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.