Gerard Whateley has opened up about why he swapped the ABC for a much smaller audience on Melbourne radio station SEN.
The veteran broadcaster, who announced his shock departure from Grandstand and Offsiders on Monday night, said after 13 years at ABC it was time to take a risk.
“I’m 43, I’ve been there [the ABC] since I was in my 20s,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s my moment to go and have a crack at something else.
“I hope people will come with me and give me a chance,” he said. “I’m not changing. They [SEN] want me for who I am. I love every sport that comes through Melbourne. We’re a broad church and I want to be a conduit to that broad church.”
Eyebrows were raised on Monday night when Whateley announced he wouldn’t get to complete his Ashes commentary for the ABC. But the sports commentator said there was no bad blood between himself and the ABC.
Whateley also denied jumping ship for a bigger pay cheque, and said SEN was not a stepping stone to an ABC rival such as 3AW. The Age understands the 43-year-old has turned down offers from 3AW, which commands the largest share of Melbourne’s radio listeners, on at least two occasions.
“I’ll be in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl,” he said. “I’ll be leading that coverage on SEN. That’s serious. That level of commitment and audaciousness, that got me.”
However, sources have said Whateley will get a handsome salary and may receive other benefits such as equity. SEN’s new owner, Craig Hutchison’s Crocmedia, is looking to rapidly expand the radio station’s reach and broadcasting rights.
In addition to becoming SEN’s chief sports caller, the 43-year-old will also host a morning sports program called Whateley. His first day replacing Kevin Bartlett will be Monday, January 29. Bartlett is moving to an afternoon slot.
In the final radio survey of 2017, SEN held an 3.2 point overall share over Melbourne’s radio audience – well below 3AW’s 15 point share and ABC’s 9.3 point share in the local market.
Representatives for ABC wouldn’t be drawn on when a replacement for Whateley would be announced.