‘White Line Wireless’: The Guerrilla Station That’s Disrupting Sports Journalism In Australia
Because it needed a damn good shake-up.
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“Shane Watson’s going to take all the wickets in this match, including the Australian wickets. Then head down to a local club game, take all the wickets. He’s going to take all of the wickets in a day that are possible to take in every cricket game around the world.”
“And then — I’m sure this is a movie plot as well — he’s going to chase the sun.”
“Shane Watson played by Owen Wilson. What would it be called, Watson’s Law?”
So goes cricket radio station White Line Wireless, a live commentary service and sometime podcast where Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman star in a Wes Anderson cricket biopic between descriptions of Test match play.
White Line was born in response to the unfortunate reality of Australia’s overseas cricket tours locked away on Pay-TV. They aren’t on radio either, especially bad news for remote or vision-impaired fans.
— White Line Wireless (@WhiteLineWire) August 21, 2015
In these heady DIY days, it’s not enough to complain. So a roster assembled, ranging from fans to comedians to media pros like Tom Cowie, Geoff Lemon, Cat Jones and the legendary commentator Glenn Mitchell. Broadcasting from locations that they describe as “international waters”, White Line decided to throw sleep to the wind and call the matches themselves.
They began by broadcasting the Test tour of India in March 2013, after the ABC had their broadcast rights denied by the BCCI. After Test opener Ed Cowan’s company Tripod sent them kilograms of coffee as encouragement, the team live-streamed the 2015 West Indies tour.
Then they pressed on through the weirdening wee hours to call the Ashes, providing an alternative to blokey TV commentary that consists solely of ex-players.
As White Liner Andy Lane told Junkee, the free-to-air coverage is like listening to boring uncles at the pub. “Channel Nine is very parochial, they don’t know about the other team. They’ll just sit and talk about themselves, or their mates, or their favourite pizza toppings.”
Things came to a head in the Ashes when the Australian team set the bad kind of record; they were bowled out for 60 in 111 balls.
— White Line Wireless (@WhiteLineWire) August 7, 2015
Former wicketkeeper Ian Healy blamed the result on the presence of players’ wives and girlfriends. “It’s something from a bygone era,” says Andy. “A guy saying, ‘It’s not our fault, it was the chicks!’”
White Line’s manifesto decrees that calling the game properly is the first priority, while fun comes a close second. “At its heart it’s focused on cricket and telling people what’s going on,” says team captain Tom Cowie. “But not purely about cricket and stats in a dry way.”
The crew encourages fans to get involved, too Tom explains: “We ask people to send us topics of conversation, and we’ll hit on things that really work. Someone will have a story and all of a sudden our tweets overflow with replies.”
This camaraderie spread quickly through the online sphere of 3am cricket crazies, leading to 80,000 live listens in seven games. Avid listeners and Pozible contributors were invited in August this year to an outside broadcast at the MoonDog Brewery in Abbotsford to call a segment themselves, live on air.
This meant an element of training, where seasoned callers took newbies under their wing. “We’ve got tips for all our new callers,” says Tom. “Flashcards to read, hints on what they should do while they’re on air. It’s been amazing to see just how good some of our commentators have become after a bit of experience.”
— White Line Wireless (@WhiteLineWire) August 22, 2015
So what’s next for White Line Wireless? The crew have started a weekly summer podcast that is equal parts illuminating and ridiculous, which has shot to straight the top of Aus sports podcasts. Right now they’re calling the NZ v. Aus ODI tour of New Zealand live, with the World T20 in March with a trip to Sri Lanka in July.
— Tom Cowie (@tom_cowie) August 18, 2015
That’s a lot of work for an pirate cricket radio station, but other broadcast options are still very limited and the poor quality, notoriously overt sexism and inane chatter of the Nine broadcast can make them untenable.
Besides, if we need an in-depth analysis of every figure in Shane Warne’s dream BBQ mural, where else could we possibly turn?