The Top 20 Most Influential Women in Australian Radio 2017

Staff Writer

Cath O’Connor has leapfrogged her way to the top spot on Radio Today’s annual list of the 20 Most Influential Women in Australian Radio for 2017.

As the competition gets fiercer, we’ve consolidated the list down from 25 to 20 this year, and this includes key on air talent, management, programmers and owners.

These women influence the airwaves and the business of radio. They contribute to contemporary culture, influence society’s views, standards, and opinions and importantly they help shape the future of the Australian radio industry.

The size and reach of their networks/stations/shows was taken into account. All of the Top 20 women have considerable power with listeners, advertisers and within their companies, some command sizable salaries and most live and breathe the radio business.

There are four brand new entries this year, too: Em Rusciano, Abby Coleman, Amanda Lee, Sarah McGilvray and Bianca Dye.

Numbers appearing beside each name indicates the change compared to last year (positive for moving higher up the list, negative for dropping).

Every name listed plays a key role in the industry. They set the standards and help shape and influence Australian culture through the powerful medium of radio.

If there’s anyone we missed make sure you add their names and your comments below. We welcome your feedback.

1. Cath O’Connor – CEO, Nova Entertainment (+1)

The longest serving and most successful CEO of any metro radio group, O’Connor has been at the helm of Nova/DMG for nearly a decade.

2. Michelle Guthrie – Managing Director, ABC (-1)

Guthrie commenced the role in May 2016 following Mark Scott’s depature. The ABC has the biggest radio market share in Australia (includes Radio National, triple j, Classic FM, News Radio and Local Radio).

3. Siobhan McKenna – Managing Partner, Lachlan Murdoch’s Illyria (+1)

A key part of Lachlan Murdoch’s management team, which owns Nova Entertainment’s Nova and Smooth networks.

4. Jackie O Henderson – Breakfast co-host, KIIS Network (-1)

Part of the most successful breakfast duo in Australian FM radio history. Jackie along with Kyle top the Sydney FM breakfast ratings at ARN’s KIIS. Responsible for the ratings success of KIIS Sydney.

5. Kate Ritchie – Drive co-host, Nova (+8)

Nova’s top rating show Kate Tim and Marty has now been with this line-up for over three years. Currently the highest rating drive show nationally.

6. Joan Warner – CEO, Commercial Radio Australia (no change)

Head of the national industry body representing Australia’s commercial radio broadcasters.

 One of the most influential women in the radio industry.

7. Gemma Fordham – Content Director, Hit Network (+2)

Looks after 2Day FM, Fox and the Hit network programming. A former EP, Fordham has only been at the helm for just under two years and was previously group content director at NZME.

8. Kate Langbroek – Drive co-host, KIIS Network (+2)

Formerly Nova100 Breakfast and now highly successful and top rating at ARN. Kate and Dave Hughes do national drive on the KIIS network.

9. Amanda Keller – Breakfast co-host, ARN (-4)

Top rating WSFM Breakfast host Amanda Keller has been at or near the top of the ratings in breakfast in Sydney for over a decade.

10. Fifi Box – Breakfast co-host, Hit Network (+1)

Top rating Fox breakfast host for SCA in Melbourne. A former member of The Shebang.

11. Chrissie Swan – Breakfast co-host, Nova (+3)

From Nova 100’s top ratings breakfast show Chrissie, Sam and Browny and radio royalty Tony Martin.

12. Janet Cameron & Alison Cameron  – Managing Director & Director respectively, Grant Broadcasters  (+3)

Grant Broadcasters are regional radio pioneers, Grants operates more than 50 regional radio stations across Australia.

13 (tied). Robin Bailey – Breakfast co-host, Triple M Network (-5)

Robin previously led the ARN-owned 97.3 breakfast show to ratings victory, but after joining Marto and Ed at Triple M in January this year, she hasn’t looked back.

13 (tied). Fran Kelly – Breakfast host, ABC (+4)

Host of radio national’s Breakfast show, Kelly is a leading journalist and political correspondent.

14 (tied). Sam Thompson – Content Director, ARN Melbourne (-2)

Looks after the programming of leading FM stations Gold 104.3 and KIIS 101.1 Melbourne.

14 (tied). Sarah McGilvray – Program Director of Nova 96.9 and On Air, NOVA Entertainment (new entry)

Is the glue for the Fitzy & Wippa breakfast show, as well as one of Nova’s key programming figures.

15. Irene Hulme –Head of Music & Entertainment Partnerships, Hit Network (+7)

She was instrumental in the launch of the Hit brand, particularly Adelaide’s Hit 107. Behind the creation of Hits and Old Skool as well as RnB Fridays.

16. Meshel Laurie – Breakfast co-host, KIIS Network (+4)

Co-host of KIIS Melbourne breakfast show with Matt Tilley. Was previously on Nova 106.9 with Ash, Kip and Lutsy and Nova national drive with Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell.

17 (tied). Cathy Thomas  – General Manager, Pacific Star Network (+8)

Oversees operations at 3MP and 1116SEN. Formerly of Southern Cross Austereo.

17 (tied). Amanda Lee  – Content Director, SCA Perth (new entry) 

Enjoying success with Hit92.9 Perth.

18. Abby Coleman – Breakfast co-host, Hit Network  (new entry)

One quarter of Hit105 Brisbane’s breakfast show, working alongside Stav, Matt and Osher. Abby has been at Hit Brisbane since August 2011.

19 (tied). Jo Stanley – Breakfast co-host, ARN (-3)

Works at GOLDFM alongside comedian Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann.

19 (tied). Erica McGee (née Hodge) – Content Director, SCA (+4)

Content Director for Perth’s Mix 94.5. Previously held roles of Executive Producer and Journalist.

20 (tied). Bianca Dye – Breakfast co-host, ARN (new entry)

A radio veteran, Bianca is new this year to Brisbane’s 97.3 breakfast show with Terry and Bob.

20 (tied). Em Rusciano – Breakfast host, SCA (new entry)

Host of SCA’s flagship Sydney Hit network station 2dayfm. Her new show has now been on air for almost a year now.

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22 Sep 2017 - 1:51 pm

I think Stephanie Camplin who owns 2BS and B-Rock in Bathurst should definitely be on this list and probably in the top 5! Owning Bathurst Broadcasters for 45 successful years is a MASSIVE achievement.

22 Sep 2017 - 2:24 pm

KTM are great and I like Kate but I don’t think she should be ahead of some of your breakfast names.

22 Sep 2017 - 3:05 pm

Kate Stevenson is senior producer of the biggest breakfast show in the country. (3AW) I think her influence is immense.

22 Sep 2017 - 3:11 pm

Should Michelle Guthrie be at the top of your list. It is the ABC !

22 Sep 2017 - 3:13 pm

Nice seeing a few in the role of Content Director.
They should rank higher than the on air talent.
maybe you should split the list into on air and off air as they are very different roles.

22 Sep 2017 - 3:21 pm

What about Jane Kennedy. She is great on Eddies breakfast show and now is on national drive on the M’s

22 Sep 2017 - 4:02 pm

Heidi Anderson should get a mention she is doing good things here in Perth with
Will and Woody. Didn’t Will just get triple M breakfast. Great news!

frankie footloose
22 Sep 2017 - 5:56 pm

LOL this list is a joke right? Chrissie Swan? Em Rusciano? So I go on reality tv, drop my pants and suddenly i’m qualified and influential? give me a break. so many other talented (and qualified) journalists and reporters that deserve recognition.

Shontelle Milligan
22 Sep 2017 - 8:56 pm

Em Rusciano should be number 1!!!

23 Sep 2017 - 1:06 pm

You are being a bit sexist. How about the Top 20 men in radio ?
And how Em Rusciano can make this list after 9 months is totally beyond me. Yes she’s having a go but influential ?

Chris Williams
23 Sep 2017 - 1:21 pm

Clare Holland, FBI Radio’s General Manager has done more for Sydney’s (and Australia’s) local music scene than most. If you take the view that radio exists to support a strong local music industry and keep it genuine and authentic, leveraging a unique music export product / in bound tourism live music product, then she’d have to up there in the Top 20.

23 Sep 2017 - 6:36 pm

This is nuts.
Em has no audience = not influential
The PD of hit Perth higher than the PD of mix Perth with half the audience??
Carrie is in radio and has a lot more reach than most of these people so by default she should be top 5.

24 Sep 2017 - 2:16 pm

How you gonna do Zan Rowe like that?! #FakeNews

24 Sep 2017 - 4:52 pm

Lyndal Rogers of C91.3 should be listed. She’s intelligent, beautiful, hardworking and a fantastic role model for young women to look up to!

25 Sep 2017 - 7:24 am

Why wasn’t Carrie Bickmore on here she has a much bigger audience than
Em Rusciano. And also the KIISFM 3 pm pick up didn’t get a mention. And what about
Jodie at Mix in Adelaide she has been Number 1 breakfast. And Ash London is national why didn’t she get a mention ? Maybe next year if they are all still on radio.
Its a tough game for women.

25 Sep 2017 - 7:44 am

Hey Jason wouldn’t the Perth Hit CD be ahead on the Mix CD because Hit has a direct format competitor in Nova and Mix doesn’t ? Good that there’s two strong women in the CD role in Perth the best radio market in Australia.

25 Sep 2017 - 10:43 am

Amanda Keller should be ahead of the girls on drive. Breakfast is far more important to ratings than drive time.

25 Sep 2017 - 1:15 pm

Radio Today must be a bit of a boys club what about ABC Radio Adelaide announcer Ali Clarke. She is former Mix and former Triple M until she was sacked and now enjoying success at the ABC. Would be a worthy addition. Lets not forget the little markets like Adelaide.

25 Sep 2017 - 1:55 pm

TBH Jackie O should be number 1.
As if she doesn’t call the shots over at ARN.

26 Sep 2017 - 6:29 am

I think the real question is which of these women would cause the most damage to ratings and revenue if they left or went and worked for a competitor. Any takers?

Meshel Fan
26 Sep 2017 - 7:49 am

Nice to see Meshel Laurie on your list. She has done well at KIIS. There are a lot of rumours about her demise but Im sure she will be back stronger than ever and rating well again next year. Matt and Meshel are the unsung heroes of breakfast radio here in Melbourne.They have done really well with very little marketing and promotion support enjoyed buy their counterparts up in Sydney. And she has been successful on several shows now. Always thought she starred on Meshel Tim and Marty. Always enjoy her on The Project too. if she does get boned at the end of the year heaven forbid then SCA should hire here she would do a much better job than Em on 2dayfm up in Sydney.

8 Oct 2017 - 6:10 am

Laurel Edwards??? Why is she always overlooked? Laurel a true radio veteran and and in excess of 20 years is the longest serving woman announcer in the same show at the same station than any other women in radio. And as mostly the critera for this is ratings … Her top rated breakfast show on 4KQ has consistently taken out the ratings as number 1 AM commercial breakfast slot for years & years in Brisbane.

22 Dec 2017 - 4:05 pm

You’re right Jason Em should be lower in the list. Hasn’t been a good year for her.


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