License article

ABC the quiet achiever, says Melbourne radio talkback kings Neil Mitchell and Jon Faine

The media industry is in ''massive turmoil'' and the ABC is Australia's quiet success story, say two men who have dominated Melbourne morning radio for decades.

Neil Mitchell, who has presented the 3AW morning program since 1990, has described the media industry as in ''massive turmoil''.

''It's obvious with newspapers and all other forms of communication that the audience is changing, their needs are changing,'' he told a Melbourne Press Club event.

''We see [Fairfax Media chief executive] Greg Hywood is going to close newspapers, he's not going to close newspapers. We hear [of a] different version of TV news going for an hour, we see Twitter, we see the online model struggling to make a quid.

''And I think certainly commercial talk radio, and probably the ABC, has got to address, and is starting to address, this change in the news cycle, in where people get their news and their demand for what they want from us.''

Fairfax Media, which owns radio stations 3AW and 2UE as well as The Sydney Morning Herald, has said that it will continue to publish papers while they are profitable.


Mr Mitchell was speaking at a rare joint appearance with his ABC counterpart Jon Faine - an event Mr Faine joked was ''kind of like an elaborate pissing competition''.

Since Mr Faine took on the 774 ABC Melbourne morning slot in 1997, Mr Mitchell has won the ratings 126 times to Mr Faine's 12 wins. But Mr Faine is ahead in the ratings two to one this year. Mr Faine, who predicted Prime Minister Tony Abbott would not return to his program after being caught on tape winking when a 67-year-old caller revealed she worked on a sex line to make ends meet, described the ABC as Australia's media success story.

''If you aggregate the ABC's audience on radio in Melbourne and you [add in] Radio National, Classic FM, Triple J, NewsRadio and 774, we're about somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent, I haven't got the latest figures. And that's a success story of the ABC in this major market you will never hear about it.''

The pair agreed on little, except that Melbourne's commercial talkback radio was superior to Sydney's.

''Quite frankly I reject and discard everything that those sorts of shock jocks [Alan Jones] stand for in Sydney and I think it's a great credit to Melbourne commercial radio that it's never gone down that path,'' Mr Faine said.

Mr Mitchell described Mr Jones as a ''cheerleader'', albeit one with a ''brilliant brain'', and said he would ''rather be on the dole than do what he does''. ''All right, you can say what side talk radio takes in this town … you can say we're to the right. But I'm not a bloody cheerleader for the government.''

Historically a defensive medium, radio is expected to be ripe for consolidation if Australia's media ownership laws are changed.

Under current rules, a person cannot control more than two commercial radio broadcasting licences in a single radio licence areas.

Figures from Commercial Radio Australia show a 0.6 per cent rise across in metro ad spending for the first four months of this year.