“I have listened to the experts and I am taking this opportunity to indicate to my radio family that I will be retiring from radio at the end of this month,” Alan Jones told his loyal listeners yesterday morning.
And just like that, a 35-year career in radio came to an end for one of Australia’s most controversial media personalities.
Having recently celebrated his 79th birthday and in the midst of a global health pandemic, from the outside, it was hardly a shock for the ‘Parrot’ to finally call time.
But not even a year into his two-year contract believed to be worth $8 million, many were still caught off guard by the announcement.
This time eight months ago, Jones appeared to be well and truly on his final legs with Macquarie Media, now Nine Radio.
His infamous comments about ‘shoving a sock’ down the throat of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had sparked an advertiser revolt from his show, believed to be worth around 50 per cent of the program’s revenue.
Macquarie promised a “full review” into the matter, then-chairman Russell Tate personally told Jones he was on his final warning, while Nine CEO Hugh Marks told the media Macquarie could “survive the loss” of Jones, should he be forced off air.
With Nine then increasing its stake in the radio business – taking out a 90 per cent stake in October – Jones’s future with the broadcaster looked more and more clouded.
Speaking with B&T earlier this year, Nine Radio (formerly Macquarie Media) boss Tom Malone said Nine’s takeover would lead to a “refreshed and re-energised” Alan Jones show.
And aside from describing COVID-19 as the “health version of global warming” in March, things had been running relatively smoothy for Nine Radio and Jones, recently topping the monthly radio ratings for the 226th consecutive time.
But a few months of good behaviour was hardly enough to make up for his extensive rap sheet.
From his role in the Cronulla riots, his comments about Julia Gillard and the death of her father, his bullying of Sydney Opera House boss Louise Herron, his use of the N-word on air or his attack on Sydney Mayor Clover Moore.
Such incidents could have ended the career of any other broadcasters who did not have the same ratings success.
So is Jones really retiring purely on medical grounds?
The likely answer is no.
With his show still feeling the effects of the advertiser exodus last year, it was increasingly difficult for Nine to justify Jones’s multi-million-dollar price tag, particularly with the entire market being hit by COVID-19.
The Australian has today suggested Malone told Jones earlier this month the show was no longer bringing in enough revenue.
Both Marks and Nine chairman Peter Costello are believed to have backed up Malone on the matter.
Nine is believed to be paying out more than $4m of Jones’s contract, which was set to run until 2021.
However, the matter of Jones’s health is far from a smoke screen.
The presenter has taken long stints away from the microphone in recent years to deal with various health issues, while the doctor’s warning of “if you don’t stop, you’ll drop”, which he revealed yesterday, would be enough to detract anyone.
Even if Jones was nudged out of the door, Nine’s respect for Jones and his influence can be seen through a 12-month non-compete clause, believed to be part of his exit terms.
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