Annette Sharp lists the nation’s best-known TV stars who found themselves unemployed in 2020.
Annette Sharp lists the nation’s best-known TV stars who found themselves unemployed in 2020.

How COVID helped kill TV’s best-known careers

The coronavirus didn't just claim the lives of hundreds of Australians in 2020.

It was also blamed for killing off the careers of some of the nation's best-known television personalities, although in reality the industry correction was a long time coming.

Melissa Doyle left Seven.
Melissa Doyle left Seven.

 

Natasha Belling is no longer on Ten.
Natasha Belling is no longer on Ten.

While the Seven and Ten networks cut the most on-air talent from its books, all free-to-air broadcasters reduced staffing numbers as redundancies were rolled out around the nation to help offset plummeting television revenue.

It followed the decision by the commercial networks to move away from expensive in-house production.

Gone but not forgotten in 2020 are:

Melissa Doyle, who announced in August she was leaving Channel 7 after 25 years with the network.

"For 25 years, I have called Channel 7 home," said Doyle, who played a pivotal role in helping Seven achieve dominance over Nine in the breakfast show slot during 14 years with Sunrise.

The 50-year-old continues to host a weekend radio program on SmoothFM.

 

Sam Newman has often made headlines with his controversial comments. Picture: Nicole Cleary
Sam Newman has often made headlines with his controversial comments. Picture: Nicole Cleary

Sam Newman, 74, departed Nine in June after a #StandDownSam petition was circulated slamming Newman for calling slain US citizen George Floyd a "piece of shit".

Nine and Newman "mutually decided" the commentator should resign, after 35 years with the network.

Newman continues to polarise audiences on his podcast, You Cannot Be Serious.

 

Kerri-Anne Kennerley said it was a ‘very, very tough’ year for many. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Kerri-Anne Kennerley said it was a ‘very, very tough’ year for many. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

After five decades in television, Kerri-Anne Kennerley was dumped by Ten in August.

The 66-year-old lamented on air: "I just know I'm back on the lazy Susan of television. Yeah, it's very, very tough for a lot of people."

Kennerley is now starring on stage in the music Pippin.

Studio 10 co-anchor Joe Hildebrand was another for whom the bell tolled following the revamp of the morning show.

Hildebrand said Ten had offered him another gig which he declined.

 

Channel 7 all-rounder Simon Reeve was made redundant.
Channel 7 all-rounder Simon Reeve was made redundant.

 

Emma Alberici left the ABC. Picture: Twitter
Emma Alberici left the ABC. Picture: Twitter

Seven presenter and reporter Simon Reeve was taken by surprise when the network made him redundant in June.

Reeve, 59, was something of an all-rounder on the network, having previously hosted Million Dollar Minute, Quizmaster and It's Academic.

In September he filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court claiming Seven didn't pay him annual leave or redundancy pay and other entitlements.

Seven filed a countersuit in October seeking compensation for payment it says it made to Reeve's company.

 

Sally Obermeder’s Daily Edition was cut.
Sally Obermeder’s Daily Edition was cut.

 

Celebrity Chef Pete Evans was let go.
Celebrity Chef Pete Evans was let go.

An equally difficult - though more protracted - exit concerned the ABC's chief economics reporter and former Lateline host Emma Alberici.

In June Alberici took action against the public broadcaster via the Fair Work Commission after learning she was to be made redundant.

It followed a two-year battle with ABC management and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull following the publication of an analysis piece in 2018 on the government's corporate tax policy.

"The ABC and I reached an agreement yesterday," she posted on social media in August. "I will no longer be on TV and will not accept any role if it's offered. It is too painful to be in the public eye."

Alberici is now working on a memoir.

 

Ray Hadley was replaced on Nine’s league commentary team. Picture: Toby Zerna
Ray Hadley was replaced on Nine’s league commentary team. Picture: Toby Zerna

Ten also shed Natarsha Belling and weatherman Tim Bailey from its newsroom in August. Belling is now hosting a news podcast, Your Morning Agenda, while Bailey, 57, was picked up by Ben Fordham's 2GB radio show.

In October presenter Jenny Brockie, 66, announced she was leaving SBS's flagship news and current affairs program Insight after sitting the pandemic year out.

Seven also made cuts in its news department with the departures of Sally Obermeder and Ryan Phelan, the hosts of Daily Edition in June.

Phelan had been sacked by the network in June. At the time he was facing a charge of assault occasioning bodily harm. The charge was subsequently dropped by the court.

After announcing Phelan's dismissal on the Tuesday, Obermeder was then blindsided when Seven axed the show at the end of the same week.

"Sadly … the economics of today and associated cost pressures across the entire industry has led to this decision," news boss Craig McPherson said in a statement on the program's axing.

 

Matt Shirvington lost his spot at Fox Sports but partnered with Mel McLaughlin on Channel 7 instead. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Matt Shirvington lost his spot at Fox Sports but partnered with Mel McLaughlin on Channel 7 instead. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

Also spotted in Seven's exit lounge in 2020 was veteran weatherman David Brown.

Brown, 61, signed off in November after five years in Sydney.

Television foodies, too, were shown the door during the year, with controversial self-styled guru Pete Evans cancelled by Seven in May.

The failure of his program, My Kitchen Rules, to find a prime-time audience was the official reason for Evans' departure, but news of his axing came after a number of rebukes from the Australian Medical Association over his bizarre health claims including, in April, his claims a $15,000 light machine could eradicate coronavirus.

He also persisted with his dangerous statements that COVID-19 was "a fake pandemic with no virus" and linked to 5G antenna installations.

 

 

Evans's axing was believed to deliver a saving of around $1 million a year to Seven, proving there had been plenty of fat - and fatheads - in television.

There were changes across the dial in sport, with Ray Hadley being replaced on Nine's league commentary team in March, and presenters Matt Shirvington and Paul Roos leaving Fox Sports, though Shirvington would later be picked up by Seven to present sport for its weeknight news bulletin after Jim Wilson was poached by 2GB.

Originally published as How COVID helped kill TV's best-known careers


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