Radio Today

Top Anchor spills the beans (pt 1)


This article originally appeared on Radio Today in May last year. With news of Ian's return to Brisbane radio we thought it deserved another run.


In September 2011, 4MMM’s breakfast show, The Cage, was let go. For legendary breakfast anchor Ian Skippen it meant that his 23 years with Austereo had come to an end.

Ian Skippen was one of the first to join the on-air team when, in 1988, Austereo purchased 4BK with the plan to convert it to FM.

In Part 1 of a wide-ranging, and open interview, Radio Today Director, and Commercial Radio Hall of Fame inductee Greg Smith sat down with Ian Skippen and discussed his career.

Greg: Tell us about the early days of joining 4BK in 1988 as breakfast anchor & why you left your role as PD & Breakfast Announcer at 4KQ.

Ian:When you rang me Greg, I remember you were driving through the Gabba, on the day Austereo purchased 4BK, and it was like I’d won Lotto. I had been at KQ for 16 years, had been the PD, and was up for a new challenge.

I was well aware of Austereo and the way they worked. When I was PD I was looking at using you as a consultant but it didn’t happen as KQ was sold to Wesgo. I also had a mate, Kevin Hillier, anchoring the Fox Zoo in Melbourne and I wanted a crack at the “Zoo” concept in Brisbane.

Greg:It was a major cultural change for the staff & management of 4BK. I remember the entire research team was fired after falsifying tracking that showed 4BK doing extremely well. Unbeknown to them we hired another research team to do parallel tracking to compare the results. Ian, did you get a sense of us & them in the early days of Austereo’s ownership of 4BK?

Ian: Early 4BK was interesting and exciting. I was, I guess, an “Austereo Outsider” but everyone in the building knew me from a lengthy time in the market, but you were aware that there were some who were suspicious and nervous, but most were excited to be part of a proven success story like Austereo and all that it brought. 

There was a natural attrition as the turbulence subsided. A young bloke called Guy Dobson was doing mornings. He soon upped stumps for Canada.  It turns out that he made a better CEO than a jock.

Everyone was up for a “go” though. You could sense that we had an opportunity to really make a radio statement. FM 104 had been riding rough shod over the market for ages with just a tad of arrogance that both advertisers and listeners were over. It seemed like the marketplace was ready to wreak retribution.

A good lesson to learn. Humility tastes better than arrogance.

Greg:4BK became B105 on February 26th 1990. In June that year with Brad March at the helm, B105 knocked off 4MMM in its first full survey on the FM band rising from 11.8 to 26.7. 4MMM dropped from 27.9 to 16.8.

McNair Anderson, the official radio survey company at the time, was so shocked by the result that they delayed releasing the survey while they re-checked the survey diaries. What do you remember about that day?

Ian: I don’t recall that day at all. I think we killed many brain cells with the Power’s Beer at the time.  Seriously everyone had been going hard at it for 18 months and there was no love lost at the time between the new kid on the FM block and the incumbent FM 104…Rock in Stereo. 

I remember them at one time hiring a bus and driving past our building at Bowen Hills showing a line up of bare FM 104 staff arses out of the windows. That first result was sweet for all on air staff, and prompted the famous double page spread in B & T mag with two dogs doing the biz.

The B105 collared dog was giving it to the 104 collared mutt. The caption was…”Every dog has his day”. The day and night was euphoric.

Greg: Brad March did a stunning job of creating B105. What were the key things that Brad taught you in those early days?

Ian:
Creating B105 is the word. Brad’s forte is the creative. He’d sell the sizzle. From the Morning Crew to the Hot 30 and all in between, when you tuned in to B105 you knew you were on THE station and if you weren’t you were going to miss out. A take no prisoner’s attitude, a winning feeling that permeated through the building from reception through to tech world.

We were so proud of our brand, what we were creating and how we were going about it. It was all about making noise, seizing the moment, going to the edge and sometimes over it, but most importantly having fun. As a “crew” we were encouraged to take risks. He also used to score our show out of “10”, which was pretty tough when we always knew we gave it “11”.

Greg:How long did it take for you, Jamie Dunn & Donna Lynch to gel as the B105 Morning Crew?

Ian: Time dims probably how crap we were when we started out, but I think the three disparate personalities came together pretty quickly. You had Donna the girl from Canberra radio who loved to party and embrace the listener, Jamie the “Agro” man who hadn’t done radio really, but is a funny bugger and entertainer, then me the “radio bloke”, who got used to Jamie’s hand.

Brad’s thing for us was to stick to the roles. That’s pretty hard when you have a quick brain and smart mouth that always got you into trouble in class, so I’d write a line down for Jamie, he’d deliver and we’d get a thigh slapping reaction in a Brad aircheck. Jamie would give me the look on the sly, but I didn’t care who got the laugh or the credit, as long as we got the laugh. It was the chemistry.

Greg:What about the infamous incident where you got into a punch-up with Jamie Dunn.  What was that all about?

Ian: It was really over nothing. A “discussion” early morning about our crew “production guy” who I reckoned could work faster. It seems I pushed the “Agro” man’s button. Apparently I didn’t always push the right one but this time I did, resulting in Agro’s right hand man delivering a round house to the button pusher’s jaw.

Our producer just about “shat” himself as he came between us. I was more shocked than physically hurt, which probably explains why I never threw a return. I’m glad I didn’t because it probably would have ended a great radio relationship prematurely.  It was over and done with pretty quickly.

Apparently having known Jamie for years I knew which of his buttons to push. On this occasion I pushed the right one. It must have been an accident as I wasn’t always known for pushing the right button. I do know that we did go on air that morning and have a great show. The show’s the thing.

Greg:During your time at B105 & later 4MMM, describe the planning process to create a great show.

Ian:If I knew how to create a great show I’d still be doing it. My next show will be a great one.

Our planning would be two part. The day before and the day of. We would plan every break from the get go to the show end.

That would entail having the show up on the whiteboard, placing benchmarks (Gotcha/Character calls/interviews/Cage Crusades/ Breakfast tactics) then work everything else around those.

We would decide what stories each had that were relevant, which ones could generate a good phoner. Is there anything to generate a “stunt”?

What’s happening in the world that we should be on, news/entertainment etc. Who should we be chasing on these…if it’s international is there any local who could offer a comment if getting the actual person is impossible. Sometimes Obama just won’t take your call.

Is there an email or letter we should be following up on?

This process could be quite lengthy depending on the tiredness/enthusiasm/obstinacy or whim of all involved, but wouldn’t end until all agreed, or agreed to disagree on the final look. This process would then be repeated (without the PD or CD) the morning of the show, usually with more focus and time economy.

Over 23 years and almost as many PD’s and CD’s (I still can’t get used to CD, I think it stands for crap decisions) and producers the process would change but the basics don’t. Be compelling. Be relevant to your listener and your community. Be interested in everything and everyone, not just your little patch.

Everyone involved in the show should be an absolute sponge for information. No one has a mortgage on creativity. Be real. AND be prepared to make the listener the star. OK that sounds like a mission statement or glib lines from Programming 101, but if all of that is wrung out and delivered through “your” elements in every half hour you’re going to tick the boxes.

Be flexible. Be prepared to totally toss the whole show you spent hours preparing after you got off the air the day before and for a couple more on the morning of the show, because the feeling in the studio was “we should run with this”. It’s right to have a plan to execute, but don’t be executed by sticking to the plan. If your gut’s telling you you’ve got something better, go with it. You’ve got to know that you can take a risk. You’re not always going to make the right decision, but the last thing you want to be doing is second guessing. The moment will be gone and great radio has gone missing.

 

In part 2 of Greg Smith's chat with Ian Skippen, he lists the Top 10 things he learnt about Breakfast Radio whilst at Austereo. Read it here.

Published on Published on Saturday, 31 August 2013 08:00



Rick Wade(8:13am 16 May 2012)
Great words, Skip. Let's catch up for a single malt soon.

Cheers,

Rick
Mark C. van Laarhoven(9:00am 16 May 2012)
A lot of people have enthusiasm for the radio craft but very few possess the level of dedication that this bloke brought to the table everyday. Can't wait to hear about Skip's next career move.
johnny lonely(10:08am 16 May 2012)
One of radios true gentlemen.
Linda Cunningham(6:54am 17 May 2012)
They were great days Ian!!
Ray Peters(11:26am 17 May 2012)
"The B105 collared dog was giving it to the 104 collared mutt. The caption was…”Every dog has his day”."

Now that's a classic !
Great reading. Many thanks.
Michael Price(13:33pm 18 May 2012)
Great article Greg and Skip. I can't help but comment on the infamous 'punch up' though. As the young producer who 'shat' himself at the time, I remember it as a surreal experience that taught a great lesson in professionalism and getting the job done regardless. The typically animated and robust pre-show discussion turned dark and before I knew it I was face to face in a sumo push with a frothing Jamie, with a startled and furious Skip pressing me into a sandwich trying to get at the big man. Ok, I may have shat just a little. The storm passed quickly though, and there was timely separation when Jamie went into the studio to record his sketch, and Skip went back to chatting with myself about the formguide for the morning. The lesson here is the show that followed less than an hour after the stink delivered a realistic 7/8 on the EV meter. Testament to the level of professionalism the mighty B105 Morning Crew worked at, and why they were so successful long term. It was an honour and pleasure to be a part of it for a time. Cheers Pricey

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Hitz FM in Bundaberg are looking for a Breakfast Announcer. Details.

 

Nova Entertainment has a vacancy for a Network Nights Imaging Producer based in Sydney. Details.

 

 

2GB has a vacancy for a Broadcast Tecnician.Details.

 

Australia's Hottest Country Networks are looking for a Radio Gun based in Bundaberg. Details.

 

SCA has a vacancy for a Radio Journalist for B105 Breakfast. Details.

 

NZME in New Zealand has a vacancy for a Head of Digital Editorial. Details.

 

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Grant Broadcasters has a vacancy for a Breakfast Personality for Mix 104.9 in Darwin. Details.

 

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5RM/Magic 931 FM in Berri has a vacancy for a Creative Production Manager. Details.

 

Star FM on the Central Coast has a vacancy for a Production Manager. Details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2BH and HILL FM in Broken Hill are looking for a Production Whiz / Announcer. Details.

 

 

Grant Broadcasters has a vacancy for a Program/Content Manager in Bundaberg. Details.

 

Nova 96.9 in Sydney has a vacancy for an Integration and Marketing Manager.Details.

 

Hot Tomato are looking for Announcers to join their Talent Bank. Details.

 

Power FM and 3BA in Ballarat has a vacancy for a Creative Director. Details.

 

Nova Entertainment are looking for a National Implementation Manager in Sydney. Details.

 

Star 104.5 Central Coast have a role for a Workday Announcer/Operations Person. Details.

 

Grant Broadcasters are looking for talent for their Talent Bank - Digital & New Media. Details.

 

ARN has a vacancy for a Producer for KIIS 1065 Breakfast in Sydney. Details.

 

2GB has a vacancy for a Senior Network Support Engineer. Details.

 

NZME has a vacancy for a News Reader working across their music brands in Auckland.Details.

 

Star 104.5 Central Coast are looking for an Announcer/Music Director. Details.

 

Sarah Maree Cameron joins Nova 100 weekday line-up on afternoons for 2015.

 

Tim Cox returns to Brisbane in 2015. Tim left 612 ABC's Drive program in August to head home to Tassie. He will present weekends on the station.

 

Tommy Jackett from Star FM Shepparton's  Tommy & Stace Breakfast show is departing the show December 19. 

 

Kathleen Jessop from AFTRS secures her first radio gig at WAVE FM as afternoon journalist and newsreader.

Mickey Maher has been appointed the Head of Content – SCA Regional Radio.

 

Music programmer Bill Riner will be taking a redundancy and leaving the ABC.

 

Greg "Hinksy" Hinks, from Brisbane’s 973 is heading to Adelaide to be part of the Mix 102.3 breakfast team in 2015.

Nova Entertainment’s Chief Operating Officer, Lou Higgins is heading to Melbourne to manage both NOVA 100 and Smooth FM for 2015.

 

Jason “Labby” Hawkins leaves Brisbane’s B105 for New Zealand for network on drive on ZM.

 

92.9 Perth' Ross Wallman will be joining Breakfast line-up for 2015 with SEA FM on the Gold Coast..

Adelaide Advertisers

1. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
2. Coles Coles Group Ltd (Wesfarmers Ltd)
3. Puratap Puratap Pty Ltd
4. Digital Radio Plus Commercial Radio Australia Ltd
5. HQ Complex Newmarket Hotel

Brisbane Advertisers

1. National Tiles National Tiles Co Pty Ltd
2. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
3. Coles Coles Group Ltd (Wesfarmers Ltd)
4. Queensland's Renewal Program Dept Of The Premier & Cabinet (Queensland Govt)
5. Digital Radio Plus Commercial Radio Australia Ltd

Central Coast Advertisers

1. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
2. Domayne Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
3. The Good Guys The Good Guys Discount Warehouses (Aust) Pty Ltd
4. Ettalong Diggers Ettalong Diggers
5. BJ Howes Metaland BJ Howes Pty Ltd

Gold Coast Advertisers

1. Domayne Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
2. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
3. Inspirations Paint Inspirations Paint Store (Holdings) Ltd
4. Microsoft Office 365 Microsoft Pty Ltd
5. Griffith University Griffith University

Melbourne Advertisers

1. Bertocchi Bertocchi Smallgoods Pty Ltd
2. National Tiles National Tiles Co Pty Ltd
3. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
4. Digital Radio Plus Commercial Radio Australia Ltd
5. Coles Coles Group Ltd (Wesfarmers Ltd)

Newcastle Advertisers

1. Domayne Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
2. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
3. Joyce Mayne Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
4. Nobby Kitchens Nobby Kitchens
5. Horton's Furniture One Horton's Furniture One

Perth Advertisers

1. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
2. Universal Seafoods Unitrade International Pty Ltd
3. Coles Coles Group Ltd (Wesfarmers Ltd)
4. Water Corporation Government Of Western Australia
5. Digital Radio Plus Commercial Radio Australia Ltd

Sydney Advertisers

1. Harvey Norman Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd
2. Coles Coles Group Ltd (Wesfarmers Ltd)
3. Peter's Of Kensington Peter's Of Kensington
4. Digital Radio Plus Commercial Radio Australia Ltd
5. Paul's Warehouse Paul's Retail Pty Ltd

The Gifted Man

The Gifted Man

 

Flowers for Everyone

Canberra Ratings

1 104.7 17.3 (17.5) SCA
2 Mix 106.3 16.8 (15.9) SCA
3 ABC666 16.4 (15.6) ABC
4 triple j 10.0 (10.3) ABC
5 Classic FM 8.2 (10.2) ABC
6 Radio National 7.6 (6.9) ABC
7 2CC 7.0 (6.6) Capital
  • 10+ overall share Mon-Sun, Survey 2/2014
  • GFK

Gold Coast Ratings

1 Gold FM 14.3 (15.0)* SCA
2 Hot Tomato 14.1 (13.9)* HT
3 Sea FM 9.5 (8.8)* SCA
4 triple j 9.4 (7.6)* ABC
5 ABC 91.7 FM 6.7 (6.6)* ABC
6 ABC612 3.3 (4.2)* ABC
7 ABC FM 2.9 (2.2)* ABC
  • 10+ Overall Share Mon-Sun, Survey 3/2014
  • * previous survey

 

Brisbane Ratings

1Nova 106.9 13.512.9)NovaEnt
2 97.3FM 12.3 (13.0) ARN
3B105 9.7(9.0) SCA
4Triple M 8.8(8.7) SCA
5triple j 9.0(8.0) ABC
6 ABC612 8.5 (9,4) ABC
7 4KQ 7.1 (7.5) ARN
  • 10+ share Mon-Sun, Survey 8/2014 (GfK)

Perth Ratings

1 Mix 94.5 13.8 (14.5) SCA
2 Nova 93.712.6 (13.5) NovaEnt
3triple j 11.0(10.4) ABC
496FM 10.2(9.4)Fairfax
5ABC720 9.6(9.6) ABC
692.9 8.2(8.4) SCA
7 6PR 7.3 (8.5) Fairfax
  • 10+ share Mon-Sun, Survey 8/2014 (GfK)

Auckland Ratings

1 Newstalk ZB 13.4 (13.0) TRN
2 Coast  9.6 (8.1) TRN
3 The Edge 7.8 (6.0) Mediaworks
4 The Breeze 7.0 (6.5) Mediaworks
5 Classic Hits 6.7 (5.9) TRN
6 ZM 5.9 (5.6) TRN
7 Mai FM 5.2 (4.3) TRN
  • 10+ share, Survey 1/2014

Christchurch Ratings

1 Newstalk ZB 17.0 (16.1) TRN
2 More FM 10.7 (11.8) Mediaworks
3 The Breeze 10.2 (8.8) Mediaworks
4 The Rock 9.0 (10.3) Mediaworks
5 The Edge 6.9 (6.5) Mediaworks
6 The Sound 6.0 (6.4) Mediaworks
7 Classic Hits 5.7 (5.7) TRN
  • 10+ share, Survey 1/2014

Wellington Ratings

1 NewstalkZB 15.3 (10.5) TRN
2 The Breeze 13.7 (14.6) Mediaworks
3 ZM 11.3 (12.4) TRN
4 The Sound 7.5 (7.1) Mediaworks
5 The Rock 7.4 (8.3) Mediaworks
6 The Edge 6.6 (8.3) Mediaworks
7 Coast 5.7 (4.6) TRN
  • 10+ share, Survey 1/2014

Newcastle Ratings

1 KOFM 15.3 (15.3)* SCA
2 ABC1233 11.9 (11.1)* ABC
3NXFM 11.6(9.7)* SCA
4New FM10.0(9.3)*BOG
5 triple j 9.9 (10.8)* ABC
6 2HD 9.8 (10.3)* BOG
7 Classic FM 3.9 (4.7)* ABC
  • 10+ Overall Share Mon-Sun, GfK Survey 3/2014

 

Adelaide Ratings

1 Mix 102.3 15.5 (14.6) ARN
2FIVEaa 11.411.2)NovaEnt
3Nova 91.9 11.2(11.8)NovaEnt
4ABC891 10.0(11.3) ABC
6hit1078.1(8.3) SCA
7 Cruise 1323 8.1 (7.6) ARN
  • 10+ share Mon-Sun, Survey 8/2014 (GfK)
  • hit107 on-air Oct 20, was SAFM

Wollongong Ratings

1 I98 23.8 (28.5) WIN
2 Wave FM 16.0 (17.3) GRANT
         
  • 10+ Overall Share Mon-Sun, Survey 1/2014
  • IRIS Research

Central Coast Ratings

1 Sea FM 17.7 (12.4) SCA
2 2GO FM 13.2 (17.5) SCA
3 Star 104.5 11.4 (14.3) NovaEnt
4 ABC 92.5 10.7 (9.9) ABC
5 2GB 9.8 (8.9) MRN
6 Triple J 5.8 (5.2) ABC
7 WSFM 2.8 (0.7) ARN
  • 10+ overall share Mon-Sun, Survey 1/2012
  • Nielsen Media Research

Albury Ratings

1 Star FM 22.9* (22.7)** SCA
2 The River 20.7* (27.0)** SCA
3 2AY 16.6* (11.9)** ACE
4 ABC Local Radio 14.0* (11.2)** ABC
5 Triple J 9.9* (4.2)** ABC
6 Radio National 2.2* (1.6)** ABC
  • 10+ overall share Mon-Sun, Survey 1/2014
  • * Xtra Research/ ** Nielsen 

Melbourne Ratings

1 3AW 12.8 (12.2) Fairfax
2 ABC 774 10.0 (11.6) ABC
3 Fox FM 8.5 (8.5) SCA
4Gold 8.0(7.2) ARN
5Nova 100 7.8(7.8)NovaEnt
6smoothfm 91.5 7.4(7.2)NovaEnt
7Triple M6.8(6.7) SCA
8 Mix101.1 6.3 (6.0) ARN
  • 10+ share Mon-Sun, Survey 8/2014 (GfK)

CompanyStock IDPriceChange
Southern Cross Media
SXL
1.03
-0.96%
Fairfax Media Group
FXJ
0.820
1.86%
Macquarie Radio Network
MRN
1.35
7.14%
Pacific Star Network
PNW
0.340
0.00%
APN News & Media
APN
0.755
2.03%
Oceania Capital
OCP
1.38
0.00%
Ten Network
TEN
0.210
-2.33%
Seven West Media
SWM
1.37
-0.72%
Seven Group Holdings
SVW
5.45
2.64%
Nine Entertainment
NEC
1.86
0.00%
Prime Media Group
PRT
0.880
-1.68%