The 79 year old had signed a two-year contract with 2GB last year with no public indication he was thinking of cutting his tenure short. Nine Entertainment Co, which owns 2GB and this masthead, announced Fordham would take over the coveted breakfast slot. It had been expected morning host Ray Hadley would step into the role.
Jones, who has a difficult relationship with Hadley, told Fordham on Tuesday afternoon that he had nothing to do with the appointment of his successor.
“A lot of people out there know that your late father [John Fordham and I]…were very close friends. Your mother and I are very close friends. These people are really part of my family. It was important for people to know that no one spoke to me about a Fordham replacing me.”
Over the past three decades Jones established a position as the most influential radio host in Australia. He dominated the ratings surveys in Sydney but regularly courted controversy and clashed with politicians. Most recently Jones was subject to a mass advertiser boycott caused by repeated criticisms of high profile women including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
In the hours after the announcement Jones told The Herald and The Age that he had some misgivings about his career but insisted he would not dwell on them in retirement. Jones will continue to be published in News Corp’s The Australian and The Daily Telegraph and will appear on Sky News.
“Of course there are regrets, but I don’t think you can live your life dwelling on those regrets. Now are there things that you would have done differently if you had your over time again? Of course – that’s the same with any life so there’s no denying that,” he said. “I’m very grateful that for a kid from the Darling Downs whose parents died never having had a holiday… I’ve had the opportunity to do what I’ve done.”
Jones was exposed by the ABC program Media Watch in the late 1990s “cash-for-comment” affair for being paid to provide favourable commentary to major co-operations including Qantas and Optus and not disclosing the deals when they were on air. He was also found by the communications watchdog to have vilified people of Middle Eastern descent in the days before the 2005 Cronulla race riot in Sydney. And he told a Sydney Young Liberal fundraiser in 2012 that former prime minister Julia Gillard’s father “died of shame”.
Jones was criticised again in 2018 for dropping the N-word live on air and for his aggressive treatment of Opera House chief executive Louise Herron over her opposition to parts of a plan to project the barrier draw for The Everest horse race on the iconic building’s sails. And in 2019 Jones says Prime Minister Scott Morrison should “shove a sock” down the throat of NZ’s Ms Ardern after she warned that Australia “will have to answer to the Pacific” on climate change. The comments cost his show 50 per cent of its revenue.
His strident, conservative views made him one of the most influential media figures in Sydney. He was reviled, feared and admired by generations of politicians who often courted his favour.
“We do some homework, some research on it and on the way we go,” he said. “Now, if that fashions opinion, which I suppose it does then people say…well, you’ve got a lot of influence. But we didn’t set out to do that. We just set out to really do our homework properly, so that we can actually prosecute the case properly and let the public make up their own mind.”
Former Prime Minister John Howard thanked Jones for his contribution to the “proper functioning of democracy”.
“Alan Jones’ departure from radio will end a matchless 35 year career, during which he became the most influential radio broadcaster in the nation,” Mr Howard said. “I have always admired his candour, and a prodigious capacity to be on top of any issue he canvassed.”
Jones’ time on air will be remembered by his listeners and generations of politicians for his work ethic and dedication to the radio sector. Beyond radio Jones made contributions to charities including the Starlight Children’s foundation, the Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation and the Heart Research Institute. He has received an Order of Australia for his service to the media and sports industries and for his charity work. His resignation on Tuesday was flooded with tributes from former prime ministers and colleagues.
Nine chairman and former Treasurer Peter Costello – who played a role in convincing Jones to stay when his contract expired last year – said the breakfast ratings record “will never be matched”.
“Alan’s interests across politics, sport, the arts, business, made him a broad and stimulating commentator,” he said. “Alan Jones will be given many accolades, and he deserves them. A great career. An outstanding contribution.”
A former teacher, political candidate, speechwriter and coach of the Australian national rugby team, Jones cannot recall the details of his first official day on the airwaves at 2UE back in 1985. But he remembers being offered an audition for the job. Jones, who was executive director of the NSW Employers Federation at the time, was wearing a tracksuit when he was contacted by legendary radio programmer John Brennan about the gig.
“He rang on a Sunday morning,” Jones said. “It was 10 past 11. I didn’t really know him other than I’d spoken him because he was the sports producer and he said, ‘you’re the person that we should have in radio, would you be interested in coming to the radio station to do a bit of an audition?'”
Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.