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.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Newmania: Living the Dream

King Campbell is living the dream: he has a lovely wife and daughters, good friends, an important and well paid job with all the perks. Now, less than nine months after being elected to lead Queensland out of the financial quagmire, the dream has faded like Queen Lisa's curtains during Daylight Saving.

If only...

King Campbell may have led the LNP back to government, but nothing is the way it should’ve been, and very few people on the Conservative side of politics are happy. There was a plan. The LNP won in a landslide. So what went wrong?

King Campbell's dramatic ascent to the top is virtually being mirrored on the slide back down. So dramatic has been King Campbell’s political descent that LNP members are walking away from their leader. Those who have stayed are finding the journey less satisfying than they had expected. Bruce Flegg has retreated to the back benches, Ros Bates is mired in controversy with her son, and everyone else is taking a beating over the violent cuts to jobs and services that their government has forced through.

The Newman Effect is undoubtedly having an impact on the electability of the federal Coalition, so Canberra isn't’t happy either.

And now, Ray Hopper is telling tales. Mr Hopper is a former LNP Member who defected to Bob Katter’s Australia Party last week, and he tells not of living the LNP dream, but of surviving a nightmare in the party room. Mr Hopper has revealed that Campbell Newman’s own leadership team of Treasurer Tim Nicholls and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney chose Newman to lead the LNP to victory in the election, a role Newman performed admirably.

The thing is, the Nicholls-Seeney plan did not factor in any possibility that King Campbell would win the seat of Ashgrove. Had Kate Jones held Ashgrove for the Labor Party, Newman would’ve been out of a job because while you can lead the party in Opposition from outside the Parliament, you cannot be Premier without a seat. Had Newman lost Ashgrove, Tim Nicholls and Jeff Seeney – and possibly Bruce Flegg, Lawrence Springborg, Fiona Simpson and/or John Paul Langbroek – would have fought for leadership of the party, and Premiership of Queensland.

What would that have looked like? We’ll never know. Mr Hopper says there was no opportunity for dissent, no opportunity to vote for a leader. Newman was installed, and that was it...but he was installed to win, not to lead.

Of course, King Campbell’s People are ducking and weaving like the administrative mavens they are. Their response is that we should not believe the bitter rant of a man who left the party. Frankly, I’m more inclined to believe Mr Hopper than I am to believe the LNP spin team trying to protect the reputation of a leader who is rapidly losing all support. Ray Hopper has nothing to lose.

So far, the other two MPs who parted company with the LNP last week haven’t spoken out…but both of them - Dr Alex Douglas and Carl Judge - have shown interest in teaming up with Clive Palmer, should Mr Palmer form a new political party.

And then there’s Bob Katter, who has been in contact with Clive during the past few weeks, around the time that Clive removed himself from the LNP. Perhaps Mr Katter is after financial support from Clive, although they do have some areas of policy in common. Ray Hopper is now running the three man parliamentary arm of Katter’s Australia Party. If Clive’s latest plan goes ahead, and he picks up Douglas and Judge plus only two more, the two minor parties would have between them as many MPs as Labor. I wouldn’t rule anything out.

And while all of this to manoeuvring is going on, King Campbell continues to his slide to oblivion, which is exactly where Jeff Seeney and Tim Nicholls expected him to be. Unfortunately, he’s still Premier, although there is some doubt as to whether he is calling the shots.

Ray Hopper has suggested that our worst fears are being realised; that the thousands of jobs the Newman Government cut didn’t need to be cut; that the same result could have been achieved with a gentler approach. Gentleness was rejected. It would take too long, and the point was to get the nasty stuff out of the way quickly so that we could all forget about before the next election.

I guess they've forgotten that Anna Bligh pretty much sunk herself by announcing the infamous assets sale just weeks after being elected. Newmanians have long memories and carry grudges.

Nightmares can be nasty, particularly the recurring kind. Newmania is living the LNP nightmare right now, and we’re stuck in it for another two years, at least. The question of who is pulling the strings is largely irrelevant. Everyone is suffering and it appears that within the LNP senior ranks, there is no alternative.

At least Ray Hopper, Alex Douglas and Carl Judge can sleep easier.