SHOCK JOCKS: HOW LOW WILL THEY GO?

modern radio broadcasting studio

Cripes! At the risk of sounding like being in the demo for an easy-listening radio station… who took the fun out of the FM breakfast shift?

As a presenter on Sydney’s 2DAY FM “Morning Crew” show with Peter Moon and Paul Holmes for 11 years between 1993-2004, sure we concocted our share of tacky and wacky stunts.

But I can say, hand on heart, that we never, at any time, coerced a member of the team into faking their own death for ratings.

The latest charge against broadcasters Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) comes from Amber Petty  – breakfast presenter on SAFM in Adelaide for three years.

She contacted the media website Mumbrella and said that when she joined the station in 2007 her death was faked in an on-air prank. Petty says that as a new member of staff, she was pressured into taking part.

She told Mumbrella: “Having worked for SCA, I will say that behind the scenes much of the time it is 100% encouraged to be outrageous and have a sick sense of humour.

“Revolting things are encouraged, and they employ sycophantic people who make dumb mistakes.”

female radio host wearing headset

Petty said: “While I was on air, the powers that be decided it would be a good idea to get attention by pretending I had died. So being new on-air and feeling the pushiness of ‘don’t carry on about this or you’re not a team player’ I had to leave the studio while an obituary for me was recorded.

“The obituary included our newsreader reading out my death news and a sound grab from my brother and father saying how horrendous it was that I’d died, including asking my dad to say: ‘It’s obviously always sad when a parent loses a child’.”

She says her father was pressured into it by her on-air co-host.

How deplorable to exploit both her and her family who wanted her to have a successful career in radio! A career that has so much to offer to women.

No wonder she’s still angry.

Petty says she was prompted to go public after the sacking of Kyle and Jackie O producer, Bruno Bouchet, who was fired this week after making jokes on Twitter about the cinema shootings in Colorado. (Not the first time he’s been in trouble after publicity about his “Bruno Loves Boobs” pornographic website.)

Look, I could go on about the misdemeanors of that particular breakfast show… but I’ve already done so. (See related articles, next page.)

Instead, it might be worth looking back at what passed for fun back in the olden days and some of the stunts I can recall from my time in breakfast radio.

Tacky? Sure. Dishonest? Sometimes. Degrading? Depends if you like cockroaches.

CRUNCH A COCKIE

Yep! Win State of Origin Tickets by eating a live cockroach. Look, these weren’t ordinary cockies. They were those Queensland giant burrowing cockroaches (Macropanesthia rhinoceros). Big, juicy ones. And they had been lovingly, hand-reared on peanut butter for a week before the stunt. All the listeners had to do was eat one, live on air, for the best tickets going. There were plenty of takers. The one “lucky” listener chosen bit into the thing and years later I can still recall the sickening “crunch”.

NB: And before any complaints from animal-rights campaigners, I ended up taking the other two cockies home and kept them as pets for years. Everyone who saw them said: “Gross. KILL THEM.”

LIVE IN IT AND WIN!

Cute idea from a rival brekkie show. Put a group of people in a 4WD in the middle of a shopping centre and the last one to vacate it wins the vehicle. More than a month later, there were two holdouts who would not Get. Out. Of. The. Car. (The segment was well on the nose by this time.) After complaints from shopping centre management that the car was stinking up the joint, producers quietly found two cars and sent them on their way.

DASH FOR CASH

This one was simple but stupid. We pinned banknotes all over the clothes of our on-street reporter, gave him a head start and listeners were urged to chase him down a suburban mall and grab the cash. Unfortunately, the listeners (who could have all qualified for the Olympics) overtook him in about three seconds, ripped his clothes and left him dazed and incoherent. I ran into him last week. He’s still traumatised and reckons it was the most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to him.

NB: Alliteration is important ( And rhyming. See in comments below). See also “Whirl till you Hurl” where listeners to a Gold Coast FM show were encouraged to stay on a roller coaster till they threw up.

GRAB A MILLION DOLLARS!!!

car stereo turned onThere was the official management line: “Make every listener a winner.” The unofficial one: “Never give a sucker an even break.” And from the on-air talent: “Let’s see how much stuff we can give away before everyone goes broke.”

You’ve probably seen radio contests that put a million bucks up for grabs – in bags, buried in sand, in wind tunnels – while punters are equipped with golden shovels and butterfly nets. Earlier this year Isabella from Ryde did win that $1,000,000 on the Kyle and Jackie O Show’s “Dawn Dig” (loving that alliteration) when she dug up the bag with the Golden Ticket on Bondi Beach.

I’m told the odds are probably in the range of one in 8,000 to get a lot in these kinds of stunts… better than the one in 50 million for Lotto, and so, insurable. It usually costs stations around $40,000.

NB: When the challenge is to shovel as much actual cash as you can in 60 seconds, the trick from the promotions department is to bulk up the bounty with coins, while the big notes fly off in the breeze. This can lower the take from a mill to around $20,000.

TENTH LUCKY CALLER

Are you mad? If the tenth lucky caller is a dweeb, the producers will move on until they find someone capable of screaming and shouting the station call sign over and over again.

COME ON DOWN FOR AN ICY COLD CAN OF COKE!

Bit hard to do that when the “fun bus” is still in the station’s underground carpark in the city and the DJ can be arsed driving to Blacktown. OR you might like to pick up some REAL coke. Like the US DJ who said on air: “Ring this number for a request. Or ring this other number for a SPECIAL request.” The request, dealt out the back of the station vehicle, turned out to be for a Jackson Browne “track” (get my drift?)

As I say, during an 11-year stint you can do some pretty ridiculous stuff.

However, nothing I am ashamed of.

As I sit here now, I’m looking at a pointy lump of perspex handed to me at the 1999 Rawards. (Australian commercial radio’s equivalent of the Emmys.)

The inscription reads: Best Station Promotion, Metropolitan for “Two Strangers and a Wedding.”

I have to claim part-authorship for this stunt which made news, world-wide.

Inspired by an item I had read where a despairing mother in the US had taken her son to a shopping mall, interviewed a prospective bride, then married him off on the spot, we wondered if it was possible for the friends and family of two singles, who’d never met, to pair them up and then marry them, on air.

(And, yes, a lie detector was involved. But the questions were along the line of: “Do you REALLY like cats?”)

After weeks of promotion, we had our bride and groom take part in a commitment ceremony on the show (and I have pix of Moonie and me in the bridal party).

They won hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of white goods, home furnishings and a trip to Paris for their “honeymoon”. (I recall that Today Tonight’s Stan Grant caught up with them in Paris for a segment. The British and US papers ran the story.)

However, as these things go, the union was never legalised and the first glimpse of the bride’s “assets” the groom ever saw was when she posed for a men’s magazine for an undisclosed sum. Thanks must go to The Daily Telegraph for its investigative journalism.

NB: They tried the same stunt in SA, but the “bride” ran off with a cameraman from the TV current affairs show covering the story.

Ain’t FM breakfast show love grand?

In the end, as I say, call it low-rent, and it certainly was nonsense (one couple we recruited lived in a billboard at the airport for a weekend… I could go on for days) but I reckon it’s a world away from talk about porno, S&M and revelations about sexual assault and, well… you know, the rest.

Perhaps the answer lies in having more women on radio and in that spirit, we bring you the list of the Top 27 Most Powerful Women in Radio… as compiled by my former boss at 2DAY FM, Brad March and our friends at Radio Today.

This is a stellar group of women. Well worth a read… all power to them.

Everyone gets an icy cold can of Coke!

 

 

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