Why the switch to ARN has made Kip Wightman happier than he’s been in a decade

Kip Wightman

• “I just feel like there is room for me, which is really nice.”

In October 2021, Kip Wightman announced that he’d be hanging up his headphones after 18 years with Nova Brisbane, 15 of them as co-host of Nova’s breakfast show: Ash, Kip, Luttsy, and Susie.

Audiences hoping that he’d get back behind the mic didn’t have to wait long, however. In January this year, Wightman announced he would be joining ARN’s KIIS 97.3FM. On January 24th, he turned the mic on for his first breakfast shift alongside next to Robin Bailey and Terry Hansen, sliding into the spot left after the departure of  Bob Gallagher.

Mediaweek spoke to Wightman about making the transition from Nova to ARN, and what makes the Brisbane market stand out.

kip Wightman

Terry Hansen, Kip Wightman, Robin Bailey

Leaving Nova

When asked why he left Nova, ultimately Wightman says it was time to move on. What helped him take the plunge though, was some advice that came from the top.

“When I left last year, I had a conversation with Duncan [Campbell] at ARN and asked him ‘are there any jobs going?’ He said, to be honest, no, not for ages – everyone is on long-term contracts. 

“I’d spoken to him when I first took the job at Nova. I remember having that conversation with him, asking what do I do? He gave me great advice then. 

“This time around he said, ‘Look, if it’s about the money then you should keep the job and keep going. But if you’re hating it, then life is too short to keep doing something if you’re not having fun’. The more I thought about it, the more I thought yeah, I took that last three year contract because of the money. I’m not going to do that again. I’m not just going to keep going if I’m not enjoying going to work. 

“I had enough money put aside to have a bit of time on the sidelines. I sat out and hoped that things would work out. Fortunately, three months later, Bob decided to move on, which was perfect.”

When leaving Nova, Wightman spoke about how breakfast radio hours aren’t the easiest to work for a single dad of a young son. He says that he doesn’t mind returning to them though, because “it’s the only thing I know how to do!”.

“It’s definitely harder with a toddler. We were able to work out a really good system with my parents helping out on Sunday nights, and things are really amicable with my ex wife. She’s been great at making sure that we both get the maximum amount of time.”

Moving to ARN

With a month on the Robin, Terry & Kip show under his belt, Wightman says that he’s settling in quicker than he anticipated.

“I was hoping that we were going to be able to gel together pretty well by the end of a couple of months, but it’s just working really easily. We’ve still got plenty of room for improvement, but so far the way that we’re working together, I’m really encouraged. It’s going to be great.

“Robin and Terry have been doing their job successfully for a long time, and yet when I’ve asked ‘how do you normally do this?’ they’ve said ‘well, that doesn’t matter. How do you do it? Because we want to do your style of radio’. That’s been really surprising to me. 

“I haven’t felt this welcome in forever, to be honest. It’s just been amazing the lack of ego in the room and in the studio, it’s a great place to be. Honestly, I haven’t been happier about going to work for probably a decade.”

Going from a quartet to a trio on air has meant that Wightman feels like he has a bit more room to breathe.

“It wasn’t just the group before, it was four people that had a lot to say. There were certainly times where we’d do an interview, and four and a half minutes into the interview I hadn’t had a chance to ask anything yet – and there were all these things that I wanted to ask. 

I just feel like there is room for me, which is really nice. Not only is there room for me, but I feel like Robin and Terry are interested to hear what I’ve got to say. It’s the difference between going to a party and when you walk in everyone going ‘hey!’ and walking in and everyone going ‘oh, here he is again’. I’m feeling like I’m the life of the party when I walk in, it’s so refreshing.”

Radio in 2022

After two years of disruptions across the industry and the broader world, Wightman hopes that the slow return to a sense of normality will see people return to old listening habits.

“There’s a part of all of us that is terrified of podcasts and Spotify, and asking whether people are still listening. I’ve got friends in America who don’t listen to the radio at all. But fortunately, I feel like in Australia and the UK and places like South Africa, there are a few pockets where radio is still really relevant. 

For me, radio has always been an in-the-car thing. Even though there has been a lot more working from home in the last couple of years, now that things are starting to get back to normal I think people are keen to have the radio on in the car again. As long as there’s going to be people driving to work, we’re still going to be doing what people like.”

Having worked in Sydney, Perth, and Boston USA before settling in Brisbane, Wightman says that the Brisbane market is special for one major reason. 

“One of the things I’ve always loved about listeners in Brisbane is that they don’t necessarily need a special invitation to call and get on air. There is real ownership, or just feeling like they’re part of the show. 

“I love that about the Brisbane audience, they’re very active. They’re happy to call and they’re happy to tell you positive and negative things, what they’re liking and what they’re not – fortunately, it’s mostly positive!”

Top Image: Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen, Kip Wightman

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