‘Basil just made sense’: Why Triple M Perth is backing its controversial Breakfast host
The head of the Triple M Network, Mike Fitzpatrick, has said his new Breakfast show in Perth, Basil, Xav & Jenna, will be given time to bed in and there won’t be any knee-jerk reactions to ratings or feedback.
And while the entire 92.9 Triple M brand launch wasn’t built around Perth’s mayor Basil Zempilas joining the Breakfast program, he is the best man for the job, Fitzpatrick said.
“Launching Triple M with a name like Basil… was not part of the strategy initially. It was ‘Can we put a Triple M into Perth?’ And then it became ‘How can we create a Breakfast show that’s going to be different from every other show?’ That’s how I like to program. I don’t like to program to be better, I like to program to be different, because, in my opinion, different wins. And better is so subjective. Different is not,” he told Zanda Wilson on the Mumbrellacast.
“And Basil just made sense. He was, for all intents and purposes, an Eddie-style character in Perth that was able to bring something different to radio that didn’t exist over there, which is a relevant news-based ‘What’s happening in Perth today?’-style show,” he said, referencing recently departed Triple M Melbourne Breakfast co-host Eddie McGuire.
Zempilas, like McGuire before him, has attracted headlines throughout his media career. At Nine Radio’s 6PR, shortly before his departure he sparked outrage and concern with inflammatory comments about the transgender community.
His latest controversy at Triple M involved comments to co-host and journalist Jenna Clarke who had been part of the media scrum at the Christian Porter press conference where the Attorney General confronted the rape allegations against him – allegations which he denies.
Zempilas said to Clarke: “I’ve seen you in jeans and on your knees before. You like to get down on the floor, don’t you?”
There was backlash to the comments due to their perceived sexual innuendo at a time when the nation is grappling with a culture of sexual assault, harassment, casual sexism and victim blaming, however Zempilas said the comments were taken out of context.
“I mean this, I’m being serious, no innuendo whatsoever, some people would not sit on the floor, I’ve seen you can be comfortable interviewing somebody on the ground that sort of thing, right?,” Zempilas said in later on-air comments to clear up the confusion.
The discussion of issues such as Porter and the alleged rape on the program, however, is part of how Fitzpatrick has programmed the Triple M Breakfast program. He wants the commercial FM station to have lots of news, talk back and up-to-the-minute local content.
The KPI for the new Perth show is that if it can be replayed in any other market, or even on any other day, it has failed.
“It needs to be relevant to the day and it needs to be relevant to the market,” Fitzpatrick explained. “So much so that if I come in and don’t understand what you’re talking about because it’s so Perth, then you’re doing a good job.”
With the first ratings of the year, and indeed for the show, out this Thursday, Fitzpatrick said there won’t be any hasty decisions made off the back of the numbers. Indeed he says anyone looking at the headline 10+ figure isn’t behind honest with themselves.
“There’s no point putting shows in and then knee-jerking… We’ll absolutely give it time” he said, noting Triple M’s history of shows with longevity including the Hot Breakfast in Melbourne (11 years), The Grill Team (10 years), the Rush Hour in Melbourne (11 years), Roo & Ditts in Adelaide (seven years) and Marto’s 20-year tenure with Triple M Brisbane.
“We don’t knee-jerk,” he added. “We know that the audience likes familiarity. And when we find something that works, we keep it, and when we find something that doesn’t quite resonate, we find a way to help it achieve what it needs to achieve.
“It’s really easy for people to look at ratings and go ’10+. You’re not rating 10+’. But anyone that’s really judging the success of their show on a 10+ and not digging down into the figures is not being honest.
“10+, you can be #1 in 10+ and have no share over 25 and all of your share in 10 to 24. It’s a false economy. We really look at numbers in our target demos, how we write the most revenue as a business, and that’s what matters for us.”