Can you tell your “Hughesy” from your “Wippa”? Your “Smallzy” from your “Soda”?
In cities and towns across the country, the world of FM radio is the most cut-throat of the media. They live and die by their ratings, with shows axed, and hosts unceremoniously dumped from month to month. The hosts rise up through the ranks — coming from regional or community radio, like triple j’s Ben and Liam, or former Fox FM hosts Hamish and Andy. KIIS in Melbourne even went as far afield as New Zealand to find its new breakfast hosts, Jase and PJ.
The taxonomy of FM radio hosts can be baffling to the untrained ear, so we’ve broken them down to help you navigate the people behind the nicknames offering you icy cold cans of coke, and how they got there.
There aren’t many Australian FM radio stations without at least one comedian as a host. They’re most often paired with at least one co-host (Dave “Hughesy” Hughes and Kate Langbroek; Wil Anderson with Triple M’s Grill Team in Melbourne; Amos Gill on Adelaide’s Hit107). It’s a gig that works well for both parties: the station gets someone willing to play the clown, oversharing with an audience for the sake of a laugh, while the comedian gets a vehicle to grow their following, promote their stand-up shows and the all-too-rare full-time, well-paid job.
Ex-reality TV “stars”
If wannabe celebs don’t find love, money, or a singing career, there’s always an FM radio slot they can fill. Big Brother, Australian Idol and even The Bachelor alumni have found new B- or C-grade status with their own radio shows, some with more success than others. The Bachelor and Bachelorette’s Sam Frost’s show with veteran Rove McManus on 2DayFM was dumped (to be replaced by none other than Australian Idol’s Em Rusciano), but former Big Brother stars Chrissie Swan and Ryan “Fitzy” Fitzgerald have both been on air for years.
Having inside knowledge of a key water cooler topic has also proven a welcome source of FM radio hosts. Like comedians, most networks also have at least one footy player on the airwaves. Former AFL player Jonathon “Browny” Brown joined Chrissie Swan and Sam Pang at Nova 100 in 2015, Gold Coast FM has former NRL Cowboy Ben Hannant on its books, and Fox FM nabbed Brendan “Fev” Fevola to co-host with Fifi Box and Brian Cooke.
It’s not just footballers who nab places behind the microphone, though. Triple M in Queensland has Olympic swimmer Libby Trickett on its drive program, and triple j has wheelchair basketball and tennis player Dylan Alcott on the weekends.
Trained journalists and broadcasters are also working their way up to earn a place on the air. Amanda Keller, Wendy Harmer (now across on ABC Sydney), Fifi Box, Tony Martin, all still have radio spots. Melbourne FM radio veteran Matt Tilley was on air for more than 20 years before his KIIS program with Meshel Lawrie was dumped at the end of last year.
The stalwarts are just as susceptible to being chopped entirely, or moving networks. Keller took up her current post on WSFM in 2004 after seven years at Triple M, Box has worked on Triple M, Today, and Fox FM. They’re often, but not always, paired with newcomers or those coming from other backgrounds (see above), keeping their audiences with them (see: Kyle and Jackie O). The FM stalwarts, though, have nothing on their AM counterparts: Alan Jones has been at 2GB since 2002 (a move from 2UE, where he started in 1985), and Neil Mitchell has been at 3AW since 1987.
The … who?
Having a recognisable nickname is an essential part of an FM radio host’s identity. And while most of those are just your standard first- or last-name abbreviations, they can still make for a surprising entry on politicians’ media alerts and interview transcripts.
Adelaide’s Hit FM has Jodie Oddy and Mark “Soda” Soderstrom, Sydney’s Nova has Ryan “Fitzy” Fitzgerald and Michael “Wippa” Wipfli, Kent “Smallzy” Small appears nightly on Nova, and Ben “Dobbo” Dobbin shares a studio with Luke Bradnam and Libby Trickett on Triple M in Brisbane. Smallzy told MediaWeek he got his nickname because at his first station there was a bloke called Ken — too similar to his first name of Kent, so he had to pick something else which stuck.
KIIS Sydney’s Jackie O has one of the most baffling nicknames, given that her surname is Henderson and maiden name is Last. Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, Henderson she was given her nickname by her ex-husband and first co-host “Ugly” Phil O’Neil (whose real surname wasn’t O’Neil either) — he wanted to call her “Jackie the Phone Tart”, but they settled on Jackie O instead.