Peter Meakin describes Karl Stefanovic as a “mate”. But the rival news boss reckons his shameless and ultimately victorious campaign for a Gold Logie was “tacky”.

“When I saw Karl’s campaign I joked to one of our key presenters we might do the same for her and she was appalled by the prospect,” Seven’s news boss told Crikey this morning of Stefanovic’s “entirely expected” win.

“There was an amazing campaign to get him the gong and I don’t know if that takes any of the shine off it for him.”

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Should it? “I hope not,” he said. “Karl’s a really nice guy, I regard him as a mate. But I just think this was tacky.”

Bookies had the Queensland-bred newsman and perennially second-placed Today co-host off the pace to win the popularly voted gong for favourite small screen personality. But it came as no surprise to network bosses and industry watchers after Nine bombarded viewers with “Vote 1 Karl” plugs along with social media spruiks and YouTube ads, featuring endorsements from Hugh Jackman and others.

Tellingly, Stefanovic thanked Nine’s publicity department for his win last night: “Heidi and Cory who helped co-ordinate this campaign, well done to you.” (Earlier, in accepting the most popular presenter award, Stefanovic drew the ire of some at the Crown Palladium for an off-colour thanks to his wife for having “the best arse I have ever seen”.)

Logie organisers TV Week, another Nine Entertainment Co entity, promised the introduction of online voting had fixed the “historical faults” in voting, which used to see publicity flacks madly buying magazine copies to fill out the entry form. But industry analyst Peter Cox dismissed some of the winners as an “absurd proposition”.

“Yes, the campaign for Karl was totally tacky,” he told Crikey. “We can see what a totally inappropriate system it is.

“They’re all promoting madly ‘please vote for us, please vote for us’ … To me that destroyed the credibility of our own TV system.”

Cox noted another winner in Chrissie Swan, whose three Logie nominations as co-host of Channel Ten’s low-rated infomercial platform The Circle were pounced on by critics. The former Big Brother runner-up won best new female talent while The Circle took home an award for most popular light entertainment show, thanks to a loud campaign by Ten and sympathetic voters in what Cox calls the “underdog factor”.

“It was a good story for papers to run with,” he said. “And then they must have really got supporters to do a hell of a lot of voting to get the result up.”

Meakin, meanwhile, wasn’t just critical of handing out gongs to “shows that nobody watches” but also of Seven’s own peer-voted award for news coverage of the New Zealand mine disaster. “Completely independent” expert judges — who TV Week wouldn’t name when questioned by Crikey — picked Seven’s coverage over Nine political stalwart Laurie Oakes’ already award-winning pre-election leaks (Oakes was inducted to the Logies hall of fame).

“We’re delighted and surprised by our result,” Meakin said. “Laurie is a mate of mine and I know he doesn’t take these things personally, but if I was in his shoes I would have said a few four-letter words … It’s nice to get it, particularly because we didn’t have to mount a huge campaign.

“In my view it throws a question mark over the whole process.”

And it will force Seven to reassess how it promotes its stars, said Meakin: “I just don’t see the sense of it … you should get the award on your merits. If we’re now at the stage where performers have to campaign for their awards then I guess we’ll have to consider our position.”

A Seven spokesperson was more diplomatic: “If you look at the nominees, we had multiple nominations in a lot of categories. It’s not a matter of favouring one or the other. Nine had one nomination.” Nine’s publicity people didn’t respond to Crikey‘s requests for comment.

Stefanovic’s win — and a bag of awards for Nine shows including Underbelly and its sports coverage — is unlikely to make a dent in the ratings, which has seen Seven trounce its bitter opponent all year. Cox notes TV’s “night of nights” couldn’t even manage to win the ratings, with the season premiere of MasterChef drawing almost 1.6 million viewers compared to the Logies’ 1.3 million, destroying Nine’s hopes for a traditional post-Logies weekly ratings win.

“I think Nine have let the Logies slip once again, and most of that though self-abuse,” Cox said.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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