Only a week ago a media report suggested Nine was hatching a plan to get Lisa Wilkinson nominated for a Gold Logie. Such is her versatility and likeability on Today that it beggars belief she has never been nominated in the past.
Ironically, she could potentially find herself nominated for The Project and not Today, after bombshell news she was jumping ship and joining Network TEN.
The sudden exit of Wilkinson from Today is a big loss to Nine, announced just days afterthe network Upfronts (at which she did not attend). While no talent is irreplaceable, Wilkinson is as good as they come.
Execs at Nine well remember the revolving door of female hosts who were tried and tested alongside Karl Stefanovic prior to her being poached from Weekend Sunrise: Sarah Murdoch, Kellie Connolly, and of course, the famed “boning” of Jessica Rowe.
The pairing of Wilkinson with Stefanovic has worked, with the seasoned media performer bringing gravitas to Karl’s frequent jester antics. Whether handling breaking news or serving up a tough political interview, she has helped Today bring the fight to the dominant Sunrise in the fierce morning TV battle. And she has been the show’s constant during torrid headlines and viewer reactions directed at her co-host (and on occasions even his defender).
There is nowhere to hide in Breakfast TV. With hours of Live TV and a dizzying array of news topics, it requires more than just chemistry and a thick skin. The moment co-hosts don’t get along, viewers can smell it a mile off and media has a field day with it. All of that is potentially now ahead for Nine -change should be avoided at all costs.
Off-screen Wilkinson has championed the role of women in the media, notably delivering the Andrew Olle Media Lecture where she took aim at the industry for treating women differently to men.
“I despair that every time a female journalist is profiled in the press, her age is usually mentioned by the second paragraph, as if it is a measure of her sexual currency and just how long it will be, before it expires,” she said.
“And yet, does anyone here know or care how old Kerry O’Brien, Kochie, Tony Jones, Hugh Riminton, Ray Martin, Peter Overton or Laurie Oakes are? They are all brilliant at what they do, and the rule of thumb is that the more experienced they are, the better they are at their jobs. So why, so often, doesn’t that same measure apply to women?”
That was 4 years ago.
So it comes as little surprise, if we are to believe media reports, that she has now taken a stand over an apparent gender pay inequity with her male co-host. Nine maintains Stefanovic has extra duties including 60 Minutes and current affairs which means the roles are not equal.
Nevertheless, her hiring is a coup for TEN, sorely in need of some good news right now.
Wilkinson will appear on The Project alongside Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar (it’s unclear how many episodes per week given the show is filmed in Melbourne) and host the Sydney-based edition of The Sunday Project.
TEN Chief Content Officer, Beverley McGarvey, said: “Lisa Wilkinson is one of the most respected journalists and television presenters in Australia and we are thrilled that she has agreed to join Network TEN’s fantastic stable of on-air talent.
“In a career that has spanned magazines, radio, television and digital media, Lisa has established her credentials as a leading figure in the Australian media industry. She has a great connection to the Australian public and a reputation that is second to none. We are proud that she has agreed to join the acclaimed team at The Project and The Sunday Project.”
The new challenge means no more early mornings for Wilkinson (and Christmas at home, given she also co-hosted Carols by Candlelight). Meanwhile it’s a gift too for Sunrise, with Nine acknowledging Today will now head in a new direction.
Last night Wilkinson thanked her co-hosts, producers, crew and Today viewers “who have been so supportive and incredibly loyal to me over the last decade. I can never thank you enough and I look forward to seeing you soon.”