Melbourne-based radio presenter Matt Tilley is best-known as the host of Fox FM breakfast. For 14 of his 20+ years in radio he was ranked #1 FM in the city. His longest-running partnership was with Jo Stanley on The Matt & Jo Show which led the market for a decade.
During his radio years he raised much money for various charities including funds collected from the royalties earned by the best-selling CD compilations of his infamous Gotcha Calls.
Tilley is now a fundraiser on the frontline as chief communications officer of the charity organisation Foodbank. Now the largest hunger-relief organisation in Australia – Foodbank is servicing over 2,400 charities in every state and territory to enable them to provide food to 815,000 people a month.
Tilley spoke to Mediaweek about the change of pace.
Mediaweek: When did you first get involved with Foodbank?
Matt Tilley: A few years ago, while still in radio, I was the ambassador for a corporate charity ride Foodbank was holding. The CEO Dave McNamara and I became mates and he was a great support for me with a charity project I developed called the Aussie Dollar Drop. When the Covid pandemic began, figuring they’d get very busy, he got in touch to see if I could “stiffen up” their marketing for a couple of months. I’d been sneakily doing a diploma in not-for-profit governance and before I knew it I was part of the executive team and it’s all really taken off from there.
How much time do you spend at Foodbank and in what roles?
It’s a full-time job. I oversee the Fundraising, Marketing, Corporate Partnerships and Volunteering programs. I’ve never had a business card or my own office so obviously I now feel very important.
How fulfilling is it to be able to help?
It’s wonderful. But like any job there are lots of good and bad and in between. Things certainly move a lot slower than a daily radio show. I used to spend my days trying to make people laugh, but now I’ll often see people tearing up, with gratitude. It’s a strange feeling. The overwhelming similarity with my time in radio is that great things are very rarely achieved by just one person, and the real joy comes from being part of an awesome and like-minded team.
Do you have many early starts – or are those days behind you?
Well and truly behind me. It’s nice to go back to being a normal person who’s woken by noisy garbage trucks, neighbours yelling at their kids to get up and annoying birds that can’t get their head around daylight saving. Having said that, I really miss having afternoons to myself…and naps. They only occur in meetings these days!
You are no stranger to fundraising, how much did you do with Tracy and then Jo at Fox FM?
We did heaps. Millions of dollars over the years. It was always a great way to connect with your audience and dress up a ridiculous radio stunt with some worthiness. We could also target smaller charities that struggled for oxygen with our big microphone. All the profits from my four Gotcha CDs (there’s an old word!) went to charity. That was nearly a million dollars in total itself. If only I’d thought to claim that as a tax deduction!
Have your entertainment industry contacts been coming in handy?
People in the industry have been amazing. You might have heard of a bloke called Hamish Blake – he is our ambassador. I’m thinking of suing tourism Australia for stealing our idea. Pretty much every radio network in the country has been incredibly generous with thousands of pro bono advertising spots – both AM and FM.
SCA and ARN in particular have been phenomenal with their access to production and spots. Outdoor companies have been great too – JCDecaux, oOhmedia! and QMS. When I started I used to say occasionally that my name opened doors and closed minds – but I’m now completely convinced of the inner good in people everywhere.
With no radio work, and MC jobs Covid impacted, are you missing an audience?
Not really. It’s actually quite nice to be able to push our CEO in front of the camera and microphone and then offer “feedback”. He’s actually brilliant and very relatable. I’m not sure our audience wants a “performer” when it comes to talking about people in need, so in some respects all my faff would be a distraction.
Do you keep in contact with many people from your radio days?
Yes. Group chats are a wonderful way to continue the long history of wry observations I’ve shared with many great teams and funny people. There’s also a yearly lunch that’s about to rack up its 22nd incarnation. I was so incredibly lucky to be a part of many wonderful shows and manifestations of radio that now seem to belong to some sort of golden age. That sounds a bit tosser-ish, but I think it’s a lot harder now, and there’s so much other noise that the pressure must be immense.
Are you one of many who listened more to AM news during Covid?
Yes. I was addicted to the ABC and the daily reports and case counts. I became very passionate about the need for an intelligent and informative national broadcaster which I think they were. Then bizarrely I could suddenly be over it all and find solace in podcasts. One of the great complications of this whole pandemic has been the media’s inner conflict when balancing the source and the sauce.
Matt Tilley on air
His Melbourne breakfast shows have consistently reached #1 for over 14 of his 20+ years in breakfast radio. The Matt and Jo Show on Fox FM was a long-running breakfast show that was known for holding the highest ratings over many years between 2003 and 2013. In 2014 Matt Tilley moved to Triple M to take on national drive time for the Triple M network alongside Joe Hildebrand in ground-breaking news and entertainment show The One Percenters.
In 2015, he was back to breakfast with brand new station KIIS 101.1 alongside Jane Hall, then following on in 2016 and 2017 with Meshel Laurie. Most recently Tilley hosted on daytime for Nova.
During his time with Fox, Tilley was infamous for his breakfast Gotcha Calls. The segment spawned four successful compilation CDs – Cereal Pest (2005), Cereal Pest – the double album (2006), Three’s a Crowd (2007) and The Final Call (2009). Sales of the CDs raised well over $500,000 for Women’s and Children’s hospital charities and other charitable causes. The Gotcha Calls were a national hit across Austereo’s Today/Hit and Triple M Network stations.
Tilley’s voice has also featured as Zeke on the award-winning kid’s cartoon and movie feature Dogstar. His many character voices and impersonations have also featured on various platforms – from Neighbours to beer ads to inflight entertainment.