On a cracking phone line, a caller from TNT Radio The Mike Ryan Show explains why he does not support a carbon emissions target.
“Let’s stop being afraid of carbon. After all, we are carbon-based life forms, which is exactly what we are. Let’s start talking about pollution instead,” the caller says deadpan as the host nods in the background.
Someone who comes across the radio station might assume it is an unusual caller ringing in an AM talk show. But the guest is United Australia Party Senator Ralph Babet, a Victorian conspiracy theorist and former estate agent. The radio station is also not your typical terrestrial network.
TNT Radio is a newly created Internet radio program based on the Gold Coast that has become a hotbed for Australian fringe political figures and international conspiracy theorists. Launched in early 2022, the station broadcasts talk radio 24/7 with more than 20 hosts from around the world listed on its website. The shows have multi-hour time slots, are apparently pre-recorded, and are often repeated to fill the week’s schedule. The station even paid $50,000 to buy the naming rights to this year’s NSW journalism awards, the Kennedy Awards.
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What sets TNT Radio apart from other Internet radio stations is its editorial focus on fringe and conspiratorial topics well outside the mainstream. The station’s website promises its hosts will cover topics such as “the climate crisis, pandemics, Covid19 malfeasance, big tech censorship, digital control, government tyranny, corruption, propaganda, democracy “.
Specifically, TNT Radio hosts deny climate change, sow fear over vaccines, take pro-Russian stances on the Russian-Ukrainian war, and promote other right-wing culture war topics. Australian presenters include One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts (who recently interviewed failed Liberal Party transphobic candidate Katherine Deves) and Graham Hood, a former pilot who became a major figure in the Australian freedom movement (the website promotes events anti-vaccine and anti-government protests organized by the movement). The station’s Twitter account also reposts videos from Fox News and far-right American newspapers. The gateway expert and The period time.
Mike Ryan is a central voice for TNT Radio, hosting the first radio slot from 3-5pm each afternoon. A biography on the station’s website indicates that Ryan has worked in Australia and the United States as a radio host and journalist. Besides Babet, his recent guests include former MP and United Australia Party (UAP) leader Craig Kelly, former MP turned conspiracy blogger George Christensen, anti-vaccine lawyer and UAP candidate Tony Nikolic, international celebrity anti- vaccine Dr Judy Wilyman, and pro-Russian American journalist George Eliason — who The New York Times written in 2019 was a leading proponent of an anti-Ukrainian conspiracy theory about Donald Trump.
Ryan is also one of the people responsible for running the station, alongside Jennifer Squires. Company records reveal a litany of media companies that apparently led Ryan and Squires down a path to running a conspiratorial internet radio station.
TNT Radio’s ABN is also registered with a number of other companies, including Talking Dog Media and Business Now Asia Pacific, which have both Ryan and Squires as directors.
Talking Dog Media is a company run by Ryan that creates promotional video content (including interviews with Ryan) for clients that they can use to promote their service or business. The company’s YouTube channels show clips dating back to 2007 of Ryan interviewing business owners (branded as Los Angeles Business TV and Melbourne Business TV) to advertising content created in 2020. Ryan’s IMDB profile also shows that was the executive producer. and host of a short-lived interview series between 2008 and 2012.
On top of that, Ryan and Squires were involved in a series of now-discontinued media projects. Business Now Asia Pacific was first launched in 2007 as a small news website aimed at business owners seeking information about the region, operating intermittently until 2020 when it was renamed Asia Pacific Today.
Early in the pandemic, Ryan’s articles and podcasts covered the business impact of COVID-19 in a manner consistent with scientific evidence at the time. But as the pandemic continued, Ryan’s content became increasingly fringe and extreme; by late 2020, it had begun featuring aggrieved business owners attacking government restrictions related to COVID-19 and downplaying the threat of COVID-19. Around this time, Ryan and Squire launched a new show, The narrator. Since then, Ryan’s content has mostly dropped from business and focused on conspiracy and culture war topics that have consumed online law.
Squires offered to set up an interview with Ryan to speak on their behalf, but did not respond to Crikey organize one interview per publication.
TNT Radio has slowly but surely built its momentum through sensationalist content created by hosts that is picked up and widely shared on social media. With only a few thousand subscribers combined across all social media platforms, the station had over 500,000 replays of its audio content by the end of May (although there is no public information on the number of live listeners). So far, TNT Radio appears to have been the duo’s most successful media venture.
Although still a small player, TNT Radio plays an important role in the conspiratorial media ecosystem: it gives people a free space to promote fringe ideas or unchallenged misinformation, which they can then use to promote themselves. and promote their ideas on social networks. The conventions of traditional talk radio lend a veneer of legitimacy still associated with mainstream broadcast media.
TNT Radio’s website states that the station is funded by “benefactors, advertising, merchandise and subscription revenue”. Still, the resort only has a handful of partners listed — including a Queensland gym, a wellness supplement store and a handful of other anti-vaccine websites and groups — and it doesn’t. there is no advertising. It is unclear where the station accrued the revenue to pay for sponsorship of the Kennedy Awards (which has since been canceled once the station’s views were reported by The Australian) or to pay producers who have been hired by the station.
TNT Radio proudly displays stories on its website about being dumped as a sponsor of the Kennedy Awards. Talk to The Australian why they tried to sponsor the awards, Ryan told them he hoped to get their point across.
“What we say we know is against the narrative […] That doesn’t mean we’re crackpots,” he said.