A Current Affair‘s road safety crusade could be about to enter slippery legal territory after it used recycled footage from a two-year-old Top Gear audition tape in a faked attempt to “trap” a hoon driver.
Last night on ACA, the heavily promoted opening segment, entitled “Car Hoon” and tagged with an “exclusive” watermark, ran three full minutes of footage of a mystery man called “Carlo” driving his souped-up Nissan somewhere on Sydney’s roads.
“We’ll let the video speak for itself, because we want your help to find him,” intoned host Tracey Grimshaw before airing the video of “Carlo” “drifting” across double lines to the network’s heavy metal soundtrack. At the end of the segment, reporter Tom Steinfort issued a shout for viewers to catch “Crazy Carlo”, and promised a follow-up on tonight’s program.
“But first we have to find him and that’s where you come in. We believe his name is Carlo — Crazy Carlo.” Steinfort then aired a cleaned-up image of the vehicle’s registration.
But Crikey can reveal that the source for the story was the YouTube clip below, uploaded to the web on September 26 last year. The clip clearly identified the driver’s first and last name and its intended purpose — an audition tape for the mysterious Stig test-driver on the local version of Top Gear.
“Hi everybody at Freehand, my name is Carlo Arena and I would like to be your Stig.”
(For those unaware, The Stig is an white-clad character on both versions of Top Gear who test-drives vehicles under a cloak of anonymity. Top Gear‘s production company Freehand issued a shout out for Stig auditions way back in 2007. Arena submitted an audition and hadn’t heard anything back — until last night.)
Damningly for Steinfort and Nine, the YouTube source not only includes lingering footage of the driver, but also reveals his first and last name, which Steinfort claims not to know. None of this footage was aired by Nine.
Crikey contacted Arena and his representative (Arena was in a meeting consulting with his lawyers) told Crikey there were only two copies of the video — one retained by Arena and the other sent to Freehand. The YouTube video was uploaded about a year after the initial audition tape was submitted and the poster and the initial commenters were far from friendly. Nine secured the rights to Top Gear at around the same time the video was posted.
“Look at the date on the YouTube video. You can draw your own conclusions,” Arena’s representative said.
Crikey understands that the Nissan in question was sold just months after the video was shot, on February 22, 2008, and the registration was binned when it later became a track car — rendering Nine’s shout-out pointless.
On the Freehand website, there are explicit instructions that the identity of the driver submitting tapes to the company would not be revealed. Under the section “How to Apply“, the company says the following:
Record anything you think demonstrates for what you are and what you can do … and if you want to be The Stig — persuade us you know how to drive and we’ll NEVER reveal who you are — and you won’t either.”
Arena’s representative admitted to Crikey that the stunt was “dangerous”, said the road in question had been blocked off with other vehicles.
We called Freehand executive producer Peter Abbott to ask whether he had liaised with Nine over the tape but were told he was “asleep” in Los Angeles, despite it being 4pm Los Angeles time when we called. Another Freehand employee, who did not want to be named, told Crikey they had received “thousands” of audition tapes along the lines of Arena’s but were “certain” copies hadn’t been released to Nine.
Steinfort and A Current Affair refused to respond to Crikey‘s requests for urgent comment.
But YouTube commenters on the source for the story were damning.
“So how did A Current Affair get the tape? If they want viewers to help them find him, why didn’t they show the video of him speaking to the camera at the start?” said one.
“I love how they slap “ACA exclusive” on the video – it’s on YouTube ffs, not exactly exclusive”, said another.