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The MTR cutbacks reach critical mass

December 14th, 2011 at 10:11am

A month or so back the rumours of impending cutbacks at Melbourne’s newest talkback radio station MTR1377 started to come true when overnight news bulletins started to be relayed from 2GB in Sydney rather than being locally produced. Local night programming was also dropped in favour of a straight relay from 2GB with local commercials. It all seemed to be happening slowly, and with Program Director and Breakfast host Steve Price adamant that rumours of the station’s local programs’ impending demise were false, it was hard to escape the conclusion that Steve Price had some hand in preventing Macquarie Radio executives from wielding the axe.

It came as no surprise yesterday then, now that Steve Price is on holidays, when it was announced that the entire news room at MTR has been sacked, and little surprise today when it was revealed that Steve Vizard’s morning show will be axed when Vizard goes on holidays at the end of the week, to be replaced by 2GB’s Ray Hadley Morning Show. As Jock’s Journal reports:

A close source has revealed that Steve Vizard will be finishing up at MTR 1377 on Friday. The only live shows from Melbourne on MTR will be breakfast and drive, everything else will come out of Sydney. Most of the newsroom staff who were made redundant have already moved on to new jobs. Melissa Polimeni, Allison Wallace and Matt Thompson have been hired by SEN, who will now provide their own news service. Ashleigh Brown had already quit and is starting at 3AW in January. No word on the future moves of Christie Kerr or Ben Radisich.

It should be noted that Christie Kerr was still on the air on MTR this morning, although the sound quality was different to yesterday, almost as if she was working in a different studio or pre-recording her appearances.

It is interesting that SEN, the Pacific Star owned and operated station, has hired some of the journalists from MTR, the Pacific Star & Macquarie Radio joint venture station. MTR is likely to get the long-promised upgrade to its transmitter that Macquarie have long-claimed will make the station more profitable (or perhaps “less unprofitable” would be the right terminology) and so I have to wonder if MTR will at some stage run a small local news bulletin before or after 2GB’s news, utilising the resources of the SEN newsroom?

At the moment there is no word about the future of MTR’s weekend afternoon program with Glenn Ridge. I would be a tad surprised if it gets axed as 2GB’s weekend afternoon programming, not so much in summer but especially in winter, is very NRL-centric and MTR currently provides an alternative to the AFL on almost every other talk station in Melbourne. It might be an idea for MTR to carry NRL matches from 2GB as SEN is busy with AFL at that time, but the hours of NRL discussion would be too much for Melbourne.

What I do hope is that with the cost cutting now, once the transmitter upgrades have been completed, Macquarie and Pacific Star are willing to give MTR another shot with Melbourne-based programming, during the day at least. Taking Ray Hadley’s morning show would be preferable to taking Chris Smith’s afternoon show as Hadley’s show is the stronger news-based program in my view and would provide a decent alternative to Neil Mitchell on 3AW, plus Hadley’s show ends at 11am on network stations and MTR could easily run a locally-based show from 11am (or 12 if they decided to carry Alan Jones Highlights at 11). The afternoon is probably a better time for a local show than the morning, especially if you’re trying to carve out a point of difference to 3AW who have a very strong local morning show and a not-so-strong and not-particularly-newsy afternoon program.

It is sad to see MTR go through this, and I do have to wonder what Steve Price thinks about these changes being made while he is away, but I do hope that at the end of the process, MTR can return with a refined product which might be more competitive in the Melbourne market. They won’t beat 3AW any time soon, but they might at least be able to gain a few ratings points and reach a point where they are commercially viable.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: TV/Radio/Media

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2 Comments

  • 1. padders  |  December 14th, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    So, with just the Breakfast and Drive shows being locally produced, and all others being fed from Sydney, MTR is set to become the 2CC of Melbourne. Fortunately for Melbournians, they have more choice on the AM band than us poor schmucks in Canberra.

  • 2. Samuel  |  December 14th, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Pretty much, although at least 2CC have local news which appears to be more than can be said for MTR.


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