After doing this for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, RN Breakfast from Australia’s ABC, Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on LBC, Morning Edition from NPR and WBEZ Chicago, and RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland, let’s have a listen to Ben Fordham on Sydney’s 2GB.
2GB has often been the market leader in Sydney’s crowded breakfast market. KIIS1065’s Kyle and Jackie O now just beats 2GB - 2GB posts a 16% market share for 5.30-9, while KIIS1065 posts a 16.7% share. The #3 in the market is a 9.5% share (oldies format WSFM), so you can see how tight the race is for #2 and #1.
Ben Fordham took over from Alan Jones in June 2020. Jones was 79 when he retired; Fordham was 43 - graduating from afternoon drive where he’d been for some time.
Fordham does 5.30-9am, so I grabbed that to analyse. The station sounds similar to Brisbane’s 4BC, but for historical reasons, 4BC doesn’t have a news breakfast show like this. Even so, it’s fun hearing exactly the same jingles with a different station name read over the top.
I ended up with 4,501 lines of text (which, like all of these, you can flick through and learn from in terms of timing and how the clock works).
Types of output
17.3% of the output (ten minutes an hour) are news bulletins, and this is a good thing. The bulletins are pacy and well put together. Many have clips from Fordham’s show from earlier, adding that sense of “newsworthiness”; but every single bulletin has a very different order and additional reports from Nine News, the organisation that owns 2GB. They’re interestingly produced, with varying length stories throughout - some stories a sentence, some a report from a different voice. Interestingly, and a portent for later, the bulletins are balanced - with both sides of a debate given if it’s needed to put the story into context. While I don’t care for the two ad breaks in the middle of the bulletins, and the slightly clunky “That’s Sport, I’m Mike Purcell” followed immediately by the newsreader saying “That’s News and Sport”, otherwise the bulletins are a good and quality part of the output.
27.1% (56 minutes, or 16 minutes an hour) are adverts - whether 30" spots, presenter-read ads, or sponsorship credits. News, Sport, Travel and Weather appears to all have a sponsor credit, but many of those sponsor credits are promoting different things on 2GB (and I’d suggest probably means they’re unsold). Nice use of unsold airtime - one promoting the app, one promoting a smart speaker. It’s easily the highest adload I’ve heard yet.
Features are some business news, a US report and a UK report - as well as lots, and lots, of travel news.
The show covers a lot of ground - sometimes a little bewilderingly quick.
Fordham starts with two minutes of competition setups - three different competitions, one of which looks as if it might also be a talkback topic. There’s a prize line number, the open line number, and a text line. And, three minutes after the weather in the news bulletin, Ben tells us what the weather is doing. And then a jingle, and Ben says “And after that, we might just get into the show”. Indeed.
The first topic is an earthquake that none of Fordham’s listeners would have felt, since it was in Victoria, a different state. He asks for listeners in Victoria who might have felt it; then reads other stories out in the above, before making it to an ad break. It’s unclear to me whether these other stories are an attempt to get some talkback callers going; not that obvious if it is, since there is no mechanic asking listeners what they think, nor clarifying the numbers, but the calls come in anyway. (They’re therefore classified as TALKBACK, above).
Someone who felt the earthquake going off calls in. Fordham finishes the call saying:
(Fordham) Hey, listen, I’m gonna send you guys 100 bucks from our friends at On Deck.
(Caller) Oh, you’re very kind, Thank you very much.
(Fordham) On Deck.com.au, 1-800-676-652. They’re the small business loan specialists.
…then reads out a text as if nothing had happened.
A caller calls about NDIS (the part of the government that helps those with disabilities), and the call is cut short with: “Steven, just go back to Isabella if you don’t mind. We just wanna have a talk to you off air.” - not really explained to the audience why, and we don’t hear anything more from the caller or the topic.
For some reason, 2GB carries the pips. Which is nice. Of interest, for sister station 4BC the pips weren’t available on DAB or online - the thinking was that they were delayed and so weren’t accurate on those platforms. Quite the complicated transmission path - and listeners on those platforms just got a bit of silence instead.
The first interview of the morning is with Marc Hendrickx about the walking track at Wollumbin - except 2GB just call it by its European name, Mount Warning. Marc Hendrickx isn’t introduced other than being “one of the leading voices when it comes to reopening Mount Warning”. Nobody listening to 2GB hears why Wollumbin was closed - it was closed because the walking track had become unsafe in parts, but also closed because indigenous elders regard it as a sacred place and important to their traditions. We don’t hear any of that; instead, the incredibly insensitive suggestion from Ben Fordham that “we need to make sure that by the time we get to Australia Day next year, you’re climbing it again”. (“Australia Day” is, to most indigenous people, a commemoration of their invasion by Europeans, the 1788 landing of the First Fleet).
Lest we not understand the racist dog-whistling from Fordham, Hendrickx adds: “Just over the last six months, we’ve had this really divisive campaign with a referendum to put race-based division into our constitution” - reiterating the racist arguments against The Voice, which sought to officially recognise the indigenous people in Australia. He’s not challenged on this - indeed, commended. “Good on you, Mark”, Fordham says, and promotes that they’ve got the petition on the 2GB website right now, and that you should go and add your name to the list.
Past a few presenter-read ads, Fordham is telling us why the Labor government’s planned fuel efficiency standard will cost drivers more money, but nothing about the environmental benefits. A paid segment, On This Day, ends by wishing mining magnate Gina Rineheart a happy birthday. I’m getting the measure of this show.
The 6.30am news bulletin covers both sides of the Wollumbin (Mount Warning) debate, interestingly - and explains that Hendrickx is a “lead petitioner”. I told you the bulletins were good.
We’re treated to “The US Report”, with a correspondet from the US - and “The UK Report”, with one from the UK with Adam Gilchrist. Slightly predictably for the kind of content that appears to work on 2GB, Adam tells us about Rowan Atkinson’s article in The Guardian from, er, June 2023 (and debunked a week later). The reason to mention it is, apparently, because it was mentioned in a parliamentary committee.
Just before 7am, we learn that Spiro Christopolous, Fordham’s sports journalist, is single. Ladies are asked to email in. “Well, a lot of people make this assumption that because I’m Greek, I’m only open to Greek women, but that’s not the case. I’m open to anything and we don’t discriminate.” Phew, well, that’s all okay then, wouldn’t have wanted to assume that someone on 2GB is a racist, eh?
An interview with Prue Car, the NSW Minister for Education. Fordham calls her a successful politician, gives her a relatively easy time, thanks her profusely at the end. Oddly, she’s a Labor politician, so I’m a little confused as to why she was given a set of relatively easy questions. The story was about a u-turn in installing vape detectors in school bathrooms; talkback following the story is mostly about how Ben Fordham “has gone woke” calling it a bathroom and not a loo, dunny, toilet, or any other number of random words. There are plenty of texts and calls on the matter.
A little later, a whinge that Chris Minns, the (Labor) premier, was celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year on social media but didn’t appear to celebrate Australia Day. (See above). A set of texts agree with him - one deciding to link Chinese Lunar New Year with “why COVID spread through the world so quickly”.
An interview - which may have been paid-for, who knows - with someone who has made some skimpy womens swimwear. The news reason to get her on is that some old bloke on the Gold Coast was complaining that swimwear was getting a bit too skimpy these days.
Putting aside the racist dog-whistles, Fordham exists in a world of his own, much of the time. There’s a chat with Ray Hadley (who’s on after he is) just before 9am, but otherwise nothing about the radio station. We’re given no reason to listen to any other time of day, nor anything else about the station. That appears a little odd - trailing other things throughout the day might have been good. That said, there was none of that on LBC either, nor RN.
Fordham ends - you sense a little early, and padding for time a little - with a full credit of his production team, including Isabella who was mentioned earlier. That, at least, was a good thing to be doing. It’s not a bad show, if you can ignore the racism, climate change denial, bias and “anti-woke” agenda. It says a lot for the existence of the advertisers on the show - and its high audience figures - that this part of Australian culture is, apparently, just fine.