What makes On-Air teams work?

Staff Writer

High profile programmers Craig Bruce (SCA's Head of Content), Duncan Campbell (ARN's Group Content Director), Graham Mott (former Fairfax GM) and Jay Walkerden (PD of dmg's Nova 106.9 in Brisbane) discussed on-air teams, what makes them succeed and what makes them fail.

Talent also had their say via video vignettes starring Fitzy & Wippa (Nova), Fifi & Jules (Today) and Jonesy & Amanda (WSFM).

What makes an on-air team work ?

Fitzy & Wippa responded by saying respect, listening, enjoying it and having a good team around you. Fifi & Jules say it's respect and trust both on-air and off-air. Jonesy & Amanda say it's chemistry.

Jay – you can't fake chemistry, all 3 of those shows have chemistry. It's the number 1 thing I look for, chemistry.

Duncan – chemistry, role definition needs to play a part, passion for the business (a challenge with talent coming from other industries) and preparation and planning.

Craig – gotta get the cast right, role definition.

Graham – without stating the obvious, they must have talent. Casting. Ethic and work ethic. Ability to tell a story.

How much influence does a PD and producer have with the team ?

Fitzy & Wippa responded by saying they are most important. They need to steer the ship and oversee it all. Fifi & Jules say that when you are giving so much of yourself, a PD or producer will keep you on track and adds perspective. Jonesy & Amanda say a great PD knows when to back off and not allow talent to second guess themselves. A PD has to be your biggest fan. They have to work out how to get the best out of you.

Duncan – great to see that the talent recognise the importance of the behind the scenes teams.

Craig – our most successful shows have the most talented EP's. The same qualities they possess we also look for in our CD's. Most important thing is to "keep the band together", using a U2 reference.

Graham – talent need to have a producer they respect. A producer needs to be a psychologist in dealing with multiple personalities. 3AW have been lucky to have producers staying there for a long time.

Jay – everyone needs to be fully invested in the show. We are massive fans of our show. It's much easier to make calls on the show when you are a true fan of the show you are working in or on.

How do you know when a team is going to work ?

Fitzy & Wippa say you just know when you get along well. You gotta laugh on-air and off air. Fifi & Jules say it takes time. Jonesy & Amanda say it happened for them when Jonesy filled in for Denton at Triple M. He was disappointed that it wouldn't actually happen but glad it eventually did.

Craig – if you are trialling you must be careful. The stakes are so high. A relaxed off-air trial can lead to a false sense of what the show will be like long-term. You have to give it time.

Graham  – it can take a while but due to commercial pressures, hopefully you still have the time. If it's cast well and you work on it day to day hopefully the business has the time to support the time it takes to bed a show in. Craig believes 2 years is about right to find out if listeners have connected with it.

Jay – if it's not working you need to make the tough call.

Duncan – the audience is quick to tell you if something's not going to work.

How do you stop on-air talent becoming stale ?

Fitzy & Wippa say you need time apart, especially on holiday's. Wippa jokingly said "Always negotiate as much holiday's as you can". Always reinvent and think of something new. Fifi & Jules jokingly say "change your name". People's lives don't get stale so Jules believes it's hard to get stale. Jonesy & Amanda say it's about teams being professional.

Graham – this is where the role of producer and PD need to play a key role to get it back into focus. It's like life, it's challenging. You have to work at it. It won't happen for you, you have to make it happen.

Jay – it's all about hunger. Talent all have different hot buttons and it's about identifying them and pushing them when it's appropriate. If the hunger is leaving, you can hear it and you can see it in the talent.

Duncan – the great talent will have that passion and hunger to avoid it getting stale. How can we do things differently to keep it changing.

Craig – hire people who have a clear vision for their show. When a Content Director is giving a show their opinion on how a show should sound then "game's up", it's about talent having that clear vision.

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