Jackie O leaving the airwaves on Friday was a strong reminder that she is one of radio’s most important voices. His storm was a flex.
On Friday, KIIS FM hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O ditched their radio show for an internal saga.
The pair were interviewing 2GB legend Alan Jones when they were dropped out of thin air mid-conversation. After some back and forth with their team, Sandilands and Jackie O quit smoking for the day.
It is not uncommon for Sandilands to throw in the towel over a dispute. Earlier this year he stormed off the show after defending former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Usually when he leaves, Jackie O has to pick up the pieces and carry on the show. Kind of like when dad storms out on Christmas Day and mom still has to put lunch on the table.
This time though, Jackie O headed for the exits alongside Sandilands, and her absence left a gaping hole. It can be easy to forget how powerful and important Jackie O is because she plays a different role than her co-host, she’s a quiet achiever while Sandilands is the class clown.
She doesn’t gossip and doesn’t throw tantrums. Even during her divorce, she remained incredibly private despite hitting the airwaves every day. It also doesn’t generate headlines like Sandilands does.
Sure, she still attracts endorsements and has a slew of celebrities, including Sophie Monk, but she rarely graces gossip magazines. Still, don’t confuse those facts with a drop in her worth, and Jackie O reminded everyone how important her worth was, because when she left the show on Friday, it was worth nothing without her.
Jackie O calmly spends her days reasoning and joking with Sandilands. She is witty, intelligent and calm. Sometimes his sheer talent can be overshadowed by Sandilands’ antics. It can be easy to forget that it’s not just the Sandilands show.
Of course, she may have a slightly different role. To use a Friends metaphor, Sandilands is the Joey, and she is the Monica of the duo. But while Joey might get all the silly lines and attention, some of the show’s most memorable moments are because of Monica. Similarly, one could say that Sandilands is the Hamish and Jackie O is the Andy.
Fabulously Sandilands always knew the value of Jackie O. In April 2021, he spoke to Mia Freedman’s No Filter podcast about how he felt “paralyzed” when in 1999 he realized he was paid significantly more than his co-host Jackie ‘O’ Henderson. At the time, he was making $258,000 a year, and Henderson told him she was making $80,000.
“I was like, ‘What do you mean by $80,000? You’re Jackie O’. I just assumed we were getting the same thing. I didn’t know there was diversity or difference. I didn’t know anything about it,” he told Freedman.
Sandilands claimed he then went to management and demanded that their pay be equal. He even offered to lower his salary so that Jackie O could be paid the same. In the end, the station agreed to give him equal pay.
Still, it should come as no surprise that Sandilands understands the value of Jackie O. Every day she gives him space and is the bouncy board that lets him do his thing.
Without Jackie O providing calm to the stormy Sandilands, the show would seem too brash and mean-spirited. She brings warmth and heart to the airwaves and brings out the best in Sandilands.
Jackie O can defuse awkward moments and often acts as a translator when he steps into it. For example, during a recent apology on Sandilands using ableist language, Jackie O was next to him to clarify what he meant.
When Jackie O strutted around on Friday, it reminded us that she’s the most powerful woman on radio, but not just the most powerful woman. He’s the most powerful personality on our airwaves, period.
Mary Madigan is a freelance writer.