The tangled Chaser chain of responsibility

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Andrew Dodd writes:

The responsibility for authorising last week’s controversial edition of The Chaser has become less clear cut with the revelation that the head of ABC Television, Kim Dalton, attended the green room at the ABC studio after the taping of the show.

An anonymous insider has told Crikey that he or she saw Dalton in the audience for the taping of The Chaser, suggesting that he would have been aware of the content of the infamous “Make a realistic Wish” sketch before it was aired last week.

But Dalton has denied this, explaining to Crikey that he was actually at the screening of Jane Campion’s new film Bright Star on the night in question.

However, after the screening he returned to the ABC and attended the green room. ABC TV publicity says he arrived at the green room after the taping of The Chaser had finished.

The question of whether this has any bearing on the ABC’s review of its vetting processes depends on whether Dalton became aware of the content of the show before it was aired.

It is possible that he attended the green room, but did not ask about the content of that night’s show. It is also possible that none of the people he spoke with that night discussed the segment they’d seen. But this is surprising given the sketch about terminally ill children has created such a sensation since.

The same anonymous insider suggested to Crikey that Dalton would have viewed a tape of the show because it is normal practice for him to receive one each week.

ABC Publicity has told Crikey that “Kim didn’t watch the episode before it went to air and it’s not his usual practice to do so.”

Although this response doesn’t quite answer the question whether it is normal practice for him to receive a tape of the show each week before screening, a member of The Chaser team has confirmed to Crikey that Dalton wouldn’t ordinarily see the program before it goes to air.

The ABC operates on a policy of upward referral, meaning that any controversial item is sent up the chain of command. As Media Watch explained last night, the upward referral stopped in this instance at the desk of Amanda Duthie, the Head of Arts, Entertainment and Comedy at ABC Television.

She told Media Watch that she viewed the “Make a Realistic Wish” sketch before it aired and neither referred the decision up to, or notified, ABC Television’s Executive Head of Content Creation, Courtney Gibson or Dalton, as Head of Television.

The member of The Chaser team told Crikey that he was sure that Dalton didn’t attend the green room after the taping, suggesting that Dalton’s visit was indeed brief.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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