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How to enjoy ironing in the early hours

By Geoff Ellis - posted Thursday, 13 October 2011

Everyone has their demons and I would like to tell you about mine. A couple of years ago I was going through a fairly stressful time and as a result spent many sleepless nights thinking through all manner of concerns and issues. To combat this I tuned in to ABC Radio National in the hope it would offer something else to think about in soothing and dulcet tones that would rock me gently to sleep. That was a mistake.

It took some time for me to realise that ABC Radio National actually don't have anyone 'running the cutter' through the wee small hours and that all is pre-recorded. As a consequence it is probably the only radio programme that listeners cannot call in the middle of the night to give them a piece of your mind – which was the reason I chose the ABC over any of the others.

On the very first night I had the misfortune to tune in to hear what now I know to be the very worst two hours of broadcast radio anywhere in the world – Sound Quality followed by Quiet Space. Now I appreciate this is entirely a personal view and you may not come to the same conclusion but in the intervening time I have developed my theories as to why these programmes get air time. My problem is that my quest for a restful night with ABC Radio National has developed the demons in my life. Whilst the cause of yesteryears stress has diminished, Sound Quality followed by Quiet Space so haunt my life I now wake in the early hours only on the nights these programmes play. As if to punish me and convict me of every sin I have ever committed these programmes return week after week to make my life a misery.


So what of my theories? Well it seems to me that the broadcast of these two programmes does not follow the programming style normally characteristic on ABC Radio National. Curiously they are the only two programmes I know of on that station that do not get airtime during daylight hours. Well to me the reason for this anomaly is blindingly obvious. Were they replayed to a 'normal' audience there would howls of protest. Both programmes are 'put together' (a term used loosely) by ABC staffers of long standing. It seems to me both are an exercise in self indulgence where they can impose on an unwitting listener whilst both 'presenters' happily sleep through the night in readiness for the next day at the office.

The other thing that irks me is that both programmes are misleadingly titled. Sound Quality suggests everything that programme is not and Quiet Space would more correctly be titled 'An Alternative to Water Boarding'.

Some time ago I sent a short letter of complaint about the programmes by email to ABC Radio National. I was polite and simply asked what justification there could be for the broadcast of these programmes. I mistakenly thought I would get a response from someone in 'Corporate Communications' thanking me for my comment and 'here follows our ratings for those programmes and there is a file full of letters from appreciative listeners'. No. No such luck. Instead several weeks later I received a one line response basically telling me to sod off.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt I later thought I would submit comments directly to the presenters on the Home Pages their programmes have set up on the ABC website. Again curiously, I noted both Home Pages are virtually devoid of any listener comment and the few that do appear spasmodically always have a 'thumbs up' tone to their brief message. Not unsurprisingly, I soon learned that despite two or three messages from me questioning the merit of these programmes, none were posted by the presenters who monitor the comments page. I seriously believe no one in their right mind sends any comment in because no one else in the world – in their right mind – listens to this crap.

So what can be done? If questions and adverse comment to ABC Radio National will not be tolerated or responded to should I think about initiating some sort of Australian style Arab Spring? My taxes pay for ABC Radio National – does that give me voice? My problem is I don't know if I am alone in this in which case I must seriously examine my sanity or if like me, there are thousands out there who are being persecuted and demonised every time Sound Quality followed by Quiet Space is broadcast.

I know what many of you will be thinking. Why don't I turn off the radio or tune in somewhere else. Well that is a choice between a return to lying awake with a galloping mind or wrestling with commercials and mindless talkback on the trivialities of life. I have however discovered a better solution. I get up at 0300 and do the ironing.


PS. There is an interesting profile on Tim Ritchie who is the ABC employed presenter of Sound Quality. Interesting because Tim's broadcast career began when he called a radio DJ and told him he thought he could do a much better job. The DJ invited him to have a go and that he did. It is unfortunate Tim has not followed the example from that selfless act by the DJ.

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About the Author

Geoff Ellis is yet another kiwi that is living in FNQ. His career has largely centred on tourism and property. He has also had extensive involvement in community and NFP sectors and increasingly enjoys writing and communicating on issues that interest and concern him.

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