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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 20/04/1994
Words: 719
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 3
David Capewell had no reason to suspect anything was amiss yesterday when he walked into the studio at radio station 2CH for his regular spot reading the 11 am news bulletin.

It wasn't until the voice of a newsreader from the rival station 2GB came through the studio that Mr Capewell discovered his station's news service had ceased to exist and he was out of a job.

Mr Capewell's retrenchment, with the five other journalists who made up 2CH's newsroom, came just hours before the advertising guru Mr John Singleton bought the station from AWA and the NSW Council of Churches.

"I literally did not know until I stepped into the studio that anything was wrong," Mr Capewell said from his Naremburn home yesterday.

"It's an extremely upsetting way to treat people, to have no notice you are going to be retrenched."

Mr Singleton referred questions about the retrenchments to AWA, saying he did not formally take control of 2CH until 4 pm.

The closure of the newsroom, however, is believed to have been a condition of the $4.75 million sale.

It was Mr Singleton's company, Radio Superhighway Pty Ltd, that signed the agreement to take its local, national and international news feeds from 2GB's satellite network.

Production, sales and secretarial staff were still unsure of their fate yesterday, although Mr Singleton said he hoped there would be no more retrenchments.

The operations director at 2CH, Mr Joe Oost, will remain at the station until the end of this year, when he is due to retire, and the former breakfast announcer, John Tingle, will take over as director of news and current affairs.

Mr Singleton said he was not impressed by 2CH's news product and would prefer to spend money on entertainment.

The format for 2CH, which ranks ninth in Sydney with a paltry 4.5 per cent audience share, would be "good music and entertainment", although Mr Singleton did not expect a drastic improvement in ratings for a while.

"It took 10 years to stuff up this place and its going to take a couple of years to fix it up," he said.

Mr Singleton has hired the former host of Good Morning Australia, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, to advise on promotions and to host the early morning breakfast shift.

There was speculation that Mr Singleton would also approach the singer Normie Rowe.

The directors of Mr Singleton's new radio company include AWA's chairman, Mr John Illife, and the Prime Minister's sister, Ms Anne Keating, the general manager of United Airlines in Australia.

But Mr Singleton said his only equity partner in the purchase was Mr Mark Carnegie, the chairman of John Singleton Advertising.

Mr Singleton said he was keen to expand his radio interests in Sydney and Queensland.

The joint national secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Mr Christopher Warren, called on the Australian Broadcasting Authority to conduct an urgent inquiry into the operation of the satellite news services.

He said the alliance would urge 2CH management to reconsider its decision, which raised questions about the diversity of Sydney's media, with two radio stations in competition now having the same news service.

"We will be recommending that the Australian Broadcasting Authority place limits on the percentage of broadcasts than can be imported from these satellite news services," he said.

The alliance's legal officer, Mr Mark Ryan, said the journalists were sacked without warning and might be liable to large compensation payouts and even reinstatement under the unfair dismissal provisions of the new industrial laws.

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