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Radio predictions for 2014

Posted December 23rd, 2013 by debritz

As promised, here's my annual list of predictions for Brisbane radio.

It'll be a closely fought race for top position overall and in breakfast, with some failures along the way. More than one show won't make it to the end of the year in its initial form. It will be a year of further cutbacks, job losses and low tolerance for failure. (And, sadly, not much room for experimentation, meaning homogenisation on the mainstream music airwaves. This has already manifested itself nationally with ARN's hiring of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie Henderson, and the reformatting of Mix in Sydney to tackle 2Day an Nova head-on.).

I say with no pleasure but some confidence that 2014 is the year when reality really will begin to bite in the Australian media. While the free-spending days are long gone, many businesses are still spending beyond their means (or at levels that reflect better days). The advertising pie is being sliced more thinly and, despite efforts by industry bodies to spin it otherwise, traditional broadcast radio has lost, and will continue to lose, audiences to other media. It's not out of the question that one network will fail altogether. Despite the brave (some may say arrogant) face they present to the world, the networks know this, and that's why they are investing in online services and digital offerings that may help plug the gaps in their mainstream programming.

For the record, although I was initially enthusiastic about it, I have long believed that broadcast digital radio is a turkey. Its coverage is woeful -- I have friends living just 20 kilometres from the CBD who can't pick it up, making it unsuitable for commuters (even if there were receivers in their cars) -- and its content offering can't even begin to match what's available on the internet. Once new cars are wi-fi (LTE/4G) enabled, it'll be "Goodnight, nurse" for DAB+ in Australia (although digital will continue to be successful in th shortterm in more compact markets).

These predictions are based on the assumption that the new ratings methodology won't throw in too many surprises (and my inclination is that they won't, otherwise Commercial Radio Australia, whose jobs it is to support the status quo, wouldn't have signed up the new provider).

+ 612ABC's Spencer Howson will remain no.1 in breakfast at least for the first half of the survey, as the others sort themselves out. Across the board, 612's fate is linked to how well or how badly 4BC's complete makeover works. If BC flops, 612 will benefit. At the same time, with consistency on its side, the AM crown is Aunty's to lose.

+ It's going to be tough for 4BC to get where it wants to be. An almost-all-new line-up provides an opportunity to rebuild, but I suspect their retooling creates a void in the market rather than fills one. As much as I dislike it personally, right-wing, lowest-common-denominator talk radio is where it's at in the commercial world. Trying to be the "ABC with ads" may make some sort of sense for 2UE in Sydney (which can't hope to beat 2GB at its own game while Alan Jones and Ray Hadley are in place), but it's going to hard to build an audience with that format in Brisbane. As much as I admire Ian Skippen, I don't think he's the right person for breakfast. The station needs a strong, opinionated voice that will bring the listeners in and keep them glued to the station. I'd put Skip in the afternoon slot, where he could provide the post-lunch change of pace with consummate ease. I think Patrick Condren is the strongest of the new bunch recently signed by 4BC, and he's got a good chance of giving 612's Steve Austin a run for his money in the morning shift. Of course, everything could change if the long-mooted merger between Fairfax and Macquarie actually goes through in 2014.

+ The return of Ed Kavalee to the Brsbane airwaves is welcome news -- particularly since he'll actually be in Brisbane this time. But it raises two questions: Is Triple M the right station for his talent and skill set? Will there be enough chemistry between him and Greg "Marto" and Michelle Anderson? My inclination is to answer no on both counts, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. I'd have built a new show around Ed. He's an underrated talent who needs to work with people who are on the same page. (It's such a shame that Tony Martin is persona non grata at Southern Cross Austereo.)

+ Triple M's sister station B105 has a challenge on its hands. In the grand scheme of things, it's not doing too badly, but it's not the must-listen-to station that it used to be. At the time of writing, Southern Cross Austereo has chosen not to tinker with the breakfast show line-up, as doing so would almost certainly lead to an at-least-temporary ratings slump. However, given it is launching new breakfast shows on its Today stations in Sydney and Melbourne, it must have been tempted to do so as part of a network wide facelift. While it ain't really broken, it does need to be fixed. The real battle is with the music offering. The programming experts can say what they like, but many teenagers and young adults follow the songs rather than the on-air talent.

+ 97.3Fm runs the risk of falling victim to "friendly fire". The launch of Kiis 106.5 in Sydney will mean some further tinkering with the successful Brisbane format to accommodate a Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O "best-of" in the evenings, and Ryan Seacrest in the nights. They risk losing at least some of the female grocery shoppers coveted by advertisers, and that doesn't seem like a particularly wise move to me. Having said that, the breakfast show should remain strong if they don't change the music too much.

+ Nova 106.9 is looking good for a strong year, although changes behind the scenes -- especially the loss of foundation station manager Sean Ryan -- could be felt on air. My advice to the DMG bosses down south is to realise the uniqueness of the Brisbane market and to give the station some credit for succeeding as well as it has. Ash, Kip and Luttsy are likely to remain near or at the top of the commercial tree in breakfast. The loss of Brisbane favourite Meshel Laurie, who has moved from network drive to Melbourne breakfast, may be felt.

+ The fates of 4KQ and Magic 882 (formerly 4BH) are intertwined. If Magic gets a bit too contemporary with its music choices, KQ will reap the benefit. If KQ doesn't mind its knitting, Magic may steal the advantage.

+ The "dark horse" to watch is Triple J, which did very well in the Brisbane market at the time. I believe that the Js are batting above their average because of dissatisfaction with the mainstream FM music stations. As I said at the beginning, this brave new world of commercial radio leaves little room for experimentation. Playlists are conservative, and people who want to find new music are looking to Triple J and the internet.

Who needs courts?

Posted April 22nd, 2012 by debritz

This is from the ABC News website. Surely it's up to the court, not the headline writer, to decide whether the defendant, whose name appears in their story, torched a police car. Aunty also tweeted the headline, prompting one of its own employees, PM host Mark Colvin, to reply: "Allegedly".

Scott reveals Aunty's plans

Posted April 19th, 2012 by debritz

ABC managing director Mark Scott, in Brisbane to open the national broadcaster's new Queensland headquarters at South Bank, has revealed some of Aunty's plans for the digital future.

He told 612ABC breakfast announcer Spencer Howson that:

+ A new ABC app for Android phones would be released "within days";

+ An iView app for mobile platforms would be available soon, and that iView would eventually be available in HD, although delivery on the net was expensive for the broadcaster;

+ Aunty is lobbying government to extend digital radio coverage from beyond the major metro areas, although he conceded there was no great financial imperative for this as there was for the digital TV switchover;

You can hear the full interview here.

Video rewards the radio star

Posted April 18th, 2012 by debritz

As The Australian's Michael Bodey points out, we really shouldn't have been surprised that Hamish Blake won the Gold Logie.

Blake has successfully parlayed his success on radio, and in cyberspace, into Logies votes.

The problem, of course, is that while Blake is very popular -- and especially so with young people -- he has been ostensibly rewarded for his work on a television show that had low overall ratings but was a minor hit with its target demographic.

Developing Bodey's argument, it seems fair to say that the Logies have become not a measure of television popularity, but of overall popularity -- at least among those people who are prepared to go to the trouble of casting a vote.

How long, then, before the Logies -- or some new thing that will usurp their role -- become popular culture awards rather than TV awards?

The Gold Logie may, in the not-too-distant future, be awarded to the "most popular" person in all media, rather than just television.

Of course, as long as it relies on people who are motivated to vote, or are even aware that the award exists, it won't be a true indication of actual popularity.

But at least it will be a more honest reflection of the realities of media in the 21st century: that fame transcends platforms and that nobody is working in just one medium any more.

All-star effort

Posted April 17th, 2012 by debritz

I don't often share videos on this blog, but this is something else.

It's a promo for a Norwegian television talk show and it features a random array of blasts from the past, from Roger Moore to Harpo (Movie Star singer), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), Rikki Lake, Huey Lewis, David Faustino (Married with Children), Lou Ferrigno (the Hulk), John Nettles (Bergerac), Gorden Kaye ('Allo 'Allo), George Wendt (Norm in Cheers), Fab Morven (Milli Vanilli), Kathleen Turner, Daryl Hannah and many, many others.

My hat tips to for finding it.

Now, if only an Australian TV network could gather such a line-up ...

A job worth paying for

Posted April 4th, 2012 by debritz

My father, like his father, was a house painter. He wanted to be a teacher, but times were tough and he had to leave school at a young age to help support his family.

Still, he was a very wise man. He read widely in areas that interested him and he held strong opinions.

I remember him saying, about his own trade, that anyone could paint a house to suit himself, but not everyone could paint a house to the satisfaction of the people paying for it.

I'm a journalist, and I feel the same way about my own profession. Plenty of people can write but not everybody has the full set of skills a professional needs.

I think this approach to the craft is especially relevant at a time when the news media is desperately trying to reinvent itself in the digital age. In doing so, we must not forget our core skills.

When I tweet or blog about errors in spelling or syntax in media reports, I'm sometimes accused of being pedantic -- as if accuracy was no longer a prerequisite for the practice of journalism.

Recently, I've been having a minor rant on Twitter about journalists who misuse the word "allegedly". In news reports you will often hear or read about an "alleged robbery" when the reporter is referring to a robbery, pure and simple. What's alleged in the story is the identity of the person or persons who committed the crime.

If the court reporter and the sub-editor who handles his or her copy doesn't know how to use "allegedly" properly, then they don't know the law, they don't know the language, or they simply don't care. That is unacceptable.

I rail against people who confuse "deny" and "refute" -- words that have distinct meanings -- and those who believe there are degrees of uniqueness. Why? Because getting it wrong dilutes the power of the English language.

Oh, but language changes, I'm constantly told. Yes, but it should change to become more robust, not to become weaker. We should be adding words to the dictionary to make communication easier and more exact, not tweaking the meaning of existing words to the point where they lose potency and create confusion.

I'm by no means perfect. There are many errors on this blog, probably even in this post. But I'm working on my own here.

If professional news organisations can't leverage the huge resources and large staff they have to ensure that they get the basics right, how can they realistically hope to compete against the online aggregators and other cut-price operators?

The thing about being professional is that you do your job properly, you are acknowledged for it, and you get paid for it. Nobody's going to pay top dollar for a slap-dash paint job, and nobody should have to pay for consistently sloppy journalism.

When I point this out to other journalists, they say that budgets are tight and they can no longer afford the checks and balances that used to be put in place. I reckon that's a false economy that could ultimately lead to the demise of the established news media.

In the future, there'll be plenty of digital detritus but not a lot of solid, well-researched, well-written and well-edited journalism. What there is of any quality will be worth paying for, either directly or indirectly (through advertising).

It's my belief that, after a period of playing around with the amateurs, enough people will come back to the fold to make well-run professional news media organisations viable. But that's only if they are worth coming back to.

A matter of trust

Posted March 29th, 2012 by debritz

It's not a great time to be a journalist, with job opportunities shrinking on a daily basis. But it certainly is an excellent time to be in PR. Why? Because the chances of your media release getting wide and uncritical coverage are expanding by the minute.

You don't have to dig too deep on the internet to find bloggers who merrily and uncritically repeat media releases, usually without even acknowledging the source.

Some bloggers even go so far as to pretend they did their own research -- or, at least, they allow their readers to think so -- when all they are doing is parroting the PR.

What's worse is that this kind of thing is finding its way into mainstream media sites, where the work of untrained bloggers is being published alongside that of journalists but without the checks applied to staff-written copy.

I'm not at all promoting a "closed shop" mentality. I believe everybody is entitled to their view, and I'm happy that the internet, especially the advent of social media, makes that possible.

However, I think the readers of professional media websites are entitled to know the credentials of the person whose work they are reading. And I think the editors of these sites need to be vigilant, because the expedience of using free copy from enthusiastic amateurs could blow up in their faces.

One thing that separates the professional media from the amateurs is the integrity of the product presented to the public. If what's published online doesn't meet the high standards applied to the print or broadcast media, the proprietors expose themselves to potential legal issues.

They also risk a loss of the public trust that is their competitive advantage.

The Shire's no Shore thing

Posted March 17th, 2012 by debritz

Australia's Ten Network is reportedly working on a new "reality" series to be called The Shire.

The word is that Ten is expecting the show -- about a group of people living in Cronulla, a beachside suburb south of Sydney -- to be Australia's answer to the US phenomenon Jersey Shore and the British hit The Only Way is Essex.

Not that anyone in televisionland is going to listen to me, but I would urge caution. Remember, Nine thought Excess Baggage would be a huge hit, too.

There are a lot of potential pitfalls with this kind of programming, and one of them is beating your chest too loudly when they are launched.

The days when people will watch a show based purely on the station's own promotional efforts are long, long gone. It takes positive word of mouth, and -- especially with shows targetted to a young audience -- a lot of genuine internet buzz before a show will become a hit.

If anything, overzealous promotion will turn potential viewers off (as I believe it did with Excess Baggage).

The fact that the formula has worked elsewhere counts for very little. Success or otherwise will depend on casting, production values, scheduling and a lot of luck.

The Shire may well be the next big thing and, given the lacklustre performance of many of its other shows this year, I'm sure Ten has a lot riding on it.

To be honest, I'm hoping it isn't a hit. Why? Because it means we'll have another bunch of oxygen-sucking pseudo-celebrities clogging up media coverage that could be devoted to actual achievers.

Given the backlash The Circle's Yumi Stynes and George Negus received over their comments about Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts Smith, maybe Ten should be making a real "reality" show about people who've done something to benefit others.

Sharing the fame

Posted March 9th, 2012 by debritz

It began as a simple question posed on Twitter and Facebook:

Brisbane: Tonight we unveil another statue to a footballer. Have we honoured any great scientists, artists or peacemakers in bronze lately?

Now, I'd like to follow it up. First, by saying that I have no objection at all the rugby league lovers honouring Darren Lockyer for his achievements in the game. Or, for that matter, our publicity-hungry politicians trying to get in on the act. I just wish they'd cheerlead for some other great achievers more often.

What I am saying, though, is that there are plenty of other Queenslanders, living and dead, who deserve public recogniition for their achievements in their fields, and not all of them are getting it.

I know there are many in the fields of science and politics, and the military, but I'm going to restrict this argument to the arts, which is my major field of interest.

A few years ago, I supported a move to get a theatre named after Alan Edwards, the founding artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company. So far, he has received no public recognition, even though, arguably, without his influence the international careers of hundreds of actors and other professionals, including Geoffrey Rush, Bille Brown and Carol Burns, may not have taken off.

I'm going to present a list now, and this is mainly from the top of my head and a quick internet search, so I'm sure to have missed some very important names. I reserve the right to amend it. I also acknowledge that some of them have already received statues or other recognition, but many of them have not.

I also not that there's an emphasis on people who are or have been widely known outside of Australia, and that I've omitted some younger people, such as authors Nick Earls and John Birmingham, writer-actors Adam Zwar and Jason Gann, and comedian Josh Thomas, who are (in my opinion) likely to go on to greater success.

Actors Geoffrey Rush, Ray Barrett, Diane Cilento, Barry Otto, Bille Brown, Carol Burns and Barry Creyton all have of have had international profiles. Other notables include Sigrid Thornton and Leonard Teale,.

Writers include Thea Astley, David Malouf, Judith Wright, Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

In popular music, there are The Saints, The Go-Betweens, Powderfinger and Savage Garden, and in opera we have Donald Shanks and Lisa Gasteen.

There are many famous Queensland dancers including Garth Welch and Leanne Benjamin.

Making a meal of it

Posted March 6th, 2012 by debritz

Yesterday, after I posted this item about the state of television in Australia, I received a direct message from somebody who works in the industry.

Noting that "fatal decay" in broadcast television began years ago, my correspondent added: "Who wouldn't rather order from a menu?"

The food analogy is a useful one, but I'd employ it differently. I'd say, who would want to choose from a limited menu when there's a whole smorgasbord to be enjoyed? Oh, and not everybody wants to eat at the same time, and no matter how good the chef is, we don't always want to eat at the same restaurant.

This is why, even with the greater flexibility offered by having extra digital channels, free-to-air television can't compete with pay-TV, let alone the internet.

Online, you can get anything you want exactly when you want it. The only problem is that it's not legal in Australia yet. But, as with music file-sharing, that can't be far away, because the people who make the product, quite reasonably, want to get paid when people consume it.

In reply to the message, I said that, even though it was apparent to people inside the station bunkers, it didn't appear that the television networks were doing enough to cope with this revolution.

Yesterday, I finished up by writing that My Kitchen Rules "is a step in the right direction, because it's popular, original content that the Seven Network can exploit in other media".

Another, perhaps better, example is Home And Away, the Australian soap opera that regularly attracts more than 1 million viewers at home and millions more in overseas markets. It feeds Seven's own schedule, and will be making money for its producers well into the future, through repeats.

At the moment, network production resources are largely devoted to news and current affairs. That's a good thing for short-term ratings results but, in general, these programs have a very short "tail". There's an immediate ratings return, that is rewarded by increased income from advertising, but there are no ongoing payments for repeats (except for sales of library material).

To survive, networks simply must focus on being production houses first, and broadcasters second. If they are not out there seeking fresh talent -- starting with writers who can produce great scripts -- and prepared to take a punt on drama and comedy, then they are signing their own death warrants.

The elephant in the room

Posted March 5th, 2012 by debritz

If you've been following this blog, or you've heard me speak on radio, or you follow me in social media, you'll already know my stock response whenever anybody tells me how a television program attracted a large audience.

Other person: "My Kitchen Rules had two million viewers last night."

Me: "Well, that's 20 million people who didn't watch it, then."

Now, I'm not dissing MKR, or the rugby league, or whatever else it is that Australians want to watch in great numbers. What I am saying, however, is that when, on an average night, fewer than two million people in the country's five biggest cities are watching the same program -- and, importantly, the same ads -- at the same time, can it really be referred to as "mass media" any more?

Take a look at the excellent research by popular culture historian David Dale.

According to Dale, at least three programs in the history of television have been watched by more than half the Australian population. They were all special events: the wedding and funeral of Diana Spencer and the 2000 Olympics opening ceremony. Now that's a mass audience.

But amid these one-offs, and a swag of hit movies and miniseries, you have to run your finger a long way down the list to find a regularly scheduled program that has captivated anything like a genuinely huge audience slice. And, as the years go on, fewer and fewer people are consuming the same thing at the same time.

So far this year, the top-rating show has been MKR, which has been watched by about one in 10 Australians. Of course, they are the same people night after night. From an advertiser's perspective, it's a matter of reinforcing a message to those people over and over again, but not reaching anybody new.

The figures are nothing to sneeze at, and television remains the biggest show in town for now. But while the number of eyeballs and ears glued to the goggle box is getting smaller and smaller, things are rather different on the internet. The growth is all online.

The internet is a wild and strange place, and advertisers and their bookers are rightly wary of it. Most importantly, rather than a choice of a dozen or so channels, there are hundreds of millions of websites.

However, some sites are cutting through big time. How can you ignore this burgeoning medium when one of the biggest players, News Limited, claims it alone attracts about 7.7 million unique viewers to its sites every month?

Now, there are big difference between banner ads (or even splash ads and video) on the internet and TV commercials, but the former do have some significant advantages.

While it is possible to block ads on a website, most people don't, and indeed can't, do it. They do see web ads (and, increasingly, hear them), but they can and often do choose not to see television ads (via time-shifting, or by changing channels, or by simply leaving the room for a few minutes).

Like newspaper ads, web ads are always there for most of the audience. Unlike newspaper ads, they can be directly targetted to the particular person viewing the page, thanks to technology that stores our personal information on our computers and, increasingly, in the cloud.

I can, and almost certainly will, write more on this subject, but the simple point I'm trying to make now is that the TV networks, and other "traditional' media for that matter, can't afford to ignore the elephant in the room. They have to ramp-up their own online offerings if they are to stay in the game.

And they have to realise that their competitors are not just the other television networks. Everybody with a web page is now a potential broadcaster, and television sets are not the only (or even major) means by which people tune-in.

At least, a program like MKR is a step in the right direction, because it's popular, original content that the Seven Network can exploit in other media. Other networks are relying on sport -- to which they have only the telecast rights (which they risk losing) rather than actual control -- and imported programs which audiences can access through other means.

New ratings system trialled

Posted January 31st, 2012 by debritz

Commercial Radio Australia has announced changes to the way radio ratings will be gathered and compiled this year.

According to a CAR media release, "The radio industry will start a trial of online data collection for the radio ratings, closely followed by the introduction of a world-first application for tablets and mobile phones, which will allow people to input their listening habits via these devices."

The release said the "innovative approaches" were implemented as a result of recommendations put forward by the its research committee which "has been investigating best practice for listenership audience measurement in a changing digital environment".

“Australian radio has one of the most robust listenership measurement systems in the world but that doesn’t stop us investigating ways to improve it further,” CRA chief executive Joan Warner said. “It also should be remembered that one of radio’s major strengths, its mobility and reach into all situations, conversely provides one of the major challenges for radio audience measurement.”

“Research company, Ipsos, will commence a trial of online data collection in March which will be a supplementary measure to the existing diary system, This will be followed by a world first development of an which will allow people to fill in ratings information on tablet devices and mobile phones, which the industry believes will be a unique step forward and one that we are sure will be welcomed by the advertising industry.”

Ms Warner said the first phase of online data collection would begin in Sydney, with a group of 300 people able to enter their radio listening habits online.

The CRA release said the current tender for the radio ratings, held by Neilsen, would expire at the end of next year, and tenders would be called later this year for 2014, "with proposals for online and mobile applications to supplement the paper diaries, to be part of the process".

Comment: I have long said Australia needs a new means of compiling radio ratings. Perhaps this a step in the right direction but it appears to be flawed because it still requires people to fill in their own data. Only when technology can passively record exactly what people are listening to* -- rather than what they say they are or were listening to -- and the survey includes all their listening options -- including community stations and others not currently included in the survey -- can it truly claim any accuracy and authority. This is what advertisers should be pushing for. BD

* In her release, Ms Warner noted that CRA was monitoring developments in this field but "no other electronic device has proved to be reliable enough in terms of data collection to warrant further testing".

Whatever the weather

Posted January 29th, 2012 by debritz

Dear Weather Bureau,

First of all, I would like to genuinely and sincerely thank you for all your hard work in times of disaster, when your skill, your radars and your other technology have warned us of weather emergencies. Without doubt, you have saved countless lives over the years, and you have prevented a great deal of property damage by warning people of violent weather events. Along with many others, I truly value that aspect of your work.

However, isn't it about time you acknowledged that all your training, and your technology, simply does not equip you to predict anything other than an imminent threat?

I know I am not alone in saying that I am sick of seeing "seven-day forecasts" on the TV news, online and in newspapers, that are wildly inaccurate.

Please, can somebody from the Bureau of Meteorology make a clear statement that, by and large, the weather is unpredictable.

End of a (brief) era

Posted January 24th, 2012 by debritz

The webcam at the 612 ABC Brisbane's temporary studio in Lissner Street, Toowong, has captured images of its own demise. This series of snapshots appears to culminate with a worker reaching towards the camera to take it down:

612 ABC staff, who have been at Lissner Street for five years, are moving into the new purpose-built State ABC headquarters in South Bank this week.

First to air from the new permanent studio overlooking the Brisbane River will be breakfast host Spencer Howson on Friday morning. Howson will broadcast from the ABC's Sunshine Coast studios on Wednesday morning, and take Australia Day off.

Ahoy there! Meet the pirates

Posted January 19th, 2012 by debritz

Taking something that isn't yours is illegal. We all know that; we learn it from a very young age. But not one of us isn't guilty of theft in some form or another, be it by accidentally taking home a pen that belongs to your employer or downloading a movie or television program from the internet.

It's the latter case that's been causing a stir recently, in the context of American "anti-piracy" legislation.

But why do people download content from the internet when they know it's illegal? I have no doubt that for many people it's simply because they can, and they figure that there's no point in paying for something you can get for free.

But what if you went to a shop and there was no checkout counter, or no staff to take your money? Would you do? Return the goods to the shelf, or take them anyway, reasoning that you had tried to pay for them but couldn't?

When I lived in Thailand, there were certain western TV programs I wanted to watch but simply could not obtain by any legal, paid means. Sure I could buy any movie I wanted from the stalls operating openly along Sukhumvit and Silom roads -- including titles that hadn't even screened at cinemas yet -- but they were all pirated anyway. So while I would have paid, none of my money would have gone to the creators of the product.

My other option would have been to download shows from the internet -- cutting out the middle man. That's something I would have gladly paid to do, just as I have gladly paid for songs over iTunes. But there was, and still is, no legal means of me doing so, in Thailand or in many other countries -- largley because of the deals the content makers have made with broadcasters and exhibitors.

I could have easily rationalised any act of 'piracy', especially since most of the shows I wanted to see are screened in Australia on the ABC, which is funded by the Australian taxpayer -- and that's a group that's included me for a very long time.

My point is that this is not a black-and-white issue. The only real first step to eradicating or minimising piracy is to make paid content available globally, directly and on-demand to those who want it.

Gone ... and forgotten

Posted December 17th, 2011 by debritz

Spot the difference. From the same page within minutes:

Light fantastic

Posted December 9th, 2011 by debritz

Lighthouses come under the, er, spotlight in a new project by the ABC's cross-media journalists.

According to an ABC media release, travellers can download audio tours from the website, then take them to the sites of popular lighthouses and enjoy the hidden stories about the people that lived and worked there and the coast around them.

The statement says:

Lighthouses are a popular destination during the holiday season and there are plenty of iconic sites to choose from, dotted along Australia’s vast coastline.

From Rottnest Island on the west coast to Cape Byron on the east coast, there are audio tours available for many lighthouses across the nation.

Clancy McDowell, state editor (WA), said the initiative aims to enrich the experience and build the knowledge of those visiting our lighthouses.

“Many of Australia’s lighthouses were built in stunning locations and each boasts their own piece of history. Our new website and audio tours aim to share the hidden stories behind these functional yet very romantic buildings.”

The audio tours will also also be downloaded for free at iTunes.

It's all here.

Don't stop the presses

Posted December 1st, 2011 by debritz

The controversial Civil Union legislation passed through Queensland State Parliament at 11.10pm yesterday.

So, you'd expect it would be all over the capital's only daily newspaper this morning. Um, well, no - at least not in the home-delivered editions received by people I know who live as close as 4km to the Brisbane CBD, and surely no more than 15km from the paper's presses.

The story in the edition I saw said - on page 9 - that gay couples (and the rest of us, presumably) would "know this morning" if the bill had passed.

When I worked for the now-defunct Daily Sun, the deadline for the final edition was 1.30am on the day of publication - and for a big story, it could be pushed even further. Interestingly, even back then a colleague noted that every time new technology was introduced - such as the conversion from hot metal presses to "cold type" - the deadlines moved earlier, not later as you might expect.

P.S. You can read about the passage of the bill here and here.

Catholic tastes?

Posted November 25th, 2011 by debritz

Update: Email received from ACU on Monday, November 28: "ACU pulled its advertising from the Kyle and Jackie O Show last week."

A screenshot from the 2DayFM website. Exactly how does this align with the values of the advertiser, the Australian Catholic University? Oh, and today is White Ribbon Day - presumably 2Day star Kyle Sandilands will take the opportunity to "hunt down" a "fat slag" journalist.

I have contacted the ACU media office for comment. (See update above.)

The real Big Harto bows out

Posted November 9th, 2011 by debritz

I couldn't let today's resignation of News Ltd CEO and chairman John Hartigan go by without comment.

Harto, as he was universally known to everyone who worked for and with him, gave me my break in metropolitan newspapers by hiring me as one of the foundation staff of the now-closed Daily Sun newspaper in Brisbane.

He and the brilliant team he assembled - many of whom rose to great heights in News and elsewhere - taught me much of what I know about the media (but don't blame them for my failings).

Harto is a great networker, and he exudes great charm. It's difficult not to like the man - even those who have had battles with him concede that point.

Although one of the inside jokes at News Ltd is that everybody is called "Mate", one of Harto's great talents is remembering names and faces, even as the years go by. Whenever he walked into the Queensland Newspapers office, he'd remember everybody he had worked with by name and he would always find time for a chat with the workers on the "shop floor".

The last time I saw him was at a Daily Sun reunion four years ago, where he was especially generous with his time and his words.

While not everybody was a committed fan, many a glass will be raised as a toast to Harto tonight and on November 30 when he steps down.

According to online reports (here and here), Harto will be replaced by Foxtel's Kim Williams as News CEO and by Rupert Murdoch as chairman. Richard Freudenstein will take over at Foxtel.

In a message to staff, Mr Murdoch said : “John’s decision will end a distinguished 41 year career with News in which he has given us exemplary service and incredible leadership.

“John was an outstanding reporter, an editor with few peers and has been an inspiring executive, initially as Group Editorial Director and, later, as Chief Executive for 11 years and Chairman and Chief Executive for the past six.

“Few people have contributed as much as John to the quality of journalism in Australia. He has earned enormous respect among both colleagues and competitors.”

Not in it for the money

Posted November 8th, 2011 by debritz

I know times are tough, but I wouldn't exactly be trusting advice from smebody paid just $45:

Missed it by that much

Posted October 30th, 2011 by debritz

There's no doubt that the grounding of the Qantas fleet was the big Australian news story of the day on Saturday.

What a pity then for Brisbane viewers who switched on the Channel Ten news at 5pm AEST - an hour after Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made his dramatic announcement at 5pm AEDT - to find it was led by a soft story about the Queen enjoying a barbecue in Perth and jetting off back to the UK.

Of course, Ten's weekend news no longer comes from the Brisbane studio but from Down South, and it's on a one-hour delay. In the breaking news cycle, 60 minutes can be forever.

Surely Ten should have the ability to do a fresh bulletin for the Queensland market when events dictate. (I remember Ellen Fanning, the former ABC Radio AM host, telling me many years ago that they'd sometimes do three versions of the program for different markets during daylight saving.)

It wasn't a great day all round for Ten, with political reporter Hugh Riminton sending out this tweet:

Such a shame that @alanjoyce is not Alan Joyce the Qantas CEO but a self-described "technophile" from Stanford, California. At least the American Joyce enjoyed all the attention, as his tweet today made clear:

He also tweeted: "I'm no more CEO of Qantas than @willsmith is a famous movie acto.r"

PS: It's worth pointing out, even if it's just for Hugh Riminton's sake, that @alanjoyceCEO isn't the Qantas boss either; it's a parody account (like @andrewbolt).

Update: A tweeter has pointed out that ABC TV's Insiders program is on delay in Queensland this morning (Sunday), when it should really be live on such a big news day.

Update 2: I wonder if Nine's Today Show and Seven's Sunrise will be shown live in Queensland during the Qantas dispute ...

Update 3: Riminton has his say.

Computer says No

Posted October 29th, 2011 by debritz

As online gamblers are probably already aware, the Queensland Golden Casket website is now a subsidiary site of, which also offers horse-racing and other sports betting.

While there are now more gaming opportunities than ever, something is missing. It's now no longer possible to buy a $2 Casket ticket online.

While you can still get an old-fashioned Casket ticket at a newsagency, this may well be the beginning of the end for this Queensland institution.

Who'll listen to the radio?

Posted October 14th, 2011 by debritz

"To those who say, that the radio over the internet will overtake broadcast radio I have just one thing to say – it won’t!"

So, according to, Commercial Radio Australia chair and DMG boss Cathy O'Connor told the National Radio Conference on the Gold Coast.

O'Connor went on to qualify her statement:

“The fact is there is not, and is unlikely to be in our lifetimes, enough bandwidth for reliable, robust, good quality services that can do what broadcast can do. That is – effectively communicate simultaneously, free to air and dependably to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people, anywhere, anytime.”

Now, I think Ms O'Connor is being overly optimistic in trying to predict advances (or lack of advances) in technology that didn't even exist less than a generation ago. I think it entirely probable that internet radio will match and exceed the abilities of broadcast radio within my lifetime.

What that will mean is increased competition - perhaps unfairly, from players who didn't have to invest in broadcast licences - but that should be seen as an opportunity rather than an insurmountable challenge.

What won't change is that good broadcasting will triumph over bad. Everyone in radio - and in the media as a whole - should be concentrating on producing quality, targetted content for a wide range of audiences, and let the means of delivery sort itself out.

Spot the difference

Posted October 3rd, 2011 by debritz

ABC News is carrying different headlines for the same story: one on its main website and the other on the mobile version.

The first heading is, of course, a correct reference to the long-running British soap opera, set in Manchester; the second appears to refer to the Brisbane road where the ABC News online office is located.

Perhaps Aunty is planning its own in-house soapie.

What's in a name?

Posted September 30th, 2011 by debritz

From the Facebook fan page for the Joe Jackson Band (fronted by the man who wrote Is She Really Going Out With Him, Steppin' Out, Sunday Papers, Real Men and dozens of other brilliant songs):

Okay.....the below is an email I received yesterday from one of the seemingly countless number of people who think that OUR Joe Jackson is the OTHER Joe Jackson.....keep in mind they need to go to Joe's site to send me email....meaning they see the very English, very white Joe and somehow still think they're reaching Michael's father....

"Your treatment of Michael and the rest of the family was terrible! It is no wonder Michael is no longer with us. You should be ashamed. You were a terrible father to have done what you did. Shame! Shame! Shame! "

PS: I suppose they could have thought he was this Joe Jackson.

PPS: Joe's real name is David Ian Jackson.

PPPS: Here's something you may not have seen or heard before.

As recommended by ...

Posted September 5th, 2011 by debritz

Today is David "Luttsy" Lutteral's birthday. Next week, he and his old pal Ash Bradnam will be returning to the airwaves on Nova 106.9 as breakfast hosts alongside former B105 star Camilla Severi. Reason enough, I reckon, for me to revive this old video of Ash and Luttsy endorsing this blog:

Cool on Camilla

Posted August 30th, 2011 by debritz

In reference to my post here, here are some of the comments on the Nova 106.9 website regarding their new breakfast star, Camilla Severi:

What the public wants

Posted August 30th, 2011 by debritz

One of the first things I learned in newspapers is that an editor should not pay an undue amount of attention to the content of letters to the editor. Mostly, I was told (and later discovered for myself), they were written by the same people grinding the same axes, and they were in no way indicative of the consensus of the general (or targetted) public.

The fact though was that, if you wrote to the newspaper enough, the chances were that you'd get published often and you'd have a disproportionate say. The same is true of callers to talk radio - ring in a lot and, especially if you're provocative or a bit simple (so they can poke fun of you), or it's a slow time of day, you'll get to air. Now, the same is true in the online world - post a lot of comments and no matter how awful, inane or inflammatory they are, they will appear.

However, letters to the editor are almost always read carefully and edited by professional journalists who understand the laws of defamation, contempt of court and sub-judice, and have a fairly well-honed sense of what is appropriate and fair, and what isn't. Many papers also go to the effort of confirming the true identity of the writer.

On radio, producers vet callers before they go to air, and "live" broadcasts are on a 5-to-7-second delay, meaning the announcer or panel operator can press a "kill" button if things get out of hand and the offending words won't be heard by the listeners.

But, as I noted on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, it seems that some media websites are not paying enough attention to the comments being posted on their websites. I wrote this in regard to Sydney's 2UE, which was still publishing comments referring to allegations about Prime Minister Julia Gillard which The Australian newspaper had already acknowledged were false.

I asked: Where was the moderator? To my mind, many of the comments on that issue, and many other issues, should have been edited or not published at all. It's got nothing to do with my political views, it's the simple fact that if any media site publishes a defamatory remark and it does get sued, it will only have itself to blame.

Meanwhile, over at the Nova 106.9 website, a potentially more dangerous game was (and, as I write, still is) being played. They were running a Twitter feed displaying any tweets using a particular hashtag, plus Facebook comments from a fan page, about their new breakfast show. I'm assuming the process is completely automated, which may be cheap but it is in no way in the station's own interests.

As it's turned out so far, it's meant that Nova has been "publishing" some rather unflattering and potentially hurtful comments about its own new breakfast star, Camilla Severi. I feel sorry for her but I'm also tempted to say, good on Nova for allowing people to express their views freely, even if they are at odds with the company's own commercial aims.

Presumably Nova's research indicates that the comments are wrong, and the new show will be a success. Maybe they think any publicity is good publicity. (However, I'm sure if somebody rang in and started bagging the station or its stars, they'd be "killed" pretty quickly.)

But there's a more serious issue here than simple abuse: what if somebody were to tweet an extremely defamatory or racially offensive remark using the Nova-nominated hashtag and it ended up on the company's website for a sustained period of time? What if somebody sued? Who would be responsible: the author (if they could be identified) or the publisher?

Surely a test case on this issue is not far away.

PS: I've posted some of the comments here.


Posted August 25th, 2011 by debritz

From ninemsn:

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