Ben Fordham admits he ‘cried his eyes out’ and was ‘packing it’ about the ratings after taking over Alan Jones’ slot
Ben Fordham has opened up about the pressure and responsibility he felt in taking over the ratings-leading 2GB Breakfast slot from Alan Jones.
Fordham, who had previously helmed the 2GB Drive slot in Sydney, had been asked numerous times to succeed Jones in the position, but declined. He didn’t want to be the “next cab off the rank, because [Jones is] a superstar as far as radio ratings are concerned”.
“Why would you be the guy who goes in after that?” he explained on Cathrine Mahoney’s So, I Quit My Day Job podcast.
He was eventually convinced to take the risk, when managing director of Nine Radio, Tom Malone, pointed out that with the pandemic and advertising recession, nothing is certain, and his high pay on the Drive slot couldn’t be guaranteed in perpetuity.
He wasn’t threatening a pay cut, Fordham said, but the message was clear.
Fordham said he then had to ignore his own instinct and just take the plunge.
The night before his first show though, he admits he was a mess.
“I cried my eyes out. I was just so scared of what was happening. I just started bawling my eyes out, and I said ‘I don’t know what I’ve done’… I’d always said to myself that I wouldn’t do it,” he explained.
This fear and uncertainty returned ahead of Fordham’s first radio ratings in the key Breakfast slot.
He said he was bracing for an 8% share, because he’d rather prepare for the worst, and underpromise and overdeliver.
He said he was “absolutely packing it that it was going to be a disaster”, and wore his recently deceased father’s socks for comfort and assurance. Since his first ratings came through with 2GB securing a 17.3% share in Breakfast, largely in line with Jones’ ratings, Fordham said he now always wears Jack’s socks on ratings days.
Fordham has now settled into the role and said two things are key to him being comfortable behind the microphone: the team around him, and his ability to dictate the show’s direction with more freedom than he’s afforded in his TV roles.
“I’m so thrilled with the people that I work with on my radio show. Not all of them, but most of them started as work experience kids, and then they become interns, and then they become part-time workers and then become full-time and then they just kind of rise up through the ranks,” he said.
“Sometimes I just sit there and go ‘these guys are freaks’,” he added of their understanding of, and commitment to, radio.
“I feel more at home in radio because it’s my show and I can do what I want, which is quite a liberating thing. TV is much more of a team situation and it’s based more around the idea of ‘This is what the show is and this is what you do on this show’… It’s a lot easier to decide on your own show what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. And radio is just so easy to make things happen.”
Fordham’s propensity to work with up-and-comers and young radio wannabes also means he has advice for those keen to break into the sector.
He tells work experience kids to not just listen to the radio, but to study it as they consume it.
“Work out who’s good and work out why they’re good. Why do you like this person and what they do?… Work out what it is about this person… If you can learn little lessons from different people and what they’re good at, and if you can take some of the ingredients from all those people and mix it in your own pot, then surely you’re going to be pretty good if you’ve got the best of all these different people. But that only comes if you really are listening carefully at what they do well.”