This Program is Closed Captioned
Closed Caption is now Enabled And I’m a Serengeti vulture, scouring the plains – or should that be the jungle? for the rotting corpses of old news, in search of the juiciest titbits. Welcome to Media Watch, I’m Jonathan Holmes. And tonight, I’ll be picking over just one evening’s entrails the coverage of one of the most extraordinary nights in Australia’s political history. On Friday, ABC Managing Director Mark Scott sent a congratulatory email to his troops: Well, frankly, Mr Scott, if Wednesday night’s effort is the best the ABC can do it’s in trouble Yet it started so well, with a genuine scoop by ABC political correspondents Chris Uhlmann and Mark Simkin on the 7 o’clock news: “Mark Simkin: Several Government sources have told the ABC” “Mark Simkin: that MPs are being sounded out about a possible move against the Prime Minister.” “Mark Simkin: Ministers have been asked for their support and the push is apparently coming from Victoria…” For about five minutes, the ABC was on its own with the story and many even in the Labor caucus thought it was wrong. But by 6 minutes past 7, Sky News’ Kieran Gilbert had joined in… “Kieran Gilbert: It looks like it’s very serious according to what we’re hearing from, “Kieran Gilbert: as I say, a cabinet source,” “Kiren Gilbert: who suggests that this push is coming from” “Kiren Gilbert: the Victorian right of the Labor Party…” Half an hour later, Sky News was beating the ABC to the punch: “Kiren Gilbert: sources” “Kieran Gilbert: have just told me during the last minute or so via the text message “Kirean Gilbert: that Julia Gillard is in Kevin Rudd’s office” as we speak so… The 7.30 Report’s Heather Ewart was only minutes behind. “Heather Ewart: …she is in fact,” “as I understand it, in the Prime Minister’s office right now, discussing this situation.” But from eight o’clock until 9.30, ABC viewers got one twenty-second update on the huge story it had broken Over on Nine, at around a quarter past eight, the heavyweight of the Canberra Press Gallery, Laurie Oakes, had broken live into Hey Hey It’s Saturday, and taken the story further… “Laurie Oakes: The leaders of the right wing faction in NSW and Victoria, Mark Arbib from NSW, David Feeney from Victoria and I think Bill Shorten also from Victoria, told Julia Gillard earlier today they’ve lost confidence in Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister… Not that Nine managed all its live crosses so seamlessly. Forty minutes later, it tried for another update from the great man… “Kellie Connolly: We cross straight to Nine’s chief political editor Laurie Oakes. Laurie, what are you hearing?” But Laurie wasn’t hearing a thing… Never mind. The real political junkies had long since tuned to Sky News they were riveted by three hours of pundits comparing text messages… “David Speers: We’re not sharing sources here, but just a few minutes after your source Speers: mentioned the AWU, I’ve just heard the same thing.
Peter van Onselen: Okay. David Speers: Paul Howes and Bill Ludwig, are now backing Gillard, is the source, is the message I’ve just received. But it’s not exactly a visual feast, is it? Might as well follow the drama on ABC NewsRadio. After all, according to its website, it’s: Except, that is, when it’s legally required to run the proceedings of Parliament, which it was doing until just after twenty to nine that night. And then? Well, actually, we were pitched straight into the middle of the BBC World Service’s Business Daily. And NewsRadio stayed with the BBC until the 10pm news. Over on Sydney’s 2GB, they were treating the crisis in Canberra as THE story from 8 until well after 11. Ross Greenwood was working overtime, in concert with: As early as twenty to nine, when NewsRadio was still re-broadcasting Parliamentary Question Time, The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan was predicting on 2GB that… Melbourne’s 3AW wasn’t so on the ball. Fortunately for the station, morning host Neil Mitchell couldn’t stay off air. Fortunately for the station, morning host Neil Mitchell couldn’t stay off air. He called in just after 9 o’clock to give Bruce Mansfield’s listeners the benefit of his thoughts… Of course, a lot of commercial talk stations have been attacking the Rudd government for months. But it wasn’t just their relish; it was their sheer excitement that was missing from ABC local radio. The stations we’ve monitored ran the occasional interview with Canberra reporters like Chris Uhlmann… But somehow their urgency just didn’t convey itself to the ABC’s evening hosts. mThe most somnolent of all was 891 Adelaide’s Peter Goers, who interrupted an interview about an Australian War Memorial exhibition at 8 minutes to 10 South Australian time with… Peter Goers: Good heavens! Extraordinary. Not extraordinary enough, mind you, to warrant crossing to the press conference in Parliament House, where Kevin Rudd was about to announce that he would not stand down. In fact, Goers went on getting it wrong for another eight minutes. Not that he was alone. Moments earlier, Seven’s Mark Riley had got egg on his face on national television: “Mark Riley: Chris, he’s on his way to a press conference to tell Australia that he is standing down as the Prime Minister extraordinary turn of events this evening in Canberra. Just five minutes later, Kevin Rudd declared… “Kevin Rudd: I was elected by the people of Australia as Prime Minister of Australia. I was elected to do a job. I intend to continue doing that job… Whoops! It took Seven thirty seconds to take down its banner headline. But Seven had managed to interrupt its normal programming in plenty of time for the press conference. So did Ten. Nine managed to miss the start… “Kellie Connolly: Good evening, breaking news from Canberra, we cross straight to Kevin Rudd who is holding a press conference on his future… Kevin Rudd: …of the caucus to convene a special meeting of the caucus at nine o’clock in the morning. But at least its viewers knew what was going on. Over on the ABC, many were left baffled. Lateline had been given permission to go to air live around the nation as soon as possible after 10pm eastern time. But in New South Wales, weird things were happening. First, in the middle of At The Movies… “Judith Erlich: …and it wasn’t just the New York Times and it wasn’t just the Washington Post who stood up to the injunction, the Supreme Court injunction, but it was… LATELINE CREDITS ROLLER Judith Erlich: …the papers, I mean they were being told by… And a few seconds later… “Judith Erlich: And I feel strongly about that FLASH CAPTION Judith Erlich: …and I hope this film… But at least, when At The Movies was finally interrupted intentionally, New South Wales viewers were told why… “David Stratton: …until he receives the information channelled through Pierre… Chris Uhlmann: We interrupt this regular broadcast to bring you breaking news for Canberra. But in Victoria and the ACT viewers were treated to this… “David Stratton: …and supporting players including Willem Dafoe are all sound. Moscow, which… TAPE REWINDS FRAME FREEZES That freeze frame lasted an excruciating minute and a half, before ACT viewers those who were left found themselves hearing this… “Chris Uhlmann: …as this unfolds. There are ministers now sitting in their offices this evening wondering about what’s going on… There would have been plenty of ABC viewers doing the same thing. So why can’t the ABC manage what every other network could? Well two weeks ago the ABC transferred many of the functions of its presentation suites around the country to a spanking new national switching centre in Sydney called MediaHub. It’s a company jointly owned and run by the ABC and the commercial regional operator, WIN TV. But it seems that switching eight different signals to Canberra simultaneously was simply too complicated for the newly-hired technicians at MediaHub. Not that the ABC’s Director of Resources seemed too troubled He told Media Watch: Well whoop de doo! Mr Cruttenden adds re-assuringly that MediaHub’s only been operational for two weeks, and that: Just more teething problems. I’ll bet that’s a relief to the ABC’s producers and journalists, especially those preparing for launch of its new 24 Hour News channel. Meanwhile, ABC News Radio was doing no better. At twenty-two past ten eastern time, we were still with Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific, discussing the performance of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua… That sounds like Kevin Rudd to me! NewsRadio had switched, without warning, to Local Radio’s coverage, and stayed there for the next fifty minutes. But the prize for sheer insouciance surely goes to Radio National’s Late Night Live. Yes, it was live on air from ten to eleven eastern time, and Phillip Adams mentioned the Canberra goings on as the program opened. But then he turned to… which was dissected for twenty minutes. Afterwhich Adams blithely told his listeners… So much more vital than the overthrow of the Prime Minister. If that’s the best you can do, Phillip, why on earth bother to go live at all? An hour earlier, ABC Managing Director Mark Scott had tweeted: Well, no doubt a dedicated news channel would have done better. But the worry is that the ABC already has a cheap and instant medium that could have told us everything we learnt from Sky News, and more. But the worry is that the ABC already has a cheap and instant medium that could have told us everything we learnt from Sky News, and more It’s called radio. And it didn’t do the job. To be fair, the next day, ABC television and radio performed far better. But on Wednesday night we saw the best of the ABC in action. And the worst as well. Or as Deb Cameron might put it, the speed of a cheetah and grace of a warthog. Great Scott! Time to go. For responses from more ABC people, see the transcript on our website.
We’ll be back to our normal format next week. Join me then. Transcripts & Captions By ABC MediaWatch