Big Government crowding out private players: Triple J Edition

Justin Burford, former lead singer of pop-rock act End Of Fashion, has taken a big swipe at Triple J for the demise of his band:

Justin Burford, who fronted Perth band End of Fashion, said Triple J turned on his band after initially being supportive, which spelled the band’s demise. He said “very small group of people” make decisions on whether a band gets Triple J airplay, a factor which can make or break an act.

Fellow Australian musician Whitley says Triple J’s playlist is “excruciatingly narrow-minded”, adding “In my opinion they’ve failed as a taxpayer funded radio station that is supposed to challenge and present new ideas for the youth of Australia.”

And this month an anonymous musician claimed many Australian bands are tailoring their sound to suit the Triple J playlist and therefore get airplay.

Burford said the station’s once-supportive music director Richard Kingsmill went off End of Fashion after initially supporting the band, which made No. 8 in the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2005 with O Yeah.

On his Facebook page Burford said “Triple J ended the career path of End of Fashion, no question.”

“A band that was fully supported by the station, earning a top ten place in a Hottest 100, was dropped like a sack of hot potatoes upon the second album’s release. Our lead single, Fussy was even openly derided on air by Richard Kingsmill as just another pop release’.”

Firstly, you have to ask whether End of Fashion’s follow up was any good. I quite like their first album – it’s a energetic slice of the sort of rock-pop that Perth was doing a good trade in circa 2006 (see also: Eskimo Joe) so I don’t have too many doubts that the follow up would been along similar lines. And given how much crap that gets promoted and lauded by Triple J (*cough Riptide cough*), I doubt it couldn’t cross the low bar that is set for going on high rotation.

But the bigger problem is that Triple J is really the only game in town for alternative radio stations. Yes, there are independent stations like RTR and whatnot but none of them have the sorts of dollars or reach Triple J has, primarily because they don’t get a slice of the ABC’s behemoth budget. If you can’t get airplay on JJJ, you aren’t going to go anywhere fast.

Triple J, like any government creation, skews investment in alternative youth radio stations. Who would be willing to invest serious money to broadcast across Australia when revenue and listeners are fickle and Triple J has a solid, year-in year-out source of revenue and a well established customer base? Even if you managed to create a superior station and draw half their listeners, Triple J won’t lose a dollar, so you can’t even starve your competition of money. This is already on top of the problem that potential listeners have less money to spend (either directly or indirectly through buying the products advertisers sell) on radio stations because the government is taking money away from them through tax.

Existing beneficiaries of the system with mediocre second and third albums might mock but it is a serious problem that you have one government backed player dominating one segment of the radio market. Aside from the problems with Left-wing groupthink at Triple J, the economics of a state-subsidized radio station mean that the Australian alternative music and radio markets will be stifled as long as Triple J is on the taxpayer teat.


Letter to the Editor: Special interest development blues

My letter to the Editor at the Busselton-Dunsborough Times:

The title of your article regarding the latest developments of the Dunsborough foreshore cafe should be a warning to us all (“Interest groups hail cafe rethink”, 31/1). It should trouble residents that small groups of people, interest groups, can sway the decisions of local government but it shouldn’t surprise us. When you leave the fate of such a valuable resource such as land on the foreshore to the people who run government (politicians and bureaucrats), you are all but guaranteeing that it will be well organized, vocal special interests will prevail, dressed in the rhetoric of‘the public good’, over the actual interests of others.

Even if government were to somehow defy the reality, well understood by students of public choice theory, that special interests will always have the inside track when it comes to decision making, how could they even know what the ‘public good’ is? Unless the council or the City were is somehow embued with wisdom beyond regular folk, it is hard to know what the best choice is when you don’t personally bear the costs of your decisions and you are subject to little accountability.

A much more sensible choice would be to entrust such valuable commodities as foreshore land to private enterprise, investing their own money and subject to the accountability of consumer demand. Consumers, not lobbying by special interests, should be the ones directing the future of the foreshore.

Lee Herridge

Letter to the Editor: Govt mismanagement kills education

My letter to the editor to the Busslton-Dunsborough Mail:

Adele Farina MLC is right to complain about the hike in fees at SWIT (“Cost kills learning, says MLC” 29/1) but she misidentifies the solution. If Ms Farina really wanted to make the cost of training easier to reach for poorer people, ending subsidies would be her primary goal, not extending them further. While politicians love the talk of subsidies, the economic reality behind subsidies is less loved by politicians and even less talked about. Subsidies artificially increase demand (because it is cheaper), while simultaneously obscuring price signals that would otherwise attract investment and innovation. Combined with government control and central planning in the sector, you have a guaranteed formula for lower quality, stagnation and endless price increases.

Despite this obvious reality, politicians are loathe to allow the end of subsidies because are unwilling face any political fallout from the inevitable adjustment in prices. But while the end of subsidies might resort in some sharp short-term hikes in some courses, genuine competition will encourage investment and innovation in courses of high demand, driving down prices.

If people are to really receive the training they need to get ahead in life, government control and subsidies of education needs to end and we need to let markets do their work – driving down prices through innovation.

Lee Herridge

Letter to the Editor: Government to blame for high house prices

In the spirit of one of my favourite economists, Don Boudreaux from Cafe Hayek, I thought I might start writing letters to the editor to keep sharp. This letter is in response to The West Australian’s front page article, “Perth Housing Price Boost” (30/1)

Government to blame for high house prices

While REIWA might welcome higher median home price (“Perth house price boost”, 30/1), the Western Australian community should lament this development. It is a travesty that one of the most sparsely populated places in the world should have such high house prices. In Demographia’s recent survey of home prices, Australia housing was more expensive than Singapore, a country not even a tenth the size, and the only culprit to blame is government. Rather than letting the market set prices based on actual scarcity of land, politicians at every level of government have artificially restricted the supply of land and inflated the cost of building, driving the cost of homes sky-high and shutting the young and the poor out of the market. While politicians might have praised the egalitarianism of Australia not even a week ago, in reality they are responsible for creating a new landed gentry for the 21st century.

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman said once, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” The same could be said about State and local governments and their mismanagement of land in WA. It’s time we ended their control of land in this state.

Yours sincerely,


Lee Herridge

Busselton, WA

The funny standard for austerity

The European sovereign debt crisis has brought about a strange mutation of the word ‘austerity’. Austerity down the ages has usually been associated with self-denial, plainness of style and asceticism. However, somewhere along the line, governments have managed to co-opt it to mean quite the opposite.