Updated: I have been informed that the traffic reporter used by Mix 106.3 and FM 104.7 is actually from the Australian Traffic Network, not Mix and 104.7’s Gungahlin studios. The reviews have been updated to take this in to account, which has resulted in Mix 106.3 gaining a few points and jumping up to third place (effectively pushing 666 ABC Radio down to fourth), and FM 104.7 gaining to be equal 8th. I apologise for an inconvenience this error may have caused.End Update Summary
I was supposed to have this online at 9am? Hmmm, just a few hours late.
Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday August 9) I conducted the first of four radio reviews in this series, the 3pm to 6pm “drive shift” review. The order of stations in the roster for this review was 2CC, ABC Classic FM, 666 ABC Canberra, ABC Radio National, Mix 106.3, FM 104.7, ABC NewsRadio, 2CA and JJJ. This order was randomly selected, and the stations will not be permitted to hold the same spot in any future roster in this series. (For an explanation of the methodology behind the reviews, click here )
My detailed analysis of the three hours is below, however I shall start by showing you the overall outcome. All ratings are out of five possible points.
1st: 1206 2CC: (4.6)
2CC had a very good review. There were a few bits and pieces I didn’t enjoy as much as I could have, but overall they did very well.
2nd: 1053 2CA: (4.5)
It’s good to see a mix of music and talk at the top of the pile. 2CA played some very good music and Leighton Archer is a very good choice for the drive time announcer.
4th 3rd: Mix 106.3: ( 3.3 3.8)
It can he hard to work out where you stand with Mix 106.3 at times. There is a reasonable amount of good music, and Erin Miller can be quite entertaining, but they suffer from some rather poor music choices, and
I can’t help but think that the traffic reports would be a bit more credible if the reporter was somewhere other than their Gungahlin studios. Updated: I’ve been informed that these traffic reports are directly from the Australian Traffic Network…in which case I congratulate Mix on having traffic reports with much better sound quality than the traffic reports from the same service which air on 2CC and 2CA. That being said, I have to admit that I think Warren Purchase speaks more clearly than the ATN presenter Mix and 104.7 are using. 3rd 4th: 666 ABC Canberra: (3.7)
Take Louise Maher out of the equation and they could have gained half a point, maybe even a whole point. They are doing well and they could easily be higher up the ladder in future reviews if the presenters are better than Louise Maher.
5th: ABC Radio National: (2.9)
Some interesting discussions worked in Radio National’s favour, but presenters who insist on talking at a pace which indicates they want us to all fall asleep and a rather poor 5pm news bulletin worked against them. It’s not a great start, but there is plenty of room for improvement, and I got the distinct impression that we will see (or hear, as the case may be) plenty of improvement.
6th: ABC Classic FM: (2.7)
I really don’t know what to say about this station. They obviously don’t use a compressor, and that is probably a good thing for the preservation of the dynamic range in the classical music they play, but it makes the station very difficult to listen to for an extended period of time, and probably impossible if you are in a motor vehicle. I’m not entirely sure that some of the presenters have any common sense, or trust that their listeners might have some intelligence.
7th: ABC NewsRadio: (2.5)
Parliament broadcasts are an essential service, but many politicians make dreadful radio. If the politicians could be slightly more interesting (or even be slightly more interested in what they’re talking about), and the NewsRadio people could try not to talk over the top of the politicians, they would have fared much better. Perhaps the non-parliament broadcasts will fare better.
8th Equal 8th: ABC JJJ: (2.4)
If they stopped playing “music” and turned in to a talk station, they would be much better off. Their choice of music is abysmal, but the talk components of the station are quite good.
9th Equal 8th: FM 104.7: ( 2.2 2.4)
The ads sound good, but the music, for the most part, isn’t great and the presenters aren’t much better. In their defence, the station clearly appeals to a lot of people who aren’t me.
There are still three shifts left for review, and any station could win it from here. The following is my detailed analysis of the three hours.
15:00 2CC – News with Peter Lusted, Fairly comprehensive coverage of interest rate rise. Story about Peter Beattie’s comments about John Howard. Mohammed Haneef’s Visa. Murray Darling Basin. Liberal criticism of ACT Government’s handling of local taxi licences. ACT Police comments about local street racing. Very comprehensive news service (5).
15:04 Classic FM – Enjoyable classical music. A tad too quiet for proper broadcast in parts and just a tad repetitive. (3.5)
15:08 666 – Good song (Midnight Train to Georgia), but mildly distorted, almost as if it is being fed to the studio equipment a couple decibels too loud. An enjoyable four minutes. (5)
15:12 ABC RN – Cooking and general food discussion with a restaurateur and a food book author. Something about eating lunch in a park, and the restaurateur thinks it’s a terrible thing to discuss in front of someone who hasn’t had breakfast yet. Awkward lengthy (5 seconds at least) pause following all of them trying to talk over each other. Very uninteresting anecdote about the author’s experience in a foreign restaurant. I didn’t know it was possible to bore people with a discussion of how globalism affects food…apparently it is. (2)
15:16 Mix – A song possibly called “Changes”, the base tune has been stolen from another song and the lead singer is relatively tone deaf. Station ID over the top of the intro of the next song (it works quite well in this case), the rather acceptable “Had a bad day”. I could listen to this without screaming if I was on hold. (4)
15:20 104.7 – Gotta love tone deaf musicians…on the plus side, these ones aren’t screaming. Station ID followed by a rather grating bit of hip hop. I counted five uses of one swear word, although I did struggle to understand a lot of the rest of the lyrics. (0.5)
15:24 NewsRadio – Parliament. It’s amazing how politicians, supposedly confident public speakers, can use “um” and “ah” constantly during pre-written speeches, and manage to sound completely uninterested in everything they are reading out to the house. That being said, parliament is a rather amusing thing to listen to for a short duration. It also contains the most sloppy panel operating on the wireless. Incorrect microphones open, incorrect microphones closed, the speaker mumbling under his breath. I’m certain that the politician who spoke for the entire four minutes doesn’t remember how she started her speech. (2.5)
15:28 2CA – Ad break: Buddy Holly special, Charlotte Pass ski resort, Dolphin bathrooms. 2CA ID. The Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”. A pleasant and relaxed ad break followed by a pretty good song. The only thing to count against them here is the fact that The Bee Gees do annoy me slightly. (4.5)
15:32 JJJ – A rather polished and well produced bit of techno music (“Easy Love” by MSTRKRFT apparently). Sounds better on headphones than it does on speakers, although not quite as good as it could. That’s not JJJ’s fault, picking an overly long repetitive song is though. (Disclaimer: I don’t recognise most of the music played on JJJ, so I’m relying on the JPlay website  which Mick linked to  a few days ago for the song lists.) (3.5)
15:36 2CC – Ad break: Cheesecake shop, Repco service, Exquisite Jewellers Holt, Rivoland Tiles featuring Mike Jeffreys, Precision Panel. Short music return before Mike Welsh mentions that a caller has complained about the signs for the Scrivener Dam bridge works not being far enough back from the roadworks to warn drivers to use an alternative route. Psychology segment talking about “Brain Snaps” and the reasons behind them. Quality programming. (5)
15:40 Classic FM – Dramatic classical music with inaudible gaps and just a bit too much dynamic range. I suppose we expect this from Classic FM, in which case I have to wonder why people insist on using it as telephone hold music, telephones do not convey the dynamic range as well as the radio, and as a result people end up with lengthy inaudible segments. Every time you think this piece of music will end, it continues. They must only go through a handful of tracks each hour. Somewhat uninteresting. (2)
15:44 666 – Something about a movie and a lot of giggling. The presenter starts pondering why some people vandalise things and others don’t…the studio guests start discussing the logistics of vandalism. They should be careful how they phrase things. “You egg people’s cars…that’s OK”. Not what they meant, but it comes across poorly. More giggling and they wish they had a psychologist…perhaps they should ring 2CC, they had one on a few minutes ago. They have one sensible person in the room who seems to understand basic peer pressure and adolescent mental development, but the rest are speculating rather poorly…to their credit they are almost silent during the logical person’s explanation, but they do insist on asking silly questions. (3.5)
15:48 ABC RN – Discussion about how a technical stage production company has a certain level of freedom of expression by using their own custom software to help handle various bits of their productions, and other production work they do. Surprisingly interesting. (4.5)
15:52 Mix – Can’t say that I’m impressed by the song which ends just as I turn over to this station. It is followed by a station ID which includes their Tuggeranong repeater’s frequency. The next song, Cold Chisel’s “Flame Tree”, isn’t particular impressive either…I just find the song rather bland and tuneless. (1)
15:56 104.7 – The music hasn’t improved much here either. People who claim to be musicians but insisting on constantly changing from singing to shouting in the same sentence annoy me. Promo for Scotty and Nige breakfast show, and the humourorus highlight in the promo wasn’t even remotely funny. Ad Break: Government Workplace Realtions ad, Kaleen Indoor Sports, MacDonald’s Name-it burger, ActewAGL GreenChoice. The ads saved them. (2.5)
16:00 NewsRadio – More parliament. This politician is talking about India and nuclear weapons. Whilst she is avoiding the use of “um” and “ah” (mostly), she does not sound even remotely interested in her speech. She decides to ramble on about how we need a referendum on every decision the government has made in the last four years…and then something about climate change, this seems to encourage the ums and ahs. An uninteresting politician doesn’t help. (2)
16:04 2CA – Sport segment of the news (with Peter Lusted), AFL, Rugby League, Olympic preparations and US Baseball. 2CA Traffic with Warren Purchase. Very comprehensive although there isn’t much happening. 2CA weather with the announcer, Leighton Archer. There isn’t much to say about the weather except that it was presented well. Promo for “Snow Stars” competition. Very good song Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”. Sounding good! (5)
16:08 JJJ – The less I know about this track (“An Englishman In Ibiza” by Disco Stu) the better I think. Horrid and repetitive. Actually I think this track (definitely not a song) might be a language lesson…although I’m not sure what language the English components are being repeated in. I’m sure it sounds good when you’ve had a bit too much to drink and probably injected something illegal…but I, thankfully, don’t fit in to that category. (0)
16:12 2CC – Mike Welsh talking to John Lehmann, Editor in Chief of Bulletin Magazine about the federal seat of Bennelong. Not the most exciting conversation, but it got better towards the end. Traffic with Warren Purchase, comprehensive coverage of traffic flow. (4)
16:16 Classic FM – A light and mildly interesting piece of classical music, and the dynamic range on this one is much better for radio than the previous attempts. (4.5)
16:20 666 – They’re playing music…it was good when it started out as a piano solo, but the poorly recorded tone-deaf vocals on this one are truly appalling. Tim James live in the studio apparently, and the sound quality can be forgiven because a microphone collapsed. Tim James starts telling the host Louise Maher about his charity work. Louise then moves to News Headlines with Julian Abbott…no local news even rates a mention except for the current temperature despite half a dozen national and international stories getting a rather lengthy reading. Promo for the Australian Rugby Championships. Louise starts chatting with ABC TV Newsreader Virginia Haussegger about the interest rate rise…it does help to read the right figures Virginia, especially when you’re a prominent newsreader…Kudos for noticing the error though. (3)
16:24 ABC RN – Discussion about the global economy, and whether the governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating had more of a positive impact on our economy than that of John Howard. The rather slowly talking presenter insists on breathing on the microphone constantly…otherwise it was pretty good. (4)
16:28 Mix – The tail end of the sport, followed by the weather and a
studio based traffic report which just didn’t seem to have the same immediacy as the traffic reporter on other stations (Updated: Not entirely sure why…maybe the studio sound quality makes the report sound less like it has come from an actual reporter). Promo for Mix 106.3’s changing playlist based on the feedback of listeners. Ad break: Capital Ink Services, Harvey Norman, Andy’s Auto Gas, Rubelli Furniture, Rydges Priority Guest, Rolfe Subaru, ACTION Bus Service Outage Announcment. Pretty good. ( 4 5)
16:32 104.7 – I don’t know and I don’t want to know that this is…it certainly isn’t music. I do have some advice for the alleged artist though…if you don’t want to be in love, you don’t have to tell us about it. Particularly well produced station ID. This song is at least bearable…U2’s “City Of Blinding Lights”. (3)
16:36 NewsRadio – Parliament, and finally a politician who is interested in what she is saying, Senator Milne. Unfortunately her time is up just after I tuned in, and Senator Ron Boswell stars telling parliament (whilst the NewsRadio voice over person talks over the top of him to introduce him) that the Greens hate logical debate and are very naughty…or something like that. He then talks about how we will keep track of any uranium that we send off-shore. Plenty of “um”s and “ah”s, but surprisingly interesting listening to Senator Boswell accusing everyone else of being disorganised. (4)
16:40 2CA – A good song along the lines of “wrap me in your arms like I know you can”. 2CA “Super Memory” ID. Grass Roots’ “Midnight Confessions”, quite a good song. Leighton Archer back announces some songs and announces that all the “Snow Star” songs have been played and to keep an ear out for the cue to call to win a holiday in the snow. Leighton then talks about what’s planned for tomorrow’s breakfast show with Larry Appley. (4.5)
16:44 JJJ – Well, this (“It’s Not Over Yet” by Klaxons) is slightly better than whatever they were playing last time, but it is still absolutely dreadful. Announcer talks about how terrible it is that someone in that band broke their foot and couldn’t tour Australia (hooray!!). Promo for JJJ segment Top Shelf. (1.5)
16:48 2CC – Mike Welsh talking to ACT Senator Gary Humphreys who doesn’t think the Greens have a decent framework for running the country. Mike then summarises the conversation. Ad Break: Neil Diamond imitation concert, Grantley Perry and Sons Funerals, Millennium Audio Visual, Sassy Lassy Lingerie. Mike Welsh ID. Mike introduces traffic. Warren Purchase provides another good traffic report. (4)
16:52 Classic FM – If medieval knights danced in public, it would probably be to this. The presenter informs us all about the title and conductor of the music, and then introduces the next piece of music by daftly trusting an automated Internet translation of its title. The music unfortunately didn’t warrant such a lavish introduction as it is a rather strange and boring repetitive bit of piano music. (3)
16:56 666 – Louise Maher talks to Robin Poque from the ACT Olympic Council about some money the ACT Government is providing to the athletes in the form of a grant. Louise then asks who will be going to the Olympics, to which the guest reminds her that they haven’t been selected yet. Louise then questions whether $80,000 is enough, and seems to insist on interrupting answers…the guest doesn’t seem overly impressed about it but tries to get on with his answers. The questions are, unfortunately, very poor, and very scripted. Louise then mentions the temperature, says they will examine the interest rate rise after the news and announces five o’clock a few seconds early. Promo for fishing segment on tomorrow’s breakfast show. The guests were interesting, but they had to work around Louise’s poor style of interviewing.(3)
17:00 ABC RN – News with Julian Abbott , headlines, Interest rates rise report, Pro-Labor report about how marvellous Labor’s performance (and how poor the Liberal’s performance) was in Parliament today, House prices rise with soundbite from housing affordability person talking about how hard it is to rent a property, share market rises, Currency report, Labor announces how much money it wouldn’t spend if elected, finally some local news with the local timber mill fiasco. A fairly unbalanced news bulletin with minimal actual content for the time spent. (1.5)
17:04 Mix – Sport segment of the news with upward inflections at the end of each sentence. Finance report with Will Cameron from ABN Amro on the phone who does a pretty good job. Weather clearly pre-recorded with a very obvious cut in it. Traffic from
the studio Update: ATN (a minor elocution lesson wouldn’t hurt). “Feel Good Vibe” station ID. Good song though, Roxanne by Sting and The Police. ( 3 4)
17:08 104.7 – Announcer introduces “Top Five at Five”. Song from Rihanna “Shut Up and Drive”, I can’t say that I’m enthused about this song, but it would be acceptable for a short period on hold. 104.7 Top Five at Five ID with Sponsor mention (but do they really think “Making the time of the day and the number of songs the same” is a clever promo?). (2).
17:12 NewsRadio – Parliament again, a politician tells us all how farmers can look more professional and talks about how one particular family could be the last family farmers in existence. A clever accidental mix of “farmer” and “family” at one stage…”farmerily”. I’m not sure what a “thote” is though…could be a “thought”. Politician is really uninteresting and not in the slightest bit sincere. (1)
17:16 2CA – I recognise this song but can’t put my finger on the title…it’s a remake of “Every Night” by Paul McCartney…can’t work out who is singing though. They are venturing close to strangled cat status with these last few “oooh ahh” bits. 2CA’s mini-series Captain Kremmen of the Star Corps promo. Ad: Boney M concert (sponsored by 2CA). Kremmen of the Star Corps begins, this really is a very interesting serial and it’s a pity I have to leave it. (4.5)
17:20 JJJ – Interview with someone about…not entirely sure to start with, but it appears to be about the Portable Film Festival. They play a sound clip and annoyingly laugh over the top of it. The conversation isn’t particularly interesting but it’s an awful lot better than the music they’ve been playing. Not surprisingly for this station, the presenters ramble on about something completely unrelated (hovering public transport), then start a bad song (“D Is For Dangerous” by Arctic Monkeys), announce the station’s name late and then almost fade out the song. (3)
17:24 2CC – Mike Welsh introduces Anita Quigley from the Daily Telegraph who is on the line to talk about the Catholic Church’s proposal that they give priority to Catholics in Catholic schools. Anita seems to know a fair bit about the subject and the conversation is quite enlightening. (5)
17:28 Classic FM – A rather slow piece of music…not really an ideal choice for the journey home from work unless you want to fall asleep or have barricaded yourself in your office following a really really bad day and need an audible tranquilliser. The announcer then tells us how precious the recording is and how marvellous it is (surely we can decide for ourselves?) and then we have something which sounds like it may have been recorded in a Catholic Church at some stage. Roughly as tranquillising as the last piece. (0.5)
17:32 666 – Where do these people find this bad music? I can talk in a not quite semi-musical tone over the top of a looping guitar at a low bitrate as well, but I choose not to. It’s mildly distorted, so yet again they are feeding it to the equipment a bit too loud. Apparently it was called “As You Do Now” by Susan Vega or something like that. Kieran McKekkney (a female Kieran?) joins Louise Maher from Parliament House. Kieran provides a fairly good quality and impartial analysis of the interest rate rise although does get talked over a bit by Louise. Thankfully Louise kept out of the conversation for the most part. (4)
17:36 ABC RN – The presenter (New Zealand correspondent Peter Lewis) is talking about Maori affairs and playing sound grabs from various Maori representatives. The story is relatively interesting, but Peter Lewis might as well be in the chamber at Parliament House as he doesn’t sound remotely interested in the topic at hand. The studio presenter then introduces a story about genetics affecting intelligence, and then interviews Charles Murray, the author of a book about this subject. Mildly interesting, but the presenters really do speak far too slowly. They sound ridiculous talking at that pace when everyone else they talk to on the air talks so much faster. (2.5)
17:40 Mix – It’s a song 2UE have used in some of their promos, “In Love Again” by Rogue Traders, I like this song. Presenter Erin Miller back announces the song, and then talks about how she likes to think about Pyramids, and how she would like to see the pyramids in Egypt…it’s an effort to introduce a competition where that is the prize. Traffic report
from the studio. ( 4.5 5)
17:44 104.7 – This song would sound good without vocals (reflections of the sun…or something like that)…why do people who can’t sing insist on doing so? Traffic from
the studio (Updated: ATN) with the same person who does Mix 106.3 traffic, brief but does the job, but again, it doesn’t have the immediacy of a real traffic reporter. Ad Break: Green faces, MacDonald’s Name-It Burger, Harvey Norman. (4)
17:48 NewsRadio – Parliament, a politician tells us a story about a pensioner who has a hard time buying beer, and then talks about cheap electronics being used to calculate the pension. The NewsRadio presenter talks over the top of the middle of this politician’s speech to re-introduce him. The politician then says that his pay, and that of his colleagues, should be set by an independent body. Not exactly riveting, but interesting enough. (3)
17:52 2CA – 2CA Station ID. “Lady Love” not sure of the artist, good song though. Leighton Archer informs me that it’s Lou Rawls, and then he gives me hints about the songs coming up after the news. Promo for Larry Appley breakfast show featuring entertainment reporter Peter Ford. (4)
17:56 JJJ – Someone talking about how worried they are about being underpaid at work, followed by the presenter saying that if you have similar concerns you should ring the Workplace Ombudsman. Then it’s on to a story about how the Beijing Olympics are a year away and an interview with somebody using it as a launching platform for their protest about Tibetan Human Rights. Mildly interesting, and much better than their attempts at playing music. (4)