The Australian newspaper reports: Veteran Melbourne broadcaster John Burns says he never wanted to leave his top-rating breakfast radio show on 3AW, but was pushed out by the station’s management. But eight months on, he can reveal he’s eyeing a comeback.
Speaking for the first time publicly since he exited the station in July last year, Burns has revealed he was told to “toe the corporate line” that he was retiring.
Burns and Ross Stevenson co-hosted Australia’s most successful radio program — the breakfast show on 3AW — for almost 20 years, notching up 147 consecutive ratings survey wins before Burns’ exit.
Burns said his contract wasn’t renewed with the station owned by Nine Entertainment; instead he was forced to leave and asked to publicly declare that he was in fact retiring of his own free will.
He was replaced by advertising businessman Russel Howcroft, who was best known for his appearances on ABC TV program Gruen.
Burns has vowed he will never work at the radio station again and hasn’t listened to the show since he left.
“The situation is I didn’t really retire, I had no intention of the ‘r’ word, retirement,” Burns told The Australian.
“They were terribly nice and I had this big send off, but on reflection, logically, I don’t know why they wanted me to end a successful 20 years on air.
“Everyone I have spoken to, other people in the industry from ex-management to current people, have all said they cannot work it out.”
But since his time out of the spotlight he’s enjoyed doing the things he loves, including having long lunches and playing golf, and is now considering fresh radio opportunities.
“I don’t want to fade away. I’m still alive,” Burns said from his home at Armadale in Melbourne’s inner southeast.
“There have been murmurings from people in the media that there might be a future possibility on air … which I would take.”
Media veteran Steve Price, a close friend of Burns for more than 30 years, said “he’s too clever to not be on air”.
“It was complete madness to make any change,” he said.
“We haven’t heard the last of John Burns on radio in Australia.
“We will probably hear him doing some stuff not just in Melbourne and it will probably be nationally.”
Burns turned 75 on July 30 last year and then finished up with 3AW the next day.
Just two days later Victoria was plunged into its stage four lockdown.
“I don’t want anything to do with 3AW ever again,” Burns said.
“On reflection I was a bit put out and unhappy about the way it all finished up.
“I woke up on the first of August and it was a feeling of emptiness, and ‘what was I going to do’.”
Burns said station’s management told him after he finished up he would be offered a role as a contributor and fill-in host but that never eventuated.
“I haven’t heard from them at all. I was going to knock it back anyway,” he said.
“As Sly (veteran crime journalist John Silvester) said to me at one stage, ‘you don’t go from the AFL to playing in the VFL’.”
The father of three sons — Ted, 46, Andy, 45, and Johnny, 39 — Burns said he planned to go and live in Sicily with wife Monique, 71, for three months after he finished up at the station but due to COVID-19 that didn’t happen.
A spokesman for Nine did not respond to questions from The Australian.