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The Age

Do touch that dial, 3AW tells listeners

Date: 02/05/2006
Words: 466
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 8
IN A move that was months and many thousands of dollars in the planning, Melbourne's top-rating radio station took the plunge yesterday and shifted its frequency.

1278 3AW can now be found at 693, a move station management hopes will bring clearer reception across swathes of the city that before 7.15am yesterday had only heard needles of transmission through a haystack of static and electrical interference.

It has always been a small wonder of Melbourne broadcasting that 3AW could be so popular while being so broadly inaudible.

The station hopes that yesterday's move to the left-hand end of the AM band will solve all that. Ron Barassi was on hand to throw the switch and the deed was done during the breakfast shift, with the city's two Southern Cross Broadcasting stations swapping frequency, Magic moving to 1278, and AW taking over Magic's louder, clearer 693.

For three hours, Magic ceased to exist while the senior ratings partner occupied both frequencies in what appeared to be a seamless transition.

But it was not a happy one for talkback caller Pam to AW's breakfast hosts Ross Stevenson and John Burns. "I don't know where Anne and Andrew went. I don't want to listen to this crap, I want Anne and Andrew, I love them," she said.

Andrew McLaren and Anne Gilding were due back on air this morning at their new 1278 address, while AW's saturation print and TV advertising advising listeners of the change will continue in the short term.

According to the station's program director, Clarke Forbes, callers to special hotlines yesterday had few complaints, but many had technical queries about the process of changing frequency.

According to one source at the city's second most popular talk station, the ABC's 774, AW's "older" listeners were expected to have some moments of difficulty in making the switch.

The ABC certainly hoped so, running promotions in the last seconds of every hour yesterday that advised any listeners "travelling around the radio dial" to stop with the ABC. "There's only one frequency in Melbourne worth remembering, that's 774."

The ABC was hoping for some listener gains. "It's an opportunity to cash in on confusion," said one local manager.

AW, meanwhile, was confident of a smooth move, listenership intact, though the next few weeks would not be without some trepidation.

The move got a thumbs-up from media buyer Harold Mitchell, who saw only positives.

"I think it will prove a great success," he said.

3AW began transmission in 1932 at 1425 on the AM dial, moving to 1280 in 1935 and then to 1278 in 1978.

The proof of the success or otherwise of this latest move will come with the ratings figures due to be released on June 13.

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