I’m almost certainly going to be howled down for this post…I can see the usual suspects dismissing me as a fanboy already, but hear me out because there is actually some substance to this.
This year, from the perspective of somebody like me who happens to like the two commercial AM radio stations in this town and takes note of what frequency various radios are tuned to, has been fairly disappointing. Apart from my own, I’ve struggled to find a radio which isn’t tuned to an FM commercial station. I’m not sure where all of the 666 ABC Canberra listeners are though, because I’ve barely spotted any of them.
The last month of so has seen a rather interesting turnaround though. Mix 106.3 lost Mark Parton, one of their rather popular breakfast hosts (the rumours have been flying about that ever since then). It’s fair to say that Mark had a unique style…he was never my cup of tea but a lot of people liked him, and his replacement, FM 104.7 presenter Cam Sullings, is a very different presenter. The two stations, despite a few similarities, really attract two rather different and mostly incompatible demographics…replacing Parton with Sullings has had a predictably mixed reaction from the audience, sending some in search of something else. Some of those listeners will be back simply because they like the rest of the station’s format, but others who desperately dislike Sullings won’t be back…and if they dislike Sullings then they’re not likely to enjoy FM 104.7, which doesn’t leave them with a lot of other possibilities. In music radio it leaves them with 2CA and a couple community stations who want to emulate a lot of Mix’s format.
In the short term Mix aren’t likely to gain as many listeners as they lose due to the breakfast change, mainly due to the fact that people who are listening to other breakfast shows don’t have any incentive to change. In the long term the changes at Mix may work well for them, but in the short term, with a survey period only a couple weeks away, the timing isn’t great.
In my opinion, if any station is likely to gain from Mix’s change of breakfast lineup, it’s 2CA as they have the closest music format to Mix 106.3 of any Canberra station, although where listeners end up will depend on their individual music tastes and not which station has the closest match.
Moving on to a few practical examples. In recent weeks I have spent more time in other peoples’ vehicles (be they private or public) than I have done in a very long time. With the exception of one bus driver who was listening to ABC NewsRadio, another who was listening to FM 104.7 and one who didn’t like the radio at all, all of the bus drivers (the number in this category would be close to twelve) have been listening to 2CA and 2CC. I’ve noted that the Steve Price Morning Show on 2CC is particularly popular among Canberra’s bus drivers, and it seems to be difficult to catch a bus between 9am and midday and not hear Price’s voice emanating from a speaker.
I also never thought I’d see the day (I was going to use the phrase “live to see the day”, but given recent posts on this blog, it may convey the wrong message) when people on The RiotACT would write about how much they enjoy listening to 2CC’s breakfast host Mike Jeffreys, and how 2CA’s playlist is enjoyable. (See the comments on http://the-riotact.com/?p=7932 , http://the-riotact.com/?p=7831  and http://the-riotact.com/?p=7849 ). I was also surprised to see a YouTube video of a 2CC program end up on The RiotACT . For such a long time RiotACT has had a habit of attracting an awful lot of 666 ABC Canberra listeners…perhaps that’s the real reason for former (and now once again) RiotACT editor Johnboy returning to Canberra and the site, he wants to steer them all back to the ABC.
Another example of good signs for the commercial AM stations in Dickson Seafoods, (not surprisingly, a seafood shop in Dickson). For as long as I’ve been frequenting there (late 2004) they have been a Mix 106.3 shop. Their radio has been virtually araldited to Mix 106.3. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I walked in and heard a voiceover from Ron E. Sparks informing me that I was listening to 1053 2CA. I didn’t probe the staff on why they changed station, but it did occur to me that, considering the number of students from Daramalan College and Dickson College who frequent the store, this change of station is a mini-coup for 2CA.
A few paragraphs ago I mentioned that the next radio ratings survey period is about to start. It runs from August 3 to August 30, which means that each calendar week of the survey period contains the Beijing Olympic Games. There are only two stations in Canberra with the broadcast rights to the Games, 2CC and 666 ABC Canberra. The news services of both stations (which also serve 2CA and the ABC network respectively) have access to the Olympic broadcast material, but the FM commercial stations are lumped with the usual onerous broadcast restrictions for non-rights-holders. Whilst they are allowed to report scores and results, they have to deal with some pretty hefty restrictions on what else they can broadcast.
2CC and the ABC on the other hand have full access to commentary and pretty much whatever else they want from the games, which will make their news services much more appealing, not to mention the fact that the stations will be the place people will turn to for coverage of the games in many vehicles and offices around the city. This survey will be skewed in the favour of 2CC (and 2CA to a lesser extent due to their access to news and being the only music station near an Olympic broadcaster on the dial) and the ABC, and because of the way radio ratings work in Canberra, that skewing in favour of 2CC, 2CA and the ABC will be “official” until at least February next year, probably later. When you consider that the ABC don’t accept advertising, the only people to truly benefit from the skewing of this survey are 2CC and 2CA, and that of course will be at the expense of Mix 106.3 and FM 104.7 who make up the rest of Canberra’s commercial radio market.
If 2CC and 2CA can not only retain listeners after the Beijing Olympics but also use the extra advertising revenue effectively, then the games could be precisely the lift they need to be a very strong and effective competition against Mix 106.3 and FM 104.7
The next few months in Canberra’s radio landscape could be very interesting indeed.