Changing of the guard as Alan Jones leaves his radio gig
After a storeyed 35 years at the top of the ratings, Australia's reigning broadcaster Alan Jones will hang up the microphone on his breakfast show tomorrow.
Waiting nervously to step into his very big shoes and "ready to rumble" on Monday morning is former 2GB Drive host Ben Fordham.
"I said to Ben 'don't be anyone other than Ben Fordham'," said Jones, 79, after Fordham spent Monday morning watching him in action at the studio in his Southern Highlands home.
Jones has come in for plenty of criticism on his journey to winning the ratings a record 226 times but he has never been anyone other than Alan Jones.
"My views have always been my own," he said.
What he will not be missing are the 2.30am wake-up calls after hours of preparation for the show on Sunday night.
"It is relentless," he said. "And the doctors told me I needed to stop or drop."
Nine has agreed to pay Jones out of the final year of his $4 million a year contract, which ends in June 2021. He will still be working on his newspaper column for The Daily Telegraph and Sky television appearances but he will not be tuning in to 2GB.
"On Monday I won't be listening to the radio, not because I don't want to listen to Ben," said Jones. "It's a bit like a professional tennis player who has stopped playing, the last thing they want to do is go and hit a set."
Fordham, 43, said "no" to bosses at Nine six times when they asked him to take over the breakfast slot. Each time the voice of his legendary celebrity agent father John Fordham, who died late last year, would echo in his head. "When I was saying no I could hear dad's voice saying 'you have got rocks in your head if you don't take this gig'," Fordham said. "Losing him has given me a real realisation that there are times when you have to step up."
He finally accepted the job and will start on the same salary and with the same team that he had on his Drive show. "Now is not the time to be talking about pay rises when people are losing their jobs."
Fordham also knows he has to prove himself in the breakfast slot, and concedes Jones is a tough act to follow.
"There is only one Alan Jones," Fordham said. "After accepting the job I called him up and said I am really riding a rollercoaster from elation to feeling really dark in your shadow."
Jones invited him to his home to watch him in action on Monday morning - sitting in the same spot Fordham first sat in as a 15-year-old on work experience kid … the place where he fell in love with radio.
"When I was 15 I never imagined I would be given the opportunity to step in and take over," he said. "Alan has been so generous with his help and advice."
And he has listened.
He will not be trying to be Alan Jones, on Monday morning listeners will be getting pure Ben Fordham.
"I was incredibly nervous to begin with," he said. "But now I am excited, confident and ready to rumble.
"I have spoken to a lot of politicians and told them that if they have got something to say, get on the phone just like everyone else. Pick up the phone and dial in. Scott Morrison does it on the Drive show and will be doing the same at breakfast."
On Monday morning Fordham will be setting his new vibrating Garmin alarm watch to 2.30am and quietly sneaking out of the house to head to the studio without waking wife Jodie or their three young children.
Alan Jones, on the other hand, will be having a long overdue lie-in.
Originally published as Changing of the guard for breakfast of champions