Can Tom Malone steady the good ship Macquarie in a sea of troubles?

Macquarie’s new MD chats with Peter Saxon

The OFRC (Old Farts’ Radio Club) of which I am a reluctant member (the people are great, it’s just the branding I object to), has already endorsed Tom Malone as a shrewd choice by Nine to head up it’s big new acquisition, the Macquarie radio network.
Malone is no stranger to radio
“That’s right. I started as a cadet on 2UE in the news room and did a year in Sydney and did a couple years in Canberra, in the bureau for the network, covering politics,” says Mr Malone. All this happened around the early part of this century. “And then I had a year as Steve Price’s producer on Breakfast and then two years with Mike Carlton on breakfast. And I had a few months with Lawsie as well before I came to television.”
He went to television in 2006 as Executive Producer of the Today Show, before becoming EP of 60 Minutes. Since 2016 he’s been Nine’s Director of Sports.
Usually, in radio, Managing Directors are appointed from Sales or Finance and on some occasions, Content. But rarely are they pulled from the ranks of EPs. Yet, in a business built around the most prodigious talent in Australia, with egos to match, EPs seem a logical fit.
Every talk presenter (or music presenter that talks a lot) knows the value of a really good EP. As much as anyone in the building, EPs know what makes great content and radio tick. They know how to get the best out of their talent and keep their cool when everyone around them is having a meltdown. They are experts in crisis management.
With so much of their on-air presence dependent on a crack EP, little wonder that they are often one of the few people at the station that superstar talent actually respects.
Tom Malone, the ex-EP, has taken on a Macquarie radio network at a time when it’s facing a multitude of challenges. From a non-performing Macquarie Sports Radio to a major advertiser boycott of the Alan Jones Breakfast Show on 2GB and a number of legal proceedings involving some of the network’s biggest stars, there’s plenty to be done. I asked him: What are your priorities in regards to these challenges and how are you going to tackle them?
“I think I might get in there and have a good look around first and have a look at what the priorities are. Like anything, you do it methodically and do it well. Radio is like any other business, you’ve got to focus on whatever the product is. The product in this case is great content. So, making sure the content is top notch – which it is – and then keeping costs under control and then driving the revenue line. 
“So, that’s the priority really. Everything else will come out of that. And the decisions will be driven through that prism which is to have the best broadcasters delivering the best radio shows, do it at a cost effective basis and in a way that maximises revenue for the business.”

When Macquarie was owned by Fairfax there didn’t seem to be much cross-pollination or sharing of resources between the two. 2GB and 4BC, in particular seemed more aligned with News Corp and Sky News than its own parent. Is that going to change under Nine ownership?
“I think what you have to do is deliver the best content for. We already have first and foremost and that certainly has been Hugh’s (Marks) direction from the top with regard to all of our businesses. Stan has to do what’s best for Stan. The SMH and The AGE does the best journalism for their readers. The television business does that too. In terms of radio it will be the same, we will do what is best for our audience. So, I think you’ll see that those elements that are delivering great results from an audience point of view will continue.”
So, there’ll be no edict that says Look we’d like you to use Fairfax journalists for input rather than NewsCorp journalists?
“There’ll be no edict like that. This was one of the concerns when Nine and Fairfax came together 12 months ago. 
There’s been no edict from Hugh Marks or from anyone else on the leadership team regarding who goes where and does what. You’ve got to produce the best newspaper or television show or radio broadcast for your audience. That is the core priority because that audience will deliver a revenue result and that’s what we need to do as a business.”



Where will the synergies and cost efficiencies come from?
“Again that’s something we’ll have to look at when I get in there. But actually it’s about seeing the upside of things as much as anything.
“I mean, just by getting the radio sales team to work with the existing Nine sales team it gives them so much leverage and strength in the market when they’re talking with clients and advertisers and agencies which would be terrific. And also the TV side can learn a lot from how well radio does direct sales because right now, it sells better than anyone.  So, there’s upside there. 
“You look at the news. Already, if you’ve been listening you will have heard some of Nine’s foreign correspondents doing radio reports. So that’s strengthened the news brand for Macquarie Radio and 3AW news which has been fantastic. It’s about actually amplifying each other more than anything else.”

Tom, congratulations on your appointment and from all of us at radioinfo, we wish you well.
“Peter, I’m just incredibly excited to be going back to my roots in radio. I love the immediacy of it. I love how well radio knows its audience and knows its city. And to be working with great people, many of whom I’ve worked with before, I can’t wait to get in there and work with them again to support them and to produce great radio,” says Mr Malone. 

Peter Saxon

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