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Chris Uhlmann bringing ABC AM to Canberra after Virginia Trioli host switch

The great AM presenter switcheroo has created an unexpected bonus for Canberra - the esteemed ABC Radio current affairs program will be presented full-time from the national capital rather that its traditional home, Sydney.

Former 666 ABC breakfast presenter Chris Uhlmann was this week announced as the new presenter of AM after the previously-announced new presenter, Virginia Trioli, dipped out of the job.

A week after it was announced she would be replacing Tony Eastley on AM, Trioli instead decided she could not take up the role due to family reasons. She would remain on television as co-host of ABC News Breakfast on ABC 1 and ABC News 24.

Eastley is moving to presenting duties at ABC News 24.

Uhlmann, the former political editor for 7.30 was still a little shellshocked on Friday about the suddenness of his appointment to AM, but honoured to take on the plum role.

‘‘It’s literally all happened between Wednesday and now, so it still hasn’t sunk in,’’ he said.


A spin-off from the change is that Uhlmann will present AM from ABC’s Parliament House studios  in Canberra, rather than its long-time Sydney base.

AM has been a fixture of the Australia broadcasting landscape for more than 40 years and there is some speculation it’s the first time the program would have been presented on a full-time basis from Canberra.

With his wife, Labor Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, obviously ensconced in the national capital, Uhlmann made it clear he was not taking on the AM gig without being allowed to do it from Canberra.

‘‘I am not going to live in a different city to my wife,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re very close and I don’t want to leave my life here.’’

Uhlmann said he learnt the realities of being separated from his home base when he filled in for six months in Sydney for Leigh Sales as host of 7.30.

Shane McLeod, the national editor of radio for ABC News, confirmed on Friday that Uhlmann would present AM from Canberra - eventually. Uhlmann will probably present the first couple of weeks from Sydney when he assumes the role on February 10. After then, he would be presenting from Canberra.

McLeod said the Parliament House studios had recently been upgraded.

‘‘The facilities are all there but it might require some reconfiguration work,’’ he said.

The AM role also means some frenetic re-organisation for Uhlmann. He is busy, with co-author Steve Lewis, finishing the sequel to their political satire novel The Marmalade Files.

He is also producing a documentary for the ABC about the Labor Party but says he may now have to hand over the presenting duties for that to someone else.

And we couldn’t help but remind Uhlmann of what he told us back in October when we cheekily suggested he could perhaps return to 666 breakfast with the departure of presenter Ross Solly and his eventual replacement, Philip Clark, then not announced.

‘‘I can tell you it’s not me who will be replacing Ross Solly because I never again want to get up before four o’clock in the morning,’’ Uhlmann said, at the time.

To his credit, Uhlmann was taking it all on the chin on Friday when we asked him about that. With Early AM on air from 6.05am, Uhlmann will probably be rising at 4am once more, if not a little earlier.

‘‘I admit, obviously, I lied,’’ he said, tongue-in-cheek. ‘‘They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.’’