How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain; Part 153.


Sometimes you just know when it’s time to move on.

In January 2002, I started presenting the Breakfast Show at Century FM, the regional station for the East Midlands of England. The format suited me down to the ground, it was “Music Fun and Football”. Then about a year later we were told at a station meeting that the format was changing. Now we were going to chase a different audience, an audience of 25 to 34 year old women. They even gave our target listener a name, she was called “Debbie”.

New shows like “Hairbrush Divas” replaced sports phone-ins and the big poster of the Breakfast Show team in the hallway was replaced with a picture of an overweight woman sitting on a bus, wearing giant headphones and grinning like she was heavily medicated.

She was also used in TV commercials for the radio station that featured her singing out of tune at the top of her voice on a bus that all of the other passengers had evacuated apart from a disturbed child.

It’s hard to know if these ads actually worked. RAJAR breaks down radio ratings by sex and age but I’m not sure you can drill right down into the numbers and get an accurate picture of how we did with the underserved “fat, tone deaf, nutter on the bus” target demographic.

The bosses seemed quite satisfied with their marketing work, even smug, so it didn’t help that I pointed out repeatedly that marketing should be aspirational. I asked, “Why is she riding the bus? Who listens to the radio on the bus? Can’t we at least put her in a car? And why is “Debbie” so fat?”

There’s a chance the ads reflected reality but that’s not the idea. Have you ever noticed how the beautiful people in the fast food commercials don’t look anything like the people you actually see in those places? There’s a reason for that.

It was clear that my salad days at this radio station were about to end. Just as clear as it was that Debbie’s salad days never really existed.

You can hear what I sounded like back then, here;

Craic on!

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