Since ABC management installed Jacinta Parsons and Sami Shah in the breakfast slot after axing Red Symons the program has dropped to a 40 year low

Between 5.30am and 7.45am, Parsons and Shah attract 7 per cent of available listeners, less than half the 14.2 per cent Symons claimed in his final survey. This represents ABC Melbourne’s smallest breakfast share since at least 1975…

Naturally the question had to be asked “What role did middle aged white men play in all this?”

Throughout its 94-year-history, ABC’s line-up has been dominated by middle-aged white men.

More on that in a moment.

Yet its charter compels it to reflect Melbourne’s diversity; something it’s closer to achieving since Parsons and Shah were appointed.

Actually no.

This is not a decision which – as used to be said when I was there – is “audience led”.

It’s a politically correct move made in the name of “inclusivity”, but if the program were to be truly inclusive in a market where the dominant language is English, it would have presenters with clear speaking voices and neutral accents who could be easily understood by listeners from diverse backgrounds.

Mr. Shah apparently inspires mixed reactions.

Some have said he’s about as funny as an open grave.

But humour is subjective.

His material could be as actually laugh-out-loud-side-splitting as when Chairman Justin Milne says there is no bias at the ABC

But if people find it a chore trying to understand what he has to say they’ll go elsewhere – and they have.

Radio is pretty basic in that way.

As for middle aged white men, relevant Director Michael Mason would surely fall into that category, so apparently those middle aged white men are still involved.

He’s no doubt found it in his (short term) career interest to go in the direction he has, but the executive strata at the ABC is populated with fierce competitors who won’t miss the chance to hold this against him if they can.

I won’t bother repeating them here, but if you enjoy excuses of the Sir Humphrey Appleby Yes Minister kind by all means read the entire piece by Michael Lallo.

To be fair, it’s not just ABC middle management who make with the la la land excuses.

Morning presenter Jon Faine has been quoted as saying he believes a narrow focus on ratings is misguided. “It’s in our charter, and it’s part of our DNA, to do more than just try to be popular,” he says. “I could rate higher if I did a quiz, or if I did more sport or went down market. But that would be letting down our values” 

Just keep telling yourself that Jon.

It brought back some wonderful memories for me.

I used to hear those exact comments when I was at the ABC the first time around forty years ago.

Although I do recall The Age writing that my national program on Sunday mornings was “popular without letting the side down”.

So perhaps it can be done?


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