2GB’s James Willis on his Next of the Best gold win and why Ben Fordham is “the heart and soul of the program”

Next of the Best James Willis

Willis: “Streaming is the future of talk radio.”

On May 26th, Mediaweek’s Next of the Best awards celebrated the best of under-40s talent across the media industry – including TV, radio, media agencies and PR.

Taking home gold for Audio – Producer was James Willis, executive producer, Ben Fordham Live (2GB Breakfast)

James Willis has worked at 2GB for over a decade and started as a sports reporter and senior producer for Ben Fordham Live. He has covered major events for 2GB including the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2019 Rugby World Cup among others. He started as an executive producer for Ben Fordham Live in January of 2022 and has seen great success in the Radio Ratings, specifically seen in Survey 4.

Breakfast with Ben Fordham claimed back the #1 crown in the most recent survey after three surveys trailing Kyle and Jackie O. The show was the biggest lifter in the breakfast spot, up 3.1 points for a share of 18.1. 

Read more: Sydney Radio Ratings 2023 Survey 4: Ben Fordham and 2GB reclaim their crown

Mediaweek caught up with James Willis about his Next of the Best win and the future of the industry.

Mediaweek: Congratulations on winning gold, how do you feel about the win?

Thank you so much. It was a fantastic night – particularly when the boss of Doltone House – Paul Signorelli – took my main course away and replaced it with a giant Tomahawk steak. 

There were high-quality nominees across every category. It showed again how the media industry is in safe hands in the years ahead. Full marks to Mediaweek for creating the new event.

MW: How does this award reflect the work of you and your team?

It’s a wonderful acknowledgment of our hard work. Our production team is in the office every day at around 3am. They are some of the most dedicated, loyal and modest people I have ever worked with. More than anything – it was great to have an evening with them to reflect on some of the big stories we’ve covered so far this year.

It was also really special to have our radio bosses there. Head of Content Greg Byrnes has backed me from day one – along with Program Director Luke Davis and CEO Tom Malone. They are easily the best management team I’ve worked with in my time at 2GB.

MW: Ben Fordham’s show is Sydney’s top Breakfast show, what do you think it is that makes the show resonate with the Sydney audience?

For our show it’s about getting to 9am and feeling like we have covered everything relevant to the audience. They should know what’s going on in the world. It’s a broad variety. Content is king. Information and entertainment. If news breaks – we drop everything and run rolling coverage. But on slower days – we rely on delivering strong interviews and editorials.

We also pride ourselves on an ability to provide our listeners with a direct line to the decision makers in Canberra and Macquarie Street. It was great during the NSW election to just have Chris Minns and Dominic Perrottet take unprompted open-line calls for half an hour in the studio. That’s what talk back radio is all about.

I need to add – Ben Fordham is the heart and soul of the program. It’s also been incredible working closely with him over the past few years and learning his systems. He is an unbelievable broadcaster and works his backside off for his listeners.

MW: The Next of the Best is an under-40s award, how will today’s upcoming talent impact the industry in the future?

There is no shortage of talent coming through to handle the ongoing transformation of traditional media. Nine is investing heavily in streaming and Podcast – and the recent numbers speak for themselves. Streaming is the future of talk radio.

And my own team is going to play a huge role in whatever comes next. Liam is 23. Angus 24. Sophia 25. Sienna 18. Riley 19. Spiro 20. They are phenomenally talented and ready to take the media industry by storm. Their enthusiasm and energy is contagious. But before you ask – they are all on contract!

MW: What’s your outlook for the year ahead?

Keep working hard. Keep turning up. Keep delivering for our listeners and advertisers and the rest will take care of itself.

If the radio gods are on our side – we’ll end up at the Paris Olympics next year now that Nine has the TV and radio rights. And maybe a sneaky trip to Las Vegas for the NRL.

Read more: Mediaweek’s Next of the Best Awards: Winners Revealed

Top Image: James Willis

To Top