2GB’s Chris Smith: from nobody to Sydney’s number one arvo presenter

Just two and half years ago, talk-radio newcomer, Chris Smith took over arguably the most daunting job on Sydney radio – 2GB’s Afternoon Show, which was then rating a lowly 1.6% share of the available audience and coming in at 10th place on the ratings ladder. Now, he is number one.

2GB Afternoons had proved to be the Kamikaze shift for aspiring talk-radio stars – a short burst of sound, fury and attention, followed by a lonely and savagely instant death. Plenty of big name media people had a shot at it – all had failed dismally.

Smith has told radioinfo: “I heard all the reasons not to take the gig.”

“They said: talk-radio is a turn off after midday; it’s a ‘soft’ shift for an investigative TV reporter and author; you’ll bust your guts like everyone else who’s tried and get nowhere; you’re already Program Director at 2GB, so why take on another full time job – why would I?

Today, ‘Neville Nobody’ (as Smith refers to himself) has transformed the timeslot into another pearl for ratings’ leader, 2GB, winning an unbeaten 11.2% share in the latest survey released on Tuesday – the first time in decades the station has rated in double figures to win Afternoons. His win is part of the juggernaught that is 2GB since Alan Jones joined the station.

“People have traditionally switched talk off, or go to FM after midday. That conventional industry wisdom has been debunked this week,” says Smith.

Smith deliberately takes a different approach to the Afternoon Show from his many predecessors. “We do a bit of everything, but I have to say the show is geared to the callers – they drive what we do.”

While acknowledging the large audience lead in provided by 2GB’s morning stars, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley, Smith has managed to hold a very high percentage of Hadley’s audience, and gain a huge following in his own right.

By comparison, the highest audience share gained by an Afternoon talk-back program was 10.5%.

“It’s really flattering to think that so many Sydney-siders who love Alan and Ray, stick with our extended midday News and then listen to me – the westie from Fairfield,” Smith laughs. “I still can’t quite believe it.”

But, they are listening. Smith’s Executive Producer, Brian Carlton, says he’s broken almost every record there is. “How many radio people can claim very nearly a thousand percent audience growth in two and a bit years? And, this is Sydney, one of the toughest radio markets on the planet. The guy’s a phenomenon.”

Chris has a second child with wife, Ally, on the way “any day now” and a newly renovated house in Rozelle. He says he “is now settled and determined to stay at 2GB – and at number one.”

“I’m signed up for two more years and reckon we can do even better than 11.2%. We’ll just keep working hard at lunchtime to give the people of Sydney the best possible time they can have with their ears.”