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The Age

The rating's on the wall, so Barber gets his air cut

Author: WENDY TUOHY
Date: 29/03/1996
Words: 591
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 3
Paul Barber walked out of radio yesterday carrying only a box of souvenirs. In half an hour, he packed up notebooks and awards and put his 3AW career behind him.

The network chiefs Tony Bell and Graham Mott, and the program director, Steve Price, were involved in deliberations for hours on Wednesday evening on whether Barber should go. They gave the verdict late that night: ``Terminated by mutual agreement.

" Although Barber had offered his resignation on Tuesday after ratings put him in fifth position, he said then that he still believed the station strongly supported him. Yesterday he said he believed it was his clash with Channel Nine over his call to listeners to boycott A Current Affair on Monday - which had cost the station advertising revenue - had triggered the withdrawal of support.

``I was concerned about ratings, but they were more concerned about my style. I was told it's `out of the oval of perception' of our audience.

``I knew it was going to happen because of my style - whether it be because it was too abrasive, too alternative, or critical of sacred cows."

Although he did not get the chance to farewell his listeners of four years, Barber said he had won his fight with Nine, whom he accused on Tuesday of trying to silence him.

Barber had described as ``indefensible" the treatment of the then-unemployed Paxton children by A Current Affair. The Paxtons were criticised around Australia for rejecting Queensland jobs set up by ACA.

``I think I beat A Current Affair - even though they won the war . . . To a certain extent, I fell on my sword, but someone else pointed the sword at me."

Mr Price said the A Current Affair feud was not the main factor. ``Our feeling as a station was that Paul had upset our traditional audience, and as an audience they were turning off in big numbers. And you can't, as a business, accept that.

" Mr Barber's long-time on-air rival, Doug Aiton, of 3LO, lamented Barber's departure. He said Barber had ``contributed a spectacular amount" to current affairs radio.

``He and I have battled out the ratings for several years, and he had probably won more than I have. He's a fine broadcaster, and close friend."

As he cleaned out his desk, Mr Barber said he had ``absolutely no regrets".

``I am proud that on those issues they (3AW) found difficult at least I gave my opinions honestly. I am pleased I stuck to my guns."

He did not know what he would do next.

Monday Paul Barber has the Paxtons on his drive time program talking about the impact of the `A Current Affair' stories.

Straight after the 5pm 3AW news, Barber urges listeners to boycott `ACA'.

Minutes later, the general manager of GTV Nine, Ian Johnson calls 3AW head Tony Bell and expresses anger over Barber's comments.

Channel Nine withdraws advertising believed worth up to $300, 000.

Tuesday Radio ratings released, putting Barber in fifth position in Melbourne drive-time.

Barber offers resignation based on poor ratings. Nine says it hopes his decision is not based on the feud.

Wednesday 3AW managers meet until 11pm, then tell Barber he will go because his style is ``out of the oval of perception of our audience."

Thursday Barber clears his desk and leaves 3AW. He says the Nine feud is largely to blame.

 
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