Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, December 12, 2002

Sometime, when they tell the story of that old, corrupt, sclerotic, arthritic, introverted, helpless, pratfalling, bureaucratic, politically-compromised, socially-detached, ABC Rado National , the one that swims in circles in its own bathwater like a one-legged duck, i.e. the RN that's broadcasting at the moment, they may pause to celebrate the intelligence and foresight of one faceless bureaucrat who made a very smart move. And I'm not talking about resignation.

Some years ago, in the course of one of the many re-arrangements of Auntie's programming furniture, it was decided that the lead programs of ABC News and Current Affairs, ie AM and PM, should be run on both the flash new Radio National and the corny old local State and regional programs.

The result: local programming the combines the audience-responsiveness of local radio with the interest and authority of Auntie's national news and current affairs professionals. That means you can ignore the solitary self-abuse of the communards and still get the best of radio current affairs. Information without "presenters" pretending to be journalists. Forget you ever heard the timbre of the Pastor's drone, the slurping and stroking of the Gastropod, the babble of Max-weird. Bliss!

And so, as the commentariat droned on to its shrinking audience, with their parents aging and their partners growing ever more youthful by step-functions, as Radio National's credibility reached a size that allowed it to fit into Philip Adams's hip pocket with spare room for one percent of Gough Whitlam's ego, the poor State cousins went from strength to strength.

According to the last audience survey of the year (those commercial bastards haven't worked out that exams are bad for you) the ABC's Victorian state programming (774) is equal first in the popularity stakes at 12.1% That's equal to the most popular music FM station.

And the other states range from 7.4 to a respectable 9.6, all improving except NSW.

Meanwhile the RN stations are stagnating at about 2%. That means in the State of South Australia with a population of 1.5 mill the average audience 5.30pm to midnight for the communards and their products is about 3000, according to ACNielsen.

It also means that if you cauterised RN from Auntie's ample torso, where it hangs like a shrivelling leech, the total ABC average evening radio audience (excluding Tasmania and the Northern Territory) would change from 376 000 to 342 000 and who would notice, apart from the taxpayers?

After John Howard's next election landslide he might just feel brave enough to do it.