In light of recent allegations against Don Burke, Crikey presents this piece originally published in 2005.

Last night’s interview with Don Burke on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope ABC program was like the subject himself – infuriating, self absorbed, cringe-making and full of examples of a huge ego.

But Burke and Denton forgot to explain or discuss one important thing – what happened to the audience for Burke’s Backyard?
From huge ratings of around two million people on Friday nights in the late 80s and early 90s, the audience effectively halved over the 17 years on air.

Typically, Burke blamed everyone other than himself. He has proved he can spot talent (Scott Camm, Jamie Durie and the concept of Backyard Blitz), but that doesn’t make him bulletproof. Watching Denton last night you came away with the idea that Don was blameless, and everything was the fault of others.

It’s also a pity that more questions were not put to Burke about his behaviour and other issues in private, with staff and others. Burke did admit to being difficult at times and not suffering fools gladly, but many people who have worked with him could tell some horrifying stories.

And yesterday, just hours before the pre-recorded interview went to air, Our Place – the replacement for Burke’s Backyard which was axed at the end of last year – was axed after only five episodes. The Scott Camm-headed ensemble cast and live studio approach failed to grab viewers and its audience fell from 1.1 million on debut to 721,000 last Friday, which sent it to the departure ward, to be replaced by a Wife Swap program.

As for Denton’s program, it won its 9:30pm timeslot last night for the second time in as many weeks with 1.123 million people on average.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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