Has the “Make A Wish” segment on The Chaser claimed its third victim?

Courtney Gibson, ABC TV’s Executive Head of Content Creation, has resigned after six years with the network. She departs for the private sector in October.

She was nominally in control of The Chaser and that controversial segment, but it was her underlying, Amanda Duthie who took the rap and paid for it by losing her role as Executive Producer of ABC Comedy.

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With The Chaser now ending in its current form, it could be seen that the program, Ms Duthie and Ms Gibson were victims of Make A Wish.

But that’s a surface reading; the Chaser series was going to end this year as the Chaserettes had told the ABC of their decision at the start of 2009.

Ms Duthie was demoted because she was the executive in the most obvious line of fire; the next one up in the pecking order above the program itself.

But Ms Gibson’s departure is curious and raises questions about why and who benefits.

Kim Dalton, head of ABC TV doesn’t, he was a big supporter. It’s his loss. But there is no one else inside the ABC sufficiently senior enough to force someone like Ms Gibson out other than the head of the whole organisation, Mark Scott.

He took charge of the whole Make A Wish kerfuffle and killed it off by suspending The Chaser for two weeks and then getting a senior executive in the shape of Ms Duthie to take a small knock for accepting responsibility.

That was a classic bureaucrat’s response and it killed the controversy completely.

There were stories after the furore over the segment that Ms Gibson had a DVD of the episode of The Chaser in question, but didn’t view it.

I know ABC TV doesn’t chase ratings, but the network has had a fairly bland year so far. no new programs of note, certainly nothing like the Chris Lilley efforts in recent years, such as We Can be Heroes. Andrew Denton has gone off air. Ratings are down.

Ms Gibson is bolting for the private sector, where she will up the position of Director of Program at Southern Star Entertainment after leaving the ABC in October. Southern Star is now owned by Endermol, the giant European producer that makes such gems as Big Brother, Wipeout and Deal Or No Deal.

It has just signed to produce the new ABC program, Strictly Talking. Guess who was spruiking that when the program was announced? Ms Duthie.

In a statement announcing her departure today, Kim Dalton, Director of ABC TV said “I am sad to see Courtney leave ABC TV. Courtney has made a significant contribution to Australian content output during her time here. In recognition of that, her role expanded during the six years from Head of Entertainment to the Executive Head of Content Creation in 2007.

The statement said Ms Gibson commissioned comedy for the network including The Chaser’s War on Everything, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes and Double the Fist; entertainment shows including Spicks & Specks, The New Inventors, The Einstein Factor, Strictly Dancing and Triple J TV; along with arts programming including The First Tuesday Book Club, The Art Life, Not Quite Art and The Eternity Man.

Well, there’s a bit of re-writing history. She may have commission first-up programs like Double The Fist, but why wasn’t the failure, Miles Barlow, acknowledged?

But Spicks And Specks was first commissioned by Sandra Levy, as was The Einstein factor and The New Inventors. There’s a huge difference between taking the punt and going with a program first up, and re-commissioning. Ms Levy also commissioned We Can be Heroes and Strictly Dancing. And The Chaser first appeared on Friday nights under Sandra Levy

This is from Ms Levy’s bio on the website of the Australian Film TV And Radio School when she was appointed as its head in 2007:

Ms Levy was Director of Television at the ABC from 2001 to 2005. During her time there she was responsible for a 24% increase in audience, and for a slate of programs that revitalised the public broadcaster, including Kath & Kim, New Inventors, Spicks and Specks, Enough Rope, The Chaser, Catalyst, Strictly Dancing, Operatunity Oz, We Can Be Heroes, Outback House, MDA, Answered by Fire and many more.

Ms Gibson is heading to the same company from where Ms Levy departed to make her mark at the ABC.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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