Neil Breen departs Nine’s Today show



Neil Breen has stood down as executive producer of Channel Nine’s morning show Today after weeks of negative publicity.

The former editor of Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph will remain with the Nine Network as a sports journalist, reporting and producing stories for the network’s nightly news bulletin.

Breen, who joined the show nine months ago, told Nine’s national news director Darren Wick and senior producer Mark Calvert that he would leave the show before he notified Nine chief executive David Gyngell on Tuesday.

The former EP, whose resignation was effective immediately  then explained his departure in an email to staff. Calvert has since taken over production of Today.

Breen had been a journalist with News Corp for 20 years before making the leap to television and worked as  sports editor at The Courier Mail and The Australian before editing The Sunday Telegraph.

His departure follows weeks of speculation after reports of a shouting match between Breen and sports presenter Ben Fordham were leaked to the press, as well as criticisms from co-host Lisa Wilkinson about how the show was being run.

Breen then personally hired defamation lawyer Mark O’Brien to warn The Daily Telegraph against publishing a defamatory article, a move said to have ‘infuriated’ executives at Channel Nine.

As he announced his departure Breen told The Australian: “At the end of the day, no one is bigger than the show. There was so much publicity about me as executive producer and that should never be the case.”

Breen said he was leaving at the end of a good ratings year, as the show won in Sydney and Melbourne and had the best year in Brisbane in a decade. During the year ratings for Channel Seven’s Sunrise started to overtake Today’s when Samantha Armytage replaced Melissa Doyle as David Koch’s co-host in August, and Ten launched a new breakfast lineup with Wake Up and mid-morning talk show Studio 10.

He told The Australian: “I’m disappointed because I loved working on Today working with the producers, hosts and journalists. It was terrific.

“But I’m really happy with the decision and for the show. And I’m happy for the fact Nine believes in me to give me another great opportunity. I had a crack. If you play the game hard and fast you need to expect a few bruises along the way.”

He told staff in an email: “I have loved every minute working with you all and I want to thank every one of you for your amazing help and camaraderie as I made the transition from papers to TV. You’ve been so good to me.

“Today is a great show and deserves every success. My comments in the paper are sincere – no-one is bigger than the show and the team and I believe by taking myself out of the equation, it gives clear air to the goal of winning in 2014.”

He added: “You should all look at the positives – you won’t have to memorise Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue; you won’t have to hear me say ‘I hate that f…ing Cash Cow’ one more time; Georgia you won’t have to heat my coffee up in the microwave any more; Sarah you won’t have to book every 80s retro band which is touring RSL’s (how good were Hot Chocolate by the way); Newt you won’t have to hear me say ‘mate, you don’t get it – Queensland’s different’ ever again and the sexiest man in LA Richard Reid (love ya mate) can do a gossip item every day on Justin Bieber if he likes – and the Kardashians!!!! And yes, ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ can once again assume it’s wrongful place in play-ons and play-offs!

As for the negatives – well, the backrow bandits in the control room need a new skipper; someone else will have to come up with long rambling stories about growing up in Brisbane in the ’80s; someone else will have to strap Karl’s ankle and Paige will have to find someone else to say ‘do you even know how to use ENPS’ to.

Wick told staff in an email how Breen had “thrown his heart and soul into for the past 12 months” and his “passion, commitment to hard work and outstanding journalistic instincts will play a significant role” as Nine expands its news broadcasts across the day and across the country.

He said: “The Nine news sports teams are the best in the business, and bringing Neil aboard already boasting a Walkley Award for his coverage of sport – adds a new dimension to our reporting.”

Megan Reynolds


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