Ray Martin’s Logie win in the peer-judged Most Outstanding Public Affairs report category for his interview with Terri Irwin has set off a storm of moans and groans in the news and current affairs industry.

At the same time, the insensitivity of Ray Martin’s speech and the screening of excerpts from the interview while Terri Irwin was still in the room, have forced an apology from the Nine Network.

TV news and current affairs people want to know if the peer group judging the category was aware how Nine got the interview. Other networks were after the interview, but Nine won for two reasons.

One was the animosity Irwin’s manager, John Stainton, has to the Seven Network and Today Tonight, which had shown the infamous vision of Steve Irwin and his baby son feeding crocodiles. The other is that Nine made a donation of an unknown amount to the Steve Irwin’s foundation, Wildlife Warriors Worldwide — that’s what others in the industry were told when they missed out on the interview.

So, in effect, Nine indirectly paid for the interview. Did the judges investigate what payments were made? Was Tracy Grimshaw’s interview with the Beaconsfield miners not chosen as winner because Nine paid around $2.75 million for the exclusive rights? It was also among the nominees:

MOST OUTSTANDING PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPORT

“Abu Ghraib” (Dateline, SBS)
“Four Days In Dili” (Dateline, SBS)
 “The Great Escape: Brant Webb And Todd Russell” (Nine Network)
“The Mourning After” (Australian Story, ABC TV)
 “The Terri Irwin Interview” (Nine Network)

You can bet the SBS and ABC programs were not paid. So much for peer-group judging. Are we to conclude from this that “Most Outstanding” now means “most outstanding use of a chequebook” in Public Affairs? I think it’s about time the peer-group judges and their processes were exposed.

Meanwhile, Ray Martin’s reaction while accepting the award has also stirred some comment. All of it negative — watch Ray’s acceptance speech here.

This insider comment to Crikey was typical of the reaction:

I was sitting at the table directly behind Terri Irwin when Ray took to the stage to accept his Logie for his interview with Terri after Steve’s death. I was mortified that almost all of his speech focused on his greatness in winning the Logie, gloating that he could win over the ABC, it seemed to go on and on. It wasn’t until the end of the speech that he mentioned Terri. Did he forget she was in the room? Terri (sitting next to Kenny the portaloo man) was visibly upset and seemed unimpressed, she left immediately afterwards and didn’t return. His self-obsession was excruciating to watch.

That’s backed up by a report in the News Ltd papers today:

Logies organisers have been branded cruel and disgusting after wildlife widow Terri Irwin left the awards in tears. She was forced to sit through harrowing footage from an interview taped soon after her husband, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, died. She left Crown in an emotional state on Sunday night minutes after the interview was shown on a giant screen to a room full of tipsy celebrities and TV executives.