The longest running duo on radio | radioinfo

The longest running duo on radio

Monday 12 November, 2012
David & Tanya sizzle sausages with local Federal Member, Bob Baldwin

David Collins and Tanya Wilks speak to Peter Saxon. As far as anyone can tell, the record for the longest running male/female breakfast team in Australian radio history goes to David Collins and Tanya Wilks. After 21 years together they are still going, as strong as ever, on Newcastle’s KO-FM.

21 years is a long time for any relationship these days, even a marriage. But while marriages depend mostly on the relationship of the two people involved, marriage licenses don’t come up for renewal the way that talent contracts do.

“At the base of it all,” says Tanya, “There is a great friendship that will outlive our time on air. David has been at my various weddings. Stood up for me. He is the godfather to my son.”

While that sounds like testament enough to their friendship, the lengths to which Tanya had to go to make that happen were astounding - given that she’s Catholic and David’s Jewish.

David: Do you know how hard it is for a Catholic girl to find a church that will take a Jewish godfather?

Tanya: We actually had to have the bishop on the air at the time in Newcastle to give him the OK.

David: I was touched by that because I thought if she is prepared to go to all that tsouris (Yiddish for trouble) to get that to happen - that meant a lot. That is the best gift that anyone has ever given me.

radioinfo: So, you played all that out on air. How did Newcastle react to that?

Tanya: They loved it!

radioinfo: How many times did you say “tsouris” on air?

David: Never. But that is another thing that may differentiate us from all the other teams is that we do all that personal stuff on air. When we started at KO, Tanya had just fallen pregnant. So through that whole pregnancy and giving birth, there was nothing hidden. Everything that we have been through has been on the air. Apart from the time when I won the lottery and I didn’t want……….. Kidding!!!

radioinfo: Tanya is a born and bred Newcastle girl who was so desperate to work in radio, she did weekend shifts for no pay from the age 16 on 2HD. David was born in England, came to Australia and landed a job at 2WS when both he and the station were still young. There he did a number of shifts over the years, including breakfast before being hired by 2HD as breakfast announcer and program manager.

David: I remember doing breakfast for three or four months on my own and that is when I realised that Newcastle is very parochial. And I wasn’t a local. Tanya had been working at the station for a long time. There weren’t any boy/girl combinations in Newcastle at the time. It was all Boy/boy or just solo boy and I thought to myself at the time, you know. This just might work. It might be terrible but it might be really good.

We had nothing to lose as the ratings were really terrible. So we thought we would give it a go. And as luck would  have it, it only took us six months to go to number one and we stayed there for ever and a day until we left.

Tanya: Well I just think it was different. It wasn’t some crotchety old man banging on about everything that he hated about the world. And it was fresh. There was a female in a prime time shift all of a sudden and I think people warmed to it very quickly. You were either going to love it or you were going to hate it. And I think Newcastle was ready for it

radioinfo: Apparently Newcastle is still ready for it.

David: Yeah, well you know we are a very different show now to the one we were then and on a different station and on a different band. Totally different. You have to keep on reinventing yourself every couple of years just to keep it fresh.

Below: David andf Tanya broadcast live from Disneyland


radioinfo: Take us back to when you started on HD. How was the show different then?

Tanya: Well to start with I was a kid and it was a real “Punch and Judy” show then. We’ve never talked about that but  David still took that “male” role of beating the “ female” host over the head all the time. And I knew no different and allowed it to happen and people liked it.

But it couldn’t go on forever because you grow up and you grow into whoever you are going to become. The age difference between us is 11 years and you kind of grow up and into your own bootstraps.

radioinfo: And times have changed…

Tanya: Exactly. You are not going to tolerate that sort of show these days. People just wouldn’t.

radioinfo: So you’ve gone from that era 21 years ago as the sidekick to the male lead to now. Who’s in charge now?

David: It is very much a 50:50 show which again makes us very different to a lot of other shows - boy/ girl especially.

radioinfo: Who has had to change, you?

David: Yeah probably. But she has grown too. And as she has grown, her role has probably increased - become more valid.

Tanya: That was spoken like a true grumpy old man! “ More Valid”… Bloody hell!

radioinfo: (to Tanya) See - you wouldn’t have said that 20 years ago. It wouldn’t have even sprung to mind. Do you have some big arguments?

Tanya: Yeah

David: I think like any couple when you are together whether personally or professionally you have arguments. Especially after 21 years

Tanya: We are very different even in the way we argue too. I mean, me, I will blow up and it is done . Forgotten in a few minutes. Whereas David tends to hold on to things and I have got to remember that he might be out of  sorts and soothe the savage beast.

You can’t hold a grudge because you are in it together. And we respect each other too much.

radioinfo: Do you fight on air?

David: Yeah but only play fighting, Theatre. Only because it is more interesting than if we sit there nodding and agreeing with each other because that is boring so we will often take opposing points of view.

Tanya: We are very different and when a topic is brought up we often have genuinely opposing views. So that is not a hard ask either really.

radioinfo: You started your partnership 21 years ago at 2HD when it was still owned by the Labor Council, like 2KY in Sydney. But after eight years you decided to leave…

Tanya: We had no plans. We just knew we wanted to leave 2HD.

David: Bill Caralis had taken over. He had been there three months and we just saw the writing on the wall. People were going and it was just not the place that we had built up. We both had friends there that we had employed and that we were working with and he was like "Just get rid of 17 people” and we knew what it was going to become. And we were still under contract. It was hard for us to leave

radioinfo: Did you meet Bill?

David: He wore a tracksuit and a carried an Addidas backpack and it had in it all the cheque books for the entire network. And he smoked.

Tanya: We had to break contract.

radioinfo: So you quit without a job to go to. Did you do anything pro-active?

Tanya: I moved overseas. I had met Michael (current husband) the year before. He ‘s an Irishman. And I thought it is now or never. Lets see if this works and I moved to Dublin and I got married.

David. And I went overseas just to hang out with the family a bit…

Tanya: But then I got pregnant. And KO phoned and I said, thanks anyway but I am pregnant.

David. That’s not quite how it happened. You fell pregnant and that’s when you thought you would like to come back to Newcastle. And we had nothing to go to and I actually phoned Max Markson (a long time friend from England) and I said – this has happened. Can you hawk us around a bit and see if anyone is interested.

Tanya: No one knew I was pregnant. I didn’t tell you I was pregnant. Max didn’t know I was pregnant because at that stage I hadn’t told anyone. 

David: Here’s what happened. Max went to see Brad March who was then the boss of the network and he said, “Well I think there is something in Adelaide,” we might be good for. And while that was happening Steve Smith who was the GM at KO (still is) and the program director heard via the Austereo grapevine that we wanted to work again. And they said, “Shit we’ve been opposing them for all these years. We would like to get them to work for us instead of against us.”

We ended up starting with KO exactly six months after we left 2HD. And the funny thing was that we had to sign an agreement with 2HD that we wouldn’t work in the market for six months and everyone thought that this was premeditated that we were leaving HD to go to KO all the time. But it wasn’t the case.

Tanya: When I told them I was pregnant, they were like, “that doesn’t matter, Wendy Harmer has used this black box in her lounge room. It is free. You can have it. When you come back.” So it was a very generous offer and it was hard to knock back after that.

radioinfo: Now you are totally ensconced in Newcastle. You are a fixture in this town. But was there ever a period then, or even now, if someone rang up and said, Kyle and Jackie O just got run over by a bus. Can you do breakfast in Sydney? Would you do it?

David: I never really thought about it to be honest.

Tanya: I wouldn’t. My life is here. And my son is here and my family and my friends. This is where I am happy

radioinfo: so you would turn down the million dollars?

Tanya: It is a hypothetical. So hypothetically, I would say no. But who knows…

David: We never say never to anything but we have never actively  gone and looked for anything else. The network is happy with us and we are happy working for them.

First of all, as you know Southern Cross Austereo is split into two streams. There is the Today stream, and there is the Triple M stream. Well we don’t really fit either of them. KO doesn’t fit either of them . We are kind of like MIX in Perth. Out on its own.

They are not looking to feed people from us into the Triple M stream. But they are definitely looking to feed people from NX-FM into the Today stream, as they have done constantly.

Derek  Bargwanna, now content director at 2Day-FM was a breakfast producer at NX. They have churned so many people from NX into the Today stream. It has been really successful for them. But for us,  because we don’t sound like Triple M either, we are not  a Triple M station.

In part two of our chat, tomorrow, David & Tanya talk about how they go about renegotiating a contract and the eight PD's that have come and gone in their time at KO-FM.

Read Part Two




Peter Saxon




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12 November 2012 - 5:30am
Love D&T. And with Steve G from NX doing Drive from next year on KO, I reckon NX might be in a bit of trouble keeping #1.
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