LISA WILKINSON WHY I REALLY WALKED OUT
There’s more than meets the eye to her sudden exit from Today
It was a photo on Lisa Wilkinson’s Instagram feed of her and her daughter Billi Fitzsimons that summed up her actions this week. Lisa wrote: “When your kids are proud of you, that’s everything.”
Close friends of Lisa confirm that her beloved 19-year-old daughter, and every other girl who looks up to her as a role model, were the reason she stuck to her guns and fought for the same pay as her co-host Karl Stefanovic on Today.
It was a move that saw her say goodbye to the breakfast TV program for which she has risen at 3am every morning for 10 years – without even a chance to farewell her fans and the crew she adored working with.
What management at Nine didn’t realise when they said “like it or lump it” to her pay demands, was that the highly respected star had already been offered a deal at rival network Ten, which she then accepted.
Mirroring hundreds of young women who’ve contacted Lisa since the shock move was announced, Billi took to social media to applaud her mother’s bravery: “Thank you, Mum, for
paving the way for the next generation and every generation to come. You are a leader and an inspiration for so many tonight. I can’t wait to see you at the breakfast table tomorrow morning.”
Friends close to Lisa say the 57-year-old burst into tears when she saw her daughter’s heartfelt words, and realised she’d done the right thing in standing up for her rights and those of all women.
“Forget about wanting more money, alleged arguments with co-host Karl Stefanovic, or being tired of the early starts – there is only one reason Lisa Wilkinson quit the Today show, and that is equal rights,” one of Lisa’s best friends told Woman’s Day.
“Lisa was thinking of Billi and all the young women she knows looked up to her when she began her negotiations at Channel Nine to renew her contract,” her friend confirms. “Billi is studying to become a journalist and Lisa doesn’t want her to have to face the same inequality she has. So she stood her ground.”
Lisa’s friends confirm she was ready to stay in the Today show seat until the end of the year, but she was told she was not welcome back on the set, even to say goodbye to the crew and viewers she loves after she rejected their counter-offer.
“Lisa was devastated. She prides herself on being a consummate professional and would never just walk away from the show.
“To say she’s disappointed with how she’s been treated is an understatement. She is gutted.
“However, after reading Billi’s message, she knows she’s done the right thing, no matter how painful the fallout has been.”
Lisa has also been inspired by the women in Australian TV who had been treated badly in the past – such as Jessica Rowe who was infamously “boned” from her role on Today – and KerriAnne Kennerley, who was informed by a newspaper reporter that someone else had her job after nine years hosting Mornings With Kerri-anne.
Another close girlfriend of Lisa’s adds that the recent allegations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged systematic sexual harassment and abuse of women helped convince her to make a stand for women’s rights.
Now, though, a controversy is brewing, with some questioning the fact Lisa’s new salary at Ten amounts to four times Carrie Bickmore’s, and at least twice what co-host Waleed Aly receives. In fact, word at Ten is that Lisa’s arrival and pay packet could mean the end of Carrie’s role on the show.
“I think everyone on The Project feels insecure about their jobs now,” a senior staffer told Woman’s Day. “The network is facing enormous money problems, and will need to make sure Lisa’s reported $2 million salary isn’t wasted. I can’t see how they can keep all the hosts on the show now and not expect some to leave to ‘pursue new opportunities’ in the near future.”
Meanwhile, back at Today, the remaining on-air talent are wondering what’s next, and why Karl didn’t step up and offer to supplement Lisa’s salary as radio host Dave Hughes did for Kate Langbroek during her contract negotiations with KIIS.
A Today insider predicts “a much-needed overhaul and makeover” – with some surprise newcomers expected to breathe new life into the breakfast spot.
Regardless of who gets Lisa’s coveted old seat, everyone Woman’s Day spoke to suggests it’s time for Karl to pull up his socks. “Everyone on Today agrees Karl’s taken his eye off the ball,” the source claims. “The whole country will be watching to see what happens next.”
‘Lisa didn’t want Billi to face the same inequality she has’
With Hollywood’s Weinstein scandal ringing in her ears and having failed to secure pay parity, Lisa took a stand for women.
Karl Stefanovic is in the hot seat at Today with Lisa’s swift departure. Karl’s reeling
Lisa’s taken a stand for women, including daughter Billi.