Channel Nine’s A Current Affair and its sports department, Wide World of Sports, are at 10 paces throwing meat pies at each other.
The two flagship divisions of the once all-powerful commercial network have been rowing ever since rugby league player Matthew Johns was outed on the ABC Four Corners program about a group s-x incident while the Cronulla Sharks were visiting New Zealand.
ACA desperately wanted a follow-up interview with Johns following the Monday night Four Corners, but the former star footballer decided to make an on-air confession/apology on The Footy Show which he co-hosted.
Subsequently, ACA obtained an interview with Johns in one of the most top-rated interviews of the year. Tracey Grimshaw gave no quarter in an interview which was widely praised by other sections of the media, even the ABC’s national radio host Fran Kelly.
But Nine’s sports division took a different view. One senior producer and Johns loyalist described Grimshaw’s interview as “a hatchetjob” and she has been criticised within Nine’s blokey culture for “not being a team player”.
Under massive pressure from advertisers, viewers, both male and female, and the National Rugby League (NRL) Johns was suspended from the program.
Now roll forward to last night’s first State of Origin clash between NSW and Queensland. On the eve of the live broadcast, traditionally Nine’s biggest rating show of the year, ACA ran a segment on failed companies Ikin Management Pty Ltd, Ikin Corp Pty Ltd and Store Group Pty Ltd, all in liquidation since last month.
The companies were owned and promoted by Alan Ikin, father of former Queensland rugby league legend Ben Ikin.
Trouble is, Ben Ikin is also one of Nine’s league commentators. He saw the ACA program in which investors accused his father of losing millions of dollars, spat the dummy and refused to go on the air and join the panel of experts.
Grimshaw and her team are not resiling from their decision to air the Ikin scandal while the Sport division is up in arms. It’s the second time in a month that ACA has inadvertently unloaded on league commentators from the network’s own sports division.
Glenn Dyer’s view: Ikin who quit yesterday afternoon after A Current Affair cobbled up a story to try and spoil a story on Seven’s Today Tonight last night on Ikin’s father, Alan, and the apparent collapse of a storage business in Queensland. It will be noted in some circles that whereas Nine tried to protect Matthew Johns by getting the story on the 6pm News with the reporter who knew about it, and then the interview on the Footy Show later that night, Nine did nothing to help Ben Ikin.
This is what News.com.au was reporting late Wednesday: “A furious Ikin phoned Nine’s director of sport Steve Crawley early this afternoon to resign from all his commentary duties.
“Ikin is the second member of Nine’s commentary team to be missing tonight following the standing down of colleague Matthew Johns last month after the NRL group sex scandal.”