After returning from holidays, SBS News presenter Mary Kostakidis was reportedly unhappy to discover she would be co-anchoring the extended one-hour News with Stan Grant. But apparently there’s more to the story — as an SBS insider writes:

There is a huge problem with Stan basically seemingly refusing to talk to Mary. Not from any ongoing argument or spat — he has barely spoken two words to her since he arrived late year, so given that, an argument is not even possible.

Inside the studio he gives her a cursory nod of agreement when they arrive for the start of the show and then the two sit in awkward silence during the whole bulletin, yet Stan is chirpy and friendly and talkative with Janice Peterson the Sports presenter on the set. Mary is of course incredibly polite and always totally professional but she is clearly a little unnerved by Stan’s rudeness in sitting next to her on air and simply pretending she’s not even there.

 

On the Tuesday night bulletin he ad-libbed a line to her about a story on giant rabbits and she nearly fell off her chair and everybody who saw it laughed thinking “oh my god he has finally spoken to her!!” (to view the footage, click here).

Late last year at a publicity photo shoot Stan sat the whole time in the corner reading and not talking to anyone until it was time for the cameras to start rolling and even then did he not speak to Mary.

I have worked with Mary for a long time and know her to be a lovely and genuine person and a consummate professional who clearly deserves to be treated as such. Only Stan would be able to answer the mystery as to his attitude toward her.

Hallway gossip is that this is part of a strategy to “vibe Mary out” so she resigns, given her outspokenness last year against advertising on SBS did not go down well with the MD Shaun Brown. Mary’s shove out the door would be a continuation of senior news management having told Lee Lin Chin they did not feel she was good enough to be on air and that her regular weekend presenting gig would be cut down to alternating fortnights with Amrita Cheema.

Interestingly the spin doctors in management have not been sending internal emails crowing about the perceived success of the new format. It is the normal routine to open your inbox and see a lovingly crafted yet banal and somewhat empty note from the MD Shaun Brown patting himself on the back for his achievements, yet so far not a sausage on the new format news bulletin. Very telling.

Lastly the people taking calls from the public have been instructed to not to make a record of “negative comments about the presenters”. Someone is being paid to go through and edit the list of viewer phone calls, which are published internally as “Overnight Audience Reaction sheets”. The final censored version which staff see does contain quite a few negative comments about the format of the show and the overall dislike of the new format, but no word on the presenters. And…you guessed it !! There has been a large number of people saying they’re not impressed by Stan but love Mary. But only those on the switch and the final censor are hearing that.

We asked SBS to respond to the insider’s claims. Christine Heard, SBS News and Current Affairs Publicist, writes:

The comments are quite laughable. Your information about Stan and Mary not talking to each other off-air is wrong. I’ve seen them chatting to each other plenty of times — during rehearsals last week, in the office this week — and the atmosphere between them is great, as is clearly shown by their warm and professional presentation every night at 6.30pm.

Any suggestion that management wants Mary to leave is absolutely ridiculous. Just last week, during an address to the entire SBS staff, managing director Shaun Brown described Mary as a linchpin of SBS’s TV News and applauded her 20 years of excellent service. Shaun and the entire management team are extremely happy with Mary’s performance — clearly shown by the fact that she has just re-signed her contract.  Again, the suggestion that the overnight audience reaction is being censored is wrong. Management sees all comments, regardless of their nature. And in the last few days since the new-look bulletin went to air, I’ve seen many positive comments about Mary. Crikey contacted SBS to speak with Stan Grant and Mary Kostakidis individually but neither are commenting to the media on the matter.

Peter Fray

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