war of the ratings": Macquarie Radio Network
VS Southern Cross Broadcasting, and how much difference
has Alan Jones made?
on the 4th April 2003 to an audience of media students
and 2CH Announcer, Ben Starr
The war of the radio ratings has really been burning
up the radio waves, particularly in the Sydney region,
over the last 18 months.
Rating wars are not a new phenomenon for radio stations,
but heading towards the new financial year, the stakes
are at an all-time high.
It's a sink or swim situation, witnessed by Bill Caralis'
once dominating 2SM, pulling out of the Sydney radio
ratings just a few days ago, citing dissatisfaction
with re-appointment of Nielsen Media Research, as
the ratings measuring provider chosen from Australian
Commercial Radio. With his last rating being 0.8,
compared to 2GB's 10.3 and 2UE's 8.9, I'm not surprised.
The success of a radio station is dependent upon many
factors. We all know the basics, not least of which
are the announcers, the often "larger than life"
personalities, the listeners' friend. They are often
the difference to whom, and how many tune in. Good
announcers' equals good ratings, equals good revenues.
Radio announcers, come "king-pins", and
genuine celebrities, often legends in their own breakfast
times, and are being used as lethal weapons in this
strategic battle for supremacy. This is particularly
evident in the brutal 6 AM - 9AM and 9AM - noon slots,
that have traditionally been dominated by John "Golden
Tonsils" Laws and Alan Belford Jones.
SURVEY: "HANDS UP IF YOU
EVERY LISTEN TO THE RADIO IN THE MORNING. OK, HANDS
DOWN. THANK YOU".
Recently, 2GB's Ray Hadley has been having a good
run, having being passed the ball from Jones, with
Hadley giving Laws a run for his money in the ultra-competitive
9am - noon time slot. Laws is set to retire this year,
celebrating his 50th year in radio. Laws even sent
a fax of congratulations to Hadley on the 25th of
February, of this year. Where, you might ask, does
this leave the likes of 2UE's Steve Price and Mike
Carlton? 2UE's Managing Director, Tony Bell has been
relatively quiet lately, however he has got to be
pleased with Laws' recent revival, jumping 2 whole
points in as many months.
POINT TO THE BOARD
How important can a couple of big name radio personalities
be? More than you might think.
Look no further than Alan Jones' defection from 2UE,
along with Ray Hadley, to 2GB, last year. Jones signed
the contract, put to him by John Singleton on the
7th February 2002, and went live to air on the 4th
The switch caused ripples in the industry, with 2GB's
investment of $5 million paying almost immediate dividends;
with even some of 2UE and Jones' advertisers, also
known as sponsors, making the jump, staying loyal
Make no mistake, advertisers, money and swaying public
opinion is what this game is all about.
Let's have a look at the feature that was done on
Jones, entitled "Jonestown", which was screened
on the ABC's Four Corners on the 6th May last year.
PLAY THE VIDEO FOR 2 MINUTES
(FROM THE BEGINNING, THEN FAST FORWARD TO 23 MIN MARK,
THEN 28 MIN MARK)
Jones often goes with a "divide and conquer"
strategy, with a good dose of confrontation thrown
in there, when he's not saving a "little old
lady" from the "bad boys" of business
or Australian multi-nationals running a muck. Jones'
relentless attacks on a subject, whether individual
or company-wide, are legendary.
Ray Hadley has also picked up on this craft, adding
it to his arsenal, and some may argue, has refined
it to a science. I distinctly remember Hadley getting
the MD's of numerous companies to give public apologies
on-the-air, on Hadley's very own programme. Brilliant
PR for the battler segment, if I ever heard it.
Meanwhile, John Laws often uses the more conversational
approach, especially if he has a good piece of talent
to work with. Let's take a listen to John Laws - Greg
Tingle, 31st July of July, 2002. Yes, this is the
one that got myself and Laws in the Media section
of "The Australian", and brushed over on
the ABC's Media Watch.
PLAY THE PDA LAWS 2 WMA FILE
AND POINT TO THE CLIPPING ON THE BOARD
2GB's Brian Wilshire, the "master conspiracy
theory man", evening radio announcer, and webmaster
of "The Wilshire Zone" website, told Mediaman that he thought much of 2GB's success
was due to their opposition doing many things wrong.
Let's hear an excerpt of that now.
PLAY THE TAPE FOR 1 MIN 30 SECS
One in a while, an older, veteran broadcaster is brought
back. Take the example of "The Human Headline"
himself, Derryn Hinch. Derryn returned to Southern
Cross Broadcastings' 3AW in Melbourne, going live-to-air
on 30th January 2003, and has seen a steady climb
in ratings ever since, now occupying the #1 position
in Melbourne, with an amazing 15.3. "Old dogs"
don't always work. Take a listen to Stan Zemanek weeknights
at 9 on 2UE. Poor Stan even cops some on-the-air flack
from his fellow announcers from time to time. In the
same time slot, 2GB's Brian Wilshire will likely have
you riveted to your radio for the right reasons.
Are all these "big names" better announcers?
Not necessarily so, but their colourful personae,
and celebrity status built up over time, due to life
circumstances ranging from "cash for comment"
to stints in jail, give them status. Who's' to say
that the ABC's Angela Catterns or our very own Ben
Starr, (that's with 2 R's), (eassssssssy Ben), couldn't
be radios' next big thing?
This ratings war has even seen radio announcers moving
into print. Have a look at my little collection of
SHOW THE AUDIENCE MY BOOKS
Radio talk back stations, 2GB and 2UE have always
had both their advocates and detractors.
Take Phillip Adam's (ABC Radio National's host of
"Late Night Live"), in his recent exclusive
interview with me. I quote, "I wouldn't be terribly
heartbroken if the transmission towers of 2GB and
2UE, for example, suddenly melted or toppled over.
It would certainly be a very healthy thing for the
At this point, you're probably thinking, this Greg
Tingle is pretty full of himself. I'm not, and no,
"Tingle Talk Back", is not yet reality,
despite some preliminary efforts.
So, what's next for 2GB and Alan Jones? You can bet
The Federal Minister for Communications, Senator Richard
Alston and the Communications Law Centre will continue
to tune in whenever "king-pins" like Laws,
Jones and friends take to the air.
I would suggest more headlines, controversy, and don't
be too surprised if "cash for comment" is
Whatever your opinion of Alan Jones and John Laws,
mine is largely positive, one thing is for certain
are the kings of Australian radio.
PLAY THE LAWS - TINGLE 10TH
APRIL 2003 PUBLIC "THANK YOU"
"Absolutely marvelous", or is that "keep
the dream alive"! (said in Jones and Laws style
applause and Ben Starr say's in an Alan Jones accent,
References and Bibliography
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: 4 Corners, 6th
"Jonestown", Producer: Morag Ramsey, Reporter:
Rehame: Neil Sewell, Researcher: (supplied Laws -
Tingle 31st July 2002, 10th April 2003, and Wilshire
- Tingle 25th February 2003 audio recordings)
The Australian: Media Section,
Laws sees kinder Telstra after deal, Geoff Elloitt,
3rd October 2002
The Australian: Business Section,
Radio daze lingers but TV lifts, Jane Schulze, 6th
The Sydney Morning Herald: Weekend Edition, News Review,
8th and 9th March 2003
The shrinking world of John Laws, Kirsty Needham
The Sydney Morning Herald: The Guide, 31st March to
6th April, Sales Talk
Macquarie Radio Network, 2GB, Lousie Barrett, Group
Marketing Manager and Trevor Long, Reporter and Webmaster
Southern Cross Broadcasting, 2UE www.2ue.com
John Laws, Announcer: conversations and website www.johnlaws.com.au
Derryn Hinch, Announcer and Journalist: e-mails and
Ben Starr: 2CH Announcer: verbal information
Phillip Adams, Announcer and Journalist, ABC "Late
Night Live" and Columnist for "The Australian":
telephone interview 3rd April 2003
Commercial Radio Australia: Meg Isemonger, Marketing
Executive (radio ratings statistics)
Communications Law Centre: Jo Hobson (Chief Librarian)
Not for Publication, Chris Masters, 2002, ABC Books
(chapter entitled "Plutonium One, Two and Three")
That's Life, Derryn Hinch, 1992, Penguin Books Australia
John Laws' Book of Uncommon Sense, John Laws, 1995,
Pan Macmillan Australia
Mike Carlton, Off The Air, Kathy Lette, 1997, Pan
Inside Story, Ross MacDowell, 2001, Hobson Dell Publishing
(Chapter 14, Alan Jones, Broadcaster)
Nielsen Media Research: Stephanie Cox, Media Liaison
(radio ratings statistics)
Australian Broadcasting Authority: Meera Dullabh,
Research Assistant (assistance with research, website
and audio grabs
Max Rowley Media Academy, Director: Max Rowley www.maxrowley.com
Radio Info: www.radioinfo.com.au
Steve O'Hearn, Founder of Radio Info and Director
of Australian Film and Television Radio School (website
, Director: Greg Tingle
* numerous searches performed
numerous searches performed
Handouts for audience:
Radio Info and Nielsen Media Research radio ratings
Numerous newspaper articles pertaining to radio ratings
Mediaman business card