3AW – Talking Melbourne (but Reporting to Sydney?)


One of my favourite radio stations is 3AW. I know that tends to betray my age. I was on a site visit a few weeks ago with a colleague, who frowned on 3AW when I turned on the car radio. He is of course, a younger man so I acknowledged the folly of my age and switched to a more mod station – some FM rock rumblings (like Triple M) to rob the journey off its peace and serenity.

The only other talk radio offering here in Melbourne is MTR, a recent venture spearheaded by Steve Price, once a program director of 3AW and who was responsible in bringing Ross Stevenson (of the Ross and John Breakfast Show fame – oh what blazingly quick with) to 3AW.  MTR is part owned by Macquarie Radio Network, which also owns 2GB, a station I used to listen to when I was a student in Sydney and first learned to like talk radio. It was the likes of John Laws and Mike Carlton who ruled the airwaves then, both on 2GB. I believe Laws moved to 2UE later, but I’m not sure. Or maybe it was Alan Jones I was listening to on 2UE.

Anyway, there was a smallish news article this morning about Fairfax Media Ltd (owners of 3AW) commissioning KPMG to look into the possibility of selling 3AW, and one of the interested buyers is Macquarie Radio. I guess the ACCC would have a say in this transaction.

3AW is an institution in Melbourne. I have been listening to it since the day I arrived in Melbourne and other than the occasional foray into ABC Classical music or Light FM stuff 3AW has the main chunk of airtime in my home and car. I’d have Ross and John on weekdays and Darren on weekends (Buy, Swap or Sell – or something like that – and the gardening show with a lady whose name I forget). When I have the day off, I’d have Neil Mitchell on too. Darren Hinch is in the kitchen on most evenings as well.

As an institution, 3AW has a place like no other media platform. It has probably the most captive audiences across all forms of media. I believe whatever residual market there is after 3AW, falls onto MTR’s plate.

If Macquarie Radio succeeds in acquiring 3AW, not only would it provide the company with control over the only 2 talk radio stations in Melbourne, it would also provide a Sydney-centric company with direct control over Melbourne’s most iconic media hub. I mean – take a look at the Board of Macquarie Radio. It is filled with the establishment of Sydney’s financial and advertising personalities. Guys like Mark Carnegie (of Carnegie, Wylie and Company the investment bank), Steve Chapman (Founder Chair of Baron Partners, another investment bank), Max Donnelly (of Ferrier Hodgson) and Richard Freemantle (Mr Cisco system) as well as personalities like Maureen Plavsic, an ex Channel Seven advertising powerhouse. How does a Melbourne institution like 3AW contemplate being controlled by this mob?

Not that it matters to me as a relatively new Melbournian who grew up on 2GB – but surely the rest of Melbourne wouldn’t like this and isn’t Grant Samuel from Melbourne?

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