THAT headline understates Phil Charley's achievements by a long shot, although it does point to one of the great successes of his long career in broadcasting.
You have to look behind the curriculum vitae to find the real essence of Philip Nivison Charley – which was articulated both in his positive impact on successive generations of broadcasters and his engagement with whoever he met throughout his long life.
Phil's career in radio began during the last years of World War II, after he was boarded out of the Royal Australian Air Force with a medical condition.
And this life's work was brought to an end just a few years ago when, in his mid-eighties and after 65 years in broadcasting, he decided to call it a day, for the last time closing the door of his office at Macleay College in Sydney's CBD, where for many years after nominally retiring he taught the radio advertising course.
Phil died early Friday morning of an aggressive lung cancer, diagnosed only recently. Ingrid and I flew to Sydney to see him a fortnight ago and, despite his obvious frailty, we found him in good spirits and well up to sharing a conversation along the lines of “bastards we have known….”
Phil had met just as many as me, and given our 20-year age difference probably more, but he viewed all of humanity through a prism of sublimity and generosity of spirit.
With a bemused air he once told me that his superior at the Film, Television and Radio School, where he was supervisor of radio training, had said to him in acid tones: “Why are you so nice, Phil Charley!”
At a broadcast management training program we ran at Manila in the Philippines, he was known to everyone as ‘Friendly Phil’. The nomenclature stuck. The participants at the next workshop, up in the hills at Baguio City, had already heard about this charming, clarinet-playing Australian.
Phil had managed radio stations in Queensland and NSW before he headed for Papua New Guinea in 1970 with his wife Marie.
He and I had been recruited at the same time, me from the ABC in Port Moresby, Phil from commercial radio in Deniliquin NSW. We were posted as assistant managers to Radio Eastern Highlands and Radio Rabaul respectively.
Within a year, we were both managing our own stations: Phil set up the new Radio Madang and I was sent to Kieta to run Radio Bougainville. We talked frequently on the radio-telephone, comparing notes and swapping information.
We both found ourselves at Rabaul Hospital, despatched urgently by head office as stand-ins for local manager Paul ("Left half my guts in a bucket in the operating room") Cox amidst the Mataungan crisis.
We quickly decided one replacement manager was enough to take orders from the bedridden Cox so I hot-footed it back to Bougainville which had problems of its own. Reminiscences of this bizarre and somewhat macabre encounter always caused us to shake with laughter.
In 1973, with independence rushing at us, Phil and I worked together in the policy and planning unit of the new PNG National Broadcasting Commission. One of our many projects was to introduce commercial broadcasting, which Phil had carriage of.
The Somare government of the time had pretensions to socialism and vehemently objected to our revenue-raising strategy. As I subsequently wrote:
"The next evening at our usual drinking haunt at the Boroko Sports Club, an apparatchik from the Central Planning Office approached me saying my job was on the line if the NBC didn’t back off its decision.
"Not long after this, Somare wrote to chairman Sam Piniau describing Phil and me as 'arrogant, overzealous, unprofessional and disregarding of authority'. That was enough for me. I quit. So did Phil, but subsequently withdrew his resignation.
"Somare eventually decided to amend the Broadcasting Act to remove the NBC’s right to introduce commercial broadcasting.
"But, in a dramatic day in the House of Assembly in early February 1977, the bill was defeated 41-31 on the floor of the House and on 1 March 1977 radio advertising was introduced on the NBC’s English-language service."
Phil had stuck to the job and guided that ship home.
Returning to Australia in 1979, he worked as operations manager for 2CH in Sydney - there meeting Greg St John who became a great mate - before taking up his training role at the Film, Television and Radio School. It was a job that fitted Phil to a tee, teaching young broadcasters the tricks and traps of the trade.
When he was awarded the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 2002, the citation read “for services to broadcasting in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and through education and training, particularly the development of technical and practical skills and professional attitudes and disciplines".
It could have added "...and for winning friends for Australia wherever he roamed".
After our return to Australia, Phil and I continued to collaborate on many overseas projects. We managed broadcast management programs in Indonesia, the Philippines and Fiji. And along with Martin Hadlow, we helped kick start Radio New Dawn on Bougainville in the period following the disastrous civil war.
Phil’s life was accompanied by love, laughter and jazz – and exceptional friendships.
His great jazz collaborator and close buddy, Carolus 'Charlie' Ketsimur, was a prominent journalist who went on to become Transport and Infrastructure Minister in the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
He was in that role when he died just a few months ago. The picture is of the three of us during the visit Charlie made to Australia when we planned New Dawn FM.
Many people who read this will have known Phil Charley. On behalf of us all, no matter where in the world we may be, I convey condolences to Marie and the kids – Philip, Steve, Peter and Gina – and the entire lovely and talented extended Charley family.