Alan Jones to step down from radio at the end of May

The long-reigning king of Sydney breakfast radio will depart his position in a matter of weeks.

Alan Jones, the host of breakfast in Sydney on 2GB as well as 4BC in Brisbane, said continuing in the position would be detrimental to his health.

Jones joined 2GB in 2002 after a long stint with 2UE. He has dominated Sydney breakfast radio in terms of audience share, and headlines, for decades.

Jones: ‘Without peer’

In the most recent radio ratings survey – which are now on pause due to COVID-19 – the 2GB breakfast slow had a 17.9% share. Its closest rival was Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck on ABC Sydney with 10.9%, while Kiis FM’s Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson had 10.2%.

Jones’ most recent two-year contract was supposed to take him through to mid 2021.

On this morning’s show, however, Jones said it’s time to listen to the experts.

“We are living in the world of coronavirus. The most repeated statement we hear is ‘we must listen to the experts’. Well, the experts are telling me in no uncertain terms, and not for the first time I might add, ‘continuing with the present workload is seriously detrimental to your health’. 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,” he said.

Ben Fordham, who currently hosts the drive program and has been touted by some in recent months as Jones’ replacement over rival Ray Hadley, will take over Jones’ role.

“I feel a sense of both responsibility and opportunity. There’s a huge responsibility in taking over from Alan and the opportunity to bring my own flavour to breakfast,” said Fordham.

“Alan is the most successful broadcaster in the history of Australian radio. There will only ever be one Alan Jones. My first taste of radio was as a 15-year-old work experience kid on the Alan Jones breakfast show. I can’t quite believe that all these years on I’m taking over the position he’s made his own.”

Fordham’s drive show most recently had an 11% share.

Fordham: Feels a sense of opportunity

Hadley said he was comfortable with the decision.

“I don’t think it would have been the right decision to give a 65-year-old the breakfast shift. I’m very comfortable with the decision. I’ll support Ben Fordham to the best of my ability. It’s a big, big job,” he said on-air this morning.

And various executives at Nine, which inherited a majority of 2GB in its purchase of Fairfax in 2018 and then took full ownership, paid tribute to Jones.

Chairman of Nine, Peter Costello, said Jones had a unique place in Australian media.

“His ratings record makes him the outstanding broadcaster of his generation. His ratings record will never be matched,” Costello claimed.

Costello also noted Jones’ public and private personas.

“Alan’s interests across politics, sport, the arts, business, made him a broad and stimulating commentator. He was always passionate and relentless in pursuing issues on behalf of his listeners. And he was tough – as I can attest when I was on the other side of the microphone,” the former Federal treasurer said.

“Away from the microphone, Alan was warm and generous. Many people benefited from his support. He neither advertised nor sought recognition for it. Alan Hones will be given many accolades, and he deserves them. A great career. An outstanding contribution.”

Nine’s CEO Hugh Marks was less emphatic than Costello, but still thanked Jones for his tenure.

“I want to acknowledge Alan for his contribution to 2GB, and prior to that 2UE, over many years. Alan has shown a dedication to his craft unlike any other and with that dedication comes excellence.

Marks wished Jones well

“This focus on his program’s content has given him outstanding audience loyalty demonstrated over decades. We wish him well and thank him for all he has done.”

And Nine’s managing director of radio, Tom Malone, said Jones was without peer.

“The most telling indicator of his greatness was the switch from 2UE to 2GB – when Alan moved stations and the audience followed in lockstep. Alan did not miss a beat at number one. Sydney’s listeners repaid his advocacy with loyalty – Alan has always put them first,” he said.

“Alan is a giant of Australian radio. We look forward to celebrating his soaring achievements at the appropriate time. We wish him well and thank him for everything he has achieved.”

Jones will be continuing to broadcast on Sky News and will also continue writing for The Daily Telegraph and The Australian.

Despite the praise and the ratings run, Jones’ career has been marred with periods of backlash and controversy.

A recent round began last year when he was kicking off about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her climate change position. He suggested her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison should “shove a sock down her throat”.

At the time, Macquarie Media, then the parent company of 2GB, said Jones’ contract would be terminated if he misstepped again, however this was not enough to stop various brands from pausing their advertising spend on the program. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Coles were among the prominent brands to make public statements about their advertising on Jones’ show.

Jones then fired back, calling for consumers to boycott Coles, and Nine admitted the controversy hurt its bottom line. 

Over 100 complaints were made about the on-air incident to the media watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Jones, however, held onto his ratings crown.

Macquarie Media subsequently apologised to advertisers and commenced a review into the content of the program, as well as the wider station.

Previous ‘missteps’ include saying the ‘n-word’ on air, something Jones later said he regretted.

ACMA ruled Jones had breached decency requirements.

Jones and his radio stations also had to make a large payout to the Wagner family following their successful claim that Jones defamed them on air.

With the new line-up, Malone is confident the stations can continue to succeed.

“We are delighted that Ben is stepping up to host 2GB’s breakfast program,” he said. “For decades 2GB’s breakfast show has set the agenda for Sydney and the country, and Ben will continue this great legacy and bring his unique energy to the show.”

He added: “With Ben in Breakfast, Ray Hadley in Mornings – broadcasting to more than 30 stations across the country, Deb Knight in Afternoons, and a new Drive host to be announced, we know we have the right team to build on 2GB’s great position as the #1 radio station in Sydney.”

“Meanwhile in Brisbane we know 4BC deserves a local breakfast program and we will be making an announcement on this in the coming weeks.”


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