Missed opportunity reflects poorly on the industry

Opinion from Peter Saxon

As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Oh, yeah? Tell that to Alan Joyce at QANTAS.

In reality, while that maxim may work for individual celebrities, bad publicity can be kryptonite for corporations. All those highly publicised run-ins with the ACMA did nothing to diminish Kyle Sandilands’ or Alan Jones’ audience but it cost their respective employers, 2Day and 2GB, plenty as advertisers deserted them in a rush to avoid any adverse publicity.

Last week’s media brawl between Fairfax Radio and Macquarie Radio Network (MRN) mercifully failed to precipitate an advertiser exodus on the scale of the aforementioned events – perhaps because it lacked a reason for public outrage which meant most people couldn’t give a stuff.  

Nonetheless, it is not a good look for our industry.

In short, controversy surrounding talent is good for business. Controversy at board level is bad for business.

While the audience really doesn’t care whether MRN merges with or buys out Fairfax or not, or vice versa, the business community does. That includes the organisations that buy advertising, those that buy shares and those that provide funding. They want to deal with winners, not losers. They’re wary of organisations or industries that they perceive to be in trouble or reckon have weak and incompetent management.

So, when two sets of Company  Directors and high profile executives from rival radio networks decide to use their own media to publicly accuse each other of those very things the business community takes notice – and not in a good way.

Everybody knows that Fairfax and MRN should form a partnership of some kind. It would give both organisations the true capital city reach they so desperately need with a network that includes outright number one stations in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Everybody knows, none more so than MRN and Fairfax, the synergies would lead to unleashed millions in increased revenue and reduced costs.

Yet, after a decade of on again, off again negotiations the two sides have failed to come to an agreement. Their inability to overcome their differences, their apparent desperation to get the better end of the deal, has meant they have borne the enormous costs of a decade’s worth of missed opportunity.

This not only reflects badly on the protagonists but the industry as a whole.

What the radio industry needs is, strong, successful networks that compete by continually raising the bar on creativity and quality of programming, not public mudslinging.

 Peter Saxon

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