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Kate Ritchie set to be replaced by Ricki-Lee Coulter on Nova after falling out with Tim Blackwell

Kate Ritchie might not return to her Nova drive program and could be replaced by substitute co-host Ricki-Lee Coulter, according to a radio insider.

Ritchie is said to have lost the support of fellow presenter Tim Blackwell, who is keen to have popular singer Coulter on the national Kate, Tim & Joel show permanently. 

Third team member, comedian Joel Creasey, remains a fan of Ritchie but Blackwell is the 20-year broadcasting professional who runs the program and the industry insider says he will get what he wants.

Coulter, who proved popular as part of Nova’s Sydney breakfast team in 2010, is hosting Network Seven’s Australia’s Got Talent, on which Ritchie is a judge. 

‘Kate returning next year is not a certainty,’ the insider told Daily Mail Australia of Ritchie’s future at Nova. 

Kate Ritchie might not return to her Nova drive program and could be replaced by substitute co-host Ricki-Lee Coulter, according to a radio insider. Ritchie (above) announced on October 20 she was stepping down from the Kate, Tim and Joel show until the New Year

Ritchie (centre) is said to have lost the support of fellow presenter Tim Blackwell (left), who is keen to have popular singer Coulter on the national Kate, Tim & Joel show permanently. Third team member, Joel Creasey (right), remains a fan of Ritchie

Ritchie (centre) is said to have lost the support of fellow presenter Tim Blackwell (left), who is keen to have popular singer Coulter on the national Kate, Tim & Joel show permanently. Third team member, Joel Creasey (right), remains a fan of Ritchie

‘Management love Kate but she’s been MIA a lot this year and Ricki-Lee has done a great job filling in. That’s created a dilemma. Tim is a big fan of Ricki-Lee and Joel is in the Kate fan club. 

‘Ricki-Lee has thrown herself into the job and absolutely loves it. But she’s got a lot of respect for Kate so it’s a weird vibe and nobody is certain what’s going to happen next year. 

‘It’s the killing season.’

Ritchie, who earns an estimated $1.2million a year at Nova, announced on October 20 she would be taking a break for the rest of the year due to stress. 

That announcement was pre-recorded rather than read live on air, suggesting management might have wanted Ritchie to stick firmly to a prepared script. 

‘Everyone on radio was going, “Wow, that was weird, she’s ain’t coming back”,’ the insider said. 

Nova took another blow the next day when Chrissie Swan, Sam Pang and Jonathan Brown quit the top-rating Melbourne breakfast show Chrissie, Sam & Browny after seven years on-air.

Ricki Lee Coulter (above), who was part of Nova’s Sydney breakfast team in 2010, is currently hosting Network Seven’s Australia’s Got Talent, on which Ritchie is a judge. ‘Ricki-Lee has thrown herself into the job and absolutely loves it,’ an insider said of her latest Nova role

The move stunned network staff who received an email from Nova CEO Peter Charlton with an attached press release at 8.30am. 

Nova declined to comment on speculation about Ritchie’s future or her relationship with Blackwell on Thursday, the same day it was revealed Swan would be hosting her own national radio show on the network next year. 

That show will air weekdays from 2pm to 4pm from January, requiring a tweak to Nova’s programming timeslots. Kate, Tim and Joel currently runs from 3pm to 6pm.    

Ritchie’s break was previously described by Charlton on October 20 as only temporary.

‘Kate is a talented broadcaster and a respected member of the Kate, Tim & Joel and Nova Network team,’ he said. 

‘We are very supportive of Kate’s decision to take some time for herself and her family. We look forward to welcoming her back in the New Year.’  

Ritchie, who was busted drink driving in August while on three weeks’ leave, told the audience she’d had an ‘incredibly hectic and full-on’ year and needed to take off the rest of the year.

Chrissie Swan (centre), Sam Pang (left) and Jonathan Brown (right), have quit their top-rating Melbourne breakfast show show Chrissie, Sam & Browny on Nova after seven years on-air

Chrissie Swan (centre), Sam Pang (left) and Jonathan Brown (right), have quit their top-rating Melbourne breakfast show show Chrissie, Sam & Browny on Nova after seven years on-air

‘This past year has been incredibly hectic and full-on for both me and my family,’ the 44-year-old said.

‘I have had much change and increased stress in my life, like many of you, in a short space of time. And it has taken its toll.

‘But still I am so proud that our Nova show, with Tim and Joel and the team, is just powering along, and going from strength to strength.’

Ritchie, who is still best known for her long-running role on Home and Away, has since announced she is returning to her television roots in Seven’s upcoming two-part drama series The Claremont Murders.

A radio insider said Ritchie (right) and Tim Blackwell (centre) no longer got on the way they once did. 'Tim is the radio guy in the show who effectively runs it, and he wants Ricki-Lee Coulter and that's that, really,' the insider said. Joel Creasey is pictured left

A radio insider said Ritchie (right) and Tim Blackwell (centre) no longer got on the way they once did. ‘Tim is the radio guy in the show who effectively runs it, and he wants Ricki-Lee Coulter and that’s that, really,’ the insider said. Joel Creasey is pictured left

The radio insider said Ritchie and Blackwell no longer got on the way they once did. 

‘Tim is the radio guy in the show who effectively runs it, and he wants Ricki-Lee Coulter and that’s that, really,’ the insider said.

‘So it will be very difficult for her to return. Kate’s great on TV – she’s a star – but she’s not set the world on fire on radio.

‘She’s also taken a lot of sick days and the DUI wasn’t helpful.’

Another industry figure who knows Ritchie and Blackwell said the pair had once been extremely close and had a ‘brother-sisterly’ type relationship.

‘They know how good it is when they work together so they’ve got to sort it out,’ that figure said. ‘No one’s going to walk away unless she decides to burn the village.’  

Blackwell’s manager did not respond to requests for comment. 

Rumours about Ritchie’s future at Nova began swirling two months ago after she was charged with drink-driving in Sydney’s south-east.

She was stopped by police for a random breath test in her Subaru station wagon at Pagewood at 2.45pm on August 22 and returned a reading of 0.06 – just over the legal limit.

Ritchie was stopped by police for a random breath test in her Subaru station wagon at Pagewood at 2.45pm on August 22 and returned a reading of 0.06 - just over the legal limit. She apologised for drink-driving in an Instagram post (above)

Ritchie was stopped by police for a random breath test in her Subaru station wagon at Pagewood at 2.45pm on August 22 and returned a reading of 0.06 – just over the legal limit. She apologised for drink-driving in an Instagram post (above)

Ritchie, who was fined $600 and suspended from driving for three months, responded with remorse on Instagram.

‘Recently I undertook a random breath test,’ she wrote. ‘Although it was low level, the test came back positive.

‘I made a poor decision and there is no doubt I understand the seriousness of my actions. I am truly sorry.’

At the time, listeners had noticed Ritchie’s frequent absences from the show after she clocked up a series of extended holidays in recent years.

At one point in 2020, she took seven consecutive weeks of leave from the program, which a radio figure said was ‘unheard of’ in the industry.   

Ritchie, who is still best known for her long-running role on Home and Away, has announced she is returning to her television roots in the Seven drama The Claremont Murders

Ritchie, who is still best known for her long-running role on Home and Away, has announced she is returning to her television roots in the Seven drama The Claremont Murders

When Ritchie announced she would be taking leave from the airwaves a well-placed source said her exit had nothing to do with the drink-driving scandal and management was desperate to get her back in the chair.   

‘Most people at Nova are adamant Kate won’t come back, but they’ll do anything to keep her,’ the source said.

‘The drink driving was unfortunate but not a factor for Nova – she’s a huge part of the family.’  

The source insisted Kate’s statement on-air about being stressed and exhausted from her schedule was the real reason for her absence.

Ritchie had said: ‘We love our audience and they seem to put up with us.’

When Ritchie announced she would be taking leave from the airwaves a well-placed source said her exit had nothing to do with the drink driving scandal. She is pictured with Blackwell at the Australian Commercial Radio Awards in 2019

When Ritchie announced she would be taking leave from the airwaves a well-placed source said her exit had nothing to do with the drink driving scandal. She is pictured with Blackwell at the Australian Commercial Radio Awards in 2019

‘And as you may have guessed, I invest a lot of emotional energy into everything I do, my work, and my family especially, and the last few months I have been working on radio, I’ve been returning to TV and in my spare time, I even wrote a children’s book.

‘So, it’s simple, like some of you, I imagine, I’m tired and I just need a break for a short while and have more time for me, and for my family, to re-energise.

‘I have spoken with the bosses at Nova, and they have graciously agreed that this is a good time to take the break, as we approach the end of the year.

‘Nova has been fabulous and understanding, so thank you Nova, and thank you Tim, Joel and the team, and most importantly, thank you to all of our fabulous listeners. I really mean that.

‘It’s time to recharge the batteries and come back fresh next year. And although it’s only for a short time, I will miss you all. I’ll see you in the New Year.’  

Ritchie is pictured as a judge on Australia's Got Talent

Ritchie is pictured as a judge on Australia’s Got Talent

Ritchie joined Merrick Watts and Tim Ross on Nova’s Sydney breakfast program in 2008 before making a four-year return to television.

She began co-hosting the Kate, Tim & Marty drive show with Blackwell and Marty Sheargold in 2014. Creasy was hired in 2020 when Sheargold left for Triple M.

In the latest radio survey Nova had the third-ranked drive program in Sydney with a 9.2 per cent share of the audience, behind smoothfm (10.5 per cent) and KIIS 1065 (9.5 per cent).

The KIIS drive show, Will and Woody, is presented by Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw. Drive on smoothfm, which is owned by Nova Entertainment, is hosted by Byron Webb. 

Kate Ritchie’s Nova statement in full

Ritchie, who was busted for low-range drink driving in August, explained to listeners she'd had an 'incredibly hectic and full-on' year and needed time off

Ritchie, who was busted for low-range drink driving in August, explained to listeners she’d had an ‘incredibly hectic and full-on’ year and needed time off

Kate Ritchie read this pre-recorded statement on October 20 during the Kate, Tim and Joel national drive show:  

‘This past year has been incredibly hectic and full on for both me, and my family. I have had much change, and increased stress in my life, like many of you, in a short space of time. And it has taken its toll.

‘But still, I am so proud that our Nova show, with Tim & Joel and the team, is just powering along, and going from strength to strength. We love our audience, and they seem to put up with us. And as you may have guessed, I invest a lot of emotional energy into everything I do, my work, and my family especially and the last few months I have been working on radio, I’ve been returning to TV and in my spare time, I even wrote a children’s book.

‘So, it’s simple, like some of you, I imagine, I’m tired and I just need a break for a short while and have more time for me, and for my family to re-energise. I have spoken with the bosses at Nova, and they have graciously agreed that this is a good time to take the break, as we approach the end of the year.

‘Nova have been fabulous and understanding, so thank you Nova, and thank you Tim, Joel and the team, and most importantly, thank you to all of our fabulous listeners, I really mean that. It’s time to recharge the batteries and come back fresh next year. And although it’s only for a short time, I will miss you all. I’ll see you in the New Year.’

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