“It’s been a very hard thing for me to do.” Jessica Rowe suddenly quits Studio 10.

Video via Channel 10

After four-and-a-half years on the Studio 10 panel, journalist Jessica Rowe this morning announced she will be leaving the program to spend more time with her children.

“I’ve decided to leave Studio 10. It’s been a very hard thing for me to do. But it’s because my family need me,” the 47-year-old said on-air.

“I want to be more present; I want to be a present mum for my girls. Allegra and Giselle, they need their mum. And I want to be there in the mornings for them, I want to take them to school, I want to do canteen duty – heaven help them with the sandwiches. But it’s something that I need to do. It’s as simple as that.”

Watch Jessica Rowe announce her departure from Studio 10 in the video below.

Video by Channel 10

Rowe, a former news reader, joined the Channel 10 program for its launch in September 2013, alongside co-hosts Joe Hildebrand, Sarah Harris and Ita Buttrose.

The Sydney woman said the decision to leave the show has been “difficult”.

“Peter [Overton, her husband] and I have spoken a lot about this over the past six months, and it’s weighed on me because this is a job that I love. It’s the best job I’ve had on television. It is family, and it’s been a job that’s allowed me to find my voice and my courage again, and I will never ever forget that.”

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After Rowe’s announcement this morning, the program’s former executive producer Robert McKnight tweeted claims that Channel 10 had been attempting to oust Rowe for over a year.

“Channel 10 have been planning to sack Jess Rowe for over a year, she blamed me even though I was trying to save her job,” he wrote. “Sad to hear this news.”

In a statement issued to Mamamia, a Network Ten spokesperson described McKnight’s claim as “completely wrong, obviously spiteful and deliberately misleading.”

“As Jess said, she has decided to leave Studio 10 to devote more time to her family and her other interests. Anyone who suggests otherwise is being petty and ignorant. Jess is welcome back to TEN anytime,” the spokesperson said.

David Wilson, managing director of Watercooler Talent – the firm that manages Rowe – also denied McKnight’s claim.

“To be absolutely clear – Ten offered Jess a generous new contract for her to stay. Leaving Studio 10 was Jess’ choice for the reasons she so beautifully articulated on air this morning,” Wilson tweeted. “It takes great courage to make these big decisions.”

In response to the network’s statement, McKnight later tweeted: “re Channel 10…saying my tweet was ‘completely wrong’, I look forward to them repeating that in court.”

Rowe has said nothing publicly to indicate that her departure was forced.

“When I told Paul Anderson, our CEO, of my decision earlier this week, he was incredibly supportive and understood my reasons with family,” she said on-air this morning. “And the network have been nothing but supportive and have said anytime I’m welcome back, so that means a lot, too.”

Prior to her stint on Studio 10, Rowe served as a presenter on Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise and earlier on rival Channel 9 program Today, which she left following “pay disputes”. A year earlier, Nine Network’s former Head of News, Mark Llewellyn, issued a sworn affidavit that then station boss, Eddie McGuire, had threatened to “bone” Rowe during a meeting with executives.

While network television will be behind her for the time being, Rowe told the Studio 10 audience she plans to continue working.

“I still want to do my public speaking, my mental health advocacy, I’m a crap housewife and I’m looking forward to doing bits and pieces with that,” she said.

“But most importantly, I’m just looking forward to being with my family and being present for them and doing the best possible job that I can. I love you all.”

Rowe’s last day on air will be on March 30.

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