Things must be desperate and fraught in the SBS newsroom in Sydney where World News Australia is located. There’s been much talk the relationship between co-hosts Stan Grant and Mary Kostakidis is not smooth — in January, an SBS insider wrote to Crikey about their frosty on-set relationship.

There’s also talk that the newsroom itself is not a very happy working environment, like much of SBS seems to be these days, especially the programs such as Dateline which is under pressure from management to ”lighten up”.

SBS management and spinners all either deny or won’t talk about the fact that many people in news and current affairs, especially Dateline, are on very short term contracts and, in some cases, could be sacked on little notice.

The SBS spinners make a big thing of specifically denying any tension on the set between Grant and Kostakidis, who was forced to become a co-host after solo anchoring the news for a number of years.

But if things are so “normal”, why did the SBS spin team issue this press release yesterday?:

Mary Kostakidis, co-presenter of SBS TV’s weekday World News Australia bulletin, will go on six weeks leave beginning Tuesday, 17 April.

Stan Grant will continue to present the 6.30pm weekday bulletin and he’ll be joined by either Janice Petersen or Amrita Cheema, who’ll be filling in for Mary.

The sports segment of World News Australia will be presented by other SBS presenters, such as Michael Tomalaris.

Mary will return to her normal newsreading duties on Tuesday, 29 May.

It’s the first time the holiday plans of a network news host have officially been announced by the Network, in advance.

And it’s clearly intended to prevent speculation that she had quit, been pushed or had simply been “boned” to make way for Grant and or someone else. It’s significant that Grant will not be anchoring the program alone in Kostakidis’s absence.

Things are definitely not touchy feely at SBS in Artarmon, Sydney.

In fact it is sounding very “commercial”. Is that because of the growing presence of ad breaks in the news and other programs?

Peter Fray

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