Crikey’s tabloid TV correspondent, Mike Moore, couldn’t be in more
ecstacy if he fell into a swimming pool full of party pills. He reports
on Monday night’s current affairs-fest.
Does it get any better than this? Channel Seven teased us for nearly a
week – forget about Beckham’s Aussie hooker; don’t worry about Eddie
McGuire at the Logies; cancel The Block. Today Tonight let us all know
they’d scooped up Australian swimming’s new It Boy, Craig
Stevens, who would finally EXCLUSIVELY REVEAL ALL to the nation.

Well, not today. And not even tonight. In fact, as news stories
go, it wasn’t much of an exclusive at all. We all knew last week
he’d signed a deal with the Olympic Network to tell all. And, let’s face it, we all knew what Craig would tell.

We knew what sort of Hobson’s Choice the lad faced, thanks to
none-too-subtle prodding from his helpful mates in the meeja.
Sure, it was “his” decision. But not really.

Not if he wanted to be able to prepare for his Olympic events without
the rancid breath of the nation’s media blowtorching his back. Not if
he managed to flounder into seventh place in the 400m final, to face
the wrath of a sports-loving public that demands winners, not pleasant,
polite, plodders.

Still, the inevitability of it all didn’t stop Seven trying to milk
every minute’s worth of delicious anticipation. “Will he, or won’t he!”
Today Tonight host-ettes Naomi Robson and Leigh McClusky cruelly
taunted credulous viewers as they signed off on Friday night,
sentencing any of us who cared to a weekend of sleepless nights.

The only real questions were: how would Seven handle the interview, and what would Nine throw up against it as a spoiler?

And last night, both networks delivered. Today Tonight unleashed upon
Stevens a spunky blonde outdoorswoman reporter, Anna Coren, in what was
a homely, Womens Weekly-style investigation of the swimmer’s torment.

Craig revealed he’d been feeling a little tense in the month-long
lead-up to his decision. He’d even taken a couple of sleeping pills to
shut out the media din.

We met Craig’s equally homely girlfriend, and his mum. We caught a
glimpse of his early morning training schedule, we flashed back to his
first days in the sport as an eight year old. We shared his thoughts on
Ian Thorpe’s untimely plunge into the water that fateful day in
Sydney. We empathised as he told of lying awake at night
pondering his decision. We nodded sagely as he decided, in the
midst of the storm, to take a week off to get away from it all, and the
savage effect the traumatic situation had on his life: “I think it
played a lot on my fishing and golf,” Craig told Anna. “Because I
caught no fish and my golf game wasn’t very good that week. I couldn’t
make a single putt.”

Craig, the nation feels your pain. But mate – are you going to
jump off the blocks and let Thorpie back in his rightful role as our aquatic hero?

Nine minutes in, Anna finally got around to asking the crucial
question. And if you missed the answer, you really should check out the transcript here.

No questions from Anna, sadly, about Craig’s new role as a $60,000+ work experience kid at the Seven Network.

CRAIG STEVENS vs PATTERSON’S CURSE

Over at Nine, A Current Affair went head-to-head with the Stevens
blockbuster using a tried and tested tabloid formula – the sex scandal. And quite a ripping yarn, too.

Reporter Amanda Patterson told the creepy tale of the randy millionaire
college president bailing up students for sex. Keith Lloyd was, until
last night, president of Brisbane’s Shafston International College (No,
we did not make that name up).

As reporter Patterson’s story unfolded, complete with compromising
hidden audio and tape interviews with teary students, it was clear
President Lloyd’s days in academia were numbered. Check out The
Australian’s follow-up report here.

What made Patterson’s story complete were a couple of delicious tabloid
moments – like finding Lloyd’s $680,000 Aston Martin parked in a disabled car park, and hunting her quivering quarry down in a
toilet block, and listening as the pathetic perv refused to come out and face the music.

Sure enough, Ray Martin back-announced Lloyd’s resignation at the end
of the story. A strong hit, and it will be interesting to see the
ratings figures. TT would be expecting a rare hefty win over its
nemesis at Nine.

To top it off, we even got some real TV journalism.
While Seven likes to brag on its website that “the Today Tonight team
brings you the latest in current affairs from across the country and
around the globe,” this is, of course, only a wicked in-house joke.

FOUR CORNERS NUCLEAR-SIZED WHOPPERS

Four Corners does TV’s big picture national and global stuff, and Monday
night’s report on Pakistan’s nuclear bazaar by Debbie Whitmont and
producer Louise Turner was a cracker.

Could it really be that a humble scientist, Pakistan’s
‘father-of-the-bomb’ AQ Kahn, was solely responsible for selling
nuclear weapons technology to North Korea and Libya? Could this illicit
commerce really have gone undetected under the nose of Pakistan’s
military dictatorship?

But the major question in this report was: who was telling the biggest
lies? Was it the walrus-faced US under secretary of state for
arms control and international security, John Bolton, who blithely
claimed “there is no evidence” of a sinister barter trade between
Pakistan and North Korea involving missile parts for enriched uranium.

Or maybe Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan,
who summed up the militatry junta’s position succintly: “Trust us”.

At least the General was speaking from naked nationalist
self-interest. What do we make of an administration
representative like Bolton who reaches for the blanket of secrecy when
taken to task by Whitmont about Pakistan’s proliferation of nuclear
know-how to the Axis of Evil: “I would say to the critics that if
they knew what I knew, their views might be different,” burbled Bolton.

As Aussie expat Martin Indyk, a former US assistant secretary of state,
told Whitmont: “In this case of AQ Khan, there’s no question that
we…the United States, was prepared to let him off lightly because we
need Pakistan’s cooperation in the war on terror.”

At least Pakistan’s military leader is transparent in stating his
intentions. General Pervez Musharraf: “Pakistan’s nuclear program is
here to stay, inshallah. It is of vital national interest and will
never be compromised.”

Certainly not by the truth. Check out the transcript here.

Peter Fray

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