Lisa Wilkinson’s sudden departure from the Today show has sent the Nine Network’s publicity machine into overdrive as they attempt to mitigate the fallout from one of their biggest stars switching teams.
Nine spinners have been working overtime to shelter the network from potential backlash, then throw in what Ten and Wilkinson’s allies have had to say and an already highly-contentious subject has become a very muddy pond of spin and speculation.
There has been exhaustive coverage of Wilkinson’s contract negotiations over the past 48 hours, and rightly so. But you shouldn’t believe everything you read.
Here are four myths that have been doing the rounds since the saga unfolded:
Myth 1: The final straw was Wilkinson’s contract negotiations being leaked
Nine management have been on the phone to reporters saying they’ve long disliked Wilkinson’s arrangements with commercial rivals, but the final straw was when her contract renegotiations were leaked to the Murdoch press.
This may have made TV bosses hot under the collar, but it ignores an inconvenient fact: Wilkinson’s longtime co-host Karl Stefanovic also leaked details about his contract renegotiations to the Murdoch press this time two years’ ago.
It goes without saying, but Stefanovic’s professional relationship with Nine is still going strong. This is despite a front page story in The Sunday Mail in October 2015 that reported the Gold Logie winner’s contract was up for renewal and there was a “strong possibility” he would be leaving Today the following year.
It’s common practice for some of TV’s biggest personalities to leak details of their contract negotiations to newspapers in the hope it will give them stronger bargaining powers. Producers have been known to do it too, not just the people in front of the cameras.
Myth 2: Stefanovic is worth more
Nine’s chief executive Hugh Marks lashed out at Wilkinson’s “defection” in The Daily Telegraphon Wednesday morning, defending his network against claims of pay disparity.
The TV boss said Stefanovic was simply worth more money. Nine’s final offer was reportedly around the $1.8 million mark, in comparison to Stefanovic’s $2 million salary.
While Stefanovic films several 60 Minutes episodes a year as well as the high-rating program This Time Next Year, it is important to note that he steps away from his Today hosting dutiesto fulfill his other in-house commitments.
Yes, Wilkinson is paid a six-figure sum for her involvement with HuffPo , but Nine sources say she wasn’t provided the same prime-time opportunities as Stefanovic. Hence why Ten’s plan to use her more broadly across the network, with some reports indicating they intend to make her “‘s Oprah Winfrey”.
The fact Ten was reportedly willing to fork out $2 million for the TV star and former magazine editor proves Wilkinson is worth as much as her former co-host, if given the opportunity to shine in prime time along with the gruelling breakfast shift.
Myth 3: Wilkinson could replace Carrie Bickmore on The Project
A bizarre story that circulated on Tuesday was the possibility of Wilkinson replacing longtime Project host Carrie Bickmore.
The basis of these reports? Not well-placed sources at Ten, but instead a nice bit of PR cooked up from betting agencies.
It didn’t take long for Ten to rubbish those claims, pointing out it’s possible for The Project to have two female anchors at the same time.
“Carrie is contracted to host the show four days a week and that role won’t change,” The Project’s executive producer Craig Campbell said. “She’s been here since day one and has led The Project all the way to the Gold Logie podium. Having these two strong, intelligent and independent women, both at the top of their game, on our team is a privilege.”
Myth 4: We saved 10 people’s jobs
Ahhh that old chestnut. Let’s appeal to the bleeding hearts whose deep concern is for all those poor young journos gripping to their desks for grim life as Greedy Lisa demanded more money than they could ever dream of making.
While times are tough in TV-land with people moving over to streaming platforms, it is hardly Lisa’s fault if Hugh Marks can’t balance the books and pay his two breakfast presenters the same wage.
Further to that is the fact they haven’t revealed how many jobs had to go when they bumped up Karl’s salary a few years ago. Yes, the media landscape has changed in the past two years, but the whole thing smells of desperate spin to turn some of the heat Nine is getting back onto Lisa.