Gemma Fordham opens up about criticism from Kyle Sandilands & shutting out the media noise
Gemma Fordham’s Hit Network programs can be a magnet for headlines. Whether it’s the rotating talent lineup of 2DayFM Breakfast, changes at Fox FM, or the seemingly never-ending criticism from Kyle Sandilands, there’s always something to talk about. And yet Fordham largely flies under the radar and gets on with the job. Here, she speaks to Vivienne Kelly about how she carries on through every storm and why, despite the scrutiny, she still loves her job.
2DayFM Breakfast in Sydney may not currently be a ratings magnet, but it is a headline magnet.
Everything from the defection of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson, to rumours of a rift between Em Rusciano and Harley Breen, and from the ill-fated stint of Rove McManus and Sam Frost to the latest group to get behind the microphone, The Morning Crew, ends up in trade titles and national newspapers.
Fordham is the head of SCA’s Hit Network, and thus a lot of the criticism and scrutiny could ultimately be directed at her. That’s a lot to take on and a lot of headlines for someone who doesn’t regularly court media attention.
She says, however, that she’s at the point where it truly doesn’t phase her.
“We just don’t pay any attention to that if I’m brutally honest. I mean, let’s be honest, Kyle, I love Kyle as a friend, I’ve obviously been friends with him for a very long time and worked with him previously for a long time, so I have nothing bad to say about him. However what I will say is Kyle is never going to compliment us. Let’s be realistic. But the thing is, he does it because everyone writes about it. You guys write about it. He does it every time because he knows that it will get a headline,” she says.
“And so, we just, I don’t know what else to say other than, we don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. We just try to put the best shows to air every day.”
She is aware of ongoing media reports, she says, but her focus is not what Vivienne Kelly thinks of the latest 2DayFM Breakfast lineup, or what News Corp is saying about the latest rumours. The focus, she says, is her target market, or “Sarah in Blacktown”, as it were.
The latest 2DayFM Breakfast lineup genuinely get along, Fordham says
“People are going to write stuff, of course they are. And that’s their job. But it’s our job to not focus on what press are writing. It is our job to put a show together every day that delivers for the people of Sydney… We only care about Sarah in Blacktown, and what she thinks and making sure we put her in a good mood as she’s driving to school or driving to work or on the train. That’s all we care about. And that’s all we talk about internally. That’s our single focus is, have we delivered for them today? Or are we delivering for them tomorrow?
“Because I’ve said this before, it’s a privilege to entertain, regardless of what market we’re in, it’s a privilege to entertain and wake up a city every day. And so that’s all we focus on.”
Fordham acknowledges she is now in a privileged position where all her on-air teams get along, and she has no fires to put out. The 2DayFM Breakfast crew, she says, are genuinely getting along and loving it.
That could, in theory, lead to fewer negative, salacious headlines.
“The thing with the three of them is they just genuinely adore each other and they’re together all the time, and even when they’re not on air, they’re going out and doing stuff during the day together just as mates, which, I think that’s what the special chemistry is, is that they genuinely love hanging out with each other and they make each other laugh, and I think that’s the special sauce so to speak is what’s making it sound in my mind, great,” she says.
“I know this is going to sound cliche, but I’ve always been a really big believer in if you’re having fun off the air, it translates on the air. And I’ve seen that first hand. I’ve seen when shows off the air are not having fun or not getting along, and it’s no great surprise that the radio show doesn’t sound as good as it could. And it doesn’t sound like a party that you want to be part of as a listener.”
And it’s not just a party for the listeners and the talent. Fordham says she is having the best time working with her teams, staff and network.
“I’m really close to all ,my talent. I’m really hands on with all of the shows, and it’s so nice to have in every single market, to have talent that I genuinely love working with that I have great relationships with. I don’t have any fires that I’m trying to put out. I just feel really lucky that I’m working with such amazing, talented professionals that I truly love interacting with every day,” she says.
Despite the criticism, scrutiny, and ratings-day expectations, she still believes she has the best job in the world.
“I love that every day is different, of course, we all get that in radio. I guess I love the creative freedom. One minute you can be sitting in a room talking about an idea, and it could be the most stupid, crazy idea, and then the next thing, it’s on air in Melbourne or something, and everyone in Melbourne’s talking about it. I just love that creative freedom. I really love that.
“And, selfishly, probably, a lot of the people that we have on the team. We laugh a lot. There’s so many days where I laugh to the point where I have tears streaming down my face. And that could be from off-air teams or on-air teams. What a gift that is. I have a lot of friends who don’t work in roles where they love going to work every day or where they laugh so hard they’ve got mascara streaming down their face.
“I’ve always said this, that I never take it for granted. I kid you not, when I get out of the lift every day at 2Day, I still feel so excited and so lucky, like I did when I was a teenage girl and I first started at 2Day. It still blows my mind when I walk in the office every day.”