Will triple j’s new Breakfast show break radio’s glass ceiling?

Former Assistant Editor
Image: Sally & Erica / Supplied

Triple j has announced a shakeup to its daytime programming that will see Sally Coleman and Erica Mallett take over the network’s National Breakfast show.

Sally & Erica – who also write and perform music under the name Coda Conduct – will replace the recently departed Ben Harvey & Liam Stapleton in 2020. Ben & Liam spent almost three years in the chair, and head off for a new gig in their hometown with NOVA Entertainment.

Female duos, and all-female lineups have been all too uncommon throughout the history of Australian radio.

There’s no doubt that Sally & Erica have earned their stripes, having spent the past few years filling in across several prime time slots on triple j, as well as presenting Weekend Arvos over the past year.

REWIND: Listen to Radio Today’s 2018 podcast chat with Sally & Erica

Although triple j content director Ollie Wards admits it’s “rare” to have a female duo on Breakfast, he disagrees that there’s an inherent risk involved with moving away from more tried-and-tested gender formats.

“It is fair to say that it’s rare to have a national Australian breakfast show hosted by two women – but there’s no reason why two women should be more of a risk than any other format,” Wards tells Radio Today.

“For me, I’m just excited to put the best talent in the right shows to give them the opportunity to connect with our audience.”

The most recent major network all-female Breakfast shows were on ARN’s MIX 106.5 and Mix 101.1.

The rebrand to both stations as KIIS signalled the end for both Yumi Stynes and Sami Lukas who made way for Kyle & Jackie O show at the end of 2013, before Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall were axed in 2014.

However, after the recent emergence of shows like Those Two Girls on the Hit Network, the longevity of The 3pm Pick-Up, and seeing Natalie Peters and Erin Molan win the 2019 ACRA for Best On-Air (AM)… could we be seeing a shift in mentality in Australian radio?

“It’s great to see a strive for more diversity in Australian media generally,” says Wards. “Certainly for triple j we want our team to reflect the reality of modern young Australians and the diversity within our audience.

“We look forward to when equality in broadcasting and the industry is the norm so that a female duo isn’t seen as a change or something different.”

triple j, Sally and Erica

Sally & Erica perform live as ‘Coda Conduct’ (Image: Facebook)

Speaking with Radio Today following the appointment of Sally & Erica, former SCA programmer Craig Bruce admits that “every new combination is seen as a risk when compared to ‘tried and tested’.”

However, he disagrees with those who contend that any shows have failed to gain traction in the past due to being all-female.

“Chrissie and Jane had some early success on Mix in Melbourne a few years back,” recalls Bruce. “Shows fail for a bunch of different reasons, being “all-female” isn’t one of them.”

He certainly believes we’re seeing a change in the way programmers think about all-female shows yet. “[Hit Network content head] Gemma Fordham has certainly been a champion of young female talent both on and off the air over the last 4 years,” he says.

“[ARN national CD] Duncan Campbell has now invested a couple of times in all-female shows so clearly he’s open to the idea of these combinations being successful.

“I think that quality communicators will always rise to the top, regardless of the gender combination.”

Sally & Erica, triple j, Coda Conduct

Image: Facebook / Coda Conduct

Triple j listeners are notorious for being loyal but stubborn. After some well-publicised backlash to the departure of Ben & Liam’s predecessors Matt Okine and Alex Dyson, listeners would take some time to come around to the new show.

So does Wards foresee any issue in terms of listeners getting familiar with Sally & Erica?

“Sally & Erica have proven themselves to be really relatable to triple j’s core demo of 18 – 24s, men and women,” he explains. “We’ll see more of that next year and they’ll be working on building a really inclusive show.

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6 Nov 2019 - 10:31 am

Look at it this way, some of the worst shows on radio at the moment have men on them…

6 Nov 2019 - 10:36 am

These guys are gonna be great!!
They’ve been really good on weekends, I think many will be really surprised.

6 Nov 2019 - 1:26 pm

At least Sally and Erica have had experience with Triple J not just on weekends, but on deputy stints on drive. Should drive up familiarity more than when Ben and Liam came on board. (Some of the responses on their Facebook page seem to be of relief that they’re leaving — so par for the course.)

That said — and I ask this nonchalantly — I wonder if they considered Veronica and Lewis for breakfast, with Sally and Erica on drive?

6 Nov 2019 - 4:54 pm

Nico, totally agree with you.
Thought Veronica & Lewis were the perfect fit for Brekky.
Even get Gen Fricker to team up with someone.

They’re oozing talent over at the J’s

7 Nov 2019 - 4:07 am

Get your facts straight Zanda. The 3pm Pick-Up do well because of Kyle and Jackie O it doesn’t do well in Melbourne and Brisbane where ratings are not as strong.

    7 Nov 2019 - 9:48 am

    Not sure what you mean Sam. The 3pm pick-up has been going since 2011 so I’m not sure how you could dispute that it doesn’t have “longevity”?

7 Nov 2019 - 4:10 am

Not hard for Triple J to do well 18-24’s no other station targets them or even wants them ( oh and they don’t play commercials )

7 Nov 2019 - 1:19 pm

Good stuff give the girls a chance. Love it.

7 Nov 2019 - 2:36 pm

Nice to hear from Dubbo. Legend. Please remember women should get the job because they are good not because they are women.

7 Nov 2019 - 11:28 pm

Kinda strange to see anyone think this might be a “risky” move; Sally and Erica have proven on air chemistry and a fairly laid back “matey” way of presenting and interacting with listeners so it seems like a safe bet to me to just move them to a different time slot. That said, I kinda find it strange that there’s an idea of a “ratings war” for breakfast and aftetnoon drive time radio: I just want some decent songs and a not too annoying announcer talking a bit when I’m driving

15 Nov 2019 - 10:09 pm

Sometimes you need to look outside the cube to find something Good, a good spring clean for the new year sets up a fresh look and listen.

17 Jun 2020 - 12:16 pm

Who is the former SCA senior programmer now consulting and coaching these two.


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