The smoking gun, the grassy knoll and the latest Kyle & Jackie O conspiracy theory

Speculation from Peter Saxon

The SCA studios in Goulburn Street Sydney are seven years old but still look state of the art. The complex comprises four glass enclosed on-air studios that surround a large crescent shaped producers’ desk which is just steps away from the airy open plan office. It is through this desk that the off-air team co-ordinates the activity of the on-air team.

This purpose built layout is identical for Triple M on the 14th floor and 2Day just one floor above – except for one detail. Behind the 2Day FM production desk is another desk that’s been installed for a different purpose. At this desk, which is elevated well above the production desk so that its occupants have uninterrupted line of sight into the studios, sit two legal guardians who monitor two computer screens. They are the ones charged with illuminating the orange light in the studio to warn Kyle that he’s heading into dangerous waters or hit the dump button should they deem that he has ventured beyond the point of no return.

While other stations employ a seven second delay with a dump button administered by the on-air presenter to protect against rogue callers, 2Day-FM is the only station in Australia that employs two people outside the studio controlling a 30 second delay to protect it from its own breakfast announcer.

The sudden departure of the biggest FM breakfast duo in Australia, seemingly without a job to go to is not quite in the league of the assassination of John F. Kennedy which is being investigated with renewed vigour on the 50th anniversary of his death, but judging by the speculation in other media it clearly has the potential to spawn its own share of conspiracy theories. So here’s mine.

When negotiations with Kyle began, one can only assume that SCA bosses, having lost millions of dollars as a slew of advertisers deserted the station over the past two years because of something (or two) Kyle had said, must have asked themselves, “is he more trouble than he’s worth?”

While they were pondering that question, Kyle had the chutzpah to ask for a pay rise – reportedly wanting $4 million, double what he had been earning till then.

You’d think that that was an offer management would have to refuse. Still, they’d be mindful of what happened a decade ago when 2UE let Alan Jones go to 2GB. It was a blow from which UE has yet to recover.

Nonetheless, there’s a limit at which the ROI is too slim to take to the bank, and Kyle by asking for so much money has not just stepped over that limit but rocketed past into the next century. And as good Kyle is, is he indispensible like Jones or John Laws once was? Even the redoubtable Doug Mulray couldn’t take an audience with him, proving that the Triple M brand was bigger than he was.

In any case, Kyle and SCA management had plenty of time to haggle and come to an agreement if that’s what both sides ultimately wanted to do. Perhaps one or neither did.

Now, Kyle is no fool and his manager Andrew Hawkins, even less so. It is difficult then to fathom how they could throw away a highly paid job at SCA by making outrageous demands. Unless they had something else concrete to go to that would fill the considerable financial hole when the 2Day deposits stopped appearing on their bank statements, Kyle and Jackie O could hardly afford to take that sort of punt.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a punt if, in fact, they had an understanding with ARN in the bag long time before the announcement that they were leaving SCA was made. But then why not tell listeners that they’d be bobbing up at another station in 2014? Of course, contractual arrangements with SCA may have precluded that.

On the other hand, it may have been SCA who pulled the pin on negotiations first. One thing you can believe is when Head of Content Craig Bruce tells you that the network is always looking at contingencies – always planning ‘what if’ scenarios. What if Kyle’s run over by a bus? That plan would have been evolving even before K & J hit number one FM. Simply put, SCA always had other options and at some point, when negotiations got too hard, they probably decided to take them.

When Merrick and The Highway Patrol was disbanded early in October it was suggested to me that there was more to it than poor ratings. Maybe the show wasn’t performing as a team quite as well as they’d hoped, but you don’t discard the kind individual talent that was on that show if it can be redeployed in other areas.

When it was announced that Fifi Box would partner Dave Thornton as the replacement for Matt and Jo on FOX, the question was – still is, what will happen to Jules Lund who has become one of the network’s brightest stars? Will he stay on Drive or is he earmarked to be part of the new 2Day breakfast team?

As for Kyle and Jackie O, they may well end up on Mix 106.5 which, if they do, will blow the Sydney market wide open as we find out whether the strength of the 2Day brand and its new breakfast show is enough to keep its listeners corralled at SCA or whether Kyle and Jack can drag enough audience with them to justify the investment for ARN? And let’s not forget Nova’s Fitzy & Wippa who would end up as the oldest, established under 40’s breakfast show on FM in Sydney.They could just end up the biggest beneficiaries of the new order.

As the fortune cookie says (kind of) It seems that in 2014 we will truly be living in interesting times.


Peter Saxon 


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