I have long argued that Newcastle radio suffers from the commercial duopoly of NXFM / KOFM (one parent), and 2HD / NEWFM (one parent). To make matters worse half of the duopoly is totally ineffective and barely competes for audience or advertising share.
The result is NXFM and KOFM run away with the ratings and the bulk of the money and can afford to charge high advertising rates, while 2HD / NEWFM take what they can get.
Even worse, listeners really are left with very little quality to choose from. Lack of competition results in lack of innovation, little talent development and a general laziness. Its the same in any industry.
Steve and Kim on NXFM have been doing basically the same show for over a decade. David and Tanya have been working together for 20 years now and have done the breakfast shift on KOFM for over a decade. They’re all good people, but that is hardly an environment for innovation and excitement. Honestly, its a credit to them that they can continue to wake up early and put a show on after so long with so little competition.
Meanwhile the playlists between NEWFM & KOFM are interchangeable and half of NXFM’s music fits well with those two as well. How much 80’s rewind can we withstand?
I fear the problem is only getting worse after seeing the latest radio ratings for Newcastle. NXFM (20.8 share) has leapt out to a massive lead over stablemate KOFM (17.1), while 2HD has hit new lows (11.9) and NEWFM has dropped back down again (7.6). The disparity is alarming and bad for Newcastle.
The real problem is the lack of competitiveness by Sandgate stablemates NEWFM / 2HD. Why do KOFM / NXFM have to try any harder when they are leading by so far?
Guy Ashford was appointed by Bill Caralis as dual station manager of NEWFM / 2HD in mid 2008. At the time he announced they were about to build a new state-of-the-art radio facility. Three years later they are yet to break ground on the new studios.
In July 2008, after a modest ratings lift by NEWFM, Mr Ashford told the Newcastle Herald that NEWFM was about to “offer NXFM some serious competition” and that “within 24 months they’d be on a level playing field with NXFM.” Its now 3 years since those bold statements and NEWFM is basically in the same place it was then, whilst 2HD has dropped from 15.6 share to 11.5.
The NEWFM breakfast show is led by station program director Steve St John. He’s had a series of sidekicks on the show over the last 3 years and seems to have finally settle on Sarah Levett. The problem is that the show just doesn’t rate. Everyone in radio knows that Breakfast sets up the rest of the day and currently NEWFM Breakfast is the lowest rating show on the station. It makes it hard for the rest of the team to succeed when they are handed such a low audience from 9am.
The 2HD story is also grim. Breakfast has plummeted to new lows of just 10.6 with JJJ threatening to overtake soon. The John Laws program is the only shift left propping up any semblance of ratings. The cumulative audience has dropped to 85,000 for the week with more than half that audience over 55 years, 35,000 over 65 years.
In three years the gap has only widened and there seems to be no plan to fix the problems. Unfortunately its Newcastle radio listeners and advertisers who suffer.
If 2HD / NEWFM owner Bill Caralis cares at all about the quality of radio in Newcastle it time for him to do something. Please give the stations the resources and talent they need to perform or sell them to someone who will.
Survey #2 2011
Overall Share / Breakfast / Cumulative
2HD 11.5 / 10.6 / 85000
KOFM 17.1 / 16.8 / 148000
NEWFM 7.6 / 5.6 / 86000
NXFM 20.8 / 21.8 / 185000
ABC1233 12.4 / 15.2 / 93000
2JJJ 9.9 / 9.6 / 79000