While Rowe is on maternity leave from the Today Show, Nine has issued a brief statement saying simply, she “would not be returning to the Network and that Nine and Jessica had reached an agreement that would allow Jessica to take up other opportunities for her career.”
This stunning turn of events completely flies in the face of denials and votes of confidence Eddie McGuire and Nine made during the much-publicised debacle about Eddie wanting to “bone” (axe) Jessica. It is a phrase he has repeatedly denied, but has now become urban myth.
Under extreme media pressure, and privately becoming pregnant, many in the industry were praising Rowe’s professionalism for turning up to work day after day, putting on a smile and getting on with the job.
Nine was believed to have wanted Rowe to remain with the network on other projects but an agreement could not be reached. Rowe and Nine was always a troubled mix, beginning with the presenter at the centre of a legal stoush with former network Ten.
Only recently network execs had hinted that Rowe’s return from maternity was of concern to them, publicly stating she could “take as long as she needs.” Nine’s director of news and current affairs Gary Linnell even said she could be “fly in the ointment” if ratings dip on her return. How’s that for a vote of confidence?
The struggling breakfast programme was charting calmer waters under Rowe’s replacement Sarah Murdoch and Kellie Connolly.
But Rowe’s termination is a dreadful outcome for Nine. Doubtless there were several occasions where she was out of her depth, and that laugh seemed to grate with morning viewers. But Rowe was hired to brighten the show up, and steer it closer to the territory of Sunrise’s “breakfast radio on telly.” Confusingly, her very strengths became a liability, and it is not Rowe who is to blame here. I believe there will be a big sympathy push for her, and contempt for Nine management as fronted by McGuire.
For instance, the Today Show carries other dead wood, seemingly blameless for low ratings. Why is Alan Jones still afforded an editorial? What year are we living in? There are also other hosts who need a re-think.
Nine ought to have salvaged a better outcome than this. Lord knows they have had enough time to negotiate one. To sack a star on the day of the Logies…. well, on this occasion Eddie will deserve all the jokes he gets.