By Rebecca Boteler
As Perth radio listeners have started heading back to work and tuning in to their regular stations again, chances are they’re listening to their favourite radio personality in a different timeslot. At the end of last year, both major AM stations, ABC and 6PR, announced significant reshuffles of their line-ups. For those too busy with their Christmas shopping to pay attention, here’s a recap.
In the world of the ABC, which, being a public broadcaster, officially pays little heed to ratings, but unofficially keeps a keen eye on them, the 2019 experiment to make radical changes to their format by merging parts of the breakfast and morning programs and introducing the hour-long Focus program wasn’t a success, and the sliding ratings is most likely the impetus to quietly go back to the tried and tested regime of breakfast, mornings, afternoon and drive programs.
In radioland, the breakfast program is considered key in securing audiences for the rest of the morning’s programming. So with the declining ratings of the ABC’s Nadia Mitsopoulos/Russell Woolf program, things had to change. Interestingly, while the duo’s ratings floundered for most of the year, they staged a comeback in the final ratings survey of 2020, moving into second spot behind Nova 93.7 in the breakfast slot. However, the announcement the pair would be split up had already been made. Woolf is now flying solo in the breakfast slot, which suits his laid-back style, while Mitsopoulos takes on the harder news style of the morning program, which makes sense given her background as a political journalist.
The retirement of the ABC’s Gillian O’Shaughnessy from the afternoon program created an opportunity for new talent, with former weekend breakfast host Christine Layton taking over. Just about the only presenter not to join in the game of musical chairs was Geoff Hutchison, who slid into the Drive timeslot in the previous reshuffle after many years of presenting mornings. Despite some poor results during the year, his ratings increased in the final survey of 2020 to 6.7% of the market share, still almost a point behind his 6PR counterpart Oliver Peterson.
Speaking of 6PR, the elevation of breakfast host Basil Zempilas to Lord Mayor was one of the factors behind a shuffling of the decks at the commercial station. Basil moving over to 92.9 Triple M Breakfast (a revamped 92.9 going after 96fm’s radio share) solved two problems; 1. The accusations of a conflict of interest being Lord Mayor and on talk radio, and 2. Being a Channel 7 personality on a radio station owned by rival station Channel 9.
Basil’s departure left co-host Steve Mills without a partner. The most obvious choice would’ve been to leave Millsy to go it alone in the breakfast slot, but with the return to Perth of big gun Liam Bartlett, the whole line-up got a revamp. Mornings host Gareth Parker has made way for Bartlett, moving to Breakfast (not his natural habitat), while Millsy slides into the Afternoons chair, nudging current host Simon Beaumont into weekends. Once again, the Drive slot is the only one not to be drawn into the shuffle, with Oliver Peterson continuing in his role with consistent ratings.
The FM radio world wasn’t immune to the changes, either, with the retirement of 30-year veteran Dean Clairs making way for new talent in the breakfast slot at Mix 94.5, while at 92.9 Triple M, Basil is being joined in breakfast by the West’s assistant editor Jenna Clarke and Xavier Ellis. Clarke’s new position also means she won’t continue as host of the West Live podcast, which has been taken over by former Inside Cover columnist Ben O’Shea.
With all the presenters settling in behind their microphones, the only unknowns now are -what will the listeners think, and who will be the winners and losers in the first ratings survey of the year, due out on March 11.