Molly Meldrum: Media Professional Biography

When discussing the media that we know today it is crucial for our understanding to be attuned to the influences and ideals that have helped shape the media landscape throughout the past. There have been countless professionals in this field who have paved the way for the new generation of our media and Molly Meldrum is no exception. Molly Meldrum is one of Australia’s greatest when it comes to entertainment media and the way in which his career developed alongside this changing media scene has contributed to the lasting impression he has had on his audience. The influence that media convergence and globalisation have had on Meldrum’s work and the relevance of the Fourth Estate and Public Sphere to Meldrum’s career will be explored further in this essay.

In 1943, Ian Alexander Meldrum was born on January 29 in Orbost, Victoria to his parents Isobel and Robert Meldrum. He went to a radio school in Melbourne however he soon left to undertake a law course at Melbourne University until he hit a “turning point” which came in the form of Beatlemania (Manuell, 2006). Meldrum’s connection and identification with this genre of music kick started his passion for the music industry. Meldrum started out as a record producer and while doing this he was approached by Phillip Frazer in regards to writing an article for Go-Set. In 1966, Meldrum became a regular writer and was given his own column entitled Keyholes. After Go-Set, Meldrum moved on to Countdown in 1974 as talent coordinator and then became the host of the show a year later. In the late 80’s, Meldrum released The Meldrum Tapes which were a 24-part series of interviews with notable celebrities of the time as well as beginning his segment entitled Molly’s Melodrama on Hey Hey It’s Saturday which he was a part of for just over a decade. Meldrum has also received various accolades not only for his significant involvement in the entertainment industry but also charity work. In 1986 Meldrum was awarded the Order of Australia for “the fostering of international relief to and youth” (Max TV, 2014), in 1993 he received an ARIA Award for Special Achievement as well as the APRA Ted Albert Award a year later.

Molly Meldrum’s career has been one of longevity and notability and his contributions to the entertainment industry inspire me greatly. As I wish to pursue a career centred around entertainment journalism, Molly Meldrum is an incredible role model due to his influence and significance in this particular industry. The way in which Meldrum showcased new and local Australian talent is something that is very uncommon due to the dominance of ‘mainstream’ popular overseas acts. This type of support and promotion of local talent is very important to me and Meldrum’s contribution to this aspect of the Australian music industry inspires me to do something similar in my future. In addition to Meldrum’s contribution to the entertainment industry, the fact that he still remains to be a household name even though the media scene has evolved incredibly over the past few decades is a testament to how Meldrum connected with his audience. His recognisability and legacy in Australia as well as his incredible success as a media professional are to be truly admired and are the reasons why Molly Meldrum inspires me.

Media convergence impacted the way in which Molly Meldrum published his work due to the growing prevalence of particular media platforms. Media convergence refers to the overlapping of media outlets through which content is circulated and how the clear separation between these outlets is becoming less distinct. Henry Jenkins defines it as the process of technological advancement that “alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences”. Molly Meldrum’s first experience with developing and distributing media was through record producing however, being asked to write an article for Go-Set introduced him to print media while continuing to produce music (Manuell, 2006). The way in which Go-Set’s content merged the music industry with that of print journalism shows how the boundaries of traditional media channels were beginning to blur during this time. From Go-Set, Meldrum moved to Countdown where he continued imparting his knowledge of the entertainment sector through television rather than print. Meldrum’s separation from print media followed the growing prominence of television as an entertainment platform along with the public’s changing attitudes towards the place of television in everyday life. Through Countdown, Meldrum was able to inform audiences of the goings-on in the entertainment industry just as he did through Go-Set but in a televised setting rather than a published one. It is evident that Meldrum’s work has been shaped by the convergence of different types of media due to his association with multiple differing media outlets throughout his career.

Through the globalisation of media, Molly Meldrum has been able to reach audiences all over the world which has led to some of his most memorable career highlights. Globalisation is described by Terry Flew as a “transformation in the scale of human organization that links … and expands … relations across the world’s regions”. Essentially this refers to how countries have been brought closer together through the broadcasted information that is able to reach a much wider audience than that of a local scale. Very basic examples of this include The Meldrum Tapes, his 24-part interview series, being broadcast not only in Australia but also in the USA, Europe and Japan as well as interviewing international stars including David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Madonna. In addition to this Meldrum also had one-on-one interviews with the members of The Rolling Stones which was filmed in Tokyo as part of Molly’s Melodrama on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. The most prominent example of globalisation in Meldrum’s career was through his work on Countdown. This television program focused not only on local Australian music acts but also promoted international acts from across the globe (Saxton Speakers Bureau, n.d.). Many Australian musicians and bands started their careers by being on the show and any international act travelling to Australia usually made an appearance to further the show’s efforts to promote global artists (PTM, 2013). Due to the world-wide popularity of Countdown, Meldrum was able to take part in a career-defining interview with Prince Charles (PTM, 2013). Without the media gradually globalising over time, much of Molly Meldrum’s work would not have been able to occur which demonstrates the extent to which this trend influenced his career path.

Molly Meldrum’s work in journalism essentially only focused on entertainment news meaning the Fourth Estate concept is not particularly relevant to his career. The idea of the Fourth Estate refers to the role of the press to act as a mediator between political power and the rest of the public (Hampton, 2009). This concept comes from the traditional way the press “ensure[d] that a nominally democratic government met its obligations to its constituents” (Hampton, 2009) by communicating not only political figures’ ideals but also wrongdoings and misconduct throughout the government. The way in which this ideal of journalism is centred around communicating information to the public to enable them to make a decision about the political state of the time does not relate to Meldrum as he was not involved in such expository work during his career. Meldrum’s non-association with the political focus of the Fourth Estate indicates that the work he did during his career did not explicitly contribute to this concept.

Due to the nature of Molly Meldrum’s work in the entertainment industry, he was constantly sparking discussion in the Public Sphere. The Public Sphere is defined as the metaphorical place in which the public offer their opinions in discussing topics of interest (McKee, 2005). Meldrum’s contributions to the Public Sphere are exemplified through his countless interviews with celebrities. In these interviews Meldrum was able to show the public the personalities of these celebrities in order to inspire a talking point between members of the public. An interview of note that inspired much discussion in the Public Sphere was Meldrum’s conversation with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1970 in which Lennon broke the news that The Beatles were splitting up (Max TV, 2014). This pivotal news caused an incredible stir at that time and Meldrum was the catalyst in the release of this shocking information into the Public Sphere. One of the main aspects of Countdown was to introduce new talent to the public (Cruising Country, 2015) and the way that Meldrum did this is also an example of the Public Sphere in action. By promoting and showcasing new music acts, Meldrum gave the public an opportunity to form an opinion on the musician’s music while simultaneously establishing a topic of discussion. Through Countdown and his celebrity interviews, Meldrum created a platform to incite conversation between members of the public about something other than current event style news which in turn contributed to the Public Sphere.

There is evidence to suggest that moments in Molly Meldrum’s career have been influenced by growing media trends such as media convergence and globalisation and that Meldrum contributed to the Public Sphere throughout his life. The fact that Meldrum has remained to be a prominent figure in the Australian media for over 40 years shows how well he has adapted to the changes in this industry. Molly Meldrum not only adjusted to the rapidly shifting media landscape but had incredible success in the industry while doing so. The advancements that the media has undergone during the time of Meldrum’s career are substantial and have affected the careers of a myriad of media professionals.

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Reference List

Cruising Country Pty Ltd. 2015. “Molly Meldrum.” Accessed March 12, 2016. http://rocktheboatcruise.com.au/2014/molly-meldrum

Flew, Terry. 2007. “Chapter 3: Globalization and Global Media Corporations”. In Understanding Global Media, 66-97. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Hampton, Mark. 2009. “The Fourth Estate Ideal in Journalism”. In The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism, edited by Stuart Allen, 3-12. Hoboken: Routledge

Jenkins, Henry. 2004. “The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence”. International Journal of Cultural Studies 7 (1): 33-43. Accessed March 20, 2016. doi: 10.1177/1367877904040603

Manuell, Naomi. 2006. Molly’s Stardust [online]. Meanjin. Vol. 65, No. 3, 95-105. http://search.informit.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/fullText;dn=232341186422651;res=IELLCC

Max TV. 2014. “The Molly Meldrum Story.” Accessed March 12, 2016. http://www.maxtv.com.au/molly/

McKee, Alan. 2005, “Introduction”. In The Public Sphere: An Introduction, 1-31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Profile Talent Management. 2013. “Molly Meldrum.” Accessed March 12, 2016. http://www.profiletalent.com.au/molly-meldrum.html

Saxton Speakers Bureau. “Molly Meldrum.” Accessed March 12, 2016. http://www.saxton.com.au/molly-meldrum/

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This piece was written for KJB102: Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communications, a unit in my Journalism degree at QUT

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