After doing this for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, this morning I wondered about Australia’s equivalent.
ABC RN, which I’d much prefer to call ABC Radio National, has the well-known journalist Patricia Karvelas, 42, doing breakfast four days a week. Much like Today, it’s an agenda-setting start to the day. The show goes out time-delayed for some states, with windows for live state-wide news at the top of the hour. The latest radio audience figures gives the show a 3.4% share in Sydney, with officially no listeners in the city under the age of 40. (No, really).
I analysed today’s edition of RN Breakfast using the same technique. The show, as available online, appears to be 2h 23min long, yet airs 6am-9am. The reason for the discrepancy: we don’t have the first news bulletin in the recording; and, like ABC Local Radio, the show is interrupted for AM, a nationwide news program, at 7am. It’s not mentioned at all in the transcript; I think there’s an edit in the version on the ABC listen app.
I ended up with 3,422 lines of text.
Types of output
RN Breakfast is almost all interviews.
While Today often interviews its own journalists to get expert analysis, this doesn’t appear to happen in RN Breakfast. There was one example of this with one journalist being interviewed about North Korea; that journalist, though, is also the person who reads the news headlines during the program, so doesn’t instantly come across as a specialist in North Korea (though speaks very fluidly about it).
Very noticeable is a full NPR-style back-announcement of the voice you’ve just heard:
Daryl, such an interesting conversation. Thanks for coming in. (Thank you for having me!) Professor Daryl Higgins is the director of the Australian Catholic University Institute of Child Protection Studies and you’re listening to ABC RN Breakfast.
… which sounds odd to my ears, more attuned to Today’s style, which just ends an interview with: “Professor Daryl Higgins, from the Australian Catholic University Institute of Child Protection Studies, thank you. You’re listening to Today from Radio 4.”
The difference is subtle, but with the BBC version, it’s performing both the function of “thank you”, but also the recap; while with the ABC version, a thanks is made first, the guest responds, and then we get a look back at who it was. The BBC version appears to give more forward-progression; the ABC version appears to lose a bit of momentum.
There was lots of “furniture” - promoting what was coming up, a bit more light banter with the people in the studio.
The most surprising thing from today’s running order was the tax cuts story, which started at about 7.38am. First, we had a ten minute interview with a Senator who thinks the tax cuts are bad; then a five minute interview with the Chief Political Correspondent of a newspaper about the tax cuts; and then an economist talking about… the tax cuts. 22 minutes of talking about the one story. Perhaps some of this falls under the finance news that you’d get from Today, but if you tuned in that half-hour, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing else going on in the world.
Another vaguely interesting thing, to me, was that some of the stories within RN weren’t stories in the bulletins, especially the last half-hour which seems entirely culture-based, covering a new film and then a photographic exhibition. But, stories about New Zealand and North Korea both appeared to have escaped the news bulletins.
On a more positive note, there was no use of “give us a sense”.
Not visible above is the odd juxtaposition between RN Breakfast and AM; a different-but-similar show which takes over mid-show between 7.00am and 7.30am. Also taken on ABC Local Radio, for most cap-city listeners, AM comes at the end of breakfast and the start of the morning program, and therefore acts as a good progression moment. For RN Breakfast, however, AM is just an interruption: knocking listeners out of their stride. “Where’s that nice PK gone?” they may wonder. AM is a little more report-led, but carries similar stories; this morning, the show focused on the cyclone, the US elections, Gaza, and the sexual assault stories. It’s a good program, and hosted well (I listen most mornings), but it would seem entirely unneeded on RN.
Indeed, perhaps worth considering is to rebrand RN Breakfast as “AM”, and produce standalone half-hours which are taken by ABC Local Radio. That would have the benefit of injecting a little more report-style output to the program, using PK’s obvious skill as a presenter and interviewer to reach more people, and offer some production savings. But then, I’m a foreigner, and don’t fully understand where AM also goes. As one example of how this works, I’d mention that the first segment of Morning Edition from NPR is built to also stand-alone as a podcast - Up First. That’s eminently doable, it would seem.
Anyway, this has been vaguely fun, and I wonder what other stations I might do this for.