Channel 9 Boss Says Lisa Wilkinson Asked For $2.3m
Breakfast television star Lisa Wilkinson's shock defection from Nine's Today show to Network Ten's The Project came after she asked to be paid more than her male co-host, Nine's chief executive says.
After Wilkinson announced on Monday night she was leaving Nine, it was widely reported she had walked because her employer refused to match co-host Karl Stefanovic's $2 million salary.
Wilkinson, who was paid $1.1 million, was offered an increase to $1.8 million but declined, news outlets reported.
Nine CEO Hugh Marks confirmed the $1.8 million figure to News Corp Australia, but said the presenter had originally asked for $2.3 million, which was rejected because of her other commercial commitments.
Wilkinson has a contract with The Huffington Post, which Marks claimed restricted the network's "ability to engage with her digitally", including on social media.
"I hate the fact we have to compare her with Karl (Stefanovic) but with him, we have all those rights. With Lisa, we do not," News Corp quotes Mr Marks as saying.
Stefanovic's role with Nine also entails hosting and contributing jobs with other programs, including 60 Minutes.
The news of Wilkinson's departure has kick-started a furious debate about the pay gap between men and women.
Media commentators, celebrities and fans took to social media to congratulate Wilkinson on her decision and decry Nine's alleged reluctance to meet her demands.
Journalist Alana Schetzer, in an opinion piece for the ABC, said it would be a costly public relations disaster for Nine.
Meanwhile, a senior network insider told Fairfax Media that Wilkinson's demands would have resulted in Nine cutting 10 producers' jobs.
Shortly after her Twitter announcement, Network Ten confirmed Wilkinson was joining its current affairs program The Project in a senior hosting role.
On the first episode of the Today show without Wilkinson, Stefanovic paid tribute to his former co-host's grace and intellect, adding she would be sorely missed.