Why was Amanda Duthie allowed to keep responsibility for arts and entertainment at the ABC?

The ABC’s head of Comedy, Arts and Entertainment had her role whittled yesterday by ABC boss Mark Scott. It seems she can no longer be trusted to be head of Comedy after her Chaser “error of judgement”, but how can she be trusted to continue to perform the role in Arts and Entertainment?

Unless of course the whole business is something close to farce. A friend at the ABC described her punishment as “being whipped with a bit of limp lettuce”.

The ABC’s decision, announced in this statement last night doesn’t explain why The Chaser remains off air, now that there’s been disciplinary action against Ms Duthie:

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott today announced Amanda Duthie has been removed as the Head of ABC TV Comedy.

The decision, made with the ABC’s Director of Television, Kim Dalton, followed a review of the processes which led to the screening of the Chaser “Make A Realistic Wish” segment last week.

“The segment should not have been broadcast. We recognise that it caused unnecessary and unreasonable hurt and offence to our viewers and the broader community and we have apologised for this,” Mr Scott said. “We have determined this was not a breakdown in our Editorial Policy processes but rather an error of judgement.”

Mr Scott said the processes are clear and amply set out in the ABC’s Editorial Policies. “Where staff are concerned about the potential for satirical material to cause harm they should refer the matter to the next level of management. In this instance, the Head of Arts, Entertainment and Comedy reviewed the segment and did not refer it up. This was an error of judgement.”

ABC TV’s Executive Head of Content Creation, Courtney Gibson, will assume direct responsibility for comedy programs until a new Head of Comedy is appointed. Amanda will continue to be responsible for Arts and Entertainment programs.

Ms Duthie was ”removed”; a quaint word, removed, from her office? Or just a ceremonial chipping off of the word “Comedy” from her door, reprinting all her cards and stationery, plus changing websites and guides etc. very, very costly). Will there be a “drumming” ceremony in which her Comedy side boards are ripped from her epaulettes by Mr Scott in front of the assembled troops (filmed by The Chaser?).

Then there’s the cost of a new head of Comedy. Gee that will be a 24/7 gig.

The reason for Scott’s action was that Duthie didn’t “upwardly refer” The Chaser skit to her boss, Courtney Gibson, the ABC’s head of TV Content. But doesn’t Ms Gibson also manage downwards as well? Does she check that all was OK with The Chaser, each week, after taping, or perhaps even want to see a DVD of the program?

Or does she delegate?

There’s a curious message here: Ms Duthie is no longer trusted to oversee comedy, so why is she still trusted to oversee Arts and Entertainment? And why the separation between Comedy and Entertainment, where do you draw that line? Spicks and Specks is both amusing and entertaining, who will now oversee it? Ms Duthie’s name was last on the credits on last night’s very amusing retro episode.