Alan Jones exits Sky News Australia

Alan Jones exits Sky News Australia - 4th November 2021


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Alan Jones is leaving Sky News Australia CREDIT: WOLTER PEETERS

By Zoe Samios

Controversial radio broadcaster Alan Jones has abruptly announced his departure from Sky News Australia, claiming the network would not renew his contract.

Jones said on a statement on Facebook that in a meeting last week with his employer he received an offer to move his regular 8pm program on Sky across to Foxtel’s new streaming service Flash, but it was one he did not wish to pursue.

The statement marks the end of an eight-year relationship between Jones, who ran 2GB’s breakfast show until last year, and Sky News, the news cable network owned by News Corp Australia. His final program is Thursday night.

“It is, of course, the prerogative of any employer to make such a decision; but, given this is the case, I feel an obligation to my viewers to make some observations to avoid certain misconstructions,” he said.

Jones, now 80-years-old, said he had never shied away from ratings scrutiny but “in today’s world of social media, they only tell part of the story”.

“When I arrived at Sky News and was signed to a 17-month contract, it was made quite clear to me that the 8PM slot was, in the words of management, a ‘dead’ spot,” he said. “It was clear from the outset that my signing at Sky News brought over a new audience to the station.”

Sky News sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Jones ran the lowest rating nightly program on the channel, attracting fewer viewers than Peta Credlin, Paul Murray and Andrew Bolt.

The sources said Jones was offered the opportunity to move to a Sunday morning slot after Outsiders (one of Sky’s best performing programs) or to a Sunday evening slot. The negotiations, which commenced last Friday with Sky News boss Paul Whittaker and head of programs Mark Calvert, also proposed running Jones’ program on new streaming service Flash, which launched last month. The reason for a move to Sunday was two-fold - Jones’ declining health as well as unsatisfactory television ratings.

Mr Whittaker said he respected Jones’ decision. “Regrettably Alan has decided not to accept a new role that was offered to him for next year,” he said.

“Alan has contributed greatly to Sky News Australia over the years, advocating without fear or favour on the issues important to many Australians. I’d like to thank Alan for his commendable dedication and service to Sky News. We wish him well.”

Jones joined Sky News Australia in 2013 as co-host of political discussion program Richo + Jones, alongside Graham Richardson. He then went on to anchor Jones & Co in 2016 before hosting Alan Jones from July last year.

The veteran broadcaster’s departure from Sky News Australia comes three months after the Daily Telegraph’s editor Ben English informed Jones his column would no longer appear in the Sydney-based publication.

Media industry sources briefed on the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the decision was made because the column had failed to resonate with readers. Jones rejected that claim. Jones still publishes a column in The Australian, which usually appears on Friday.

Jones announced his exit from 2GB last May after more than 15 years dominating Sydney breakfast radio. His exit followed several years of ill health and a sponsor boycott due to a string of controversial comments aimed at prominent women including former prime minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern.

He has continued to attract scrutiny since that departure, and has received fierce criticism from his former colleagues such as Ray Hadley and the ABC’s Media Watch program.

Hadley, 2GB’s mornings host who worked with Jones for decades, stepped up his war against the veteran broadcaster in July, describing his conduct on Sky News as “scurrilous, contemptible and undignified”.

“On Sky News every night Alan Jones is an apologist for these thugs [anti-lockdown protestors],” Hadley said. “Let me tell you something, half of what Alan says is very well researched. The other half is bullshit.” Jones was forced to correct the record several times over comments he made regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations. A clip from May 3 by Jones, which breached YouTube’s COVID-19 misinformation guidelines, caused a suspension of Sky News’ YouTube channel for one week.

Jones has spoken about the possibility of a return to radio, but he is unable to return to a breakfast slot due to a non-compete agreement that was put in place when he left 2GB. He has floated the idea with KIIS FM breakfast stars Sandilands and Henderson and former colleague, John Laws, who runs a show on 2SM. Any return to the airwaves would also depend on whether a company believes it can still get support from advertisers for a program led by Jones.

Jones has been approached for comment.

(The Sydney Morning Herald)