Radio personality Keri Miller has come out fighting after leaving East Coast Radio in March. She’s put her abrupt departure down to the “relentless toxicity” between herself and co-host on ECR’s breaksfast show, Darren Maule.
In a statement to “set the record straight”, Miller says just like any relationship, she and Maule “had to work hard at it – or at least I did”.
She says after multiple altercations on and off air, she and Maule were provided with “couples counseling” by ECR (at their expense) as she was “struggling with his blatant verbal attacks on me which I felt were personal and went too far. I trusted the process by being honest about my experience and I believed we were seeing a trained mental health professional who would be impartial and objective.
“However, I later learnt (after my termination) that the individual that was ‘counselling’ us was not a trained psychologist but an experienced HR executive. Now I cannot trust and do not know whether she was acting in my best interests when reporting back to management or whether she was professionally equipped to deal with the dynamic between Maule and me. The fact that this ‘counselling’ had failed was mentioned as a reason to justify the termination of my contract.”
In mid-March, ECR station manager Boni Mchunu issued a press release saying Miller would no longer be part of ECR’s breakfast show. “The decision came after extensive discussions with Keri, the nature of which are confidential. However, she leaves with a proud legacy, having made a significant contribution to the station, and with the very best wishes of the management and the ECR Breakfast team.”
But Miller says she was blindsided by the move. She alleges she was invited to a feedback meeting on 28 February, and it was there she was told her contract was terminated. “At the time of the station’s public statement both parties’ legal representatives were communicating with each other regarding the dispute resolution, and ECR did not inform her that it [their statement] was going to be released,” her representative says in a statement.
Miller hadn’t commented publicly on her axing as she had committed to a mediation process, which concluded unsuccessfully on 17 April. Now she wants her facts in the public domain.
- ECR management invited Miller to a ‘feedback meeting’ on the 28 February 2023. She was not told to prepare anything or to bring anyone with her for assistance. Arising from that meeting she was taken off air permanently after having been on ‘paid leave’ for two weeks. Only one of those leave days was at her request.
- Miller was expecting to hear feedback from the station’s management team on their proposed steps in relation to the outcomes of an investigation by an appointed clinical psychologist the week before. This investigation arose after the formal disclosures that Miller had raised to a new management team on 13th February after a particularly ugly altercation with Maule in front of the Breakfast Show team. Miller had disclosed a detailed account of the effects of the ongoing and relentless toxicity she was experiencing and its long history and requested help from management as it was deeply affecting her psychologically and emotionally.
- Instead, on 28 February at the ‘feedback meeting’, management informed her that due to her inability to work with Maule in those circumstances and her reactions to his behaviour she had contributed to the toxicity, and they were entitled to terminate her contract. They refused to explore any alternative options to retain her past the next 30 days and said that since it was “his show” her contract would be terminated. Incidentally the psychologist had not recommended her termination.
- They retained Maule and removed Miller from her on air role with immediate effect.
- The station has not denied that Maule verbally denigrated her on and off air and was openly hostile to her. They did not deny the truth of her allegations but said that her reactions to it affected the show.
Miller says she feels let down by the station, despite her being encouraged to “speak up” by those she trusted.
“This speaks to a wider issue in broadcasting and the way in which radio execs treat their on-air talent and inversely, how some on-air talent often become bigger than the station, wielding more power than they should,” the statement reads.
Miller joined the ECR Breakfast show when she relocated back home to KwaZulu-Natal in 2016. This followed a successful career at two award-winning Cape Town stations, KFM and Heart FM respectively.