Brad March
Contributor

Where are the next Great Female Radio Stars?

Where’s the next Wendy, Jackie O, Kate, Amanda, FiFi, Meshel, Robyn, Chrissie?

There are some outstanding women on air, but there are many, many more men. Why is that?

Where are the next generation of great female talent with experience, real star power, great communicators, the ones that are interesting and have that X Factor. Feisty, assertive, smart, driven woman with something (a lot) to say!

There are some strong up and coming female talent on air in regional radio. Names like Kristie Mercer at Seafm who also does the Thinkergirl podcast with Stacy June and just clocked up 100 episodes and a million downloads. Also there’s names like Bianca Dye, Tanya Hennessy, Ilaria Brophy, Bec Lee, Rosie Panettaand many others. They need the flying hours, great direction and the break into metro radio eventually. And they need the right on air partner(s) to team up with, the right combination being critical for their success.

Duncan Campbell Group Content Director at ARN said, The question of future on-air stars is a big one for the industry. The reality is the pressure on ratings is greater than ever so the luxury of building shows, starts etc is a real challenge and we know from all the research we do at the level of A list female talent that audiences resonate with is not deep. Having said that this is an industry issue that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. The next generation of stars and shows has to be developed”.

One of the future stars of metro radio Kristie Mercer from Seafm said, “My experience as a woman in radio has been supportive…but only to a certain point. A point that has been decided and defined by (mainly) male programmers. The issue extends far beyond programmers being intimidated by strong, confident women that know who they are – what I find most concerning is the lack of visionaries that challenge the boundaries of what role a female plays on air & why we’ve arrived at such conclusions.

“Continuing to ask “Can two women do radio together?” instead of trialing, developing and experimenting the idea as male teams get the opportunity to do. Are we really writing off all female breakfast duos because of a past failed attempt – one of which was over a decade ago? If a male duo fails in the ratings are we firing every single male duo & forever ruling out another attempt? It’s undeniable that there’s an undertone of sexism within commercial radio which is more derived from a fear of change rather than anything malicious. But if we don’t start to shift, radio will continue to loose the women that people really want to listen to”.

Some of the women starring on metro radio breakfast and drive shows today didn’t come through regional radio. But most did. For instance Amanda worked in Bathurst, Jackie O at Seafm Gold Coast and Fifi worked in Port Macquarie, Traralgon and Warragul. They paid their dues!

The media landscape has changed and there are now other platforms for women to gain exposure and market themselves to consumers and the radio/ media industry.

Robin Bailey from 97.3FM in Brisbane said, The media has changed so much in the last 5 years with so many more digital and entertainment options so to make it in radio now you have to know who you are and what you want to say. Radio is still one media that is surviving the ever changing landscape and it is because we can directly communicate with our audience and  they can respond instantly and with emotion but those that are succeeding are constantly pushing the audience and doing new things. So my advice to those coming up through the ranks is …….be honest, be real and be creative and even when everyone says no if you really believe in an idea or your ability then keep pushing as there is no better job in the world”.

The lack of potential new metro female talent could have something to do withthe fact that maybe its difficult for some male Content Directors to handle strong, assertive women?

Perhaps they are more comfortable working with males, some could be, but in most cases they are just catering for their stations target audience, attempting to meet ratings expectations and maximise the ratings.

Mickey Maher  Southern Cross Austereo’s Head of Content regional radio said, “This is not a women in radio issue, this is not a men in radio issue.. This is about talent identification, talent development and with that bridging the gap between regional radio and metro radio. SCA is one of the only companies who continue to invest in that area. We have some fantastic female talent who will only get better with more airtime and more life experience they include Tanya Hennessy, Ilaria Brophy, Kristy Mercer, Ester ‘Woody’ Woodhams, Sophie Tiller. As an industry there seems to be less patience for shows/talent to work (due to ratings and revenue pressures) I am not sure how we address that or we accept it and do what we can to get them match ready as best we can regionally “

Being a women in radio of course is a very different experience to being a man in radio. The radio industry still being a fairly male driven business.

Jo Stanley from SCA’s Hit network said, “Being a woman in radio is both a challenge and a privilege. A challenge because usually you’re the only woman in your on air team and often there are no women in your management team (although that’s changing – hooray!) and yet despite being the living embodiment of the target demographic, sometimes it’s impossible to be heard above the din of male know-it-alls. But it’s a great privilege because you have a direct link with a whole world of women in listener-land who you can form a genuine, warm and strangely loving relationship with. You can be their best friend, sister and mother. They can be your sounding board, shoulder to cry on, posse. You have a responsibility to use your voice to speak openly about all the challenges women face, and because you share so much of yourself, they trust you enough to share themselves with you. It’s a very powerful, moving and inspiring community to be a part of. It’s why I love it”

Tomorrow some female duo’s from the past and why networks generally don’t hire them. Also former Mix Melbourne breakfast star Chrissie Swan, Joan Warner CEO of CRA and Brendan Taylor Group PD at Nova. And coming up Friday we list The Top 10 Female Talent On Air in Metro Radio.

 Brad March is a Director of Radio Today, a former Program Director, Group Program Director & CEO of Austereo and Group Programmer at ARN. He is Director of Marchmedia

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