Alan Jones leaves Sky News after being dumped from prime time program

Veteran broadcaster Alan Jones has revealed he has been dumped from his four-nights-a-week prime time program on Sky News.  

Key points:Alan Jones will present his final program on Sky News tonightHis on-air commentary on COVID-19 has attracted widespread criticism Sky News boss Paul Whittaker said Jones had rejected an offer to move to a weekly spot on a new streaming service

In a statement posted on Facebook, Jones said he had been informed by management at Sky News that his contract, which ends on November 30, would not be renewed.

He will present his final program tonight.

His sacking comes just months after his regular column in Sydney's Daily Telegraph was scrapped, with the paper's editor Ben English saying Jones's writing no longer resonated with readers.

The former 2GB shock jock, known for his conservative views and forthright style, said Sky News had offered him an alternative weekly slot on a new streaming service, which he declined.

"I have had nothing but support from people in the backroom of Sky News who rarely get a mention; and, apart from my contribution towards raising the viewer numbers, I hope I have also contributed to the morale of the organisation," Jones said.

screenshot of Alan Jones wearing blue shirt and purple tie in a tv studio with Sky News graphics
Alan Jones has hosted his After Dark show on Sky News since last year.(Supplied)

Jones, 80, first joined Sky News in 2013 and last year signed a contract to present the Alan Jones program, a talk show which goes to air four nights a week at 8pm. 

But the program has been plagued with controversy over Jones's commentary on COVID-19, which included tirades against lockdown restrictions.

Last month, YouTube suspended Sky News Australia's account for a week for spreading misinformation about the pandemic.

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg and former royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have also been regular targets of his polemics.

Jones complained that Sky News had recently reduced the amount of content from his program it shared on its social media platforms, fearing being "cancelled".

He said the decision to drop his show failed to take into account its performance in the ratings.    

"When I arrived at Sky News and was signed to a 17-month contract, it was made quite clear to me that the 8pm slot was, in the words of management, a 'dead' spot," he said.

"It was clear from the outset that my signing at Sky News brought over a new audience to the station."

The 2021 Digital News Report, published by the University of Canberra's News and Media Research Centre, showed Sky News was watched by just 10 per cent of the television audience, a drop of 2 percentage points compared with the previous year.

On digital platforms, Sky News came in 10th place, with 7 per cent of the audience, down 2 per cent on the year before.

The station has, however, seen an increase in YouTube subscribers.

Paul Whittaker, chief executive officer of Sky News Australia said: "Regrettably Alan has decided not to accept a new role that was offered to him for next year. We respect his decision and know he will be missed by many.

"His compelling commentary and views on the national debate have seen him become one of the country's most successful and influential broadcasters for close to four decades.

"I'd like to thank Alan for his commendable dedication and service to Sky News. We wish him well."

Six weeks ago, it was announced the outspoken British broadcaster Piers Morgan had been signed up to be present a new show to be syndicated on News Corp networks, including Sky News Australia. 

Jones was best-known for his breakfast radio show on 2GB which he presented for 18 years before quitting last year.

In 1999, he was embroiled in a cash for comment scandal, when he was found to be promoting products on air without disclosing to the audience that he was being paid to do so.

The issue resurfaced earlier this year when Jones was judged by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to have breached disclosure rules on six occasions in 2019 while campaigning in favour of a development application by Sydney's Star Casino without revealing that the radio station was being paid.

The decision by Sky News not to renew his contract leaves Jones without a media platform for the first time in almost four decades.

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