“We’ve handled everything with a good level of dignity:” Duncan Campbell on a year of change

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“I don’t think any network has made this level of change in one year before.”

Duncan Campbell, the face of ARN’s Pure Gold and KIIS networks, came out swinging this week. He is, as his job requires of him, defending the company’s position after the axe fell on no less than 13 key talent and executives in recent months.

High profile casualties from the KIIS Network this year included Matt Tilley and Meshel Laurie in Melbourne, Carmen Braidwood and Brad ‘Fitzi’ Fitzgerald in Perth and network stars, Stacey June and Kristie Mercer of The Thinkergirls fame and Drive duo Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek.

“We’ve handled everything with a good level of dignity,” Campbell tells Radio Today when asked about Langbroek’s on-air jive following the news of their separation. “I have no problems at all with a bit of Slim Dusty.”

As was widely reported, in a “coup” for Southern Cross Austereo, Hughes and Langbroek have defected to the Hit Network. They begin on-air in January next year, replacing Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.

Campbell maintains the narrative that the changes ARN has made are all for the right reasons: “… and we have looked after the people who have left us.”

KIIS FM gets a new Drive show next year, fronted by former Hit 92.9 Breakfast duo, Woody Whitelaw and Will McMahon. Former New Zealand radio duo Jase Hawkins and PJ Harding take on the challenge of Breakfast at KIIS101.1, up against heavyweight shows like Nova 100’s Chrissie, Sam and Browny, who topped the FM brekkie ratings in Survey 8 this week.

The Pure Gold Network didn’t escape ARN’s desire to “reinvigorate” the brand, either. In fact, you could argue it was the hardest hit.

In Melbourne, content director Sam Thompson, and Breakfast hosts Jo Stanley and Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehman, all fell victim to the network’s new strategy, as did Sydney content director Charlie Fox, and legendary announcer Ron E Sparks.

ARN has remained tight-lipped on a replacement Breakfast show for GOLD104.3, but Campbell has promised a local lineup of talent.

When asked by Radio Today if the new hosts are from inside the network, Campbell said, “[the show] is made up of people from not just our network, but other networks as well.”

A number of industry insiders suggest one of the three 3PM Pickup hosts could be in the running; Katie ‘Monty’ Dimond, Yumi Stynes or Rebecca Judd. The latter being the most obvious choice.

Some of these more apparent departures made sense – and were arguably overdue – while others, to the outside at least, seemed brutal and without merit. But Campbell says the best time to make change is when you are in front.

“In this business, whether [the changes] work or not is gonna be crystal clear, black and white. No place to hide.”

And if 2018’s final survey is anything to go by, ARN needn’t hide (and nor are they).

In Sydney, ARN finished the year with the #1 and #2 FM breakfast show and station in Sydney thanks to Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O Henderson on KIIS 106.5 and Brendan ‘Jonesy’ Jones and Amanda Keller on WSFM101.7.

“I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t so I just have to sit back and marvel at it, cause it’s an extraordinary show,” Campbell says on Kyle and Jackie O’s 12.1% audience share in Survey 8 this week.

“The chemistry they have is extraordinary. And they’ve got a great team behind the scenes that ensures the machine remains well oiled. And the chief conductor Derek Bagwana drives a lot of that.”

ARN also hit the finish line ahead in Adelaide, it had the #1 FM breakfast show and station with Jodie Oddy and Mark ‘Soda’ Soderstrom at Mix102.3, and the #1 FM station in Melbourne with GOLD104.3.

If 2017 was all about ‘change’, you should expect 2018 to centre on ‘challenge’.

All ears will be tuned to Melbourne when the year’s first GfK survey results land on Tuesday, March 13; pop that date in your diary.

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