Dear oh
dear, the folk in ABC News and Current Affairs don’t seem to be able to take a
trick with this Mark Latham stuff.

Viewers
of the ABC, not normally a lot terribly understanding of Mr Latham, flocked to a repeat of Andrew Denton’s interview
last night when Enough Rope repeated the chat in its regular timeslot of 9.30pm
Monday.

An average of 938,000 people watched the interview, which
first went to air controversially last Thursday night when 526,000 or so viewers
tuned in without any promotion. Last night’s figure is around the average for Denton’s programs this
year, so it wasn’t affected by what went on last Thursday and Friday
nights.

Considering the bile and other rubbish in the Latham book, that’s fairly
amazing.

It means more than 1.46 million people watched the Denton interview
over the two nights: compared to just 366,000 who watched the Tony
Jones
insider chat with Latham on Lateline Friday night.

The
whole contretemps was raked over again by Media Watch last night and the one thing that comes through is the way Lateline went about getting its interview without telling
anyone, and then when Enough Rope and Andrew Denton moved to protect their
interview, Lateline and ABC News and Current Affairs
got all upset.

Tony
Jones, the Lateline host, quite rightly says he didn’t
tell the Denton people about the interview:
that’s a good, solid competitive spirit and to be admired, but that did set up
the following problems when Denton thought his chat was going to be gazumped by Lateline.

The
decision to show Denton last Thursday was made by Balding, which
looks like the nub of the angst and moans from ABC NewsCaf. Well, Sandra Levy would have made the same
call.

Another point that emerged is the claim that News Ltd didn’t known that
the Denton interview was going to be in front of a live audience. That just
doesn’t wash. Anyone looking at any Denton program would realise
there’s an audience involved.

News
Ltd was just paranoid about Fairfax and they did put enormous pressure on
MUP to insist that Enough Rope run stringent security
checks.

It’s evident in the Greg Baxter quote from the
Weekend Australian Financial Review that the problem was that Melbourne University
Press could not control its client, Mark Latham.

“We
will be taking it up with them,” Baxter was quoted as saying.

Contrast that with the blame game being played by Louise
Adler at MUP (and evident in her replies at the Media Watch website) and you
have to wonder if she’s in denial about her client and his ability to keep his
word and communicate.