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So just who should present Media Watch next year? Mike Carleton, Jill Singer or what about Crikey’s mad proprietor Stephen Mayne.

Crikey is the first outlet to jump on logrollers, so I’d better be careful. But think about it. The idea isn’t as silly as it first sounds.

For the past year and a bit Stephen has been running a one-man Mike Moore show Roger and Me Mike Moore, not THAT Mike Moore. Except in Stephen’s case it hasn’t just been Roger and Me. It’s been Jeff, Nick, Steve, Stan, Rupert, Kerry, James you name ’em and him.

Stephen owes nothing to nobody. He hasn’t just burnt his bridges. He’s bombed them to bits. This has made him a ceaseless, fearless even foolhardy campaigner for openness and transparency in the Australian corporate world, media and politics. That’s a strong enough recommendation for the job to begin with but Stephen brings some even stronger credentials.

The Media Watch hosts so far have been two lawyers and one journo out of day-to-day media but hopelessly compromised by a big fat contract with Fairfax. Stephen has been a media professional all his life, interacts with the media everyday and doesn’t receive a retainer from anyone.

True, Stephen has a love-hate relationship with the media but, whichever the direction it goes in, no-one can say that the flames of passion don’t burn strongly. Stephen lives and breathes media. He has an intimate knowledge of how it works and how its power can be abused.

Current talk at the moment suggests that the precious, petulant pair of Stuart Littlemore and David Salter may be bought back to run Media Watch. A step back into the past is the last thing the program needs, even if it impresses the ABC staff union establishment. Littlemore’s and Salter’s tanties were infamous, and Littlemore’s never admit you’re wrong even when you’re proved wrong and never apologise approach should automatically disqualify him.

Then there’s speculation that Jill Singer might take the spot. That’s another backward step. Like Barry, Singer is already a columnist elsewhere. What would happen to that. Then there’s the whole Today Tonight Kennett business. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that episode, it’s left a question mark over Singer’s head. Her appointment would once again leave the ABC open to the charge of being a retirement home for old media lefties whatever their age.

Instead, the Media Watch host should be like Caesar’s wife above suspicion.

Yes, Stephen can be a bit how shall we put this politely impetuous, but give him a couple of researchers, a competent producer and some sound legal advice and he’ll show ’em.

Jonathan Shier has said he wants to unlock the ABC’s creative spirit. Here’s the perfect chance for him to think outside the circle, dump the old boys (and girls) club and give a chance to some new and very real talent.

Disclaimer: Stephen Mayne has bought Krystiina a few drinks and even the odd meal or two.

Stephen Mayne: PR people come up with some of the stupidest ideas some times. Krystiina I paid you $2000 – five hours at $400 an hour – for your strategic communications advice on how to get the Media Watch gig and your choose to publish this on Crikey. Get a real job you overpaid, champagne sipping, vacuous, spin-doctoring creten.

ends

Proving that we’re a broad church here at Crikey, another contributor trading under the name Paulo Barri has come up with a few candidates of his own.

WHO WANTS TO HOST MEDIA WATCH?

ARE you smug? Can you smirk on demand? Do you never make mistakes? Are you wise and all-knowing, like some kind of God?

Then send your job application to the ABC. Now that Paul Barry’s been booted, Media Watch needs a new host!

You’ll face tough competition, however. The ABC won’t pay just any old doofus $100,000 per year to make fun of crocodile stories in the Northern Territory News.

A raft of A-grade personalities is already in the running to glom this glittering prize. Here’s my list of the outstanding contenders:

STUART LITTLEMORE: QC, ex-host, pompous git

Pros: Presided over Media Watch’s best years. Would be welcomed back byviewers.

Cons: Still too early to forgive his on-air faux pas with US publisher Stephen Brill, in which Littlemore claimed he wasn’t paid to work at Media Watch. Shame!

JANA WENDT: Ex-Ten newsreader, ex-60 Minutes, ex-A Current Affair, ex-ABC

Pros: Way qualified to rip into the press. Would draw an audience.

Cons: Very PC these days. Also, Media Watch is only 15 minutes long; at Wendt’s usual vocal speed, she’d only get 20 words out.

JOHN DOYLE: broadcaster, writer, HG

Pros: An under-rated performer when not in HG mode. Excellent media analyst. Could be a worthwhile choice.

Cons: Might not be welcolmed back to ABC after departing for Seven. Can be incredibly boring on political matters.

MARK DAY: journalist, columnist, publisher, author, broadcaster

Pros: Has previous TV experience with low-budget programming. Knows all the main players, knows all the tricks, knows where the bodies areburied.

Cons: Buried some of those bodies himself. Possibly too close to many in the industry he’d be expected to attack.

REBECCA WILSON: Ex-News Ltd execuchick

Pros: Tough, wily, well-connected. Has formidable TV presence. Sometimes dominates the blokes on ABC’s The Fat.

Cons: Allegedly ferocious temper. Profane (even by News Ltd standards) vocabulary. May lack wide-ranging knowledge of all media. Way too close to News Ltd CEO John Hartigan.

MIKE CARLTON: Broadcaster, columnist, self-worshipper.

Pros: Been in the game since the 19th century. Articulate, intelligent, acidic.

Cons: Overbearing, arrogant, dismissive. Hey – he’s perfect for the job!

SHELLEY GARE: Columnist, print allrounder

Pros: Has worked with everyone, from The Oz to The Eye to Who Weekly, etc. Has at least some radio training, so not a stranger to electronicmedia.

Cons: Possibly too tiny for cameras to focus on. Readers of her column might be concerned she’d start talking about her damn cats or her house.

COL ALLAN: Daily Tele editor-in-chief, bon vivant, sociopath

Pros: Consummate news man; can pick a beat-up a mile away. May be becoming bored with less than hands-on role at Tele, and could do with some excitement.

Cons: Could the ABC cope with Col’s particular brand of excitement?

ROB SITCH: Comic, Panel host, medico, scriptwriter, academic

Pros: Has broken Media Watch-style stories on The Panel (remember Joe the cameraman and Tony Greig’s imported bride slur?). Unlike Paul Barry, actually capable of being funny.

Cons: Probably not capable of being serious. Overly precious about media interest in his own life. Way too close to a certain tabloid TV correspondent.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Journalist, author, broadcaster

Pros: Tons of experience at The Age, The Bulletin, and lately on-air at 3LO. Clever and sparky.

Cons: A totally unreconstructed old lefty. Huge political blind spots.

BILL O’REILLY: Not the late legspinner; a US current affairs host

Pros: If you haven’t caught O’Reilly yet on Fox News (via cable), you’re missing a class act. Polished, tough, personable. Nobody in Australian television comes close to him. Watch and learn, local stars!

Cons: He’s in the US.

STAN ZEMANEK: broadcaster, Beauty and the Beast host, buffoon

Pros: Is available, following end of 2GB morning experiment. Would attack the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in the way previous hosts attacked the tabloids.

Cons: Zemanek? On the ABC? Please …

PIERS AKERMAN: Columnist, controversy-generator, commie-basher

Pros: Far more urbane than many realise. Able to support seemingly outrageous stances on various issues by virtue of solid research.

Cons: Too closely linked to News Ltd (ie Rupert’s best journo mate in Oz). Hostile to ABC. Can become obsessed with certain subjects. Homophobe.

NATASHA STOTT-DESPOJA: Baby politician, Doc Marten ambassador

Pros: Close media contacts from being serial journo dater. Is usually across all major issues. Lots of TV experience on Good News Week when lines are written for her.

Cons: More ABC than the ABC. Can talk about globalisation for ten hours without making any sense whatsoever. From Adelaide. Dates spotty Hugh Riminton.

EDDIE MAGUIRE: Collingwood president, republican, radio host, television host, confidant of Packer the Younger

Pros: Has a little bit of media experience with AAP, Ten News and then Nine.

Cons: Reads the sports pages first. Might not show up to work on a Monday if Collingwood wins. Already damaged his brand by being in too much. ABC would need to triple the budget to afford him.

ANDREW OLLE: The greatest journalist who ever lived, according to everybody

Pros: Brilliant, sensitive, superb, magnificent, Christ-like, genius.

Cons: Dead.

PETER FITZSIMONS: ex-rugby player, columnist, cable sports host

Pros: Has definite opinions on everything, and not afraid to express them.

Cons: Gets things wrong all the time.

CRIKEY: Okay, now that another anonymous contributor has burnt a few more media bridges, let’s move onto the original piece that Stephen Mayne penned about Paul Barry’s sacking two weeks back.

How the ABC stuffed up Barry sacking

Just like Jeff McMullen, Paul Barry has run an excellent media campaign against his employer after being given the sack as presenter of Media Watch.

Both McMullen and Barry had strong arguments to put and used all of their acquired media skills to dump on their former employers who appeared flat-footed in their respective responses.

Crikey has long regarded Paul Barry as being one of the finest journalists to ever work in Australia. Whether it be his Packer and Bond books, his brilliant efforts on Four Corners, his anchoring of The Times on Channel 7, Witness and latterly his features in the Sydney Morning Herald, they have been of the highest standard.

But it always struck me as odd that Media Watch could employ a host who was employed by one of the major media groups. Barry disclosed that he was on $100,000 a year to write for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, yet at the same time he was supposed to be an independent critic of them. For instance, in Crikey’s view Media Watch should have been campaigning against the publisher model that Fairfax has adopted but there was no such exposure by Paul Barry about the system which has the editorial chief at Fairfax papers also responsible for the bottom line.

Media Watch has long been funded by the ABC and free to criticise it and Barry’s interview with ABC chairman Donald McDonald in the final Media Watch episode this year clearly demonstrated its independence.

In fact, Barry has been speculating widely that he was sacked by Jonathon Shier in response to the criticisms he made in that interview with McDonald. This may well be right and the ABC’s management have handled the sacking appallingly.

If I was Gail Jarvis and was told by Jonathon Shier to “sack that arsehole Barry”, this is what I would have told Barry when delivering the bad news.

How Gail Jarvis should have given Paul Barry the boot

“Paul, first the good news: Media Watch will be back next year with the same budget as before. We love the concept and want to make it even better.”

“However, given that you do have a one year contract, we are going to throw open the hosting position to all comers. You are welcome to reapply and would be in a good position to retain the position for next year.”

“Whilst the show has performed well in the ratings this year, we have two prime concerns about your role. Firstly, some sections of the media have claimed you have a conflict of interest in working for Fairfax and secondly, you seem to be quite stretched in your commitments and some weeks have only been in the office on one day.”

“For instance, finishing and then promoting your second Alan Bond book earlier this year took up a lot of time and restricted your ability to perform your Media Watch commitments.”

“Richard Ackland would often put in up to three days a week when he was hosting the show which would appear to be more than you are doing most weeks.”

ends

Now if ABC management has said this, Paul Barry would have had nowhere to go when it came to the public debate. He was welcome to apply again next year and his time commitment was an issue management was concerned with.

The ABC will struggle to come up with a more credible and respected host than Barry next year and therefore run the risk of looking like Jonathon Shier has sacrificed the quality of programming in order to silence an internal critic.

With Barry out the door, maybe Jeff McMullen or Jill Singer would be suitable replacements. Media Watch has never had a host with deep contacts into the mainstream media. Paul Barry knew more journalists than his predecessors Richard Ackland and Stuart Littlemore but there are very few newspaper or radio journalists who have even spoken to him.

As far as newspapers are concerned, Media Watch appears to operate in a vacuum. Media Watch researchers and presenters should be out mingling with journalists every other day to try and glean the latest gossip.

Instead they tend to rely on viewers to send in the latest typo in the Dubbo Bugle which is of no significance to anyone.

When he was appointed as host last year, Paul Barry publicly spoke about the likelihood of him actually turning up at media stake-outs and putting the journalists on the spot in front of the Media Watch camera. A lack of time and resources never saw this eventuate.

Similarly, why doesn’t Media Watch turn up at the annual meetings of media companies to at least listen to the debates that take place.

On a personal note, it has amazed Crikey that Media Watch has not cottoned onto the campaign we are running against cash for comment.

After winning the Gold Walkley in 1999 you would expect them to stay on the case, but the entire Media Watch team from 1999 appeared to move on in 2000 so there was no continuity whatsoever.

If you stand for a bunch of boards against cash for comment, surely some of the defences run by these chairman and CEOs of companies like Optus, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank and NRMA would rate a mention on the show that broke the story in the first place.

Sadly, no-one in the mainstream media has picked this up so these immoral corporates will just go on pouring bags of cash into the pockets of these disgraceful shock jocks as if nothing ever happened.

Lastly, good luck to Paul Barry whose partner is expecting twins shortly. Let’s hope Fairfax keeps him on as an excellent feature writer and congratulations for putting in a solid year at the helm of the show when you had lots of other commitments to juggle.

You are undoubtedly one of the best in the business and the way the ABC handled your sacking was disgraceful and unprofessional to say the least.

They will be hard-pressed to find a better-respected host in the future.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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