Channel Nine has slammed as “fantasy” a claim that Ten star Carrie Bickmore will be moving networks next year to anchor the struggling Today show with former host Karl Stefanovic.
“Nine has not approached, and does not intend to approach, Carrie Bickmore or her representatives about joining Nine as a host of the Today show, nor in any other role,” said Darren Wick, the network’s director of news and current affairs, in a statement provided to The New Daily.
“Carrie is an outstanding broadcaster and an inspirational person. She’s terrific.
“But she does not factor in our plans for the future.”
Mr Wick’s terse words came in response to a News Corporation story in its Sunday newspapers and online, saying Nine had approached Bickmore to leave The Project to move to breakfast TV.
The report “is a lie”, Mr Wick said.
“News Corp’s story is not a beat-up – it is completely made up.”
The Nine boss said News Corp’s reporter was told the Bickmore “allegation” was incorrect, yet the media organisation “has chosen to publish it regardless, without corroborating sources or facts”.
He said the anonymous sources quoted “will not stand up to scrutiny under any possible legal examination”.
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Sayonara Tokyo, you were brief but fun 🇯🇵 Brad’s new movie Ad Astra is brilliant…it’s about a son looking for his long lost father and is so moving. After a huge few years personally, Brad was reflective and genuine in our interview, and you can catch it all on @theprojecttv Monday night. #Movie #AdAstra #Brad
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According to the report, Nine executives are “formulating secret plans” to poach Bickmore, 38, from the rival network and pair her with Stefanovic, 45, who was booted from Today in December.
It was decided he was on the nose with viewers after various high-profile controversies including ‘Ubergate’ and his bitter split from former wife Cassandra Thorburn before his splashy four-day Mexican wedding to shoe designer Jasmine Yarbrough.
Stefanovic is still on contract with Nine but has been used only sparingly, in his passion project This Time Next Year and a divisive report about Meghan Markle for 60 Minutes.
In June his camp denied reports he was considering a move back to the breakfast show.
“High-level talks” between Bickmore and Nine bosses are “said to be well under way”, according to the story, which said Ten’s 2015 Gold Logie winner is considering an offer worth $1.5 million a year.
The pair, said News Corp, would replace Today’s current hosts Deb Knight, 46, and Georgie Gardner, 49.
Asked to comment on whether Nine could guarantee Knight and Gardner’s jobs are safe for next year, a network spokesperson told The New Daily the story is “pure fiction.
“We are not getting into responding to anything surrounding it.”
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Today’s ratings since the departure of Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson, 59, before him – she now works with Bickmore on The Project – have been in free fall.
They are now reportedly at their lowest point in 25 years and Today has been beaten soundly all year by its Seven rival Sunrise, hosted by David Koch and Samantha Armytage.
Bickmore, according to News Corp, will be out of contract this year at The Project after a 10-year stint.
As well as working three days a week on Ten current affairs show, Bickmore hosts a daily radio show in Melbourne with Tommy Little on the Hit Network, part of Austereo.
According to the News Corp report panned by Nine, “should Bickmore leave Ten it’s believed Wilkinson would likely take over the main hosting duties on The Project in a neat job swap”.
Nine’s refuting of the Bickmore rumour comes a week after it was embroiled in a brouhaha over its Melbourne reporter Seb Costello.
The son of former federal treasurer Peter Costello, the former foreign correspondent was the target of a bizarre tweet by Sunrise’s Edwina Bartholomew, which saw Nine threaten legal action.