Gemma Fordham opens up about criticism from Kyle Sandilands & shutting out the media noise

Editor & Content Director

Gemma Fordham’s Hit Network programs can be a magnet for headlines. Whether it’s the rotating talent lineup of 2DayFM Breakfast, changes at Fox FM, or the seemingly never-ending criticism from Kyle Sandilands, there’s always something to talk about. And yet Fordham largely flies under the radar and gets on with the job. Here, she speaks to Vivienne Kelly about how she carries on through every storm and why, despite the scrutiny, she still loves her job.

2DayFM Breakfast in Sydney may not currently be a ratings magnet, but it is a headline magnet.

Everything from the defection of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson, to rumours of a rift between Em Rusciano and Harley Breen, and from the ill-fated stint of Rove McManus and Sam Frost to the latest group to get behind the microphone, The Morning Crew, ends up in trade titles and national newspapers.

And then every time that happens, Sandilands offers his hot take on why his former employer is wrong, embarrassing or unable to “get a root in a brothel”.

Fordham is the head of SCA’s Hit Network, and thus a lot of the criticism and scrutiny could ultimately be directed at her. That’s a lot to take on and a lot of headlines for someone who doesn’t regularly court media attention.

She says, however, that she’s at the point where it truly doesn’t phase her.

“We just don’t pay any attention to that if I’m brutally honest. I mean, let’s be honest, Kyle, I love Kyle as a friend, I’ve obviously been friends with him for a very long time and worked with him previously for a long time, so I have nothing bad to say about him. However what I will say is Kyle is never going to compliment us. Let’s be realistic. But the thing is, he does it because everyone writes about it. You guys write about it. He does it every time because he knows that it will get a headline,” she says.

“And so, we just, I don’t know what else to say other than, we don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. We just try to put the best shows to air every day.”

She is aware of ongoing media reports, she says, but her focus is not what Vivienne Kelly thinks of the latest 2DayFM Breakfast lineup, or what News Corp is saying about the latest rumours. The focus, she says, is her target market, or “Sarah in Blacktown”, as it were.

The latest 2DayFM Breakfast lineup genuinely get along, Fordham says 

“People are going to write stuff, of course they are. And that’s their job. But it’s our job to not focus on what press are writing. It is our job to put a show together every day that delivers for the people of Sydney… We only care about Sarah in Blacktown, and what she thinks and making sure we put her in a good mood as she’s driving to school or driving to work or on the train. That’s all we care about. And that’s all we talk about internally. That’s our single focus is, have we delivered for them today? Or are we delivering for them tomorrow?

“Because I’ve said this before, it’s a privilege to entertain, regardless of what market we’re in, it’s a privilege to entertain and wake up a city every day. And so that’s all we focus on.”

Fordham acknowledges she is now in a privileged position where all her on-air teams get along, and she has no fires to put out. The 2DayFM Breakfast crew, she says, are genuinely getting along and loving it.

That could, in theory, lead to fewer negative, salacious headlines.

“The thing with the three of them is they just genuinely adore each other and they’re together all the time, and even when they’re not on air, they’re going out and doing stuff during the day together just as mates, which, I think that’s what the special chemistry is, is that they genuinely love hanging out with each other and they make each other laugh, and I think that’s the special sauce so to speak is what’s making it sound in my mind, great,” she says.

“I know this is going to sound cliche, but I’ve always been a really big believer in if you’re having fun off the air, it translates on the air. And I’ve seen that first hand. I’ve seen when shows off the air are not having fun or not getting along, and it’s no great surprise that the radio show doesn’t sound as good as it could. And it doesn’t sound like a party that you want to be part of as a listener.”

And it’s not just a party for the listeners and the talent. Fordham says she is having the best time working with her teams, staff and network.

“I’m really close to all ,my talent. I’m really hands on with all of the shows, and it’s so nice to have in every single market, to have talent that I genuinely love working with that I have great relationships with. I don’t have any fires that I’m trying to put out. I just feel really lucky that I’m working with such amazing, talented professionals that I truly love interacting with every day,” she says.

Despite the criticism, scrutiny, and ratings-day expectations, she still believes she has the best job in the world.

“I love that every day is different, of course, we all get that in radio. I guess I love the creative freedom. One minute you can be sitting in a room talking about an idea, and it could be the most stupid, crazy idea, and then the next thing, it’s on air in Melbourne or something, and everyone in Melbourne’s talking about it. I just love that creative freedom. I really love that.

“And, selfishly, probably, a lot of the people that we have on the team. We laugh a lot. There’s so many days where I laugh to the point where I have tears streaming down my face. And that could be from off-air teams or on-air teams. What a gift that is. I have a lot of friends who don’t work in roles where they love going to work every day or where they laugh so hard they’ve got mascara streaming down their face.

“I’ve always said this, that I never take it for granted. I kid you not, when I get out of the lift every day at 2Day, I still feel so excited and so lucky, like I did when I was a teenage girl and I first started at 2Day. It still blows my mind when I walk in the office every day.”

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Rob Sutton
5 Mar 2021 - 1:33 pm

Imagine if a first grade rugby league team were getting thrashed every game and the highly paid players came out and said “we don’t really care because we are all having lots of fun”

Gemma Fordham needs to stop having so much fun and come up with a Sydney breakfast show that rates

Peter Johnson
5 Mar 2021 - 2:43 pm

I heard Vivienne Kelly say on the Radio Today podcast that her prediction is that the 2DAY FM Morning Crew would rate 5%?

You have lost all credibility with me Vivienne. You clearly do not understand radio.

If the Morning Crew rate 5%, I will walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge naked.

Jed
5 Mar 2021 - 5:04 pm

has someone asked Kyle how he feels about this? Somehow I don’t think it will be the same….

@rob
5 Mar 2021 - 7:20 pm

Yeah but if the rugby team made money, would it matter if they win or not…?

Chasing #1 is pure ego. What matters is whether it sells.

Toxic Positivity
5 Mar 2021 - 8:53 pm

Why has all this fun lead to so many people leaving the Hit Network because of the toxic work culture? The irony and toxic positivity is truly astounding.

Mark
6 Mar 2021 - 3:08 pm

I can’t see them rating better than any of the other failing breakfast shows that 2Day FM have used after Kyle & Jackie O.
It sounds like they aren’t even talking in the same room when I listened. Ed’s living in Melbourne & Erin’s in Sydney.

They will be lucky if they rate 4%, and that is being generous.

Hkn
6 Mar 2021 - 10:46 pm

@Peter you are a bit harsh… The Survey 1 can be ‘good’ for Morning Crew with 4-5%(still low tho). Probably in Survey 2 they’ll drop back to 3%…

Neil Docherty
7 Mar 2021 - 1:51 pm

Does any one here ever say anything positive about people, no wonder we have a society full of anxious depressed and insecure people…..water the roses not the weeds

Lisa
8 Mar 2021 - 11:59 am

@ Neil Docherty

Maybe they should not release the ratings for the Morning Crew on Thursday because it might be upsetting for some people?

Sarah from Blacktown
8 Mar 2021 - 6:27 pm

Oh that’s wonderful news that they’re having fun off the air.

Grace
8 Mar 2021 - 7:42 pm

Sadly the criticism is deserved. Whether in Australia or NZ there has been a wake of poor decisions and results. (The NZME brands are still attempting to recover)

This is more spin – damage control for an invisible voice. Sadly this reflects SCA in the past decade. Once a the leader in innovation, ideas and content. Now predictable and stale.

Ben
9 Mar 2021 - 8:03 am

What’s the difference between Kyle and Gemma ? One of them is a programming genius.

Dave
9 Mar 2021 - 5:59 pm

Will the real Peter Johnson please own up.

Tish
19 Mar 2021 - 5:20 pm

Unfortunately for Gemma, 2DayFM has been lurking below 5 percent for years now, yep 95 percent and more of Sydney no listening to a once great radio station

James
4 May 2021 - 3:18 pm

2Day really needs to be sneaky with how they compete instead of riding the same “feel good” wave most other networks are pushing.

Sydney is harsh, inoffensive personalities don’t last in that market. We already have WSFM, Smooth, and arguably Nova breakfast fighting for that ‘feel good’ market, 2Day needs a breakfast lineup with balls to cut through all the feel good noise and provoke their audience for a reaction while making sure they’re coming back the next morning for more discourse.

Sydney love to hate 2DayFM and also love self awareness, take that as an advantage and play to that stereotype in Sydney instead of tirelessly pushing the same safe blueprint in breakfast.

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