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The Age

After a long wait, a Nova statement on the FM band

Date: 04/12/2001
Words: 547
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 3
``Can we speak now?" The new FM radio station Nova 100 began at 7am yesterday with these words from breakfast co-host Kate Langbroek.

Unsure if the microphone was switched on, she upstaged anchor Dave O'Neil, who thought he had the honour of launching Melbourne's first new FM station in 21 years.

Fellow host Dave Hughes chipped in with a joke, and the trio were making waves in the FM market.

O'Neil told The Age he was eyeing one competitor: ``Magic 693. They've had it too good for too long."

But there was no Al Martino to be heard. The first song played was Frontier Psychiatrist by the Avalanches. Unlike other stations, Nova plays a range of music genres, from rock, pop, alternative, dance and hip-hop. Its target audience is mainly 15-to-39-year-olds, and anyone who likes diverse music.

Nova's chairman, Paul Thompson, said the station offered an alternative because it ``broke the rules" in terms of advertising and music content, and it concentrated on its listeners, not its competitors.

He said audience research revealed that listeners wanted a mix of music styles, and Nova was the only station in the world that ran four minutes of advertising an hour, and only two ads in a row, which favoured advertisers and listeners.

Nova's parent company, DMG Radio Australia, is owned by Britain's Daily Mail and General Trust. DMG paid $70 million for the Melbourne licence, and has spent several million on Nova's Richmond station.

Mr Thompson has built two national radio groups from scratch: Austereo in the 1980s, and now DMG. The two will now do battle.

Nova's main competitors are the market leader, Austereo (Fox and Triple M), and the ABC's Triple J. The first ratings survey will be released on February 19, but another battle has been raging behind the scenes.

In an apparent attempt to stop DMG buying capital city radio licences, the company was the target of a bogus letter-writing campaign to the media and MPs by Ken Davis, then a director of Austereo's public relations company, Turnbull Porter Novelli, to ``denigrate and injure" DMG. More recently, DMG threatened legal action against Austereo for using its trademarks.

Fox and Triple M have revamped their music recently, but deny the changes are aimed at countering Nova. Fox's program director, Brian Ford, said of Nova: ``I think it sounds a lot like the Fox. I would have thought they would have come on sounding a whole lot more different, especially with all the promises. Melbourne listeners have always wanted something more than a jukebox."

Mix FM is not a direct competitor because it aims for older listeners, pleasing the program director and breakfast co-host, Mike Perso. ``It's going to be a fascinating battle between Fox, TripleM and Nova," he said. ``We're happily standing on the sidelines, trying to avoid collateral damage, but enjoying the view."

The pressure is on Nova to emulate the success of its sister station in Sydney, Nova 96.9, which launched in April and snared a 7 per cent audience. Mr Thompson said he did not set ratings targets. If a station catered for its listeners, ratings would follow.

How Nova's rivals rate
Fox FM  17.1%
3MMM    12.4%
Gold FM 7.9%
Mix FM  7.6%
3 Triple J      3.8%
Source: AC Nielsen, latest survey figures.
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