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TV & Radio

Feb 26, 2010

Senate grilling has ABC ‘backing away from Keating!’

Keating! The Musical has been one of the most successful Australian shows of recent years. The ABC aired the entire production in 2008. So why is the broadcaster now ignoring its Tasmanian premiere?

The musical of Paul Keating’s life has been one of the most successful Australian shows of recent years. The ABC aired the entire production in 2008. So why is the broadcaster now ignoring its Tasmanian premiere?

It seems more than a coincidence the show is struggling to attract attention after being the subject of a Senate Estimates grilling of ABC managing director Mark Scott, according to producers. They say Keating! has been “banned” from ABC Local Radio and television.

Graeme Paine, from The Old Nick Company, told Crikey the ABC has said the theatre troop it won’t be featured on local programming such as other productions have in the past. Despite the ABC admitting the claims made by Liberal Party senators are false.

“ABC Local Radio has informed The Old Nick Company that the public season of Keating! The Musical will not be covered either in an interview or with a ‘Live at the Centre’ performance as is common for such a landmark theatre production,” Paine said. “ABC television’s Stateline program has backed away from a story on the musical as well.”

In Estimates hearings on February 8, Tasmanian Liberal senators David Bushby and Eric Abetz argued the show was used as a fundraiser for Labor candidates, which was then mentioned on Tim Cox’s Local Radio breakfast show. In fact, an ABC investigation has found no mention of any political parties was made during the broadcast.

Labor candidate David O’Byrne bought 100 tickets to the show and raffled them as a political fundraiser. As Paine told Crikey, “there’s nothing we can do about that”.

The cast of Keating! was also booked to perform at a fundraiser for ALP candidate Lisa Singh, attended by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. According to Senator Bushby, this amounted to the show “specifically being put on as part of a gala dinner for a Julia Gillard function”.

Nonsense, said Paine, and the ABC has confirmed to the company its internal investigation found no mention of party politics on the radio. But since, he said, “they’re not going to touch it”.

So has the ABC banned Keating!? “No” was the blunt response from the broadcaster today. “It should be pointed out that the ABC has previously screened live a performance of Keating! The Musical in prime time on ABC2,” a spokesperson says.

Old Nick has invested $70,000 in the independent production and says it has been hurt by the ABC’s lack of interest. “It has no bearing on current politics,” Paine said. “It has been banned unfairly.”

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