Dear Don Burke reckons his departure from free to air television
represents the “death of ordinariness on television”. The man’s
certainly got tickets on himself. It’s a claim used in a promo by Nine
for a story on Burke’s axing on A Current Affair this week.

Burke’s Backyard was watched by more than 1.2 million people on
Friday night across the five major metro markets. Not bad, and enough
to finish second nationally, but of no help to Nine as it was again
beaten by Seven on the night. That’s about what it has been averaging
this year and a small increase on recent numbers – perhaps reflecting
all this recent publicity.

But for Don Burke to claim that he’s “ordinary” is as far from reality as Burke’s Backyard was from its hey days as a ratings winner.

He’s far from it. In fact he’s times been insufferable for Nine
employees and managers and for the people who’ve worked with him over
the years. And the defence of Burke by his old Nine publicist, Annette
Sharp, in today’s Sydney Sun Herald is almost as sickening.

Her allowing him to explain how those nasty folk from the media camped
outside his offices in Sydney on Monday night and chased him, forcing
him and his wife Marea (the co-EP of Burke’s Backyard) to flee by jumping over a fence.

The fact that he made himself unavailable merely forced the media to
chase him. And remember he wasn’t backward in demanding publicity in
his prime at Nine and was known for complaining long and hard when the
publicity wasn’t what he wanted or expected.

It was all a bit, over the top to read this bleating from a man who has
grown rich from appearing on TV, from driving lifestyle television to
the forefront of millions of people’s minds, and who has used his
appeal to the public (and love of publicity) to build a fortune.

There was a good antidote to all this pro-Burke sentiment in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. It’s not on line, but was headlined ” Digging his own grave”.

It is really worth getting hold of and reading. There are “bully boy”
stories about how he upset people he worked with on the program and for
his company, CTC Productions. The temper tantrums, bad language and
inappropriate comments all get a run and there are also some
interesting comments about his risk-taking as a producer and front
person.

The former Nine Executive and the first EP of Burke’s Backyard, David Lyle, is quoted and is apparently in the A Current Affair story that’s been promoted over the weekend for Monday night.

Then there’s the claim that Burke’s behaviour was responsible for Jamie Durie and Scott Camm (Backyard Blitz) signing with Nine and not Burke’s production company. The reason advanced was Burke’s jealousy and behaviour.

Annette Sharp (she who a week earlier had Ian Ross resigning from the
Seven Network next year, a claim very strongly denied by Seven) told
her readers of the ‘S” lift-out in the Sun Herald today that it was “an absolute disgrace” Burke’s Backyard had been canned.

And she blamed PBL CEO, John Alexander or, hold the presses, Kerry or
James Packer for driving this dastardly act by seeking to cut costs by
limiting Burke’s appearance on TV next year to only a few specials.

They’ve done us all a public service and Sharp should be publicly condemned for so uncritically supporting her mate.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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