Jon Faine thanks Melbourne audience for ‘incredible privilege’ during final ABC radio show





Updated

October 11, 2019 17:17:45

ABC broadcaster Jon Faine has given an emotional speech of thanks and gratitude as he signed off from his final Mornings program at the Melbourne Town Hall.

Faine thanked his audience for the “incredible privilege” of serving them and telling their stories across his 30-year radio career.

He also delivered a staunch defence of the ABC’s role in the media landscape.

“We should not use our lives to make ourselves look good or to show off, the ABC can leave that to the worst of the shock jocks and the tabloid monsters, those narcissists who use the media to tell people how to live their lives and what to think,” he said.

“It’s the ABC’s style guide to trust the audience, to give you the contest of ideas and to hold power to account.

“In the kitchen or on the tractor, you, the audience, you are why we exist. If we ever forget that, we’re lost, because live radio is the best bullshit detector ever invented.

“There’s nothing like the intimacy that radio provides and there never will be. And we must use those powers for good, not evil.”

Faine also hit out at the ABC’s critics who “scream that the ABC’s out of touch” or a waste of public money.

“Stripped bare, they just want us to get out of their way,” he said.

Faine said the day would not be complete without a reflection on the loss of Jill Meagher and the Black Saturday bushfires.

“To Tom [Meagher], Jill’s parents, her family, her friends, I send you another big hug,” he said.

“And the killing of women just going about their business has not stopped and we must somehow, we must, make our community safer.”

Faine became emotional as he spoke of a pledge made to the Victorian communities devastated by the deadly 2009 bushfires.

“We made a promise to the bushfire communities that we would not just descend upon them, grab their stories, use it as media fodder and then move on,” he said.

“Instead we said we’ll be here for the long haul, the recovery, the tussles with bureaucrats, insurers and government and I hope we’ve kept our word.

“And on that night, that emergency broadcast, it didn’t save everyone but we did our best.”

In closing, Faine thanked the many producers and staff who had supported him throughout his career, before paying special tribute to his wife, Jan.

“My wonderful, funny, beautiful and always sensible Jan,” he said.

“There’s nothing I can ever say that explains adequately what you’ve done for me and what having you at my side has meant.

“As simple and as complicated as it is, I love you. I love you more than anyone.”

In the lead-up to his final show, Faine offered his reflections on some of his most colourful on-air moments.

‘I’ll just sit here and drink my tea’ (1999)

Some political commentators have described it as the moment that turned the 1999 Victorian state election.

Premier Jeff Kennett was the strong favourite in the week before polling day and was unimpressed when Faine repeatedly asked him about allegations of nepotism within his government.

“Keep going. I’ll just sit here and drink my tea,” Kennett said.

“And that’s the only response?” Faine asked.

“You’re pathetic. Absolutely pathetic,” Kennett replied.

Labor’s underdog candidate Steve Bracks won the election, and remained premier until 2007.

Faine: By and large, the print and electronic media in Melbourne were completely stitched up by the Kennett government.

There were people who were prepared … to question the authority of the then-premier, but they were few and far between.

I’ve spoken to Kennett many times since … [but] I don’t think I’m on Mr Kennett’s Christmas card list.

Horrors of Black Saturday (2009)

Black Saturday was Australia’s worst bushfire disaster and Faine was at the microphone in the Southbank studios steering ABC radio’s emergency coverage through a harrowing night.

The fires claimed 173 lives on one day alone. In desperation, some listeners called the ABC asking for help as the flames surrounded them.

During the following days and months, ABC Radio Melbourne was there to tell the stories of those who died, the survivors and the ones who rebuilt.

Faine: [After coming off-air] I drove across the bridge to Fed Square, there were people partying and they had no idea.

I had to pull over on Flinders Street and I wept. Then I went home. I hardly slept.

When you’re in the studio, the red light’s on, you’re performing a role … and people are depending on you.

And then eventually you wind down and it hits you what’s been going on.

Jon vs the celebrity psychic (2009)

Faine also hosted The Conversation Hour, a segment where guests discuss their lives and careers.

But not even celebrity psychic John Edward could predict what would happen in 2009 when a sceptical Faine continually questioned the American’s work.

“It’s showbiz and you charge people money — that’s what you care about, isn’t it?” Faine asked about 45 minutes into the interview.

“Apparently you must be psychic and you know me better than I know myself,” Edward fired back.

When Faine asked how Edward differed from self-styled religious gurus, the frustrated psychic refused to answer.

“Why not?” Faine asked.

“Because I don’t like you,” Edward said.

Faine: I didn’t start off thinking he was a fraud.

By the time we got to that point of the interview I’d pretty much made my mind up.

My job was to stress-test him, put him under pressure and see if he could stand up to it — he couldn’t.

‘A very empty space in our office’ (2012)

The 2012 murder of Jill Meagher rocked Melbourne.

Faine fought back tears as he paid tribute to Ms Meagher — an ABC colleague — the day after her body was discovered and the killer was arrested.

“Jill’s death must not come to define us. That’s not what it’s like to live in the Melbourne that we know,” Faine said.

“There’s a very empty space in our office this morning.

“Jill…we’ll do the best that we can and we’ll do it for you.”

Faine: As a human, as a friend, as a colleague, you really wanted to say things.

And yet, all you would do by doing so would be to interfere with the administration of the law and justice and the right someone has to a trial.

Time has passed, but the wounds are still there.

Prime minister’s wink (2014)

Political leaders often took talkback calls when they appeared on Mornings — but this was one of a kind.

A caller using the pseudonym ‘Gloria’ got through to prime minister Tony Abbott, telling him she was an unwell pensioner who worked on an adult sex line to make ends meet.

The story goes that Faine raised an eyebrow, and Mr Abbott winked in response.

It was all captured on a news camera trained on the prime minister, whose awkward facial expressions made headlines around the world.

Faine: I emphatically didn’t wink — he did. That reflected very poorly on someone who was holding the highest office in the land.

There were some significant things that came out of [the interview] that no one took any notice of.

Politics is showbiz for ugly people, which has often been remarked. It is, with hindsight, not surprising that [the wink] became the takeaway.

Michelle Guthrie’s legacy trashed (2018)

Faine launched into an unscripted and merciless dissection of Michelle Guthrie’s tenure at the ABC, moments after the former managing director’s sacking was announced.

Faine lambasted Ms Guthrie for an apparent “obsession” with “platforms, structures and flowcharts”.

He singled out the Larry campaign, an initiative where staff handed cheesy postcards to each other, for causing a further slump in morale.

“It made us wonder what on earth they were sniffing up there at the boardroom,” he said.

“The ex-managing director had no appreciation of output … showed no interest in content, showed no interest in journalism, showed no interest in the actual nuts and bolts of this organisation”.

Faine: I got a bit of career counselling about that. I brushed it aside and said, well, I understand it’s foolish in one way, maybe a little short-sighted in another.

On the other hand, if it’s ever a choice between being liked and being respected, I’d rather be respected.

If the managing director of the ABC is effectively letting down the ABC, then it shouldn’t be just people outside who say it. We have to be capable of being just as tough on our own as we are on everybody else.

Topics:

radio,

arts-and-entertainment,

government-and-politics,

broadcasting,

abc,

melbourne-3000,

vic

First posted

October 11, 2019 05:39:34



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