Mike Hosking has long reigned supreme in commercial radio, but his conservative moralization may allow Tova O’Brien to create space for himself with the more liberal and centrist listeners currently tuned in to ZB, writes Bill Ralston.
OPINION: Breakfast listeners with a taste for news and talk radio are about to get a more varied addition to their menu at the start of the New Year, when Newshub Political editor Tova O’Brien takes over as director of Magic Talk’s morning show.
Indeed, Magic Talk itself looks set for a 2022 new branding not only in the presenters, but also in the format, content and even the name.
O’Brien worked for Newshub, or its predecessor, Three news, during 14 years as reporter, correspondent for Europe then political editor. She has gained a reputation as a correspondent who can make the most of a story.
Bold and determined, she lived up to her TVNZ rival, Jessica Mutch-McKay, with a rather different style. She often breaks original stories, which can be a difficult feat in the heated competition of the parliamentary press gallery.
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Dedicated listeners of the Prime Minister’s press conferences will be familiar with his inevitable opening comments soliciting questions: “Yes, Jessica. Then Tova. It indicates its firmly established position in the pecking order of the press gallery.
O’Brien’s approach is to quickly get to the heart of the matter in a story and scoop it up, with an extremely comprehensive list of contacts in Parliament.
The downside to her approach is that she sometimes applies a whip to the content and extrapolates too far into her reasoning, leaving viewers to wonder if she has a scoop or a “beat.”
However, this approach brings water to the mill of talk radio. O’Brien has a drive, ambition and flair that will suit a revamped radio breakfast program perfectly.
While working on television, O’Brien proved that she can inject drama into a program. If it can deliver the same material wirelessly, then it has a good chance of gaining an audience. It won’t be easy.
Breakfast is a tough time slot for a new starter to break into when there are already two radio behemoths in the news market, Newstalk ZB and RNZ’s Morning report.
RNZ listeners are likely to have permanently soldered their radio dials to the national schedule and will be largely resistant to any new product being waved in their direction by Newshub. At least at first, until O’Brien can start to gain traction in the market.
While ZB’s Mike Hosking currently dominates the commercial market, there is no doubt that ZB is the target of MediaWorks’ Magic Talk relaunch.
Dallas Gurney, director of news and discussions for MediaWorks, appears to have designed O’Brien’s shift. She’s a former Newstalk executive, he knows the market, he knows ZB and obviously he hopes that O’Brien can attract listeners from the younger urban market who were watching her on Three news.
She has the ability to attract ZB audiences. A decade ago, Paul Henry on Radio Live proved, albeit in a different time slot, that the ZB market can be slowly eroded by a rival show with enough energy and public visibility.
While Hosking has long reigned supreme over commercial radio, it is possible that his conservative, right-wing moralizing approach, similar to that of some Australian radio shock-jocks, could allow O’Brien to create space with listeners. more liberal and centrist. currently listening to ZB.
The test will be whether MediaWorks executives have the stamina to absorb the long, difficult task of overcoming low ratings. When Paul Holmes first took over ZB’s breakfast many years ago, he endured at least two years of abysmal radio audiences before his audience became the phenomenon he was able to bequeath to Mike. Hosking.
O’Brien will demand the same level of tolerance for her to show whether or not she can do the same.
Magic Talk’s breakfast was previously joined in fashion with Three’s The morning show, both being broadcast simultaneously. The departure of A M Host Duncan Garner and the potential split from the other two co-hosts, Mark Richardson and Amanda Gillies, have ended that lineup pairing, but open up more speculation about who else can join O’Brien on his show. breakfast radio or a slot later in the morning.
Gurney’s experience on ZB radio will have shown him how a powerful breakfast program can continue to fuel desperately needed audiences until the nine to noon slot and other times of the day.
Duncan Garner remains silent on his plans for the future, but drums are already beating in newsrooms, suggesting he may be heading for some role in Magic Talk or whatever his name is in 2022.
Next year is shaping up to be an exceptional year for fans of radio news and talk.
– Bill Ralston is a former TV3 Political Editor and former TVNZ News and Current Affairs Officer.