That’s what a number of Macquarie Southern Cross Media radio stations are saying.
It started earlier this week when MSCM announced that they were axing Charles Wooley Across Australia, their Hobart based, regionally-focussed talk program, which first went to air in 2006, back when the direct competition was The John Laws Morning Show which had a larger number of network stations, but was fairly Sydney-centric in comparison.
In the middle of last year, Wooley was being picked up by keen listeners in Melbourne, despite not actually broadcasting in to Melbourne. Listeners were tuning in to regional Victorian stations and, as RadioInfo pointed out at the time, it was seen as quite a victory for the Wooley program, as Melbourne was a market in which John Laws never managed to make any inroads. Wooley was even credited with  convincing the then federal opposition leader, Dr. Brendan Nelson, to jump in a truck and see the plight of the nation’s truck drivers first-hand earlier this year.
The program has won three ACRAs, one for every year that it’s been on-air, and has been nominated for five more.
Despite all of this, Macquarie Southern Cross Media have decided to axe the show, citing the global financial crisis, and less network stations than former CEO Tim Hughes had hoped for when he pitched the idea for the program to Wooley on an aeroplane. The merger between Fairfax and Southern Cross Broadcasting, which in turn led to various Southern Cross television stations being sold to Macquaire Bank, meant that the Macquaire Regional Radioworks network (which was renamed Macquaire Southern Cross Media) lost a number of stations, as Charles Wooley explained to RadioInfo “It meant they couldn’t own TV and Radio in many markets which meant they had to divest a large chunk of my network. And not enough of the new owners stuck with the show.”
Less stations, and even less revenue, ultimately meant that Macquarie could no longer justify the cost of producing and networking their own morning show, instead they’ve decided to take programming from the other Macquarie, the Macquarie Radio Network, better known as 2GB and 2CH Sydney. Specifically, it’s the Ray Hadley Morning Show from 2GB which will be heard on a selection of Macquarie Southern Cross Stations, namely 2WG Wagga Wagga, 2MC Port Macquarie, 2CS Coffs Harbour, 4GR Toowoomba, 2RG Griffith, 2GZ Orange, 3MA Mildura, MIX FM Maryborough & Hervey Bay.
The move marks a change in tact for both Macquarie Southern Cross, and 2GB. The Charles Wooley Show was devised in order to fill a perceived gap, a lack of programming specifically for regional areas, whilst during the ratings war between 2GB’s Ray Hadley and 2UE’s John Laws (a war won quite convincingly by Hadley in Sydney), 2GB prided themselves on producing programming specifically for a Sydney audience, without the need to cater for network stations. Macquarie Southern Cross now find themselves replacing a program aimed at regional audiences, with a program aimed at a Sydney audience, whilst 2GB will now need to redefine the Hadley show to be more inclusive of other markets.
Hadley is no stranger to broadcasting to network stations, having been John Laws’ understudy and fill-in host for a number of years, and host of the largely successful “Continuous Call Team” program on weekends during the NRL season.
Ray Hadley will be heard on network stations from 9am to 11am starting on the 27th of January, however at this stage it is very unclear as to whether the first hour will be broadcast on 2GB in Sydney. Currently Alan Jones broadcasts on 2GB until 10am, with Ray Hadley broadcasting from 10am to 1pm, so this could be a subtle way of reducing Alan Jones’ workload without putting the spotlight on Jones’ recent health problems and the ongoing speculation about when or if he may decide to retire.
Either way, it’s a gamble for 2GB who, whilst holding almost a 2-1 ratings lead over talk rivals 702 ABC Sydney and 2UE, are changing one of their self-proclaimed keys to success, their ability to engage directly with a Sydney audience. Whilst it will be unlikely that 2GB will suffer due to having less Sydney focus, it will be interesting to see how they fare against 2UE’s morning program which is networked to many stations across New South Wales and the ACT, and 702 ABC Sydney’s morning show which is broadcast solely to Sydney.
Hadley seems to think it will be a winner though, telling one caller this morning that he is “confident the listeners on stations across Australia will enjoy what we have to offer” as he let the cat out of the bag about the networking deal.
As for Charles Wooley, he’s gone back to Channel Nine’s “Sixty Minutes” current affairs program, but hasn’t given up on Macquarie Southern Cross just yet, saying that “discussions are still open with MACSC about doing an hour or two of a weekend.”
It seems that once radio gets in to your blood, it just won’t leave.