The Craig Bruce Interview – The Final Word


We have the last word from Craig Bruce on his close to 30 years with Southern Cross Austereo. Craig talks openly about the exit of Kyle and Jackie O – “My initial feeling was…shit, what has just happened here.” What did he think of the launch of the KIIS brand?

Craig answers what he sees as the most important attributes for Content Directors and was the Hit rebrand the right way to go?  “It would have been a bold move but I believe that a true national footprint like the one Nova has is such an incredible advantage for them”, said Craig.

And how did it feel when K & J left? How did you actually find out, from who?

I was in Perth. My initial feeling was…”shit, what has just happened here.”

Did you imagine that them leaving would have as much ratings impact as it did?

We had seen the research over a number of years, they were loved by our audience. I knew it was going to be tough, it was just a question of how big the impact would be.

The problem for us was not having the replacement show ready for broadcast. We were trialing in November and then had them on the air  in the second week of Jan. It was a mess to start with. I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference but it didn’t help that we weren’t really ready to defend.

K & J’s first survey at ARN/KIIS must have hit you very hard?

Yep. I thought at that point that I should leave. As head of content, I was responsible for the ratings and ultimately responsible for the position that 2day was in. It took a lot of convincing from my wife and some key allies for me not to fall on my sword.

Thinking about the Content Directors role what do you consider is the most important attribute for CD’s? Strategic, Operational, Creative, Sales, Leadership?

All of those are important. Understanding yourself-how do you occur to others, is the key for mine. The CD is like the conductor of an orchestra, sometimes you wonder what the hell the bloke with the stick is doing. But trust me, everyone with an instrument is looking at him out of the corner of their eye and they will take their cues from him or her.

Being able to manage yourself first has to be the starting point for a key content role.

How much radio were you listening to in the role?

Every morning obviously. I would be in the gym at 6 and pick an early station to listen to and then depending on which city I was in I would then grab a cafe somewhere close to the station and listen til 8.30a. I would also monitor from home twice a month.

I would monitor both Perth breakfast shows twice a month from home too, the time zone meant that I could grab and eastern seaboard show early and then follow up with Perth.

Outside of SCA stations what shows do you enjoy to listen to?

What do I listen to for fun? I love the Saturday Rub on MMM. I know that’s an SCA show but I know that my routine of listening to the boys at the gym on a Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours won’t change regardless of what I do next.

Who would be your Top 3 favourite non SCA on air talent?

Marty, Kyle and Jackie, Chrissie.

What would be your favourite overseas radio stations?

I love Radio1. I was fortunate enough to meet with Ben Cooper a couple of weeks back. Now there’s a guy who is thinking differently how about what radio could look like in 10 years from now.

The Hit rebrand, in hindsight do you think it was necessary, the right way to go?

That’s a great question. The idea was to rebrand every metro to hit. We were all lined up and ready to go and then a last minute change of heart meant we ended up with hit104 2day FM which was a compromise, but also a dog’s breakfast.

It would have been a bold move but I believe that a true national footprint like the one Nova has is such an incredible advantage for them.

H and A have been with SCA for over 10 years now and they have never, and I mean ever, said the name of the station they’re on. What happens when they leave-all of the brand equity goes with the show, not the stations.

Do you think you got the new brand name right?

Not in Sydney or Melbourne.  I think you’ll see more of a focus on 2day and Fox in the positioning moving forward.

How would you rate ARN’s KIIS re brand in Melbourne and Sydney?


Drive is the new battle ground so your ratings projections for the big three drive shows? Who’s going to win drive 10+ nationally by the end of this year?

I don’t think there’s any question that H and A will win under 40’s in all markets by the end of the year, even Sydney. The flow on effect into 10 plus will be the $64 question.

Sydney and Melbourne are obviously critical (and very competitive ) markets. SCA has its challenges in Sydney and Nova are currently under performing in Melbourne and Sydney. How do you see the difference between Syd / Melb and the other smaller metro’s?

It was never how I saw those 2 markets, it was how the rest of the world viewed our collective successes, and failures through the prism of Sydney breakfast.

I’m not sure of the philosophy behind ARN and Nova’s strategy but ours started and ended with 2day breakfast.

Derek BargwannaI consider KIIS Sydney to be the best ‘crafted’ radio station in Australia. Do you think the crafting of great sounding radio stations is a bit of a lost art, given all the other demands and priorities on CD’s?

Product design is critical. I’ve always said you need to have a degree of obsessive compulsive behavior when it comes to the product.

Every little thing matters. You were crazy that way, Brian Ford certainly was and there’s no question that DB has always had that manic approach to perfection.

The end result is really obvious though.

 What would you have considered the main strength of the SCA programming team?

It’s depth and it’s sense of camaraderie.

Dave Cameron, Fitzy, Sam Cavanagh, Irene are all good enough to not only run stations but networks and the group at some stage.

Then you have this wonderful next level coming through-people like Matt O’Reilly, Adrian Brine, Jase Allen and Amanda Lee.

 What was your favourite part of the Group CD job?

I loved mentoring CDs and shows. I was never one for the politics of it, I might still be in the role if I worked a little harder on managing up and into the board.

My strength was always talent facing and coaching the coaches.

 Dave Cameron and Mike Fitzpatrick are clearly strong, experienced Programmers who have enjoyed good success.

Do you see them as natural successors to the Group CD role?

Either could do it, no question. Both are great friends of mine-and no one would be prouder and happier for them if one of them gets the gig one day.

Dave Cameron and Mike Fitzpatrick

How would you like to be remembered for your time at SCA?

I hadn’t really thought too much about that till last week, but after the announcement I heard from so many people who wanted to pass on their gratitude.

It really did floor me. These messages were often quite long and detailed and certainly heartfelt. My memories of SCA are now contained in those 80 odd text messages from people who I’ve been lucky enough work with and maybe help is some small way.

 I’m sure you have heard from a lot of colleagues from the radio industry since your exit, did you hear from Kyle?

Yes I did, and it says a bit about the man. We had been on opposite teams for almost 2 years yet he not only text but then called to check and make sure I was ok. It was very generous of him.

 I understand you would have a non-compete clause, how long is that for?

6 months.

 Have you have any thoughts on what you might do next?

Not really. I need to clear my head first and try to extract myself from the connection between Austereo and me as a person. The 2 have been inextricably linked, probably in an unhealthy way.

 Any chance you will turn up at ARN or Nova Entertainment?

I’m not sure. Both networks are flying and are having great success right now. If there was some small contribution I could make to either then I would certainly be interested.

 And the big question, how many frequent flyer points do you have?

Less than you would think. We took the kids to the states last year, at least they went to good use!

 Finally what are the first words that spring to mind when I say….

 Fitzy & Wippa  – potentialFitzy & Wippa

Paul Thompson – pioneer. Mug-o-chinos on the Parade

Lie Detector –  tough day at the office.

Smooth –  the Commodores

Irene Hulme –  Gutsy, creative, passionate.

Duncan – one of my first PDs. Measured, strategic.

Eddie – a huge influence on me personally.

Jeff Allis – the Lion King. Courage personified.

Dobbo – Loyal. Funny, always the smartest guy in the room.

Marty Sheargold – underated. His career stacks up as one of the best.

Rock – depends what kind. Bon Jovi, no thanks.

Kyle –  the best I’ve seen.

Chrissie –  Wonderful company. Radio needs her back somewhere full time.

Sun Szu – didn’t read it. Was intimidated by it.

Hit –  half finished.

Greg Smith –  told me I had a speech impediment in my first air check with him at the age of 18. Lucky he was wrong….

Craig we wish you all the very best for whatever you do in the future. Thanks for taking the time to chat.

Brad March is a Director of Radio Today a former Program Director, Group Program Director & CEO of Austereo and Group Programmer at ARN. He is Director of Marchmedia

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