Staff Writer
Staff Writer

Revealed: Australian FM radio’s most successful programmers of all time (1-10)

The role of group program director (by any other name), is one of the most demanding, challenging and heavily criticised in this industry, and only a handful of people have ever held the title in Australian FM metro radio.

It’s a job that combines programming, strategic and research skills, executive and organisational skills, music knowledge, creativity, people management, talent management as well as drive, determination and leadership.

While the group PD role has changed over the years, the fundamentals are still the same; it’s about product, content and ratings.

Below is part one of a two-part series that sees Radio Today pay tribute to the most successful programmers of all time in Australian metro FM radio, starting with the top 10.

The list was two months in the making, formulated in consultation with industry heavyweights past and present, with (most of) those who made the list part of the many asked to vote.

All the names on the list have enjoyed success on a national scale, serving in group PD, network PD or assistant group PD roles, as well as having been successful single station program directors.


1. Brad March

Brad March has been hugely influential in shaping the Australian commercial radio landscape, having started his career as an announcer at 6KA Karratha and several regional markets before moving to 2DayFM as MD in 1984. At 27 he became the youngest PD in a major metro market at 3MMM. In his time as group program director and group managing director for Austereo (SCA), he drove the Hit and Triple M Networks to market-leading positions around the country and established a lasting legacy for his hands-on approach to talent management, creativity and strategic thinking. 

Brad’s career has also included successful roles as Group Programming Consultant at ARN and Program Director at several market-leading stations including 2DayFM, B105, FM104.7 and Triple M.

Brad’s influence in the industry is still being felt today. As the managing director of radio talent management company Marchmedia, Brad now manages some of Australia’s top talent including Jackie ‘O’ Henderson, triple j’s Ben and Liam, and The Chaser.


2. Greg Smith

Greg Smith is one of Austereo’s longest-serving and most revered group program directors, holding the role for 9 years from 1986 through to 1995. He’d previously been the first PD to take a mainland FM station to #1 overall for People 10+ when he helmed Adelaide’s SA.FM. In 1992 Greg presided over a Survey that saw every FM station in Australia owned by Austereo go to #1.

Since then he’s established a successful radio and research consulting business, served on the board of MCM Entertainment Group, was a founding director of Radio Today and has been inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall Of Fame.


3. Jeff Allis

Jeff Allis may have left the radio industry in 2007, but he had a significant impact on the industry for over two decades. Like countless others, Jeff got his break in radio doing Mid-Dawns at SA-FM. He would go on to become program director at Austereo in the late 1990s and became known for his “differentiate or die” approach. Jeff’s eye for talent was second to none, having brought Kyle Sandilands from regional radio to the city and given Hamish and Andy their first break.


4. Dean Buchanan

Dean Buchanan remains in a group director role today, having served both as managing director and group director of NZME in Auckland. Dean makes this list primarily for his work as group PD at DMG Radio (now NOVA Entertainment). His legacy to Australian radio lies in his role in launching Nova 96.9 in 2001 and devising the unique and audience-driven strategy branded as “sounds different” after finding a gap in the competitive under 40’s radio market. Dean pitched and established the sales strategy of “no more than two ads in a row” that took the station to #1, during which he oversaw and helped to establish legacy Breakfast show Merrick and Rosso which ran from Nova 96.9 launch until 2009.


5. Brian Ford

Brian Ford has spent over 30 years in the industry. Brian held such positions as music director and program director at stations including B105, 2DayFM and Fox FM between 1989 and 2004. Brian drove the strategic thinking that helped solidify the Hit Network’s position as a leading premier network in Australia, and helped establish the core demographic of Triple M as a network. In 1995 he established leading radio consultancy company esp which has seen Brian consult both in Australia and overseas, with particularly significant work coming in China.


6. Paul Jackson

Paul Jackson remains one of the most influential people in radio to this day, having served as the group program director at NOVA Entertainment since 2010. In the past decade, he has also held such roles as chief executive and program director of Virgin Radio, and program director at Global Radio. Paul was responsible for the highly successful launch of smoothfm and oversees the direction of the Nova and smooth networks day-to-day.


7. Guy Dobson

Guy Dobson remains in radio today, though he has since moved on from the programming roles at Southern Cross Austereo that saw him make this list. Guy spent time as program director at Triple M Brisbane and Sydney, before moving into the national Triple M Network group PD role. Currently, the chief creative officer at SCA, Guy’s influence has also been felt in his time as chief executive officer and group program director of Southern Cross Austereo.


8. Craig Bruce

Craig Bruce finished his time with Southern Cross Austereo in 2015, after 27 years of service to the network. He served as the group program director from 2005 to 2010, following roles announcer and PD roles that included hosting the Gold Coast’s first #1 Breakfast show and reaching record Drive ratings on B105. Craig was influential in the move to hire Kyle and Jackie O who would go on to dominate the Sydney market and gain 60 #1 Surveys in a row. After wrapping up his time with SCA he established Craig Bruce Coaching and now works as a talent coach and radio consultant, as well as hosting his hugely popular podcast Game Changers: Radio.


9. Eriks Celmins

Now a media and entertainment research specialist, Eriks Celmins has had an instrumental impact on the radio industry. Having worked as programmer at Christchurch’s ZM-FM in the ‘80s, winning NZ Station of the Year twice, Eriks then turned his attention to Australia, joining 2DayFM in 1990 and playing a crucial role in the CHR relaunch of the station. His influence would continue thereafter, working as national research manager for Austereo’s Today and Triple M Networks and playing a key part in the 2001 launch of Nova 96.9 Sydney.


10. Duncan Campbell

ARN’s national content director is one of the few on this list who are still serving in their group PD role – though Duncan Campbell’s official title is national content director. Campbell’s storied history in the industry saw him launch the first FM radio station on the central coast, before stints with Austereo at B105 and Triple M Melbourne as program director. After some time overseas, Campbell returned to Australia in 2010 and has overseen ARN as it has become the #1 network in the country. Significantly, Campbell oversaw the launch of KIIS 1065 in Sydney, poaching the Kyle and Jackie O Breakfast show from SCA.


Stay tuned for part two later this week. As always, let us know in the comments if there’s anyone who you think we’ve missed, and who you think should be ranked 11-20.

Comment Form

Your email address will not be published.

Post new comment
Recent comments (53)
Alan Grant
16 Jul 2018 - 10:06 am

What a great history lesson for everyone under the age of 30

Mark
16 Jul 2018 - 11:28 am

That is a serious list of heavy weights. Some radio brains in there. I’d never heard of half of them but very impressive group.

Andy Grace
16 Jul 2018 - 11:31 am

Where is Cherie ? Seriously major omission.

Anonomous
16 Jul 2018 - 11:50 am

Dave Cameron one of the best CD’s there’s been. No mention why ?

Michael
16 Jul 2018 - 12:32 pm

Nice one what a shame only three of these work in Aussie radio now. Why is that ?

Craig Huggins
16 Jul 2018 - 12:35 pm

I’d have Greg Smith first, (besides giving me my first radio job), without his trailblazing, many of the others would not have learnt from him, but a great list none-the-less. An honourable mention to Peter Sinclair, who had the courage to be the first to change a capital city FM station into an ‘oldies’ station, Gold104.3. It went straight to Number 1 in Melbourne, eventually becoming the ARN Classic Hits network, currently No. 1 FM in Melbourne and Sydney.

anonomous
16 Jul 2018 - 4:06 pm

Worked for Brad in Sydney and Brisbane an incredible programmer and leader

observer
16 Jul 2018 - 5:33 pm

I’m sorry, I thought this was supposed to be ‘Of All Time’?

If it were, then Paul Thompson, who was well known as a programmer/innovator, he also started a couple of networks (???) should be number one closely followed by Rod Muir. Without these two, the history of FM radio in Australia would be fundementally different.

Neil
16 Jul 2018 - 6:28 pm

Where is Charlie Fox ?

Rod
16 Jul 2018 - 7:26 pm

I’d like to see a poll of most successful PD’s ever but not the Group ones more the station PD’s who do all the work. The Group PD’s just take all the credit.

Daryl
16 Jul 2018 - 7:31 pm

Really Bruce ahead of Campbell, give me a break? Duncan pulled off one of the greatest breakfast moves of this generation on Craig’s watch. The revolving door of breakfast shows on 2Day have been a disaster. And most of Brad and Guy’s success came when there was only 2 networks. Doubt they’d survive today.

anonomous
16 Jul 2018 - 8:28 pm

Good to see Dobbo there. SCA having a hard time of it especially in Sydney but good he’s held on to a role. Good old school radio guy.

Lester Pasley
17 Jul 2018 - 12:32 am

John Brennan, Rod Muir. Mardi Cole who did the PD role on 2CH before its Magic period.

David
17 Jul 2018 - 6:17 am

I would attend a Masterclass from those at the top of the list here. I’m sure the principles and skills they applied would stand the test of time.

ANONOMOUS
17 Jul 2018 - 6:19 am

Couple here have had more misses than hits.

Tom
17 Jul 2018 - 6:59 am

Discovering Kyle and Hamish and Andy not bad on a resume.

Nova Boy
17 Jul 2018 - 8:43 am

Would be interesting to see who created the most number of successful shows. Some CD’s created them and steered them to success some stole them. Dean Buchanon and Paul Jackson would lead the way and its interesting that they both came out of Nova. So maybe it comes down to good leadership. Cathy Oconnor and Paul Thompson paved the way.

KIETH EUBANKS
17 Jul 2018 - 11:19 am

I would put these in the top 3 order.

1.Jeff Allis – Whilst not a believer in mentoring got the best out of people by letting them breathe, also can spot a change before it happens.
2.Duncan Campbell – Just driven purely to win, awesome presence to inspire a team.
3.Brian Ford – Strategic overall network alignment, clear focus.

The one thing that these 3 have is a winning performance.

Mark
17 Jul 2018 - 12:33 pm

Ron E Sparx top Programmer at 2UW.

Lee
17 Jul 2018 - 1:24 pm

Ive watched some of these guys over the years. Full credit to all of them. Between them they’ve shaped radio as we know it today.

Steve Bedwell
17 Jul 2018 - 1:29 pm

T’s great to see such great programming minds and the influence that have made, I have enjoyed working with several of them. But that fact remains ‘those that cant do it, end up taking about it. Their lack of metropolitan success on air, combined with some of their aggressive style toward talent should be criticised not applauded. Yes they have achieved in prgramming abut all have failed at the coal face, What is that great rate quote “those that can’t go it do it talking about to.\.

Michael
17 Jul 2018 - 2:26 pm

Daryl : re Really Bruce ahead of Campbell, give me a break? I think Guy Dobson was Head of Metro when SCA ” lost ” Kyle and Jackie. Guy and Rhys were running the show not Craig he was just the content guy. Think you’ll find Kyle was the architect of that masterstroke anyway not DC.

Nick
17 Jul 2018 - 2:48 pm

About time for some new blood these are all old blokes.

Paul
17 Jul 2018 - 2:53 pm

what does a chief creative officer actually do out of interest ? is that a ‘ cool ‘ way of saying group cd ?

Pete
17 Jul 2018 - 4:24 pm

Paul Jackson should be number 1. He runs the number 1 network and has the best shows.

Arthur
17 Jul 2018 - 4:41 pm

They might be old blokes but having worked with many of them I can say that what I learned from them is as relevant today as it was then. When you discover eternal truths age is irrelevant

Deb
17 Jul 2018 - 5:17 pm

Jeff Allis a god and great hair. And he’s rich. He’s my # 1.

Paul
17 Jul 2018 - 5:30 pm

Fordy is the unsung hero at SCA. Low profile gets the job done. He’s forgotten more than what most new CD’s have learned already.

Ian
17 Jul 2018 - 6:48 pm

Inspiring to see these ten wise men all brilliant at what they do and all good guys. Well most of them.

anonomous
17 Jul 2018 - 6:55 pm

Like to know whats the common factor in all of these guys success. Will to win, drive, team players, intelligence, competitiveness or just plain luck ? Would be great if you asked them all.

Barry
17 Jul 2018 - 6:59 pm

Like to nominate Lee Simon one of the original FM’ers and still going strong

Steve M
17 Jul 2018 - 9:40 pm

Where is Rod Muir ?

Peter Menton
18 Jul 2018 - 1:27 am

What about Rod Muir?

Pete
18 Jul 2018 - 7:13 am

Good seeing Erik mentioned. Great PD and brilliant research mind and an all round good guy. Big part of Nova’s launch.

Barry
18 Jul 2018 - 7:36 am

No one from Triple J here. Barry Chapman was one of the great pioneers.

Anon
18 Jul 2018 - 12:15 pm

Dean put together arguably the most successful network in Australia with paul Thompson. He should be your Number 1. Respect to the others but credit where credits due.

Ian
18 Jul 2018 - 4:14 pm

Greg Smith is the original and deserves the number 1 slot. He was a pioneer and PD of the first FM station in Australia SAFM taking it to number 1.

Mike
19 Jul 2018 - 4:51 am

I would have DC higher.

Sam
19 Jul 2018 - 4:55 am

It’s sad there are no women on here.

George
19 Jul 2018 - 7:03 am

I don’t think anyone would argue about this list. It covers all of the major contributors and innovators of radio over the past few decades. What would be interesting is hearing from some of these guys about how they made it and what makes them tick.
Would make interesting reading.

Reggie
19 Jul 2018 - 8:04 am

Kyle is one of Australian FM radio’s most successful programmers. He is the driver of KISS’s success.

Peter
19 Jul 2018 - 9:04 am

I know it is FM but trailblazers in the early days (AM) were: John Torv, John Brennan, Ray Bean, Ken Sparkes and Ron E Sparks. Many more.

Gordon
19 Jul 2018 - 10:10 am

My favourite memory of working with Brian Ford was having him ask “Is MySpace still a thing?”

It was 2014.

Dick
19 Jul 2018 - 12:42 pm

Who on here was responsible for Dan and Maz ? whatever happened to Dan?

Dave
19 Jul 2018 - 3:26 pm

Fordy just signed up to this new thing called Facebook he reckons it will really catch on

Gavin
20 Jul 2018 - 5:21 am

Duncan is a cut and paste pd lol

Simon
20 Jul 2018 - 5:25 am

Geoff watts should be there. Leader and radio mastermind

Mark
20 Jul 2018 - 7:31 am

So jeff hired Kyle Sanderlands ?? I thought Greg Smith said he did?? And didnt Craig Bruce claim he hired him too. Success has many fathers.

LL
20 Jul 2018 - 8:47 am

#equality #diversity #notinradio

Don
20 Jul 2018 - 9:26 am

Most of these guys have never done a decent days hard work in their entire careers.

Bruce
20 Jul 2018 - 10:18 am

Travesty there’s no females.

CAMPO
9 Aug 2018 - 9:18 am

Guy Dobson , is he still in Radio ?

Blair
11 Aug 2018 - 12:34 pm

I’d like to see this list in ten years to see how many of the current crop of CD’s rate.