Telum Talks To: Tammii Caught from FIVEaa

Telum Talks To: Tammii Caught from FIVEaa

I love the immediacy of the radio. Every day is different, you can book a programme and start the show at 9am, but when there's breaking news, everything can change mid-programme. I love that adrenaline rush!

Telum Media spoke to Tammii Caught, Producer for Mornings on FIVEaa, about how she started her career and how her role has changed over the years.

How did you first get your radio role?
I'm actually coming up to my 30th anniversary at FIVEaa! I've wanted to work in the media ever since I was a teenager. While studying for my degree, I started volunteering as a Producer and Presenter at a local community radio station, now known as Radio Adelaide. This is where my love for radio began, and every spare moment I had was spent at the station.

Around this time, the horse racing broadcaster, TAB radio, was splitting from talk station 5AA (now FIVEaa), so I knew they would need additional talk producers. I basically rang the then Program Director, Mark Parton, every couple of days, nagging him for a job. Mark was a lovely guy, and I think I wore him down. He got so sick of me ringing that he gave me my first producing job back in 1994! I started out as a Casual Producer, and the first show I worked for was Psychic Saturday Nights, which was great for getting my foot in the door and some further experience.

Since then, I've worked on programmes for every major radio shift, excluding mid-dawn; I found that I loved the morning show. Over more than 25 years on the morning show, I've worked with many presenters, including Ken Dickin and Sonya Feldhoff, Leigh McClusky and Tony Pilkington, Leon Byner, and now Matthew Pantelis.

How has the role of a radio producer evolved over the years?
Technology has played a huge part, especially in the all-important story gathering and communication with interview talent. Back in the 1990s, I couldn't leave the office until I'd received a fax or returned a phone call when chasing an interview! But, of course, today, I can be more flexible after hours while working on setting up a show. Social media has made a real difference - there are so many stories around - and it can make it much easier to find interview talent right around the world. Effectively, the main part of my role as producer hasn't changed that much - it's about getting the program together, running it behind the scenes, and ensuring the on-air talent has everything they need to host a successful show.

How has the Mornings show and the audience transformed?
When Leon Byner moved from Afternoon to Mornings, we took on a "problem solver" advocacy role for our audience, and their issues were our issues. People would ring us if they couldn't resolve their problems, and we would advocate on their behalf, often getting government departments to respond. This led us to many stories - if one caller rang with an issue, then another and another, we knew there was a story there. We were also the first radio show in Australia to establish a regular talkback segment with Centrelink, which was very useful for people who were doing it tough.

Now, with Matthew Pantelis in the seat, our advocacy role continues, but it has evolved, so the programme is not as heavily reliant on it. Matthew has a very balanced approach to issues. He often wants to explore the different sides of an issue, so the audience can make up their own minds. This objective approach is much rarer in today's media than you might think, so it's refreshing to work on a programme that treats the issues fairly. Of course, the many dedicated members of our audience have aged over the years.

Can you share some of the most memorable stories during your career?
In terms of the big news events, the death of Princess Diana saw an outpouring of emotion from talkback callers. 9/11 saw us talk to an Adelaide man in New York who was in shock, telling us how he looked up, and ash was falling on his face - I still get goosebumps thinking about that interview. Covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of lockdowns was very important but also quite stressful work. We provided information and help for so many people, and on one day, I took over 200 calls during a three-hour, on-air shift.

Then there are the local stories that we broke, such as the bullying and bashing of a young boy at a local high school. His mother claimed the school had not taken the matter seriously and sent us the video of the attack. This resulted in extensive media coverage and intervention by the then Education Minister. And helping people get a job, find a home, assisting them with a problem with a neighbour or employer. When they ring back and say thank you, you know you've made a difference in their lives.

Who have been some dream guests on your show?
A dream guest is someone who's genuine and friendly off-air, either in the studio or over the phone, and is also a good talent on-air. Those people include the current Governor, Her Excellency the Hon. Frances Adamson AC, our new Lieutenant-Governor, Dr Richard Harris SC OAM (known for the Thai cave rescue), and celebrities Matt Preston, Matthew McConaughey, and Heston Blumenthal. They've all been genuinely lovely, and they connect with the audience, which sounds obvious, but it's so important. A dream guest also answers questions instead of dodging them. People who do interviews on speakerphone or with terrible mobile connections don't fit into the category of "dream guests" (if there are any PR people reading this, please take note!)

What do you enjoy most about being a radio producer?
I love the immediacy of the radio. Every day is different, you can book a programme and start the show at 9am, but when there's breaking news, everything can change mid-programme. I love that adrenaline rush! During COVID-19, authorities didn't use radio to their maximum potential to communicate with the audience, especially when situations were changing rapidly, which was a missed opportunity. As FIVEaa is local, you will always have local coverage, so we serve our community directly. Another thing I love is that I've built up a contact list over 30 years that has served me very well! And I've made several amazing friends at the radio station.

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