is home to Alan Jones and Ray Hadley.
Paul Murray, who will host the mornings slot live from The Sydney Morning Herald newsroom, is seen as a favourite among management and will be crucial to the station’s success.
Former Triple M presenter Brian “The Spoonman” Carlton has been hired to produce Jason Morrison’s Drive-time slot. Morrison was dumped from the breakfast slot after poor ratings and is said to be extremely unhappy about developments.
There is also unhappiness that the 2013 lineup — which features Murray, Morrison, Stuart Bocking and John Stanley — continues to be a “middle-aged Anglo-Saxon male fest” in the words of one female staffer.