Lisa Wilkinson wants to make a return to TV screens following months of inaction and five tedious weeks spent in a courtroom, sources say.
The Channel 10 star and former darling of breakfast TV is keen to get back to delivering more ‘blockbuster interviews’ in the New Year, friends told the Weekend Australian.
Wilkinson quit The Project last November and despite remaining on the Ten payroll until the end of 2024, she hasn’t appeared on the channel for 13 months.
Despite her lengthy hiatus from the network, Wilkinson has remained in the public eye through her role in a highly-publicised defamation trial.
Lisa Wilkinson (pictured on The Project) is ‘desperate’ to make a return to Australian TV screens following months of inaction and five tedious weeks in the courtroom
Bruce Lehrmann is suing Network 10 and Wilkinson over an interview with Brittany Higgins that was broadcast on The Project and online.
In the interview, Ms Higgins did not name Mr Lehrmann but alleged she had been raped in Parliament House by a Liberal Sstaffer in 2019.
The trial wrapped on Friday, with the judge acknowledging it was an ‘extraordinarily difficult case to control in the courtroom’ due to its controversy.
Friends of Wilkinson say her court appearances have played in her favour by giving the TV star ‘a constant stream of publicity’.
‘Yes, she’s been off air for a while but I don’t think anyone will have forgotten her,’ former Seven and Nine executive Peter Meakin told the Weekend Australian.
‘I’m sure her loyal followers will remain loyal.’
However, a senior TV media executive who wished to remain anonymous said Wilkinson’s return to screens may not be so simple, claiming she had committed ‘professional suicide’ over the Higgins interview.
During the last day of the trial on Friday, Mr Lehrmann’s and Wilkinson’s lawyers disagreed over her control on the production of her interview with Ms Higgins.
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Matthew Richardson SC rejected the notion that Wilkinson had little decision-making power in the final content of the broadcast.
Friends of Wilkinson say her court appearances have played in her favour by giving the TV star ‘a constant stream of publicity’ (she is pictured during a break on December 15)
Wilkinson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC, argued the media personality was just the face of the show and that producers were the ones making the calls.
‘I’ll say in the documents and we’ve gone through them very carefully. I think about 80 to 90 per cent of the material she’s not copied into… her suggestions were not taken up by the producers. So she had no decision-making power as to the final content of the broadcast,’ Ms Chrysanthou said on Thursday.
However, Mr Richardson pointed out that Wilkinson had ‘stood on a stage and accepted a Logie award for the program’.
‘Just dealing with a separate role of Ms Wilkinson on the day of the broadcast, [producer] Chris Bendall described her as responsible for developing, conducting and delivering the story,’ he told the court.
‘Now we see her instructing the counsel to say, ‘Well I don’t really have that much to do with the program, particularly near the end’.’
He said Wilkinson had a timeline Ms Higgins’ prepared of her allegations, she spent five hours meeting Ms Higgins in the weeks prior to broadcast, and recorded an interview with her a week later.
Mr Richardson then brought up the level of involvement that The Project producer, Angus Llewellyn, had in the program.
‘If Your Honour squints into the horizon, and looks far, far away down the end of the river, Your Honour will see Mr Llewellyn on a barge destined for the next market town,’ he said.
At that comment, Wilkinson looked up from her notebook, grimaced, and slowly shook her head.
Bruce Lehrmann is suing Network 10 and Wilkinson over an interview with Brittany Higgins that was broadcast on The Project and online
It comes as a senior Paramount executive has identified one telling clue that Wilkinson won’t be returning to Channel Ten screens.
Channel Ten, which is owned by Paramount, unveiled its 2024 content line-up at its Upfronts event last week and Wilkinson, 63, was not featured.
Network Ten maintains they are in talks to develop ‘other projects’ with Wilkinson.
Television and radio industry expert Peter Ford said Wilkinson was ‘Australia’s highest paid TV star at $44,000 a week and she’s not actually doing anything on camera’ and would likely never again appear on the Ten Network.
He told Daily Mail Australia the legal fallout from Wilkinson’s interview with Ms Higgins was ‘a very toxic situation’ for the embattled network.