Un­der­study to res­i­dent

De­nis Wal­ter wants to give the 3AW af­ter­noon show a newsier feel

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - GREG THOM

DE­NIS Wal­ter is noth­ing if not pa­tient. The en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try jack-of-all-trades has been do­ing bits and pieces on 3AW for the bet­ter part of a decade.

Through it all, he has bided his time, wait­ing for a crack at a reg­u­lar prime-time gig.

That chance fi­nally came with the re­tire­ment of res­i­dent af­ter­noon cack­ler Ernie Sigley.

Wal­ter, who reg­u­larly filled in for Sigley when the ‘‘lit­tle Aussie bat­tler’’ was away from the stu­dio, says his open­ing mo­ments be­hind the mi­cro­phone as reg­u­lar host were a bit sur­real.

‘‘Those first few min­utes on the first day were a bit odd,’’ he says.

‘‘I was sit­ting there and I just got a bit of a shiver down the spine and went ‘hey, this is mine. This is re­ally hap­pen­ing’.’’

Af­ter pinch­ing him­self that he is ac­tu­ally 3AW’s new af­ter­noon show host, Wal­ter says he couldn’t be hap­pier.

‘‘It’s not like I’m new to the sta­tion. I’ve been here for over 10 years, but it was one of the am­bi­tions as a young­ster to do talk ra­dio and to get a main­stream, prime-time shift, so it’s a big thrill.

‘‘It’s one of the things you can tick off as hav­ing achieved.’’

Wal­ter slips into the chair oc­cu­pied by Sigley for 12 largely suc­cess­ful years.

In re­cent times, how­ever, Sigley’s rat­ings had be­gun to slide, lead­ing to a mu­tual agree­ment with man­age­ment to hand over the reins.

Wal­ter pays trib­ute to the suc­cess of his pre­de­ces­sor, but says he is de­ter­mined to put his own stamp on the times­lot.

‘‘Ernie was the first time they’ve re­ally had huge suc­cess in af­ter­noons at 3AW and sus­tained suc­cess for over 10 years,’’ Wal­ter says.

‘‘Full credit to him for the suc­cess he’s had, but ob­vi­ously I wanted to do things in my own way.’’

While some el­e­ments of Sigley’s easy-go­ing, folksy ap­proach to his au­di­ence will re­main, Wal­ter says he is de­ter­mined to in­tro­duce a ‘‘newsier’’ feel to the show.

‘‘Even though there will be a lot of mag­a­zine-type lighter stuff and a lot of laughs and fun, there’ll also be that thread of news through the af­ter­noon as well.

‘‘I be­lieve 3AW lis­ten­ers lis­ten for two rea­sons — they love talk ra­dio and they’re pretty nosy about news.’’

Wal­ter says in­for­ma­tion is one of the pri­mary rea­sons lis­ten­ers tune into 3AW, a sit­u­a­tion that should be no dif­fer­ent in the af­ter­noon.

‘‘Some of the big­gest sto­ries are bro­ken dur­ing the af­ter­noon and you can’t put a time on when news sto­ries are go­ing to break,’’ he says.

‘‘The world doesn’t stop at mid­day and be­gin at 4pm.’’

Wal­ter’s ar­rival co­in­cides with a pe­riod of wide­spread lis­tener dis­en­chant­ment with Sigley.

‘‘Ernie would, without doubt, be the most bor­ing, ego­tis­ti­cal lit­tle big­noter ever to be put on ra­dio,’’ was how one let­ter writer to the Guide summed up their feel­ings ear­lier this year.

Wal­ter ad­mits many Mel­bur­ni­ans found Sigley’s style po­lar­is­ing.

‘‘I think you should be tak­ing stock all the time. That’s one of the rea­sons why Neil (Mitchell) and why break­fast (Ross Steven­son and John Burns) have been there for so long.

‘‘And full credit to Ernie for the time he’s had. He had in­cred­i­ble suc­cess, but I think you’ve truly got to keep con­stantly looking at what you do and how you do it.’’

Wal­ter says au­di­ence feed­back in the cou­ple of weeks he has been on air has been pos­i­tive. He has also been buoyed by the num­ber of lis­ten­ers com­ing up to him in the street to of­fer en­cour­age­ment.

It’s a sit­u­a­tion where hav­ing a face lis­ten­ers can put a name to in pub­lic is an ad­van­tage over be­ing a dis­em­bod­ied voice on the air­waves.

‘‘If you were a ra­dio voice and not some­one that they knew, you wouldn’t get that same feed­back,’’ Wal­ter says.

Pinch­ing him­self: De­nis Wal­ter is en­joy­ing his move from stand-in to reg­u­lar 3AW af­ter­noon host. Pic­ture: DAR­RYL GRE­GORY

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