Ever since I've been old enough to know better, one thing I’ve always loved about this country is a little station I like to call 95bFM.
Which makes it even harder, watching something you love being dragged down.
In my opinion, bFM management has just made one of the most backward-thinking moves in the past few years. And given some of those previous moves, that’s no small claim.
bFM’s hard-working breakfast host of the past nine months, Wallace Chapman is leaving. Having spoken directly to various involved parties, including Wallace, board members, and bFM Manager Helen Mobberley, I've failed to find consensus of opinion as to whether he jumped, was pushed or otherwise. I’m not going to speculate and I don’t feel confident enough of the facts to report either party’s version of events.
What is of concern is that his replacement is touted (though still not officially acknowledged, a press release is expected next week) to be bFM stalwart, and Julie Christie’s most recent pet project, (as seen in So You Wanna Be a Popstar) Mikey Havoc.
No-one can deny Mikey has done great radio and television – the New Zealand television landscape wouldn’t be what it is today without the pioneering work of Havoc and Newsboy’s early shows.
Even putting aside his recent televisual disasters (the last, live episode of his own show was best described by a mutual friend as "The Abu Ghraib of television"), for a radio station that is supposed to be all about moving forward, pushing musical and editorial boundaries, reinstating the host to a show he started a decade ago just doesn’t make any sense.
Add to this the fact that Havoc is habitually, pathologically late. Near the end of his previous stint on breakfast, it wasn’t unknown for him to turn up at 8.30am, for a show originally scheduled to start at 6.30am. Bad traffic was often the excuse.
When Hugh Sundae took over breakfast, Havoc returned after a brief absence to fill the 10am – 12pm slot, although with the exception of his first day, the show generally got underway between quarter past and half past ten. Even docking his pay for every minute he wasn’t there didn’t fix the problem.
Having been there since 6am, Hugh soon got sick of filling the extra time waiting for Mikey, and would switch the computer onto automation until Havoc deigned to arrive. “He could at least wait for me to turn up” Havoc once grumbled to me. The irony seemed lost on him.
Havoc currently hosts the drive show, from 4pm – 7pm. And yes, you guessed it, late again.
So how exactly is the bFM listener being served by replacing a hard-working breakfast host with someone who doesn’t bother to turn up on time, fails to put in preparation and effort, once said on air he thinks conspiracy theorist David Icke ‘might be onto something’ and who continues to play banging house anthems during the day as though, like him, the listeners are also stuck in the late nineties?
At least I can’t hear the ‘freedom calls’ from Wellington.
No doubt afraid of losing a “big name” after a period where ratings have fallen and advertising revenue shrunk, bFM management is being shortsighted, unimaginative and showing nothing but contempt for a listenership it likes to boast are intelligent, informed and cutting edge.
I might not be at bFM any more, but there are a lot of good people within that station, and I’ve spoken to a number of them who feel the same way. Something needs to change, and change now, before the bumper sticker reads “All stations are shit”.
Disclaimer: The author was a radio host for five years at 95bFM, and News & Editorial Director for a short period in 2003. He knows just about everyone involved in this story. Some of these people are his friends, some are not. All opinions are honestly held.