Entertainment

Lisa Wilkinson bombshell memoir: TV executive reveals why co-hosts DON’T always get the same salary

A leading TV commentator has weighed in on Lisa Wilkinson’s bombshell autobiography, which details her sacking from Channel Nine in October 2017 over a reported gender pay gap dispute.

Rob McKnight, a former Nine executive, said on the TV Blackbox podcast on Friday he ‘doesn’t believe pay parity has a place’ when it comes to television talent. 

Wilkinson claims in her book the pay disparity between herself and Karl Stefanovic when they hosted the Today show was once ‘so off the charts that no-one would have believed it’.

But McKnight said this isn’t uncommon in the TV industry because some presenters are just more popular than others, and cited one example of a female host who significantly out-earned her male colleague.

Speaking out: A leading TV commentator has weighed in on Lisa Wilkinson’s bombshell autobiography, which details her sacking from Channel Nine in October 2017 over a reported gender pay gap dispute. Pictured: Wilkinson and her former Today co-host Karl Stefanovic  

‘The simple fact is, an entertainer is a commodity networks use to make money. They invest in talent they believe will drive ratings and revenue,’ McKnight said.

‘On Today Extra, Sonia Kruger earned a lot more money than David Campbell. On Studio 10, Ita Buttrose was the highest paid panellist.’

McKnight was the executive producer of Studio 10 from 2013 to 2017. 

The Daily Telegraph reported in 2017 that Kruger was earning ‘close to double’ what Campbell got when she was at Nine with an annual salary of $800,000. 

‘Talent fees are not based on gender, and nor should they be. They should always be based on that person’s value to the project,’ McKnight added.

Wilkinson’s new book, It Wasn’t Meant to Be Like This, includes a chapter dedicated to her sacking from Nine and falling out with Stefanovic over a pay dispute.

Commentary: Rob McKnight, a former Nine executive, said on the TV Blackbox podcast on Friday he 'doesn't believe pay parity has a place' when it comes to television talent

Commentary: Rob McKnight, a former Nine executive, said on the TV Blackbox podcast on Friday he ‘doesn’t believe pay parity has a place’ when it comes to television talent

That's business: McKnight said it's not uncommon in the TV industry for presenters on the same show to have wildly different salaries, pointing out that Sonia Kruger (right) 'earned a lot more money' than David Campbell when they co-hosted Nine's Today Extra

That’s business: McKnight said it’s not uncommon in the TV industry for presenters on the same show to have wildly different salaries, pointing out that Sonia Kruger (right) ‘earned a lot more money’ than David Campbell when they co-hosted Nine’s Today Extra

Another example: McKnight also said Ita Buttrose was 'the highest paid panellist' on Studio 10, which he used to executive produce

Another example: McKnight also said Ita Buttrose was ‘the highest paid panellist’ on Studio 10, which he used to executive produce

She alleges Stefanovic proposed in August 2015 they join forces to renegotiate their Nine contracts – not unlike how the cast of American sitcom Friends famously worked together to broker better deals with NBC.

But she claims he ended up ditching this idea and instead played rival networks Nine and Seven off against each other in order to secure a better deal for himself.

‘Weeks later… the media became awash with stories that Stefanovic was restless at Today and looking for greener pastures – and more civilised working hours – at Channel Seven,’ she wrote.

Stefanovic was soon at the centre of a bidding war between Nine and Seven that resulted in him re-signing a five-year deal with Nine worth at least $2million per year.

Wilkinson’s deal was worth significantly less, about $780,000 a year, and was only for two years.

‘There was no doubt about it: Karl certainly knew the art of the deal,’ she wrote, adding that the resulting pay disparity between them ‘was so off the charts that no-one would have believed it’. 

Bombshell memoir: Wilkinson's new book includes a chapter dedicated to her sacking from Nine and falling out with Stefanovic over a pay dispute. She alleges Stefanovic proposed in August 2015 they join forces to renegotiate their Nine contracts - but claims ditched this idea and instead played Nine and Seven off against each other to secure a better deal for himself

Bombshell memoir: Wilkinson’s new book includes a chapter dedicated to her sacking from Nine and falling out with Stefanovic over a pay dispute. She alleges Stefanovic proposed in August 2015 they join forces to renegotiate their Nine contracts – but claims ditched this idea and instead played Nine and Seven off against each other to secure a better deal for himself

Response: McKnight offered a simple explanation for the Stefanovic's pay rise. 'When Lisa first joined Today, she was seen as the bigger draw card and got the rewards. Then Karl got drunk at the Logies and connected with viewers, so he got a big pay rise,' he said

Response: McKnight offered a simple explanation for the Stefanovic’s pay rise. ‘When Lisa first joined Today, she was seen as the bigger draw card and got the rewards. Then Karl got drunk at the Logies and connected with viewers, so he got a big pay rise,’ he said

McKnight offered a simple explanation for Stefanovic’s pay rise in 2015.

‘When Lisa first joined Today, she was seen as the bigger draw card and got the rewards. Then Karl got drunk at the Logies [in 2009] and connected with viewers, so he got a big pay rise,’ he said.

Wilkinson’s book also allegedly doesn’t tell the full story of their pay discrepancy. 

News.com.au reported this week Wilkinson had in fact earned more than Stefanovic for years when they first joined forces on Today, and it was only at the end of their partnership that the roles reversed.

On Tuesday, an article written by respected political journalist Samantha Maiden reported that when Karl first signed up to the breakfast show in 2006, he was on half of Lisa’s pay packet, which was a reported $700,000.

‘When they were first on the show, she was paid a lot more than he was,’ an alleged Nine insider told the publication.

Challenged: Wilkinson's book also allegedly doesn't tell the full story of their pay discrepancy. News.com.au journalist Samantha Maiden (pictured) reported this week Wilkinson had in fact earned more than Stefanovic for years when they first joined forces on Today, and it was only at the end of their partnership that the roles reversed

Challenged: Wilkinson’s book also allegedly doesn’t tell the full story of their pay discrepancy. News.com.au journalist Samantha Maiden (pictured) reported this week Wilkinson had in fact earned more than Stefanovic for years when they first joined forces on Today, and it was only at the end of their partnership that the roles reversed

‘Then, he was able to wedge a fee increase because Seven made him a big offer. If Nine wanted to keep him, they had to pay him, which is what happened.

‘If you look at what he’s paid now, it’s probably not too dissimilar to what she was offered. So, you know, you can take things in a point of time, but I don’t think there would have been much difference between the two now.’

This damning article – which challenged Wilkinson’s most significant claim about her exit from the Today show – reportedly sent the book’s publisher into a major spin.

Harper Collins Australia demanded a preview copy of the memoir be returned by the news website following publication of the story, sources told Daily Mail Australia.

‘They blew up and asked for their copy back,’ said an insider at the website.

News.com.au editor Lisa Muxworthy declined to comment when contacted by Daily Mail Australia. A spokesperson for Harper Collins declined to confirm the allegation. 

Claims: The news.com.au article challenged Wilkinson's most significant claim about her exit from the Today show. (Wilkinson is pictured on Channel 10's The Project)

Claims: The news.com.au article challenged Wilkinson’s most significant claim about her exit from the Today show. (Wilkinson is pictured on Channel 10’s The Project)

It comes after Wilkinson lifted the lid on her final days working at the Today show in an excerpt from her new book, published in The Sunday Telegraph.

She claimed Stefanovic had given her the cold shoulder in the weeks prior to her sacking, which was prompted when she asked for a significant pay rise.

She alleged she and husband Pete FitzSimons had invited Stefanovic and his partner, Jasmine Yarbrough, to attend their 25th anniversary vow renewal ceremony in October 2017.

Two days before the event, however, Stefanovic supposedly contacted FitzSimons to say they wouldn’t be attending because they’d extended their overseas holiday.

‘In the ten days since [the ceremony] Karl hadn’t contacted me, his co-host of almost eleven years, at all. No phone message, no text, no apology, not even a simple congrats. Just complete silence,’ Wilkinson alleged.

Twist: Harper Collins Australia demanded a preview copy of the memoir be returned by the news website following publication of the story, well-placed sources told Daily Mail Australia

Twist: Harper Collins Australia demanded a preview copy of the memoir be returned by the news website following publication of the story, well-placed sources told Daily Mail Australia 

After returning to work, she claimed Stefanovic did not ask her about her holidays, nor did he apologise for being a ‘no-show at the wedding’.

‘For the next two hours, I exchanged not a single word with Karl outside of what was scripted – because for the first time, I just didn’t trust myself to “play nice”,’ she said.

However, her recollection of her last show has been disputed, with resurfaced footage showing Stefanovic had in fact said to her: ‘It’s a big welcome back to Lisa. Nice to see you again. How was your honeymoon?’

Wilkinson went on to claim in her book she was ‘quietly fuming’ because ‘nearly every interview that day was being done by Karl alone’.

‘For two hours, I sat there feeling completely useless. The Today Show was now The Karl Show. What was the point of me even being there?’ she said.

Upon learning she had been sacked later that day, Wilkinson wondered: ‘Was this why [Karl] didn’t attend the wedding and hadn’t spoken to me since? Was this why he never said a word about the show’s strange rundown that morning?’

Not happy: Wilkinson alleged she and husband Pete FitzSimons had invited Stefanovic and his partner, Jasmine Yarbrough, to attend their 25th anniversary vow renewal ceremony in October 2017. Two days before the event, however, Stefanovic supposedly contacted FitzSimons to say they wouldn't be attending because they'd extended their overseas holiday

Not happy: Wilkinson alleged she and husband Pete FitzSimons had invited Stefanovic and his partner, Jasmine Yarbrough, to attend their 25th anniversary vow renewal ceremony in October 2017. Two days before the event, however, Stefanovic supposedly contacted FitzSimons to say they wouldn’t be attending because they’d extended their overseas holiday


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