Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Radio GaGa

The word is that 2DAYFM has cancelled their staff Christmas Party this year. Once upon a time, I worked for a boss who cancelled our department’s Christmas Party. We found out later that it was because he had a large performance bonus riding on keeping the department operating under budget. We were so p*ssed off; I wonder how the staff at 2DAYFM are feeling.

I wasn’t going to write about the 2DAYFM catastrophe of the past few days, but if the scandal has become so acute as to convince management of a radio station to cancel a Christmas Party, there seems to be more to say. According to 2DAYFM, the party has been cancelled out of respect for the family of Jacintha Saldanha. The money earmarked for the Christmas Party will be donated to mental health charities Lifeline and beyondblue.

Let’s separate the fact from the fatuous, and see where we stand.

There are several unavoidable truths:
Someone was responsible for putting the prank call to air, but we don’t know who that person was. Ultimately, responsibility lies with station management.

Someone within the SC Austereo management team permitted – or encouraged - the presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig to put their emotional distress on tellie for all to see.
The Hot 30 Producer seems to be missing. S/he hasn’t been named, and we haven’t heard from him.

The entire SCAustereo has banned prank calls from all stations in the network.

2DAYFM has a rich, recent history of getting themselves into trouble when “edgy” crashes over the edge and becomes unacceptable.

2DAYFM did not have permission from the hospital, or the two nurses involved, to broadcast the call.

ACMA is about to get serious.

More than that, there are some enormous inconsistencies and gaps in the story we’ve heard.

If Michael and Mel thought that the prank call would’ve been tried a hundred times before, and would be met with a hang-up or a lecture, why did they bother?

When it became clear that the call was being taken seriously, why did neither one of them break “character” and admit what who they were?

What is 2DAYFM’s approvals process for pre-recorded interviews? Was it followed?
  Even if it was approved internally, why was it aired without the permission of the participants?

I wonder if Michael and Mel could’ve stopped it going to air, had they realised how risky the interview was. Based on yesterday’s television interviews, and the fact that they are new to the station, I doubt that they’ve even found the coffee machine yet. I feel sad for them both – obviously doing their job with the best of intentions, but very little idea of anything outside the wise-cracking banter they’re supposed to supply between Hot 30 songs. In any case, that too rests with 2DAYFM for not ensuring that their employees were suitably prepared for the jobs they were doing and the responsibility that entailed.

What happens now? ACMA will make their decision to investigate, and the sooner the better. More than likely, CSAustereo will be found to be in breach of various regulations relating to consent, and possibly some other offences as well. Will they lose their licence? Highly unlikely…but there will be penalties and at some point, someone will have to man up and take responsibility for this mess.

In any case, 2DAYFM is, and always was, a music station first and foremost. Is there really a need for try-hard comedy on a music station? I’ve always hated it, because it means less music. If I was ACMA and could impose whatever penalties I thought fit, I’d require a complete external audit of systems and processes, a complete culture shift, away from risky/funny and back to sharp and informed. No stunts, no pranks, no risk.

And I’d instruct the station to return to its glory days and focus on the music.

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