Is ABC Radio Melbourne floundering?

In an article by Michael Lallo appearing in the SMH and Melbourne Age, ABC Radio Melbourne is being likened to a rudderless ship.

A steady decline in ratings for the once proud flagship of the ABC from its highs of 4 years ago when it topped the ratings, to what some see as the station floundering at number 5, has a number of senior staff looking to blame management.

Ex breakfast announcer Red Symons was scathing in his assessment of the situation, recently telling the Herald Sun “In media, there is a tendency for the old people who actually know what they’re doing to be relieved of their positions so you can get younger, more exciting and cheaper people.” He was replaced by Jacinta Parsons and Sami Shah, whose ratings have been steadily declining in this year’s surveys.

The decline in ratings is reflected in all sessions since 2014. Total audience share has dropped from 13.1 to 8.5 per cent while Breakfast has slumped from 17.6 to 9.2, losing almost half its audience. See our ratings reports from previous surveys.

Mornings have also declined, though only modestly in comparrison, down 2.8 to 11.4. Host Jon Faine says the 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,” 

Faine believes listeners will adjust to the flurry of recent on-air changes, including Parsons and Shah in breakfast, Warhurst at 12.30pm and Richelle Hunt at 2pm, telling The Age:  “When Red Symons replaced Lynne Haultain [in 2002], there were huge complaints… Over time, people came to love him. The same thing happens when any long-standing presenter is replaced.”

The dip in Radio Melbourne ratings is part of an overall decline in AM listenership in the city with about one-third now listening compared to almost half in 2009.

New Manager Dina Rosendorff told Michael Lallo: “It’s unfair to look at the loss of share for the ABC in isolation… We needed to freshen things up and look and sound more like our audience. We always expected a dip and it’s up to us to hold our nerve, because we made those changes for the right reason.”

Michael Lallo is a Senior Entertainment Writer for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

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