Radio broadcaster Alan Jones will retire at the end of May for health reasons, ending his controversial 35-year career.
The 79-year-old Jones, Sydney’s highest rating radio personality, made the announcement live on air during his 2GB breakfast radio program on Tuesday.
“We are living in the world of coronavirus. The most repeated statement we hear is ‘we must listen to the experts’. Well, the experts are telling me in no uncertain terms – and not for the first time I might add – ‘continuing with the present workload is seriously detrimental to your health’,” he said.
“I have listened to the experts and I am taking this opportunity to indicate to my radio family that I will be retiring from radio at the end of this month.”
2GB described Jones as “the undisputed greatest radio broadcaster in Australian history”, with an unequalled 226 Australian ratings survey wins.
Jones will be replaced by Ben Fordham, who hosts the station’s Drive program.
He will continue to appear on his regular Sky News program and write for News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph and The Australian newspapers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called in to Jones’ show after Tuesday’s announcement.
“You’ve always spoken your mind to everyone, including me, and we’ve had one or two disagreements, but you’ve always done the right thing for your country,” Mr Morrison said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott – a long-time friend of Jones – also called in, telling the broadcaster “it was a significant day”.
Tom Malone, managing director of radio for 2GB owner Nine, said Jones was a “giant of Australian radio”.
“Alan’s radio career is without peer,” Mr Malone said.
“The most telling indicator of his greatness was the switch from 2UE to 2GB – when Alan moved stations and the audience followed in lockstep. Alan did not miss a beat at #1. Sydney’s listeners repaid his advocacy with loyalty – Alan has always put them first,” he said.
“We look forward to celebrating his soaring achievements at the appropriate time. We wish him well and thank him for everything he has achieved.”
Nine chairman Peter Costello said Jones had a “unique” place in Australian media.
“His ratings record will never be matched,” he said.
Jones’ career often attracted controversy and he was forced to issue an on-air apology in 2019 after saying Mr Morrison should “shove a sock down [the] throat” of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over comments she made at a climate change forum.
The tirade prompted a mass withdrawal of advertisers from 2GB and the station’s management told Jones he was on his last warning.
He was also condemned for his 2012 comments he at a Liberal function that former PM’s Julia Gillard’s father had “died of shame”.
A jacket made of chaff bags, signed by Jones, was auctioned at the same function because the radio announcer had previously said Ms Gillard should be “put in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea”.
Jones has also faced numerous defamation cases as a result of his on-air comments.
In 2018, Jones, 2GB and Brisbane station 4BC were ordered to pay some $3.75 million in damages to the Toowoomba-based Wagner family after inferring they were responsible for the deaths of 12 people during the 2001 Grantham floods.