I’ve had 42 wonderful years in radio: Jeremy Cordeaux

Jeremy Cordeaux has been talking about retiring from 5DN for a couple of years and, this week, he announced the date. His last day will be Wednesday 27 October. “I’ve had 42 wonderful years in radio and tv,” he says.

Cordeaux does not rule out coming back to the media in the future if the opportunity arises but, for now, he is planning to take a year off.

He spoke to radioinfo about those 42 years in the business:

radioinfo: When did you finally decide to retire?

Cordeaux: I’ve talked about retiring for a while and I felt it was finally time to do it so, on 3 July, I officially gave my resignation to [General Manager] Steve Rowe.

radioinfo: 5DN has changed a lot in recent years and your program was just about the last talk show left on air. What did you think of the changes?

Cordeaux: The station used to be ‘5DN the talk of Adelaide,’ but previous wisdom, before the current ARN management team, said we should get rid of all the talk and replace it with music.

Everyone was let go except me. It was flattering that they didn’t sack me, but a little futile. Listeners either follow talk or music, older listeners generally don’t flick the dial very much. I was like an island of talk in a sea of music.

I thought it was worth a try for a while, but what I do didn’t really fit into a classic hits format, we don’t play much music in my shift between 9am and 1pm, on the rest of the station there is predominantly music.

radioinfo: What have been the most memorable moments in your radio career?

Cordeaux: The first time I was behind the mic was my most memorable moment and I expect the last time I am on air next month will be memorable too.

radioinfo: Tell me about your first time?

Cordeaux: It was 1967 at 2GF in Grafton. It was a very professional station, owned by AWA and part of the Macquarie Network at that time.

My first shift was terrifying, but I soon grew to love it. Working there I got a good grounding in country radio – talk, music, copy. It was a great training ground. You can’t get the same sort of training in country radio these days with automation and networking.

radioinfo: Where did your career go from there?

Cordeaux: I spent 12 months there then went to 2KY to do mid-dawns. After a while, I also began freelancing for Channel Ten, reading news in the morning cartoon show. I was going straight from the radio station to read tv news, then getting a few hours sleep and going on air again. I kept this up for 18 months but, when I fell asleep at the wheel one night, I knew I was doing too much, so I quit mid-dawns and went to Channel Ten. I did two shows there, Blind Date and The Better Half.

2GB offered me full time work in 1975 and I stayed there until they began to experiment with music, just like 5DN has done recently.

It was an interesting time. They hired Paul Thompson to revamp the station into a music station. I was on breakfast and was moved to do only three one minute news bulletins, but was kept on the same wage – I think I must have been the highest paid radio person for the work I was doing – all that money for three minutes’ work a day.

Paul Thompson was very helpful. He knew there was a talk radio job in Adelaide at 5DN and they were doing some pioneer talk format work, including lifestyle elements, so he encouraged me to move to Adelaide. It was difficult and tricky moving from Sydney, but the offer was attractive, so we moved here. I have had a good time at 5DN, have got to be a shareholder in the station, and have had a high profile presence on air.

radioinfo: The ABA was interested in the time you owned the station and its implications in Cash for Comment. What do you think of the cash for comment issue?

Cordeaux: I played by the rules as they were at the time. They have since been tightened up and are different now.

My company was called ‘Personal Endorsements.’ I don’t think there is anything wrong with personal endorsements. A dry anonymous voice doesn’t have the impact of someone putting their name to a product they trust. I had a credible relationship with a small number of long term clients because I believed in their product. It was high profile, there was nothing surruptitius about that, everyone knew of my close association with those sponsors, they were recognisable associations. There was nothing covert about the business relationship at the time.

The rules are different now. I got caught up with a lot of other stuff happening in Sydney. I guess that, since the ABA has now chaged the rules, they thought the rules at the time were inadequate, but I was not breaking any rules in place at the time.

radioinfo: Have you ever been in a position where you feel you have been compromised by your relationship with a sponsor?

Cordeaux: The ABA rules now are better than they were, they require us to give listeners transparent information. It used to be unclear.

People knew of my relationship with Nordic Motors [Volvos] for instance. Volvos are known as safe cars, and with a business relationship where I was linked with them, then why would I not get someone from Volvo to be a spokesperson when I wanted to talk about car safety. If I was doing that now, I would declare that interest. At the time, there was no requirement to do so, but really, everyone knew of my high profile relationship with the company anyway.

I applaud the ABA for the changes they have made.

radioinfo: You mentioned Paul Thompson. His second FM network is now exploring the possibility of an over 40s format that might include some talk. Do you think that would work?

Cordeaux: FM stations already have talk of a kind in their breakfast programs. There are some times of day where talk works on FM, but you have to be careful.

An island of talk in a sea of music is difficult. In larger markets it may work, but it hasn’t here in this market for instance. I’m not critical of ARN in saying that. They tried it for a while, but it hasn’t worked.

If you mix music and talk, it is hard for people to remember to come back when the program they like is on, no matter how loyal they are.

Here in Adelaide, if you like talk and you listen to 5DN in the mornings, then go to 5AA or ABC891 when the talk is finished, you will eventually get comfortable with one of those stations and be more likely to stay there than come back to 5DN again for my talk program.

radioinfo: What do you think of the way 5AA has been able to come to prominence recently? They are certainly doing well.

Cordeaux: Well, it’s like politics – nobody ever really wins office, somebody else loses it. When 5DN changed, 5AA were astute enough to grab some of the personalities who left the station and were able to give listeners an opportunity to ‘come and try us.’ That is smart.

radioinfo: What are your thoughts more generally about the Adelaide market?

Cordeaux: A lady came and gave me a scrap book the other day, as a way of saying farewell, I guess. It had clippings about radio’s ups and downs in Adelaide over many years. The comeback stories are amazing.

I guess if you are professional in this business, you will have ups and downs, but if you build on your failures, you can usually do well again. The market has been a bit like that over the years.

Another thing about those ups and downs is that they are so closely linked to ratings. But filling in ratings books properly is a big ask and I think there may be a lot of inaccuracy in this method. When we get electronic ratings, we will be more able to accurately track how people are really using us.

radioinfo: Is this really retirement?

Cordeaux: I call it long service leave, some time for myself. I haven’t had that ever in my radio career.

I plan to take a year off and then see what happens after that.

Last year I was off air a lot, with voice problems and pneumonia. In fact only today have I taken the last antibiotic tablet [coughs]. It affected my voice and took me a long time to recover, so I guess it was my body telling me to slow down. So after a year off, well one door closes and another may open. We’ll see what happens.