Surprise contenders to replace Fordham in 2GB Drive
As Sydney radio powerhouse 2GB prepares for its biggest line-up upheaval in almost two decades with Ben Fordham taking over from Alan Jones in breakfast from Monday, the race to replace him in Drive is in full swing.
Confidential understands management at the Nine-owned station held interviews with several contenders last week and is leaning towards an outside hire for the competitive timeslot.
Ray Hadley's protege Mark Levy has been named as interim host and it has been widely claimed that the show is "his to lose".
Making the decision will be Nine head of radio Tom Malone, himself a former radio reporter, with the assistance of head of content Greg Byrnes, who previously worked as executive producer at Sky News.
"With the drive shift officially vacant from Monday and radio ratings about to return, the clock is ticking for Nine to confirm a replacement," industry commentator and Radio Today editor Jake Challenor said. "Other than breakfast, the drive shift sits second on the pecking order for listeners and advertisers, meaning it is not a decision Tom Malone will be making lightly."
As 2GB mulls its options, inching closer to a decision within days, here are the top contenders to replace Ben Fordham as the permanent 2GB Drive host.
Seasoned broadcaster Jason Morrison is one of the stronger contenders for the role and would see a return to the frontline of radio after several years behind the scenes as Sydney news director at Channel 7. Hiring Morrison, who got his start in media as a cadet at 2GB, would come as a major shot at Seven from 2GB owners, Nine, which could also be seen in his favour. Morrison previously hosted Drive for 2GB before jumping ship to 2UE in 2010, ultimately making way for Fordham to begin his 9-year stint in the 3-6pm slot.
The former Chief of Staff for Tony Abbott made the career change to media in 2016 after Abbott was removed as Prime Minister. She currently anchors her own show on Sky and had appeared weekly in a segment with Graham Richardson on Fordham's Drive show. She has a high profile and is well liked by executives and was tested covering some shifts over summer, although it is understood they have other things in mind for her. One suggestion is that she will be the obvious fill in for Deb Knight on the afternoon shift.
Today host Stefanovic is understood to have been gunning for the prime radio gig, although with a new bub at home and his hands already full with TV commitments, Nine want him focused on breakfast television over radio. Stefanovic has previously filled in for Fordham on 2GB and while undoubtedly the biggest name of all of the contenders, he is an unlikely fit at this time.
Rising through the ranks of the 2GB newsroom, where he was the lead sports reporter and editor for a number of years, Levy now anchors the Continues Call Team and was given his own show, Wide World Of Sports, earlier this year. Levy of course has been filling in for Fordham, this week. Levy has also filled in for Ray Hadley in mornings and is well liked in the business. The question is though, is his profile big enough to fill Drive?
Paul Murray is no stranger to radio having spent years at former AM talk station 2UE as a news reporter and then morning presenter. Murray now hosts a nightly Sky program but has connections with 2GB program director Greg Byrnes and is said to be a strong contender for the role.
ERIN MOLAN AND NATALIE PETERS
An outside chance, TV and radio sports presenter Molan and Sydney news director and breakfast news reader Peters are a proven success, picking up an Australian Commercial Radio Award (ACRA) in 2019. Insiders say though it may not be their time yet for such a big move.
Smith returned to the fold at 2GB recently, brought back into weekend mornings and is regarded as the most likely fill-in for Ben Fordham on breakfast. Already committed to weekends, as well as Sky News, and with young kids at home, a full time radio gig is unlikely. He has however been in discussions with management about Drive.
Young gun Michael McLaren has been on the overnight shift - midnight through to 5.30am - since 2011 so you could say he has paid his dues. Tipped for big things, he's an obvious and popular choice if executives go for an internal move. He has his own opinions but is considered low maintenance compared to some of the bigger egos on Australian radio.
McLaren was Alan Jones' preferred replacement in breakfast two years ago under previous management.
Also a seasoned broadcaster, Grant has been one of the station's top fill-in presenters for the past decade. Outside of 2GB, Grant was a Sydney Roosters rugby league ground announcer for 14 years.
Tell us who you think should host Drive on 2GB in the comments below.
Originally published as Surprise contenders to replace Fordham in 2GB Drive