ABC radio breakfast announcer Ross Solly with his family. Photo: Graham Tidy
Canberra's competitive breakfast radio market is set for a shake-up next year, after long-time ABC 666 host Ross Solly (pictured) announced his resignation on air on Thursday.
After 20 years at the national broadcaster and nine years hosting the Canberra breakfast program Solly said he would move to Thailand to accompany his wife, ABC political reporter Samantha Hawley, as she takes up a new posting as south-east Asia correspondent.
The surprise move has left the station's line-up in a state of flux. ABC local content manager Andrea Ho said Solly's last program would air in December. His replacement is yet to be named.
Originally working alongside Andrea Close, Solly took control of the shift in 2005 and led the local ratings until April this year.
FM 104.7 hosts Scotty Masters and Nigel Johnson have since emerged as market leaders. ''It has been a fascinating ride and it has certainly had its challenges,'' Solly said. ''I have been really fortunate that I have had some really good producers to work with who have made the show what it is.''
He praised the station's listeners and Canberra's vibrant cultural and political landscape.
''With the advent of social media and 24-hour news cycles, I think it has given us more of an incentive to be reactive and proactive.
''Especially with Twitter and Facebook, live radio has become a lot more exciting.''
While open to offers as a Bangkok correspondent, Mr Solly said his primary role would be as father to five-year-old son Liam and two-year-old daughter Georgina, while 19-year-old son Callum and 18-year-old daughter Hannah will remain in Australia.
''I know I am going to miss Canberra - and miss it dreadfully,'' he said.
One 666 insider said the departure had not been totally unexpected but no obvious contenders for Mr Solly's replacement had yet emerged.
Another observer suggested Drive presenter Adam Shirley, who has previously worked as a producer for Solly, could be in line for the prized breakfast position.
But the insider suggested that was unlikely.
Shirley has remade the Drive program as his own and might be reluctant to change to the breakfast shift.
Solly will be hard to replace after carefully mixing humour and levity, a firm grasp on local issues and the ability to ask hard questions.
He has also been a ubiquitous ambassador for 666, hosting many public events around the national capital, despite a daily 3am wake-up.
Media analyst Warren Apps said Solly's personal brand made a strong contribution to the ABC's rating success.
''He's got a unique knack of connecting with the audience and an intimate knowledge of the local political scene,'' he said.
''Ross is also incredibly well liked.''
Mr Apps said the station could use the departure to freshen the program and bring in new presenters.
''I think they will be balancing up the opportunity to inject some new talent and make a statement with the need to have someone who has a level of understanding of local nuances and landscape.
''The likeability of the presenter and their style will ultimately determine if they are in front or behind,'' he said.