When radio was a nasty business | radioinfo

When radio was a nasty business

Monday 14 January, 2019
2UE Newscar from 2000

Tall tales and true from Radio’s legendary past.

Once upon a time before the great networks merged, when ‘Spotify’ was being tested as the name for a stain remover and ‘Pandora’ was only known as an ancient Greek lady with a problematic box, enmity between radio stations paralleled that of the cold war between the old Soviet Union and the U.S.A.
With the passage of time, the clandestine tactics employed by stations to get the better of their peers have begun to emerge. Unlike official secrets from government archives, released to the public under the 30 year rule, nothing of radio’s skulduggery was ever written down. Instead Radio stories are passed verbally from generation to generation, usually at long libatious lunches. After all, radio people are among the world’s best storytellers.
One such lunch occurred last week at a North Sydney pub, The Rag & Famish, a favoured watering hole of the old 2UE in the 1970’s when the station was located up the road in Miller Street. Arch rivals of the day, 2SM’s favoured pub, the Commodore, was (and still is) not far down on Blues Point Road. 
To 2SM and 2UE, these pubs were like bikie club houses, off limits to opposition gangs. However, informants had made 2UE staff aware (and envious) of the fact that 2SM had installed their own extension from the station’s switchboard into The Commodore’s front bar. This was considered an incredibly sophisticated piece of kit in the pre-mobile phone era – if perhaps a dubious nod to work/life balance… a term yet to be invented.
Last Friday’s lunch was attended by 14 of the biggest names in radio news from back in the day. A few of them, even now, remain at the top of their game.
The story goes that in his early news days at 2UE in the late 70’s, Rob Kinny was being shown around 2SM’s new studios by that station’s chief engineer when an agitated 2SM News Director Lloyd Jones accused Kinny of spying and had him evicted from the premises. At the time, Kinny had no idea why. 
2UE had far and away the biggest and best resourced newsroom of the two. They were often the only commercial station to physically attend newsworthy events be they politics, sports, crime or disasters. Yet, somehow 2SM would get the story or some aspect of it to air even before 2UE had broadcast it in their own bulletin and to their vast network of affiliate stations.
UE’s suspicion was that SM had somehow tapped (hacked) into their two-way radio conversations. So, they set a trap during an England v Australia cricket test being played at the SCG from which 2UE was doing frequent score updates. They told the on-air announcer to ignore the scores that were normally relayed from the ground to the studio via the two-way. Instead, he was to wait for the studio phone to buzz and take the score given him by the UE’s man at the SCG.
When the time came for another update, the score was (something like) England, 1 for 62 with Ian Botham on 38. 2UE’s man got on the two-way and reported that ‘another wicket had fallen. Botham out for 38.’ 
By the time UE listeners were told the real score (1 for 62) an emboldened two-way operator had upped the ante to three wickets down and England on the verge of collapse. The 2SM newsroom had taken the bait and broadcast the bogus scores to their listeners. To the station’s great embarrassment, the story made the Daily Telegraph the next day.
Finally, Kinny’s forced departure from the 2SM newsroom made sense. Jones, it seems, didn’t want him to hear that they were monitoring the 2UE two-way.
That was some 40 years ago. Lloyd Jones’ and Rob Kinny’s paths had not crossed until that lunch last Friday. All was forgiven. Those who had worked at either 2UE, 2SM or both were able look back and laugh at what was once a bitter rivalry and to drink to each other’s health. 

 Peter Saxon




Below: Garry O'Callaghan leans on a station vehicle in the 2UE driveway on Miller Street, 1970's

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Neil Docherty
14 January 2019 - 10:05am
What a great story Peter! Those 2SM news guys would do well working for the KGB.
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