EXCLUSIVE: Robin Bailey talks gender pay equality, women in radio and her new contract

Staff Writer

Robin Bailey’s highly publicised departure from 97.3 FM seems like a lifetime ago now, but her decision to join Triple M breakfast with Ed Kavalee and Greg ‘Marto’ Martin is one that has certainly paid off.

Now with Lawrence Mooney set to replace Kavalee for next year, the radio icon is readying herself to no longer be the new kid on the block. Robin spoke exclusively to Radio Today about what the past 12 months have taught her, and what 2018 is shaping up to look like.

It’s been nearly 12 months now at Triple M. How has the year been?

Such a steep learning curve, but really good. It was like I put nearly 25 years of breakfast radio experience into a box and threw it out the window to start again. The structure, the behind the scenes, the dynamic… nothing was like I’d ever known, but what a gift to be given a chance to reinvent myself and learn along the way. And as an added bonus – as a single mother of three teenage boys – I can hand on heart say, that I have learnt more about parenting in the last 10 months than I have in the last three years, thanks to Ed and Marto.

Big news about Laurence Mooney joining the show. He has been guesting and doing pilots recently? 

Yes. He is great friends with Ed, so it was actually Ed that put Lawrence’s name up to fill in for him while he was on paternity leave. He is a funny, genuine, lovely, edgy, and sometimes a completely inappropriate kind of guy… what’s not to love!

Obviously the show will miss Ed ?

Yes, but Ed was ready to go and I think it’s the mark of a great performer (as well as a genuine human being) who recognises when it’s time to mix things up. I have so much respect for that courage, to make a move when you are ready and NOT when you are pushed.

How is it going to change the show do you think ?

I think Lawrence is a bit darker and a bit more edgy in some respects – but lets see what happens. That’s the exciting bit. I’m all up for sailing close to the wind.

You changed stations, shows and networks this year – that’s a big deal. How have you approached the different format?

I went in knowing that I had to listen and learn. I knew I would be the only woman in a team of eight men broadcasting to a male demographic, and therefore there would be a whole new expectation and way of operating that I would have to learn.

But I also know who I am, and I know that regardless of the format I always broadcast from a place of authenticity and heart. And if I just trusted that then I would do OK. It’s working so far because male, female, old or young, people are people and if you respect who they are and give them what they want they will stick with you.

Ratings are up and your show is now equal number 2 with your old station, so it’s obviously going really well. Whats the feedback been like from listeners and fans?

It was tough in the beginning with some die-hard Triple M fans who obviously had a perception of me thanks to where I’d come from, but with the help of Ed and Marto who welcomed me, the feedback’s been good. A lot of people have also enjoyed the broader appeal of having a female in the mix. I know that sounds like radio jargon but it’s true; in my day to day life people say they are liking it.

And congratulations on a new long-term contract with SCA. That’s great news!

Yep, all signed. Which I am super happy about. SCA have been really great – more early starts for me!

You combine breakfast radio, television every week on Nine and raising three boys. How do you juggle the workload?

My boys are getting older (17, 15 and 13-years-old) and the eldest one just got his licence, so that has made an enormous difference to logistics. But in some ways I’m very lucky because my kids are amazingly resilient and very switched on. Honestly my boys have been through a hell of a lot, but we are a very tight knit band of four who work together.

I will also say that what I don’t do well, I outsource – so that I can do the things I’m good at, better. So in a nut shell it’s lots of support and three kids who I am very very proud of.

Biggest thing you’ve learnt in last 12 months?

There’s four things:

  1. Ask lots of questions
  2. Who you are doesn’t change just because the environment does
  3. Our listeners are some of the funniest most engaging and informative storytellers I have had the pleasure of talking to. Blokes love to help!
  4. Who doesn’t love a bit of AC/DC or KISS to rock out to at 7am! There is a rock chick in all of us.

Lisa Wilkinson’s exit from Nine has been big news, whats your thoughts on gender pay parity?

Look, no one knows what anyone else is getting paid, right? So that is a hard question to answer. But what I will say about the gender difference is this… Media is a tough industry. Most of the highest commercial radio positions are still predominantly men, and on-air the ratio of male to female talent, I think it’s fair to say, is still 3:1.

In the commercial radio industry, the fact we have only just inducted into the hall of fame our first female on-air talent in Amanda Kellar speaks volumes. And that Jackie O for the first time this year got the same pay packet as Kyle is also a huge deal.

BUT it takes courage to stand behind your convictions, and having people like Lisa do that in the media will be a watershed I think. We will all watch what happens to the show’s audience, but regardless she is leading the way and that will benefit us all in the long run in opportunity and pay difference.

There’s been lots of talk about some TV and some radio networks not being female-friendly. How’s your experience been at SCA?

Triple M in the last year have been terrific, they have taken huge steps to broaden their appeal because as a company I think it’s fair to say they realised they needed to be more female inclusive. This year alone on Triple M, I’ve joined breakfast in Brisbane, Libby Trickett has joined early drive in Brissy, and Jane Kennedy will do a national drive show with Mick Molloy. And our summer cricket commentary has the wonderful former English cricket captain Isa Gaha as a big part of the mix. So times are changing.

Finally any advice for young female presenters who are trying to work their way up to metro radio?

The industry is constantly changing, but one thing remains the same – if you want it badly enough and you are willing to take risks and push to find a place for yourself in this business, you can.

Radio is about connection, however, if you decide to do that, remember it’s about them not about you. And good luck; I can’t wait to look back when I’m older and see an equal mix of men to woman in commercial radio and know that the industry is thriving

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