How COVID-19 is impacting radio in Australia [updating]

Staff Writer

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to be felt by the Australian radio industry, with several high-profile presenters now in isolation and others testing positive to COVID-19.

As reported by Radio Today last week, the big four commercial radio networks were already implementing measures to protect the wellbeing of staffers nationwide, with home studios being installed or upgraded in the homes of key breakfast and drive talent to ensure on-air continuity.

We’ll continue to update this article as more news comes to hand about how radio is being affected by this issue, and as always, please let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything.

CRA’s Joan Warner addresses the situation facing radio

Commercial Radio Australia’s CEO Joan Warner has addressed the state of play, in CRA’s new Radio Alive newsletter.

“As the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, radio has a more important role than ever to keep our audiences well-informed,” she said.

“Isolation policies, remote working, closures of community meeting places and rapidly changing circumstances mean listeners and businesses will rely on radio for information, entertainment and to stay in touch with breaking news relevant to their local area.

She explained that all 260 commercial radio stations in Australia have contingency plans to work through emergencies.

“The full impact of the coronavirus on ad spend and the media and marketing industries is uncertain, but what is clear is that it’s essential for governments and businesses to keep communicating with their customers during these challenging times, and radio remains an important and effective channel,” Warner added.

“Thanks to the teams both on and off air, who continue to ensure radio delivers a trusted and reliable service to all our customers.

“I hope you and your families and colleagues stay safe.”

Hughesy & Ed in self-isolation

Hit Network Drive hosts Dave Hughes & Ed Kavalee are at home in self-isolation, with thei pair continuing to broadcast their show.

The pair are at home as a precautionary measure after Kavalee was in close contact with Richard Wilkins’ son Christian during the filing of Dancing With The Stars last week.

Wilkins Snr tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

It's going to be an interesting show! Both Hughesy and Ed (like a lot of the country) are having to work from home today! Let's hope it all runs smoothly! Tune in from 5pm to hear how it goes!#coronavirus

Posted by Hughesy and Ed on Sunday, 15 March 2020

3AW’s Neil Mitchell now broadcasting from home

Neil Mitchell joins the growing number of presenters who are working from home.

The 3AW Mornings host posted a video to Facebook, which explained that “most of 3AW will be broadcasting from home by the end of the week.

“We’re doing it because we want to stay on air… we need to stay on air… we need to talk,” said Mitchell.

“This is the biggest mass gathering in town, 150,000 listening.”

Nova National News Director Michelle Stephenson awaits test results

Another member of the Nova family is awaiting results of a test of COVID-19.

National news director Michelle Stephenson is self-isolating, but finding it difficult when she shares a two-bedroom house with her son and husband, who she has to keep her distance from.

Stephenson also tweeted that she was told her wait time would be short as she was considered “high risk”.

She is still awaiting her test results.

WSFM’s Amanda Keller is WFH after contact with Christian Wilkins

Amanda Keller is broadcasting from home, in self-isolation, after coming into contact with Christian Wilkins as part of her role as host of Dancing with the Stars on Sunday.

Keller will remain on-air from home until Wilkins receives the results of his COVID-19 test.

Kyle & Jackie O are now broadcasting remotely

Sydney’s top-ratings FM breakfast duo Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson are on-air via home studios from today, with newsreader Brooklyn Ross remaining in the KIIS FM studio.

smoothfm presenter Richard Wilkins tests positive to COVID-19

The Channel 9 entertainment editor and smoothfm presenter has returned a positive result after meeting with Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks, who both returned positive results themselves last week.

“Richard Wilkins has tested positive to COVID-19,” said a spokesperson, as first reported by SMH.

“Richard is not showing any symptoms of the virus and has been self-isolating, on his own at home, since Thursday last week.”

Wilkins took to Twitter to confirm he has experienced no symptoms at all, highlighting the fact the virus can be spread between people who are asymptomatic.

Smallzy jumps in on Nova Breakfast as Fitzy & Wippa enter isolation

Mornings & Nights presenter Kent ‘Smallzy’ Small is presenting Breakfast on Nova 96.9 today (March 16).

He is filling in for Fitzy & Wippa, with the entire Nova Sydney Breakfast team in isolation after coming into contact with Richard Wilkins last week.

Following the news of Wilkins’ positive diagnosis on Sunday (March 15), Fitzy, Wippa & the rest of the team attended Royal North Shore to get tested.

They are awaiting results, and Nova is prepping their homes so they can present Breakfast remotely on Tuesday.

Calling into the show, Wippa confirmed he had no symptoms, but that caution was important given his wife is expecting a baby.

UPDATE: Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald, Sarah McGilvray and Tom Ivey have all tested negative to the coronavirus.

UPDATE 2: Further to the above, both Matt de Groot and Wippa returning negative test results for Coronavirus.

That means the entire team are all clear but remain broadcasting from their in-home studios.

Jones & Hadley working from home

Nine Radio’s top billing Sydney talent Alan Jones and Ray Hadley are in isolation on Monday as a preventative measure.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Jones, who has a cold, and Hadley, are broadcasting from private studios on their respective properties at Fitzroy Falls and Dural.

Jones, who is 78, is within the higher risk category for COVID-19, not just due to his age but as a result of being in and out of hospital frequently in the last few years.

“I am actually broadcasting away from Sydney at the moment because all sorts of precautions are being taken,” said Jones.

“My job is to advise you, to inform you but not to alarm you,” said Jones. “Many of the comments made by the Prime Minister of Australia are being ignored.”

Nights host John Stanley will also reportedly host his show from a home studio this evening, while Ben Fordham will broadcast Drive from Nine Radio’s Melbourne studio.

Radio Today understands that a timeframe has not yet been put on how long the home broadcasts will last, and that Nine Radio is continuing to monitor guidance from health authorities.

3AW Breakfast broadcasting from Ross Stevenson’s house

Ross & John have bunkered down at Ross Stevenson’s home for the entire week as measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus ramp-up.

The pair sent a tweet out from Stevenson’s “Bad Room” this morning.

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16 Mar 2020 - 11:44 am

Fitzy & Wippa enter isolation is a bit of a joke. They’re not 60 yet ( almost ) Sounds more like a stunt, a desperate ratings grab during a very unsettling time for most people. Did Smallsy do breakfast,
mornings and nights then ? Only a 9-10 hour day, similar to most workers.

16 Mar 2020 - 12:40 pm

@Brett a joke? They were in direct contact with Richard Wilkins who has tested positive. They’re abiding by the government advice of self isolation to stop potential spread.

16 Mar 2020 - 1:31 pm

This virus will be a hit on radio. Talk stations and in particular the ABC will do very nicely.

16 Mar 2020 - 1:37 pm

You must be in the fortunate position Brett not to have any people in your circle that are high risk, or immune-compromised. That’s why isolation is recommended for those who have come in contact with positive cases – for the good of the community. You’re also part of that – a broader world, not just your little one.

16 Mar 2020 - 1:39 pm

Brett… you don’t have to be 60years old to catch virus. Just read a bit more about that…

Angry Aaron
16 Mar 2020 - 3:34 pm

@brett you seem to be forgetting the fact that both Wippa and Matt’s wives are pregnant. It is what the government is telling you to do if you come into contact with someone who has tested positive. You sound like the type who had a garage full of toilet rolls yet you’re bagging on others who are following the correct protocols.

17 Mar 2020 - 11:35 am

Do we know what’s happening in regional stations? Are they sanitising the studios regularly? The same studios are used by different people every day. We all know regional stations live and work closely. Unless hygiene standards are upheld both by staff and company the result could be catastrophic for the company, the staff and listeners. All it takes is one person on staff to be tested positive and the whole staff would have to go into isolation/quarantine for 14 days. This is not optional, it’s mandatory.

Start getting serious
18 Mar 2020 - 5:58 am

Sometimes we have to put aside our ego for the betterment of the community. Across the country, there are radio bosses lying to themselves about how important keeping the radio running perfectly is right now. Across the country, there are radio bosses frowning on people working from home, and scrambling to ensure people stay in the office as long as possible.

This is a public health emergency. Every day people continue to go to work is another day of potential infection. Everyone knows someone who has confounding problems that would make it potentially more difficult to survive. This virus has killed people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and of course in their 70s and 80s. The most likely person to die from Coronavirus in China was a 59 year old male with high blood pressure .

We MUST take this more seriously. We MUST have everyone working from home immediately. We MUST, as an industry, come together to make this happen. It’s not a matter of ‘we’ll wait and see and do something if someone gets infected’. Move everyone home and do it NOW. We are not more important than the health of the world’s inhabitants. Do what you need to get your on-air people set up to broadcast from home (seriously with current technology you can have a solution for a couple hundred dollars each), and then send everyone home to self-isolate until this blows over.

We need our radio leaders to LEAD now more than ever. We’re all scared of losing our jobs because our boss thinks if we’re at home we must be slacking off. This is never the case. Let us go home. Let us help stop the spread. This is bigger than us. And it’s bigger than meeting budget this quarter.

What WFH Policy?
18 Mar 2020 - 10:22 pm

@Start getting serious it’s hard to manage the chairs if the boss’ can’t see you. How on earth would they know if you were working… for those of you fortunate enough to be playing at home… that was sarcasm.

19 Mar 2020 - 12:05 am

You gotta must be serious! Your comment is out of line! Matt & Wippa’s wives are excepting babies and your comment is very insulting! Seriously if you have nothing better to say then don’t say anything at all! Very disappointing comment from you!


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