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Why are so many high profile Australian women getting sacked from radio?

Last week, listeners, colleagues and competitors were shocked to learn of the unceremonious dumping of Brisbane radio host, Robin Bailey.

In her ten years as the headliner of 97.3FM’s Robin, Terry and Bob in the Morning, Bailey routinely clocked ratings-topping numbers, courted a loyal audience and developed a reputation as one of Australia’s most respected media personalities.

Yet last Monday the station’s owner, Australian Radio Network, announced it would not to renew her contract for 2017, and she was immediately shunted from her chair. The move was inexplicable to most, including Bailey.

In a statement to Mamamia on that torturous day, she wrote of being totally “blindsided”.

“I was ambushed this morning and told of the decision to cease my employment with the station,” she said.

“This was not a joint decision and I certainly saw my future with 97.3, a place that has been my home and my solace for so many years.”

But it’s not the first time the industry has flung a curve ball like this at a popular, high-profile female metropolitan host.

Image supplied.

Robin Bailey was among the first women to headline a metro breakfast radio program. Image: Supplied.

Take Chrissie Swan, for one. When the incredibly popular voice of Melbourne's MIX 101.1FM breakfast was dumped by ARN in November 2014, jaws around the country did the same.

Rebecca Sparrow neatly summed it up for Mamamia at the time: "Chrissie Swan, who is one of the most popular radio and TV talents in Australia, Chrissie Swan whose Q score (charting a person’s appeal with the public) is through the roof, Chrissie Swan who this year took the MIX radio network to number one for the first time in its history has been sacked from the Chrissie and Jane breakfast radio show she has hosted with Jane Hall since 2012."

The switch came right on the precipice of MIX's re-brand as KIIS FM, and ARN decided Swan wasn't "best fit for this new direction". The new direction was Matt Tilley.

Swan's former co-host, Hall, lasted just eight months in the new co-ed lineup before she departed the station in mutual agreement with ARN.

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Chrissie Swan. Image via Getty.

As most predicted, Swan wasn't without a gig for long, though. She was last year snapped up by Southern Cross Austereo rival Nova 100, where she has enjoyed strong success.

But the heads kept rolling. Next was Brigitte Duclos.

Since joining Triple M back in 1992, Duclos had various hosting jobs across both networks. Her last was a four-year stint as breakfast presenter on Gold 104.3 alongside Lehmo, before she was swiftly axed last November.

It should be noted that in this case, the duo was sixth in the ratings at the time Duclos was replaced by Jo Stanley. However, it should also be noted that Lehmo retained his spot in front of the mic.

ARN told Mamamia that Brigitte's departure was just part of the network's "strategy for the Melbourne market".

Brigitte Duclos was let go from Gold last year. Image: Facebook.

Unlike Duclos, though, the numbers were actually in Bailey's favour. Latest ratings show Robin, Terry and Bob were pulling in a 12.6 per cent share, placing them just 0.1 per cent behind the top-rating Hit105 Breakfast - a rare slip into second for the stalwart team.

So again, why Bailey?

In a statement provided to Mamamia, ARN said all talent are on fixed-term contracts that are renewed where "mutually agreeable".

"ARN tried very hard to keep Robin at 97.3. While we won’t comment on specific elements of contract negotiations for privacy reasons, what we can say is this negotiation was ongoing for a long period of time with Robin’s management who acted as her representative during negotiations.

"We are very disappointed we weren’t able to agree to terms, but unfortunately, based on the information ARN was consistently given throughout the negotiation process, we were led into a position where we were unable to proceed with contract renewal.”

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Veteran radio host Bianca Dye will be coming in as Robin's replacement.

A high-profile industry insider (who asked not to be named) thinks there's a broader, deeper reason for all the instability.

The source argued that the men - and it is overwhelmingly men - who are running these companies have never worked in another industry, creating a "peculiar vacuum" of weirdness and sexism.

"It's a strange throwback of an industry, for sure. The guys who're running it now came up under some incredibly macho characters, one of whom famously brandished a samurai sword around the office, (not in a fun way) insisted every new employee read The Art of War, and once threw animal hearts on a boardroom table, screaming 'How bad do you want it?' at the terrified team," they told Mamamia.

"A lot of the young men who witnessed that stuff and dreamt of becoming colourful radio execs like that themselves one day, are currently running the business."

READ MORE: Rebecca Sparrow’s love letter to Robin Bailey: “You have changed us.”

Of course, the advent of HR has changed things since then. But the ripples flow on.

Just ask Maz Compton. The 2DayFM (Southern Cross Austereo) breakfast host was suddenly shifted to weekends to make room for Rove McManus and Sam Frost last October.

Because of that, Compton understands the plight of Bailey and the rest better than most.

"If you work hard at your craft and are skilled at what you do, logic says you will find success. This isn't the case in radio," she said.

"I have seen many insanely talented women shown the door. This is all part of the journey, though."

With women snatching more and more headlining roles as the years pass, Compton is glad women have shaken off the sidekick tag. But she notes there is still a long way to go.

Maz Compton is optimistic about the future of women in radio. Image: Instagram.

"Sometimes management unfortunately don't move us forward, rather hinder our progress by making knee-jerk choices to appease a ratings shift and anxious advertisers," she said.

"[But] women on the air are braver than ever, and it's because of strong female role models who refused to fit in the mould that we can be heard the way we want to be heard on the air."

Though part of her "still hurts from losing my high profile gig in a really shitty way", the part that rose above it would still encourage young women to enter the industry.

"Women have this amazing ability to connect with a listener, to hear them at the core, affect them in their heart and make them laugh so loud they nearly crash their car. What a gift that is," she said.

"Women can empathise and make a listener feel valued and that's why we love broadcast."

"Those women are truly unique and wonderful and they will be heard, somewhere. Management seem to keep stuffing that up, but that's okay, we are all here to learn."

Robin Bailey is the co-host of The Well on the Mamamia Podcast Network.

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