The ramifications of the Fairfax/Macquarie Radio merger continued to unfold today.
Brisbane’s only commercial talk station lost most of its local shows with the breakfast, morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend presenters all sacked along with the staff who worked on their shows. Fairfax/Macquarie (what is their name these days?) Chief Operating Officer Adam Lang said in a press statement that the aim is to send some staff to roles in other radio stations in the network, but it seems clear that this will only happen for a very small number of staff.
At the moment, the new 4BC lineup has not been announced, but the word is that 2GB’s Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, and Chris Smith will all have their shows broadcast live on 4BC from Monday. With Alan Jones taking next week off and Chris Smith
likely to fill in for him also on holidays apparently, it will probably be a while before 4BC’s audience has the faintest clue who should be on the radio at any given time. There is no word on what will happen to 4BC at night, although it seems clear that programming will emanate from Sydney…either 2UE’s Sports Today and Mike Jeffreys or 2GB’s Money News and Steve Price. Weekends look set to be entirely Sydney-based programming apart from local news bulletins. No word as yet on the future of 4BC’s Sports Today program (Update 5:53pm: Former 4BC presenter Ian Maurice reports 4BC’s Sports Today has been axed. Weekday drive from 3pm is now the only remaining local show. End Update) but I won’t be surprised if it gets replaced by 2UE’s show of the same name.
For 4BC, this puts them in what I would consider an embarrassing position for a capital city talk station where they have less local content than some regional stations. 2CC Canberra, for example, will have roughly double the amount of local content of 4BC, and probably more once weekends are added to the equation. In a market where there are multiple commercial talk stations this might not matter too much (most US markets for example have multiple commercial talk stations, and even if they individually don’t have much local programming, you can almost always find something local on at least one of them during daylight hours), but when it is the only commercial talk station in the market it is a very sad situation indeed.
I will add one caveat to this…4BC has been performing very poorly in the ratings of late and this move might just be a way of buying Fairfax/Macquarie time to figure out how to rebuild 4BC with some local content in the future, without burning cash on shows which nobody is listening to at the moment. If that is the plan, then it might be fair enough even if it is a shame in the short term. If not, then I expect somebody in the next couple of years to flip an existing music station in to a local talk station to fill a void in the market.
4BC’s sister station, Magic 882, was not spared from the cuts and lost evening presenter Jo Henderson.
Meanwhile at 2UE, afternoon presenter Angela Catterns is the first show host to be shown the door under the new regime. It seems that she was told about her fate after her show had ended and was not given an opportunity to say goodbye to her audience. The sacked 4BC presenters were at least aware they were having a meeting about their fate after their respective shows today and had a chance to say something to their audiences. There is no information whatsoever on who or what will fill her timeslot, but given the cost-cutting going on around the network, I’d be surprised if somebody is just put in to her timeslot. Instead I’m tipping existing daytime shows to be extended and/or some daytime programming to come from 3AW in Melbourne.
Update 11:20pm: With thanks to kj who left a tipoff in the comments below, 2UE have confirmed that existing daytime shows will be extended to cover Angela Catterns’ timeslot. Stuart Bocking’s show has been extended by two hours and will now run from 9am until 2pm, and Justin Smith’s show has been extended by one hour and will now run from 2pm until 6pm.
I will simply say this. Stuart Bocking is more than capable of hosting an interesting five hours of radio day in and day out, but I worry about the quality of that timeslot when Stuart is away and a fill-in host has to fill that much time over multiple days or weeks. End Update
Also at 2UE, weekend powerhouse duo George Moore and Paul B. Kidd have picked an interesting weekend to have some time off. They announced at the end of their show on Sunday that they would be having this weekend off and will return next weekend. Although they are undoubtedly the most popular presenters on the station, I do have to wonder if they were a tad strategic with their timing…with all the changes going on, it is inevitable that people will hear their absence tomorrow, fear the worst, and voice their displeasure to 2UE…proving their value to Management at this point in time might actually be a very clever decision, even if it does turn out to be a purely coincidental absence.
Update 8:30pm: I have received an email asking about the fate of 4BC afternoon (12pm – 3pm) presenter Clare Blake. As far as I know, Clare has survived but her show probably won’t continue in its current form for very long as Chris Smith’s 2GB afternoon show is likely to be broadcast in to Brisbane. I can’t confirm anything about Clare at the moment but I am confident that she is continuing at 4BC as, apart from the bit of information I’ve received, her profile is still on 4BC’s website whereas almost all the sacked people have been removed from 4BC and 2UE’s websites. End Update