“I’m having a ball”: Ali Clarke on making the move back to commercial radio

Adelaide Radio Ratings

• “When I was on the ABC it was just me by myself, and I bounce better off others”

In January this year, ARN officially confirmed one of Adelaide’s worst-kept radio secrets – Ali Clarke was heading back to commercial radio after quitting her previous role behind the mic for ABC Radio Adelaide.

The announcement of The Ali Clarke Breakfast Show came weeks after Mark “Soda” Soderstrom left Mix 102.3 He had been hosting breakfast alongside Erin Phillips, who now joins Clarke and comedian Eddie Bannon in the mornings.

Mediaweek spoke to Clarke about returning to commercial radio, ratings surveys, and what makes Adelaide special. 

Heading Back to ARN

Clarke says that what drew her back to ARN was ultimately the chance to work in a team again.

When I was on the ABC it was just me by myself. I bounce better off others, I enjoy having conversations and inviting other people in. When the opportunity came up to work with these two people who are at the top of their games and to be able to learn from them, I jumped at it.”

Now with a month of Mix 102.3 breakfast behind her, Clarke says that she fits into the group well. 

“It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve really enjoyed working in a team environment on air again. Eddie genuinely makes me laugh every single morning and Erin is just so knowledgeable about everything that she’s bringing to the table. I’m having a ball.”

Just as crucial as having a team to bounce off is having a team that works well together. For Clarke, that includes the people on the other side of the radio. 

The most important thing to me is having a really, really good culture and environment within the team and within the station, and to make sure anybody listening is welcome into that. We are part of a big family and they can pick up the phone or get to us at any time. We want to listen to them and hopefully, that means they’ll want to listen to us.

Erin Phillips, Ali Clarke, Eddie Bannon

Radio Ratings

In the eighth radio rating survey of 2021, Clarke rounded out the year on a high – her ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast show topped the breakfast timeslot with a share of 17.4%. While Mix 102.3 was the top commercial station overall (second only to ABC Radio Adelaide), their breakfast show finished fourth in the time slot with a share of 9.0%.

While the numbers are important, Clarke says that they aren’t the be-all and end-all.

“I’m not going to lie, everybody wants to win and you’re not going to get more competitive than Erin and myself – even Eddie! But having said that, I’ve been doing this for so many years now – there have been times where we’ve rated really poorly, but known we’ve done good radio. Our focus is just doing the very best we can and inviting everybody in Adelaide along for the ride. If we do that well enough, then hopefully that will show on the results.”

Radio in 2022

2022 is shaping up to be a busy year for most people, but the people of Adelaide are also staring down three elections on top of everything else. In amongst it all, Clarke believes people are looking for both laughs and information.

“I genuinely think that people tuning into radio want to be informed, they want to know what they need to know as they step out into their world. But it’s been a really heavy couple of years – plus we’re going into two elections, state and federal, and even a local election for us here in Adelaide – so I think having a smile and feeling that the world’s going to be okay is really important. If we can give them that sense of community, I reckon that should get everybody’s morning off to a pretty good start.”

While some may not think that political discussions gel well with the cheery nature of breakfast radio, Clarke says that that’s exactly what people are after.

“Why can’t we have some of the big important conversations that should be had? People want that more, they’re even more engaged now in what’s going on around them because of what we’ve all lived through with the pandemic. If we can do that while giving them that sense of escapism, then we’ve done our job.”

Working in Adelaide

For Clarke, Adelaide perfectly balances the line between a big city and a tight-knit community.

“I honestly think that Adelaide is so special because you are in a big city that is going ahead in leaps and bounds, but you still have that closeness and sense of community. You can drive from one side to the other, but people do know the big things about Adelaide. 

“Our landmarks might not be a harbour bridge, but we’re pretty proud of the Mall’s Balls. I love the fact that everyone in Adelaide can have a wry smile about that sort of stuff, we’ve got a pretty good sense of humour.”

The Ali Clarke Breakfast Show, on Mix 102.3 from 6am to 9am Monday to Friday

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