Top rating 2GB afternoon talkback host Chris Smith is to be axed from his popular afternoon time slot.
Smith stormed out of Macquarie Media’s Pyrmont offices after a meeting with management on Monday morning. Temporary host Luke Grant was hastily brought in to cover for Smith, who was back on air on Tuesday afternoon.
It is understood Smith was told he could be moving to the evening timeslot, in a straight swap with current night time host Steve Price.
He was told of the changes by radio station management last week and went into the office on the weekend to clear away his trophies and celebrity photographs from the walls of his office.
It is currently lined with packing boxes.
The staff in Smith’s team were called in for crisis talks with management on Tuesday morning.
It is the latest in a string of destabilising events at the station and has had the 2GB rumour mill buzzing.
Last month, Macquarie Media finally announced that it was re-signing breakfast show king Alan Jones on a two-year contract worth a whopping $8 million.
The talks had dragged on for months with management reportedly offering Jones’ peak slot to morning show presenter Ray Hadley.
Part of the deal is understood to have been that Steve Price would move into Hadley’s morning slot. However, as negotiations dragged on, Macquarie Media chairman Russell Tate took over and negotiated the deal with Jones’ close friend, thoroughbred horse breeder John Messara. When the two-year contract was signed, both Hadley and Price were left back where they started.
Hadley is understood to be happy to wait for 78-year-old Jones to retire but Price has been agitating to be removed from the night shift.
“Basically Smithy is collateral damage,” a 2GB insider told The Daily Telegraph.
“Smithy is paying the price for management’s broken promises.”
A shift swap with Price would not suit Smith’s lifestyle, however. He has four children, including four-year-old twins.
Other presenters are said to be “shaking their heads at the decision to disrupt a winning formula”.
2GB celebrates 10 straight years as Sydney’s number one radio station with L-R: Ross Greenwood, Ray Hadley, Alan Jones, Ben Fordham and Chris Smith.
Smith has been winning his timeslot with a run of almost 90 ratings wins.
Staff are also concerned the move could be an attempt to cut costs — saving $1 million a year by axing Smith and making each of the Jones, Hadley and Ben Fordham shows an hour longer to fill in the time. However that is considered an unlikely option in the wake of cost cutting by the station that has seen it axe the services of the AAP news wire to make a $500,000-a-year saving.
The issues with Smith come after Hadley was engulfed in bullying accusations that forced him to go on air to apologise to his old producer Chris Bowen in March.
Even as the radio host was apologising for what the producer called “16 years of intense bullying” other former employees were posting messages on social media saying they had been screamed at while they worked for Hadley. The scandal threatened to derail Hadley’s career but he weathered the storm and management remained loyal to him. Smith could not be contacted to comment on the drama last night.
(Courtesy of Daily Telegraph)