Readers of this column know that royal broadcasts rate very well. From the wedding of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to the recent programmes on The Queen, we Australians have demonstrated by our viewing that we are very interested in matters royal. It is only the political correctness of broadcasting executives that stops even more programmes reaching the public, particularly the service at St Paul’s Cathedral for The Queen’s eightieth birthday, and this year’s Trooping the Colour ceremony.
So how does republicanism rate? The strongest proponents of the republic in the nation’s largest commercial radio talkback market today are undoubtedly Mike Carlton and Peter FitzSimons. Indeed, Mr Carlton, both on radio and in print, regularly takes the opportunity to denigrate monarchists, particularly this National Convenor of ACM.
As with too many republicans, Mr Carlton’s republicanism is driven principally, indeed almost wholly, by a visceral hatred of monarchy and monarchists, and not by the slightest interest in any particular form of republic. I recall particularly his gloating prediction that the funeral of the greatly loved Queen Mother would attract little interest in the streets of London, other than from confused Japanese tourists. As we said then, Mr. Carlton once again had to wipe a large amount of egg from his face.
If there was any interest in a republic among Australians, we would expect that to be reflected in the ratings of such an ultra republican. Mr. Carlton has a sharp, perhaps cruel sense of humour. As with most capital city breakfast talkback programmes , he has been able to attract leading politicians to his programme, a trend established by the Prime Minister when he decided not to allow journalists to mediate between him and the public. As `a result, very big stories can break on talkback. For example, it was on Mr. Carlton’s programme that Mr Mark Latham announced his policy before the last federal elections to bring back the troops from Iraq before Christmas. We could expect then that Mr Carlton’s programme would rate, and rate well.
But now, The Sydney Morning Herald’s supplement, The Guide, of 24-30 July, 2006, reports that Sydney’s listeners much prefer Alan Jones on rival station 2GB. So much so, Mr. Carlton’s station is now engaged in a vigorous cost cutting exercise. When the unfortunate overnight telephone operator was declare redundant, bemused listeners heard several callers to the overnight programme attempting to book a taxi. Apparently the station’s number closely resembles that of a Western Australian taxi company.
As Ms Sue Javes reports (“Axe misses talk poppies”), this “penny pinching” contrasts with the “crippling” salary bill that has to be paid to the station’s presenters. Apparently Mr. Carlton receives $1 million each year and his contact runs until 2008. She reports that staff are not impressed that more money was recently thrown at the problem. To improve Mr.Carlton’s rating challenged programme, the station decided first to hire Fairfax journalist Peter FitzSimons to join Mr. Carlton, and pay him about half a million. To use the adjective the republican journalists use to describe fellow republicans, Mr Fitzsimons is a “passionate” republican, while curiously he famously declared that he dreams of lying in a puddle of corgi urine. He was the brains behind the republicans’ 2006 disaster – the “mate for Head of State” campaign. The addition of Mr. FitzSimons did little to improve ratings. Then a major television advertising campaign was launched to attract listeners for the republican duo. This is believed to have had little effect.
This confirms, if nothing else, that republicanism does not rate.