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TV & Radio

Feb 4, 2010

ACA and NSW Police digging a hole over fake hoon story

Nine's A Current Affair has been forced into an embarrassing backdown over a "hoon driver" story, after Crikey Andrew Crook —


Nine network flagship A Current Affair has been forced into an embarrassing backdown over its public pleas to “track down” an alleged hoon driver it already knew the identity of, claiming it wanted to give the driver a chance to “explain” himself.

As Crikey reported yesterday, on Tuesday night ACA host Tracy Grimshaw asked Australia for help to track down “Crazy Carlo”, even though they were aware of his real identity and the real reason behind the controversial “drifting” clip — Carlo was auditioning for Top Gear. Nine had used two-year-old YouTube footage lifted from a Top Gear audition tape to kick along its dangerous driving crusade.

As 1 million viewers huddled around ACA last night for the follow up story, reporter Tom Steinfort, under the headline “Hunt for Carlo”, claimed that the network had “withheld” Carlo Arena’s identity because he wanted him to “explain why he was behaving this way”.

But Crikey understands that ACA left a message on Arena’s voicemail claiming it wanted to get his side of the story — at 6.35pm on Tuesday, as the episode airing the two year old footage of him went to air.

“Now we thought it would have been unfair to splash the drivers’ full name and face across the country without first giving him the chance to explain why he was behaving this way on a public road. With that in mind we withheld a portion of the video in which he does indeed name himself, and claims he wants to be a stunt driver on SBS’ local version of Top Gear,” Steinfort explained mysteriously.

But if Nine really wanted viewers to find him, wouldn’t it have been helpful to tell viewers his name?

Just to be clear on this, this is what Steinfort said in the original story:

“But first we have to find him, and that’s where you come in. We believe his name is Carlo, Crazy Carlo”.

And then, this:

“So what do we know about this mad man? We know his registration plate.

“And the one thing we know for certain is that we can’t afford to have this dangerous driver anywhere near our roads.”

Even the Police were stumped.

“Police are asking for everyone’s help to catch this clown.”

Grimshaw ended the report with this:

“Well if you know this “Carlo” from Sydney and his Nissan, please call or email us and we’ll do our best to track him down for tomorrow night’s program”.

Not only did Nine know him, but they also had his mobile.

Steinfort made no mention of Channel 9’s heavily promoted acquisition of the rights to the Australian version of the show, referring instead to the old “SBS” program, which hasn’t aired for months.

As part of their original story, Nine also consulted Ian Luff, a motoring expert it invited into ACA headquarters to sink the knife in.

Crikey contacted Luff yesterday, who repeatedly refused to deny he had seen the full unedited YouTube clip that revealed Arena’s identity and the Top Gear link. But here the story gets even murkier. Arena told Crikey through his spokesperson that he had spoken to Luff at a wake for Sydney’s Oran Park raceway last Monday.

Arena also received a certificate of excellence from Luff after he attended one of his driver motivation courses. Oran Park was a key legal site for the controversial “drifting” depicted in Arena’s audition, before it was closed and earmarked for sale for a new housing development late last year.

The story has received major traction. Today Tonight, also boasting a million viewers, led with the video last night, linking the real reason behind the clip — the Top Gear audition tape — to the potential for more trouble on the roads.

They may have a point. As Arena has pointed out, the production company behind Top Gear, Freehand, explicitly encouraged drivers on its website to strut their stuff for the cameras under the promise of anonymity. The real identity of the mysterious Stig is never revealed on the show.

But what about Nine’s promised “police investigation”? Is there any prospect of a two-year-old YouTube audition tape being used as evidence to throw Arena “behind bars”?

Last night NSW Police Acting Superintendent Dave Evans told ACA viewers that the plod was launching an investigation into Arena and, amid prodding from Steinfort, said that he should be locked up.

“We’ll certainly be knocking on his door,” Evans said. “Activity like that on NSW roads. That’s where he should be: behind bars”.

Crikey contacted Evans this morning who clarified his comments, claiming that “…video vision alone is not enough to charge the driver.”

And Evans confirmed that under NSW law, the statute of limitations on “drive manner dangerous”  and “hoon legislation” is six months, contradicting last night’s assertions from both Steinfort and himself that Arena and his film crew were “facing charges”.



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24 thoughts on “ACA and NSW Police digging a hole over fake hoon story

  1. meski

    Everytime I read an article about ACA of late I am saddened by what it has degenerated into.

  2. SusieQ

    As I said in a post about the earlier story, why the heck do people still watch these types of programs??? I am constantly astounded when I see the ratings figures at the numbers watching – please explain!!!

    Oh, and I look forward to the next edition of this absurdity….there must be more to come!!!!

  3. Greg Angelo

    Exploitative duplicity

  4. Greg Angelo

    The exploitative duplicity of the commercial channels is exceeded only by the moronic insensibility of their viewing public. One redeeming feature of the audiences is that their sensibilities are probably numbed by mindless repetition of crap advertising. The producers of these programs have no shame in their rush to the bottom and are rapidly approaching the shamelessness of politicians as obfuscation and misrepresentation is the order of the day.

  5. Jean

    Back in the 60s a friend of mine wrote half a dozen hippie-drug-shock articles, with his scruffy mates posing for the photos, and sold them to the old Truth (!!!) newspaper to use on slow news days.
    Why criticise a grand tradition? The media today is no more a vehicle for truth than Truth was 🙂

  6. stephen martin

    I thought that the original Crikey story stated that the road used by Arena had been closed for his high speed run.

  7. meski

    It was implied that it had been closed, whether it had been officially closed, or just by parking cars across the road to block traffic, wasn’t entirely clear. Hard to see the police, with their attitude, giving permission.

  8. Blair Martin

    Whether it is old style “Truth” newspaper (cough) journalism (god, what a read that used to be!) or why many Australians have no idea that the mindless drivel they watch is actually mindless drivel, the (cough) best part about the follow-up is the idiocy of Acting Superintendent Dave Evans making on the record remarks about criminal charges, prosecution, sentencing and time “behind bars”. What an absolute fool.

  9. ty_webb

    ACA has turned into the champion of gutter journalism. Stories that range from “12 months ago i was broke and a single mother of 3, now I own $1M of property” to “my next door neighbours house is a rubbish tip” to “carlo the hoon driver” illustrate my assertion. ACA is merely a visual media continuation of the Herald Sun, the Advertiser etc etc. ugghhhhh.

  10. bakerboy

    Top Gear didn’t finish ‘months ago’ on SBS – it was on last week!

  11. AR

    I’m less concerned about A Currant Bun & Yesterday Last Week tabloid TV (just as I don’t eat junk food) but the fact that it can, and demonstrably does, influence Plod and pollies to ‘do something’ is far more worrying.
    One can always rely on Laura Norder for moral panic.

  12. ty_webb

    @ AR – I agree with you. I for one am glad, not that I would watch it anyway, that I am usually still at work by that time or about to leave. From memory, the other typical news item would be “workers compensation rorts” which inevitably involves an undercover journalist following a plumber around. IMO, apart from the abc, it is hard to find a quality news service.

  13. Liz45

    I gave up watching these type of programs on commercial TV years ago. I’m amazed that there’s 1 million idiots who do. They have nothing to do with jouralism or investigative reporting etc – they’re just after sensationalism, and operate on the idea, that you don’t let fact get in the way of a good story(or one the producers think is good anyway?). Truly! I despair at times?

  14. Ben Aveling

    @Andrew. Have you tried to talk to Carlo Arena?

  15. John

    And to think I though Ray Martin ran a dodgy ship of fools…..
    This is just Fail 101.

  16. Elan

    The story IS a farce. And so is the pretention here!! For Heavens sake, you are trying to outdo each other with your intellectual grasp!

    I wrote this on the first piece, and it also stands here:-

    “I watch TT and ACA………………………..

    I too condemned them as journalistic crap. But they are not!

    Tabloid they may well be. Spin they do/distort they do.

    As a pragmatist, I accept ALL of that, because they are the only public voice for the disaffected and bullied. And the ordinary Joe/Joess, is kicked around by systems in particular,-with monotonous regularity.

    They (TT/ACA) have become a ‘blood sport’ for criticism. It struck me some time ago that they have an important-yes! important, role to play.

    Do they use these people? Well of course they do;-but it’s reciprocal.

    I enjoy ‘Foreign Correspondent in partic,- but I am also happy to watch these two programmes for precisely the reasons I’ve said.

    ………………………………..and frankly I think it is elitist snobbery to condemn them out of hand……………..!!”

    Anybody?? Is there anyone with the guts to say they DO have a role to play? Or are you all too puffed up with moral superiority?

  17. ty_webb

    i don’t think it comes down to moral superiority at all Elan, moreso journalistic taste.

    what role does ACA play in contemporary society? ACA seems to be obsessed with trashy pieces such as “how to earn a million dollars in 1 year” etc.

    I do remember the good old days of ACA (willesee, munro, martin et al) when some journalistic talent was involved, such as the story which exposed Mark Lathams supposedly poor performance whilst Mayor of the City Council of Liverpool.

    I agree, Foreign Correspondent is a quality production.

  18. Ian Bryant

    Elan, they may have a role to play in that they can advocate for the ordinary Joe who’s been done over by the system, but the reciprocity is severely skewed in their favour.

    They’ll occasionally champion the loser who’s suffering, usually at the hands of bureaucracy, include the empathetic response from Centrelink (with the mandatory ‘we consider each case on its merits’), and often the matter gets resolved.

    But is this the way we want social justice to operate? Why should Joe Ordinary get his case heard and a favourable decision made when there may be many more unhappy punters out there? And how does the individual favourable decision translate to the wider level of grievance? There is no obligation on the bureaucracy to apply this solution more widely.

    But more disingenuously than that, most of the beat ups now on ACA are cross promotion for other Channel 9 programs. What better way to promote Nine’s purchase of Top Gear than to run this story?

  19. meski

    They *are* journalistic crap. Take an example of one neighbour vs another, a common source of material, where ACA favour one neighbour. How is that fair? It’s a grubby ratings grab. I don’t voluntarily watch it, but get it second hand when I’m at someone else’s place, or like in this case, read about it here and see it on YouTube.

  20. FunkyJ

    Elan, the only role ACA / TT play in society is to sell advertising to those too lazy to switch the channel after the news.

    If you think it’s anything else, then you’re an idiot. Simple as that.

    However, before you have a go at me for being “puffed up with moral superiority” I also think this of MOST journalism. Including Crikey.

    Journalism has never been about the “Truth”. It’s never been about “Facts”. It’s never been about “Democracy”. It’s never been about “Reality”.

    Journalism’s first and continued motivation is profit for the owners.

    The very first broadsheets were advertising forums for shipping services, designed to profit those who advertised. These morphed into the first newspapers and they too were all about profit.

    The very first photo published in a magazine was a montage – two images spliced together. Never mind the fact that this was the first photo published in a magazine – that wasn’t sensational enough – so they had to fake the truth of that photo.

    And this sensationalism and profiteering has always existed in the media. The fact that some of it does some good in the world doesn’t excuse or counter this very basic fact about media.

    If I make a good product, you’ll buy it. Likewise with media – it’s simply a product. If someone makes good media – and the definition of “good” changes with the individual – people will consume it.

    When ACA expose a charlatan, don’t think for a minute they’re doing it for “the good of the people” – they want people to view the adverts and to make a profit out of that.

    Likewise, Crikey’s exposure of the tactics ACA use is fantastic, but don’t think for a minute this was published for any other reason than making people want to subscribe to Crikey.

  21. Elan

    As I said: I’m a pragmatist. I would rather this than nothing for the pleb.

    Do I come across as having any illusions? I don’t think so.

    EVERY media outlet IS biased. They simply cannot fail to be-unless we get a media run entirely by machines!

    I’m just so fed up of the bleedin’ attacks on these programmes, a mantra to show an intelligent mind.

    It certainly isn’t the popular thing to do, to defend them is it?

    (I promise;-I don’t know anyone connected to both programmes,….BUT on one story we were able to shut down a private car-park crook who had his men ticketing cars well before an expiry period. They did it to me;-I returned before time and actually caught him! Secondly: The rorting of maintenance costs by a Government department-I gave an interview in camera-we failed. Rorting is still massive there. But we tried!! I worked for them. I knew first hand. I also knew that the greatest fear of these scumbags is camera’s. They hate them! We failed because the dozens of people who know about this were too scared to speak up).

    Is THAT why I defend these programmes? Don’t be naive! I’m not that self-centred. I support them because they ARE better than nothing.

    ALL have a role to play. ALL.

  22. harrybelbarry

    Tonight on ACA , they have footage of a Dodgy Washing machine mechanic, drag racing (Hooning) a Dodgy 2nd hand Car dealer and ran over a small Koala, while texting.
    Thank ### that we have the Ad free ABC and Crikey to read the truth.

  23. harrybelbarry

    Elan, just watch Media Watch(its back) and the Hungry beast

  24. Elan

    I love both of those HBB! They also promote a biased point of view.., theirs.

    Media Watch will concentrate on certain things to the detriment of others. So? what’s new.

    Again, it is better than having no MW.

    The Beast is the same, but again, I enjoy it immensely, even in preference to the Chasers!


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