Neil Mitchell to retire: Influential 3AW host to be moved in favour of Tom Elliott by end of this year

Neil Mitchell to retire: Influential 3AW host to be moved in favour of Tom Elliott by end of this year

  • Radio heavyweight Neil Mitchel to leave 3AW 
  • He has ruled the airwaves for three decades 
  • Melbourne station 3AW was recently bought by Nine

Influential talkback radio host Neil Mitchell is reportedly stepping away from the microphone on his top rating show after decades with Melbourne radio station 3AW.

His exit would instigate a major reshuffle in the radio booths with Drive host Tom Elliot and new addition to the station’s lineup Jacqui Felgate tipped for timeslot promotions. 

Mitchell, 71, is a member of Melbourne Press Club’s Hall of Fame and went into newspapers straight out of high school, quickly rising to become editor of The Herald Sun.

He made the part-time switch to radio in 1987 while continuing to work for rival newspaper The Age as a reporter, columnist and executive well into the 2000s.

He has worked for all three commercial television networks but his stint as 3AWs morning host was where he made his biggest cultural mark, gaining a reputation for looking out for the ‘little guy’ and regularly steering the national discussion.

Radio royalty Neil Mitchell (pictured) is reportedly set to end his 33 year career with 3AW after not signing another multi-million dollar contract 

Mitchell in 2013 broke the story Ford would abandon their Australian manufacturing operations, earning him a Walkley Award.

Another major achievement was causing the Victorian government to repay $26million in invalid fines after he exposed faulty speed cameras used in the state.

Just this week his hour-long interview with Anthony Albanese set the agenda with national headlines when he revealed he hadn’t read the entire Uluru Statement despite ‘endorsing it in full’ .

The PM also opened up to him about his divorce and revealed he almost quit politics in 2019 in an attempt to save his crumbling marriage to Carmel Tebbutt. 

Mitchell is famously private about his own personal life but has been happily married to Selina since the 1980s with an adult son and daughter – only selling their Malvern East family home of 40 years in 2019 despite his earnings in the millions.

Mitchell had been contracted to 3AW until June 30 but rather than signing a new deal, his agreement was extended until the end of the year to give him room to make a decision on his next move, reports The Herald Sun. 

The current host of 3AW’s Drive program from 3-6pm weekdays, Tom Elliot, is the likely replacement for Mitchell in his weekday mornings 8.30am-12pm timeslot.

Elliot is an Oxford educated former hedge fund manager and has been hosting Drive since 2013, previously stepping up as a fill-in host for Mitchell.

Taking over Elliot’s Drive spot could be popular former TV newsreader Jacqui Felgate who leapt into radio after leaving Channel Seven in April 2022 and has been a big hit with listeners and bosses as part of 3AW Football and on the afternoons timeslot.

The switch-around will be the biggest shakeup at 3AW since Mitchell joined the station 33 years ago in 1990 and helped cement both their places as Melbourne radio royalty.

Former 3AW colleague and The Project regular Steve Price wrote on Saturday that 3AW’s new owners, the Nine Network based in Sydney, are chasing a younger demographic for the station.  

Price claimed the change in direction would sink the station and the decision was ‘laughable’ considering half its listeners, according to the most recent radio survey, were ‘at or near retirement age’. 

Jacqui Felgate will move to Drive

Tom Elliot will likely be Mitchell's replacement moving from Drive to Mornings

Tom Elliot (right) is tipped to move from Drive to Mornings to replace Mitchell while Jacqui Felgate (left) will take over the Drive timeslot

Price recounted how in 1989 Mitchell was promoted to the morning slot as one of a number of key changes.

‘Within 18 months we – I was the program director by then – went from the number six rated station in Melbourne to number 1,’ he wrote in The Herald Sun.

Since then Mitchell has consistently rated at the top of his timeslot. 

Price said Mitchell had the ‘work ethic of an ox’ and Melbourne newspapers relied on him for breaking stories.

‘People like Neil are trusted guests in their audience’s homes and cars… 3AW needs to be very careful thinking it can simply change the name on Neil’s office door and presume continued success,’ he said.

According to the most recent GFK radio survey, 3AW tops the Melbourne airwaves at 14.6 per cent audience share, with Gold in second at 11.1 per cent and smoothfm third at 9.7 per cent.

Nova and KIIS geared towards a younger demo tied for fourth spot with 7.3 per cent each and Triple M rounds out the top five with 5.3 per cent audience share.