Hinch dials up the smug as Elliott shrugs off radio slump

Do me a favour… Derryn Hinch says 3AW sacking may have been the best thing that could happen to him. Photo: Stephen LightfootAxed 3AW radio host Derryn Hinch has fired a shot at his old employer after yesterday’s ratings revealed listeners had turned away from afternoon Drive show replacement Tom Elliott.

After landing in Melbourne late last night from an assignment for new employer Channel Seven, Hinch responded to a Fairfax Media inquiry via email: “Loving my new job. In a way AW did me a favour by sacking me. No real interest or comment on the radio ratings. But, if you make your bed… .”

That ratings doona might be a bit thinner than when AW pushed Hinch out into the cold, but Elliott appears comfortable listeners will come back to bed once he has nestled in.

As a man who has made money and sharemarkets his business, Elliott knows that numbers can add up to more or less than they seem. And having yesterday endured his first day of ratings news, Elliott believes the headline number isn’t all it appears. A fall, yes, and now 3AW trails Fox’s afternoon crew, but Elliott declares: “I’m more than happy.”

The program’s 2.1 point plunge wiped Hinch’s last top-of-the-table result – but as Elliott noted, other factors were at play. The survey takes in the last official ratings weeks of 2012, when Hinch was still in the chair. And the tail-end of summer can be a notoriously bad time to gauge an audience, given the impact of everything from school holidays to sport. And at 3AW, everyone on the roster from Neil Mitchell down took a hit, though Drive’s slip was the biggest.

“The whole station went down one-and-a-half points,” Elliott says of the innately “weird” year-opening survey in the radio wars. “Obviously every survey is important but the first survey of the year is not given as much attention.”

Of his own result: “It’s about what we were expecting.” Elliott then adds the necessary point: “There were obviously going to be some listeners who were upset that Derryn had left.”

When he was sacked last year, Hinch was typically bold in his repudiation of 3AW and its decision to jettison a ratings-leading host. Elliott knew what he was taking on, but clearly would prefer that neither his predecessor nor the Elliott name – he’s the son of John and Lorraine – were the things that defined him in the media.

Does he get sick of being asked about Hinch and his dad, those two old warhorses of Melbourne public life?

“Yes, I do,” he says, adding that if that’s all a journalist wants to talk about, “I don’t do interviews with them again”.

At 45, he says, he is his own person, and notes that in radio terms he’s no novice after 20 years on community broadcaster 3RRR. But the Hinch shadow is large, and as for Dad – well, he’s actually a regular guest on Elliott’s show, and they also did a father-son double-act on the recent ABC series Agony of Life.

“Dad says now that people come up to him and ask, ‘Are you Tom Elliott’s father?’.”

As for Hinch, Elliott neither knows him well nor have they spoken since Hinch’s sacking. His focus is on building a different and quality Drive show of his own.

“I want to get six to nine months under my belt” before he can take the ratings too seriously, Elliott says of the latest survey. “The way radio ratings are done is notoriously inaccurate. You need to establish a trend over time. I’ve made a commitment to make it work.”

His Drive format is a work in progress, he says, and finding the right regular guests is a key mission. “We’re just trying to find the right people and get them to commit.”

But he’s in for the long haul, and he loves it.

“I love the randomness of it. Sometimes you get a brilliant idea from a caller … and sometimes you get something from a guest that you just weren’t expecting.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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