Karl’s axing ‘the result of a troubled marriage’
IT WASN'T just Karl Stefanovic's Mexican wedding fiesta that sounded the death knell for his time at Today, it was another well-publicised merger that led to his axing - the trouble-plagued marriage of inconvenience between Nine and Fairfax.
Industry insiders have labelled the decision to cull Stefanovic "a diversionary tactic" to distract from what is really going on at the beleaguered television network.
"Karl is collateral damage here in what is a much bigger picture," said one executive at Nine, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution.
"It is the calm before the storm. This merger is proving to be more challenging than we perhaps expected.
"Alot more jobs are going to be lost. This is only the beginning."
Stefanovic and his brother Peter - who was sacked earlier this week - are just the first major scalps, with hundreds more jobs on the line as the reality of the Nine and Fairfax merger hits home.
At the centre of the issue is the huge pay disparity between the company's television and print arms and management scrambling to bring the two businesses together.
"Managing your people, managing them and their careers, it is so public in the media and people know these names and faces so you have to get it right," one agent said.
"But it is absolute chaos in there. It is an attention diverter before the broom goes through.
They are stuck in meetings trying to work out what is going on.
"They have made a call on Karl but still don't know what they are doing or what is next. The reason they haven't announced a new host is because they don't know and are fluffing their way through it."
Nine's haphazard handling of the Stefanovic brothers is a prime example of a business in chaos.
In the case of Peter Stefanovic, The Daily Telegraph contacted Nine last week to request a response after hearing he had been ousted from his post at Weekend Today.
At the time, the network's publicity chiefs dismissed it as "pure scuttlebutt" only to come out seven days later confirming the sacking.
Veteran entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins, who is believed to be on a salary of around $350,000 to $400,000 for his work on Today, is also said to be worried about his future.
By comparison, his equivalents at Fairfax would be lucky to earn around a quarter of that salary.
It is tipped that Wilkins will be pushed to a more low-profile spot on the later Today Extra, with a reduced pay packet to match.
Today sport reporter Tim Gilbert could also be out of a job but newsreader Sylvia Jeffreys - the wife of Peter Stefanovic - is staying, with her contract running until 2021.
"After years of green pastures in TV land, tough times are here. Anyone who is either out of contract or doesn't have long on their contract should be worried," another TV insider said. "You have to prove your worth, otherwise you're out."
The strains of the Nine-Fairfax merger are becoming clearer.
Tensions were high in both The Sydney Morning Herald and Nine News rooms yesterday after the decision was made to put TV reporter Chris O'Keefe's byline ahead of veteran print journalist Kate McClymont's on the front page of the newspaper.
But despite the disorder, many in the industry said change is needed at Nine.
"It is something that needed to happen and should have probably happened a long time ago," one commentator noted.
"That Today show format has been the same for 40 years. Isn't it time to change it? Who sits down and watches 3½ hours of television in the morning. People want bite size bits of content. Modernise it - no one is watching."