Remembering Peter Harvie: Passing of a radio great who nurtured Austereo’s talent

Radio industry

Tributes from Brad March, Mark Noad, Eddie McGuire, Andy Lee, Kyle Sandilands, Tony Martin

Colleagues of Peter Harvie have been remembering the man who made his mark in the entertainment and advertising industry during his long career.

A long-time director of Southern Cross Austereo, Peter Harvie was inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall of Fame at the 26th annual Australian Commercial Radio Awards in 2014.

Harvie was honoured for his outstanding lifetime achievement and contribution to the radio broadcasting industry.

With more than 45-years in the advertising, marketing and media industries, Harvie worked closely with many of Australia’s most successful on-air and off-air talent.

He started his career in advertising, joining Clemenger Melbourne as a radio writer in 1966, later becoming creative director and just three years later he was appointed to the board. The advertising business was restructured in 1973 to become Clemenger Harvie and Harvie was appointed managing director.

One of Clemenger Harvie’s long-standing clients was the Triple M radio network. In 1993, Harvie left the agency and became the managing director of Triple M Radio Network, then controlled by Village Roadshow. He was appointed to the board and soon advanced to the position of group managing director. Harvie remained a board member of Village Roadshow until he stepped down in 2016 after 15 years service.

He was then appointed executive chairman of Austereo Group Limited from 2001 until May 2011 and steered the business through the merger with Southern Cross Media to become Australia’s biggest and most diverse radio companies, Southern Cross Austereo.

Harvie returned to the advertising industry for a period in 2011, working as a consultant as Clemenger Harvey Edge (CHE) decided to rebrand back to Clemenger Harvie under then chief executive Mark Coad.

Mark Coad

Coad is now chief executive of Mediabrands Australia, and he told Mediaweek last night:
“The world has lost a great human. Very few people will leave a legacy the size of Peter’s. He was a Hall of Famer in both the radio and advertising industries. He touched the lives of many, many people – and whether you were a junior advertising exec or a celebrity – you got the same Peter Harvie. Polite, caring, curious, interested, and all done with that cheeky smile and infectious sense of humour.

“Easily the most inspiring, motivating, caring and generous person I’ve ever worked with. Harv was a real mentor to me and will be missed.”

Commercial Radio Australia chief executive officer Joan Warner said when Harvie was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame: “Peter Harvie is an outstanding leader and creative force in the radio broadcasting industry and continues today to be a supporter of commercial radio as an advertising medium and entertainment platform.”

Harvie was a fierce competitor and his most memorable clashes were with DMG Radio, particularly around the time when the Paul Thompson-led broadcaster moved from being a regional radio giant into metro markets, purchasing the licences that built the Nova FM radio network.

Harvie and Thompson clashed in courtrooms and across the CRA boardroom on a number of occasions. One infamous fallout was known as the “bogus letters” case that saw DMG Radio parent company DMGT locked in a legal battle over fake letters composed by a PR executive linked to Austereo. The case was subsequently settled out of court after Austereo made a “substantial payment” with regard to costs and damages.

Smaller clashes included tactics used to spoil the growth of the Nova network. DMG won a battle after the Registrar of Trademarks refused to register the phrase “Sounds different” to Austereo in 2003 at a time when the term was being used by Nova stations.

Brad March

Harvie worked equally closely with the executives who ran the radio business and the on-air talent. One of the key executives during Harvie’s radio years was former Austereo group content director Brad March. The announcer turned programmer then executive and more recently talent manager. March said on the weekend: “When I became Austereo group managing director he became executive chairman.

“He was very smart and passionate, incredibly hard-working and very supportive of great talent.”

Harvie and March, along with Brian Bickmore and Michael Anderson, were the team that floated Austereo on the ASX valuing the company at about $1 billion, said March.

“Harvie was always the first person in the building around 7am at the latest and always the last to leave.”

Mick Molloy

The former Triple M Hot Breakfast team Luke Darcy, Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy

Longtime Triple M contributor and breakfast host Eddie McGuire told Mediaweek he spoke with Harvie just a fortnight ago. “Peter Harvie was a legend of the media industry.

“He understood as well as anyone the need to nurture and support on-air performers. He also, through his advertising background, had an innate understanding of clients and the concept of the ‘show and business.’

“Many years after retirement age he was still an executive who could ‘read the play’ of technology and was totally engaged in what was happening or about to happen rather than revel in past glories.

“His dedication to causes particularly the Commando Welfare Trust supporting members of the Australian Army’s Special Operations Command made him a man for all seasons.

“I will miss our lunches at France-Soir, his support and advice. When it came to media Peter Harvie ‘got it’. We’ve lost one of the greatest.”

Other Austereo/SCA radio stars that Harvie helped to nurture and promote were Hamish and Andy. On learning of his passing, Andy Lee said:

“One of the greatest humans I have ever come to know. He protected Hamish and I as we made our way into the industry and was a great ear for all my questions along the ride.

“Good mentors are hard to find and I hope you knew how much I appreciated your tidbits of wisdom. Chairman Harvie, you’ll be sorely missed. You’ve been on my wall for the last 10 years and will stay there.”

Hamish and Andy with Village Roadshow’s John Kirby and Peter Harvie (Source: Andy Lee)

Another Melbourne radio legend, who owned FM drive radio like Hamish and Andy did in later years, was Tony Martin.

One half of Martin Molloy and more recently host of the Sizzletown podcast, Tony Martin told Mediaweek:

“After Brad March, Peter Harvie was the biggest supporter of Martin/Molloy within the Austereo network. Extremely smart, a great reader of people, and with a rascally sense of humour, he was always urging Mick and me to push things further on air – the exact opposite of what you’d expect from an executive in his position.

“Years later, it was Peter who had the idea that I return to the network to do Get This, which became a huge cult success. It’s no secret that the show was not popular with the then management who eventually gave it the chop, but every step of the way, Peter was its biggest defender, always popping in to our office with advice and encouragement.

“Fifteen years after it ended, Get This has an even bigger following than when it was on, but I’m sure the thousands of people swapping jokes and bits from it on Facebook have no idea how much they owe Peter Harvie.

“A classy, mischievous gent – a real one-off – who I always think of as a cross between the British actor David Warner and Graham Kennedy.”

Sizzletown podcaster Tony Martin with colleague Matt Dower (Source: Tony Martin)

While Harvie called Melbourne home, he worked across the SCA network and early on was a big supporter of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. It’s quite possible if he was handling contract negotiations at the company in the last decade the duo might still be hosting Sydney’s #1 breakfast show from World Square.

Kyle Sandilands said on the weekend: “Peter was a true boss in every sense of the word. He saved me more than once in my career and above all allowed creative people to shine. Peter will be missed, but his teachings and guidance will live on.”

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