Craig Bruce explains the 'talent pipeline'

Southern Cross Austereo have made a number of moves at a major regional level lately that have a lot of you fired up.

It started with NXFM dropping the Steve & Kim breakfast show after 11 years, replacing them with Heath & Normy.

Then last week Paddy & Ciel were taken off Sea FM on the Central Coast after 7 and a half years (a month after co-host Dan Taylor left the station).

On Wednesday, SCA announced Sea's new breakfast show would be Dani Pola and Nath Cera, both of whom are from Perth and have been doing a development show on 92.9.

These moves have led to many varying opinions from you, which is awesome, we encourage this dialogue.

But in an effort to get inside the head of the man making the decisions for SCA, Radio Today spoke with Craig Bruce, Head of Content for the network. Below, he gives his perspective and reveals the strategic plan behind these recent changes.....

Craig: Since the merge, almost 2 years ago, we’ve had an internal focus on what we call ‘the talent pipeline’. We think one of the best ways to secure our future in the metro’s is to grow and nurture our talent in the regionals by giving them the focus and coaching they need to be their best.

We’ve got a core group of us – myself, Dave Cameron, Derek Bargwanna, Sam Cavanagh, Fitzy and Jamie Angel. We have a hands on role with all of our new breakfast shows. From Cairns to Bunbury and everywhere in between.

For those in the industry that are looking at this in a negative light, why not call Tom or Heidi, who are working in Bunbury at the moment, and ask them what it’s like to have Dave Cameron coaching them on a regular basis. Or how it feels for a Kristie Mercer and a Ben Erbsland, the new breakfast show in Albury, to be flown down to Melbourne and have our entire national content team help build their new breakfast show.

All of us get a great amount of satisfaction and enjoyment out of working with Kyle and Eddie and Mick, but we get an equal amount of enjoyment from developing new shows.

We are radio people who are wanting to develop new shows, new talent for this industry.

I’m really confident that from this new batch, whether it’s Heath & Normy, Ben & Kristie, Nick & Woody or Dani & Nath – one of these teams will be a breakfast combination for one of our metro radio stations.

Radio Today: Steve & Kim and Paddy & Ciel were 2 long running, successful breakfast shows. Why end them ?

Craig: It would have been really easy, based on ratings, for us not to make a change in either of those markets.

We had a situation at B105 many years ago, which we’re probably still paying for. We knew that Jamie Dunn had got to the end of his time with B105, the brand fit wasn’t right, but the ratings told us to hold and eventually when we did move, it was too late.

Steve Graham is about to move to KOFM to do drive and it’s the perfect fit for a guy in his 40’s.

In the same way that Paddy is going to have a fantastic extension to his career because we’re going to have him on a brand that makes sense to him at this stage of his life.

The alternative strategy is to just leave everything as it is, let Steve Graham work until he’s 60 on NX and the ratings will always hold up, but where’s the win from an industry perspective?

How does that work for new talent coming through who want to do breakfast ?

Radio Today:So this isn’t a cost cutting exercise ?

Craig: The idea that this is about saving money or about centralising our programming, nothing could be further from the truth.

Radio Today: There have been some comments suggesting that breakfast hosts in these markets should be locals. Your thoughts ?

Craig: This idea that we can hire Coasties for the Coast, where do I start with that comment ? We’re not going to find quality talent in smaller markets that are ready to go. We’re putting Dani & Nath in there because we’ve spent 18 months developing them, they’re ready to go, it’s a good quality show and they’re potentially an option for us in Perth in 5-10 years.

They deserve a chance.

It is a bit confronting for new talent going into those markets. We know we’re going to get negative comments, but we also know that if we build the right show that in 6-12 months we will get the positive feedback. The immediate backlash will settle over time and we just have to put the runs on the board with good content, done consistently.

Radio Today:What do you say to those that believe you need to be on a reality TV show to do breakfast these days ?

Craig: Fitzy’s a great radio talent, Chrissie Swan is an amazing media talent. We’re in the talent development business, we’re in a permanent race to find the next Hamish & Andy. Whether they come from a reality TV show or a Masterchef, I don’t care, I will take and work with creative, interesting individuals from wherever they come from.

Anonymous(22:54 29 Nov 2012)
what about bags on the GC
The Music Man(23:53 29 Nov 2012)
What I find interesting is that the male half of the now canned duos at NX and Sea are given a gig (on their sister stations), but the female part of the duos are unemployed.

Maybe they were going to #DestroyTheJoint
Seriously(1:17 30 Nov 2012)
I'm staggered to hear Craig Bruce talk about the 'talent pipeline' and surprised SCA would allow that to be publically aired.

Regional stations have conditions by which they must be operated. Funnelling talent through them just to make the metros stronger is not within the spirit of that charter. Owners have obligations to the local markets and it doesn't sound like SCA's current approach takes that into account at all.

How would listeners in these markets feel knowing their new breakfast show is being broken in before being carted off somewhere else? Why would listeners invest their time in it when its only a short term approach? It's an astounding revelation and one which I reckon is going to need further clarification to avoid the fallout.

Little wonder the ABC now owns local in these markets when operators like SCA care little for them.
Bob F(2:20 30 Nov 2012)
This is great spin, and utter nonsense that isn't at least partly about cost cutting - Dani & Nath weren't even full time announcers at 929 so they're unlikely to be earning anything over 60 at Gosford - compare that to what the previous team was likely on and it's a significant cost saving.
dan(5:22 30 Nov 2012)
A number of the comments on the various articles around the Gosford & Newcastle brekky changes have been at best naive, and at worst just dumb. Regional markets, for any cap city group with regional assets, have always been a 'talent pipeline' for larger markets. SCA use theirs in this way. DMG use Star in this way. ARN would use 96.1 in that way if they had a metro format that was aligned with it. And it's not only regional, the smaller metros feed the bigger metros.

For Craig Bruce to make that point is not revolutionary, nor is it ‘astounding’. And it certainly isn’t something that will cause ‘fallout’.

This doesn’t mean a great local show can’t ‘marry a market’, and there are many examples; one of the best being Steve Price at 4TO-FM Townsville. And it happens with some regional CHR's as well, although at some point talent outgrow the target audience. Nonetheless many regional markets have always been breeding grounds, particularly the CHR's, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Re: the comment regarding license conditions, saying that the talent pipeline is ‘not within the spirit of that charter’; that is ridiculous, and not remotely accurate.

Ultimately, smaller markets will operate as breeding/training grounds for young talent to learn their craft and move to a bigger market. It has been that way for decades. And it’s how it should be.
Anonymous(7:01 30 Nov 2012)
The Coast and Newcastle licenses deserve more than product on it's way to Perth. For this and a dozen other reasons you shouldn't be alowed to have these and as many licenses as you do. When you work in that environment for a while you start to believe it. But Joe at Wadalba is paying for it, AND ultimately turning somewhere else for his local content. The death of radio!
Jim Host(7:22 30 Nov 2012)
Everyone trying to impress one man. The recruitment process here, is about a show which is best for the Central Coast. The Sea FM Program Directors responsiblity. If a metro PD would like to steal them, fine. What we have now is a dictorship. You can scorn at the term 'fall out' if you like, but you know what it's like in America. Networked, Hubbed, Ulterior Motives such as these, 'fix another bigger battle' attitudes. I am not saying go to the Gosford Library for talent. But do as a favour and pretend that you are wanting what's best for the listenership of the Central Coast which you are Licensed to 'SERVE' because, as we've been waiting for... you've just blown your cover.
Anonymous(8:33 30 Nov 2012)
I was hired from Newcastle, because someone listened to my tape. I drove up to Brisbane and was told that my salary would be $20000, and I would be doing 2-6am monday to thursday. I was so happy. My parents thought I was mental, but I told them it would be OK. Fast forward 5 years and I am the golden haired boy doing late nights, and I would be replacing David Rymer. I was coached, I had calls from Brad March and Eriks Celmins....but one day Brad told me that I was being groomed for a breakfast anchor gig. This is before SCA. I would end up panelling for Wendy or Brigette Duclos. I said no- chose my path, and paid the price(because it was the wrong path) Still had a decent career, but never went through the sausage factory that is now called the Talent stream/river/creek etc. There is nothing worse than being paired with someone that you dont know. Nor is there anything worse than arriving in a market to replace someone, who hasnt been told yet. Is there Dan Bradley? Remember Kylie and Steve in Cairns? What a disaster. Good luck all you newbies, and keep listening to yourself, but don't DON'T listen to your friends/family.
Rick(8:35 30 Nov 2012)
Dan you haven't addressed the main point. Why should listeners invest emotion in a short term breakfast show only there until they're good enough to go to Perth?

It may be a well known strategy this pipeline thing but I doubt its ever been put on the public record and that's a worry for SCA. If I was in competition with them I'd be hammering this point to listeners and clients - wouldn't you?
Try again Sam(11:11 30 Nov 2012)
Turn over, that's what we need guys. Turn over. That's how you fill holes, not hearts and minds with compelling local content. You can hear all of the Sydney stations across the entire central coast, and in the north (which is the heart land) you can also hear Newcastle. So, how did Paddy get to number 1 with no budget, no guests, no producer, no writers, little hair? Must have been local. Now, Star FM (with floating cume) can tell clients. 'Don't invest, those guys will be gone tomorrow, here's the quote'. I dont know what's wrong with you programming BRAINS, you'd loose at the 3 card trick.
Anonymous(19:16 30 Nov 2012)
There is nothing new about this initiative from Southern Cross. Under Brad March, Greg Smith and Jeff Allis's leadership Austereo were doing this back in the 90's and 00's. Talent was hired, coached and groomed and when they were strong enough moved to a bigger market. Everyone benefits - listeners, the talent and the network. Overall it has the effect of creating stronger talent & content which is good for radio overall. Agree with Dan Bradleys comments that this is how it should be. And the same for developing Content and Program Directors. I was a ' product ' of this process thanks to Brad.
Anonymous(22:44 30 Nov 2012)
This is all obvious, makes sense, and is fair. No one disputes that.
The issue is the way the public were treated with the Paddy and Ciel situation, in that they were on one day gone the next with no goodbye or warning. That's something that no one, still, understands, why there couldn't even be one more show.
Anonymous(1:43 01 Dec 2012)
yes but in the 90s and 00s Austereo didn't own the entire country's stations. So the pipeline was controlled. You could make a dollar when you moved up, you could disagree with a PD and find one with the same direction as you.
TJ(2:36 01 Dec 2012)
Local show is the local PD's responsibility?

Hasn't been that way since the early 90's. The local PD's job is to purely execute the orders from head office up on the mountain who are not even in the broadcast area.

Local PD's haven't made decisions for 20 years or more.

But, if those PDs are good boys and girls and sell their first born, they might be groomed for something bigger - so long as when they get there they continue to play ball.

Someone here commented that its a dictatorship, Very astute description. Of course those in the inner circle will disagree.

Radio evolves and life goes on. It breaks my heart to see what it's evolved into. Cookie cutter, networked, boring, samo samo, with feifdoms everywhere. You know it used to be a pizza with all the trimmings, now it's just the base with tomato paste. Sooner or later customers will stop buying it.
dan(2:36 01 Dec 2012)
Rick, listeners aren't going to 'not listen' because in 2 years the show might move to another market. You're over-analysing it. Their competition won't hammer it to anyone, they do it as well.
And to anonymous, yeah I remember Kyleigh & Steve in Cairns. You're wrong - that show wasn't a disaster, quite the opposite; they were pros and did an impressive show under what were, at times, challenging circumstances in that market for them to deal with.
Caroline(5:34 01 Dec 2012)
Most of the brains trust at SCA remember the 90's well but it was a time without Facebook or Twitter. Social media changes governments around the world these days so I'm pretty sure it will have a say about start-up breakfast shows learning on the job so they can move to bigger markets.

In 2012 you can't do what you did in 1992
Facebook bunkum (7:26 01 Dec 2012)
re Caroline, "Soc media change Gov'ts..."
On the Central Coast at anyone time since Facebook started, there's a list of groups, hating someone and trying to shut something down, it's like a sport on the coast - they LOVE IT!
And when you look at the profile Pics, it's nearly always - a cranky woman - between 4 & 50 (you can tell with a couple of teenage kids in the pic, a sweet family shot). Then you read the comments..." Yeah that hospitals shit and that bitch Doctor is a moll" or " Yeah that bastard School principal is a dickhead and spoke to my Kardeesha like she was a piece a shit, he's gotta go" or " Yeah can't believe Sea Fm, never gonna listen again, ya lost my business" ...
so Caroline, if businesses in Gosford were to over react to what 'Karen from Point Claire' or 'Charmain from Charmhaven' wrote on their walls, the place would shut down.
People are bored an angry with their lives and the same way A Current Affair and Today Tonight rev up the masses, so too a FACEBOOK page will in a community like Gosford.
It won't be long b4 Facebook groups become the most untrusted source of info on anything. That time isn't too far away.
CAMPO(3:23 02 Dec 2012)
I don't like the word Pipeline..Its simple Physics water can not flow up..thus the term down the drain...don't forget to flush
Anonymous(10:48 02 Dec 2012)
I don't see how the talent pipeline is different in any other career, you still kiss up to the boss working registrar in Coles!!
Seriously(3:18 03 Dec 2012)
Seriously most of the negative comments are clearly from people who don't have the talent to make it or have no real understanding of the industry to make an accurate comment.

Any business future proofing their company is a smart one. For radio and in this case SCA clearly this is part of their way of doing that.

Since when has developing people been a bad thing? Since when have locals stopped listening to their local shows because they wouldn't be around forever? As many have already written this has been happening forever.

That said SCA like ARN or DMG clearly do it on a case by case basis. In many markets there are local talent on air that won't go anywhere but are very talented but that is not necessarily part of the companies bigger broader plan. Steve & Kim were great but come on he is over 40 and she was over 50 on a station targeting under 40's?

It is amazing how many pepole choose to look at the negatives but consider the positive, what about how lucky some of those local markets are for getting decent talent to listen to r ather than Jo the butcher because hirng local is the better option?? Some markets are getting to hear the making of amazing talent they other wise may not have had if some of you narrow minded people got your way.

There are reasons to hire and keep local there are reasons to develop and move on talent. There is a place for both and if you look around most markets that still seems to be the case even with SCA who are copping it over being honest and transparent with their strategy
Anonymous(5:39 03 Dec 2012)
Craig Bruce's plans to culture new teams while also extending the careers of it's 'hit station' personalities is to be applauded. Don't confuse the NX & SEA fm Central Coast change overs though. Newcastle's audience had time to prepare for the change, while Sea's people are filthy about not getting the chance.
Guy Ashford(6:22 03 Dec 2012)
SHIT I must of missed something! When I started in radio at 2LF Young back in 1980 (yes I was very young at the time) I always knew that it was a start to hone my skills so after about 18 months or so I could put togther a decent tape and try and climb the radio career ladder.In Young the next step was usually Orange,Canberra or Wollongong etc and if you were Sydney born & bred that's where you ultimatley wanted to end up or Melb same. I don't think any Jock or country town folk would be under any illusion that markets like Young,Parkes,Moree etc are training stations for young up & coming Jocks. Thank God for SCA I say for looking out for the next Hamish & Andy, Martin & Molloy, Fifi & Jules and dare I say Kyle to the lesser known like Risey,Eggo and many more who have cracked the big smoke.And just on another note, why the f@#k do people post anonymously ? if you have something to say why hide ?

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