Misha Ketchell:

We’re reluctant to keep sticking the boot into Melbourne radio’s bearded burbler lest we’re accused of running a campaign, but there seems to be another Derryn Hinch brouhaha brewing – this time over claims he was tired-and-emotional on air this week.

We’ve had several emails from listeners who claim the human headline was clearly groggy on his Melbourne talkback program on Monday, and that more than 25 people called the station to complain but were censored by Hinch’s producers.

One caller did get through, but Hinch dismissed the slurring as the result of jet-lag and claimed that the fact the caller had got to air proved he wasn’t censoring calls. Hinch also made quite a show of inviting other listeners to call in and tell him whether they thought he was drunk.

Crikey was listening at the time and the caller actually told Hinch he’d only been able to get on air under false pretences, by claiming he was going to discuss another topic. So there could be something to the claim that producers were not putting to air everyone who rang in to complain. As our anonymous correspondent writes:

A 3AW insider has informed me that during the first hour of Derryn Hinch’s drive program today more than 25 callers rang 3AW’s administrative number (9243 2000) to complain that Derryn Hinch sounded drunk. None of these callers was put to air. I will be able to find out, thanks to my insider, how many rang the 9696 1278 number. This will be a far greater number. It has to be asked of Tony Bell and Clarke Forbes why not one of these callers was put to air.

In fairness to Hinch, his delivery often comes across as slightly slurred, and we didn’t think his on-air performance on Monday was anything out of the ordinary.

We put the claims to program director Clark Forbes, who writes:

Derryn was not “p*ssed.” I spent 20 minutes or so with him that afternoon discussing his program. He was rational, and neither smelled of drink, nor was unsteady on his feet. Both his producers agree that he showed no signs of being affected by alcohol. He was, however, dead tired having been round the world and back in a matter of a couple of weeks and had not managed to catch up with any sleep to overcome his jet-lag. It is not widely known that Derryn suffers from sleep problems. There was no edict imposed by 3AW or myself on Derryn’s producers to censor calls claiming he was drunk. I received no complaints to my office from callers claiming he was under the weather. Some 20-odd calls claiming Derryn was drunk were made to the AW switch by 6pm. GM Shane Healy received one fax the following day.

And Hinch also sent us this email denying the claim:

Not true. Probably stupid. Didn’t go to sleep until 9am Monday after visiting Athens, Paris and London researching my new book. Certainly didn’t edit calls. Never do. Had a long talk to Clark Forbes our program manager before I went to air. He had no qualms. It seems to be part of a campaign and I don’t know where it is coming from.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey