‘It’s been heartbreaking’: Jamie Angel on the demise of 2DayFM Breakfast’s ratings
Radio programming veteran and current anchor of Sydney’s 2DayFM Breakfast program has conceded that fronting the program as it battles with ratings around the 2.5% share mark has been “tough”, “challenging” and “a little bit heartbreaking”.
He also noted the industry’s transformation towards putting people first, rather than ratings, was a tough balance. It is, he said, absolutely necessary to prioritise people, “but [if] we want to be number one, we’ve actually, I think, got to be a little tougher on ourselves and probably a little bit more accountable with ourselves and our staff”.
Angel took the on-air role when the Hit Network’s 2DayFM decided to park talent and talk-driven Breakfast programs after cycling through multiple options – including Jules Lund, Sophie Monk, Merrick Watts, Mel B, Dan Debuf, Maz Compton, Rove McManus, Sam Frost, Em Rusciano, Harley Breen, Grant Denyer, Ed Kavalee and Ash London – since Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson defected to Australian Radio Network’s (ARN) KIIS FM.
Prior to his time in the beleaguered Sydney Breakfast slot, Angel had held various roles at 2DayFM’s parent company Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) including content director of Melbourne’s Fox FM, and 2DayFM and Triple M in Sydney.
The shift back in terms of role and responsibility has been a difficult one, he said.
“I absolutely miss programming,” he told Fox FM’s current content director, Amanda Lee, on the Fox Bosses podcast. “I was off air for 15, 20 years, so going back on air, I’ve got to admit, I really struggled for months, probably six months. And not just from a mindset point of view, even mechanical.
The most recent iteration of the 2DayFM Breakfast show before Angel took over – Grant Denyer, Ash London and Ed Kavalee
“We talk about 10,000 hours. You get really great at something after 10,000 hours at doing it, and I think being away from it for so long, it almost took me another 10,000 hours just to know what button to hit. Where am I? What am I trying to achieve here? What did I used to talk about? One thought per break. Why aren’t I doing that? So it really took me a long time to get back into the swing of things.”
On top of his rustiness, Angel said he had to contend with the pressure he put on himself and his own fear of failure – “And have you seen the ratings?,” he laughed.
“Absolutely [I have] a fear of failure,” he said on the podcast celebrating Fox FM’s 40th birthday. “I’m competitive. I’ve worked for 30 years at what I consider to be one of the world’s great radio companies, great audio companies. And I want to win. And I want to be the best I possibly can. Having said that, it’s been tough. It’s been challenging. It’s been a little bit heartbreaking at times.”
Angel also conceded that after his decades of programming experience, it can be difficult to stay in his lane with 2DayFM’s current content director Mathew ‘Eggo’ Eggleston.
“It’s hard for me not to get frustrated when I hear things,” he admitted. “So I get ready to shoot off a note, and [then] I go ‘No, no, no. That’s not my role’. However, ‘Hey, did you know this is happening? It might be something you want to look at’. And then I have to kind of walk away from it…
“I’m sure it’s been tough for him [Eggleston] working with someone like me, who, I have my opinions, and I programmed for a long time, and I want my say, and I want what I want – but he’s been really generous and really, really great about that. But it has been an interesting transition to come back on air.”
Angel celebrates his birthday in 2015 with the Triple M team
Angel also noted the shift in SCA’s culture in recent years – and indeed that of the wider radio industry – and the challenges this presents.
“You look at the way that SCA’s managed now from a content point of view, and God bless ‘em, and so they should, [they’re] real people people. They look after people. There’s a real focus on morale, on culture, as it should be,” he said, reflecting on days gone by when content directors would be “having stand-up arguments… literally face-to-face shouting at each other ‘Do you want to go outside?’,” he remembered.
“And there was a lot of pressure. There’s still pressure now, but there’s more of an understanding of how radio stations work – understand and accept how the way that ratings work and radio stations work and people work. There’s still that pressure to rate, and we all get that, but… you’ve got support from people who are overseeing and working with you on your radio station.”
This shift away from the ‘rate or die’ culture – which was also noted on the podcast by former Fox FM content director and current assistant head of the Hit Network Adrian Brine – does have its drawbacks though.
Angel’s reflections on radio’s ‘samurai sword’ days prompted Lee to ask if programmers have gone soft.
“I think we can be [too soft as programmers],” Angel said. “But I absolutely accept and agree with that we have to be a people company. But [if] we want to be number one, we’ve actually, I think, got to be a little tougher on ourselves and probably a little bit more accountable with ourselves and our staff.
“But I’m not saying, I’ll never say ‘Go back to the old days of air-checking with samurai swords and throwing things. I just think that, it’s the big time, and at the end of the day we’re a business, and we want to rate, we want to make money, and we want to be successful. And I think we could probably go a few steps closer to that. But people absolutely need to be our number one priority. So it’s a tough one.”
Despite the culture, content and ratings challenges, Angel said it’s important to remember what it’s all about.
“Also it’s been a lot of fun,” he told Lee of his time back behind the microphone. “It is what you make of it,” he added. “If you’re prepared to have fun with it, it’s so much bloody fun.”