A former employee of monopoly traffic reporters Australian Traffic Network religiously plucked, waxed and shaved before fronting Channel Nine’s Today show cameras, according to a fresh statement of claim lodged with the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal and obtained by Crikey.
Jason Bouman, who analysed Sydney traffic at Nine for two years before being pulled from the skies in favour of “hot young blonde” Amelia Oberhardt, has hit back at suggestions he was “dishevelled” and resembled Curly from the Three Stooges, as cruelly alleged by his ex-employer.
Bouman, a 20-year radio veteran, is suing ATN for ageism in a landmark case threatening to shine a light on commercial broadcasting’s dubious cut-throat culture.
“I deny ever looking untidy, unshaven, or like I just woke up on Channel Nine. I showered every morning before arriving for work, and washed my face and hair. I always wore make-up and had my hair waxed and professionally done for Channel Nine. I shaved on a daily basis,” Bouman says.
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ATN managing director Bill Pezzimenti and operations manager Jay Flood had allegedly discussed his off-base slapstick likeness: “I was unaware that Mr Pezzimenti told Mr Flood that I looked like Curly from the Three Stooges.”
In what is expected to be blockbuster evidence, the traffic whizz will tender 60 tapes of his reports on Nine to the court when ATN takes the stand in October. He hopes the footage will contradict the unkempt allegations and demonstrate his skill in analysing Harbour city traffic snarls. The C91.3 host is seeking reinstatement, payment of $50,000 in lost wages and an additional $30,000 for hurt, humiliation and stress.
The 87-point rebuttal lodged in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal on Wednesday painstakingly points out alleged flaws and in his former employer’s version of events.
Bouman details a conversation in March with Austereo traffic reporter Brian “Sando” Sanders, in which Sanders told him of a “secret meeting” held at McDonald’s Merrylands with outgoing ATN operations manager Steven Woods. At the chinwag, allegedly held at Woods’ instigation, the duo discussed a damaging text message Woods had previously shown Sando from Pezzimenti that said “Tell me, what are you doing about getting that f-cking fat old c-nt off Channel 9?”
In the statement, Bouman alleges Woods had combed through his initial statement with Pezzimenti and denied ever revealing the text. Sando wasn’t happy: “The last thing I want is to be dragged into this, but I won’t lie, mate. I know what I was shown, I know what I saw, Steve.”
Woods says that if he admitted showing the text to Sanders he would also be sacked. “… I don’t expect you to lie but I’m gone when they find out. He [Pezzimenti] told me if he finds out that I showed you any message, it will be instant dismissal.”
Crikey reported earlier this week that Woods had recently resigned from ATN and was moving to New Zealand with his Kiwi partner.
Woods, Flood, Pezzimenti and Oberhardt have all made statements to the tribunal in response to Bouman’s initial submission unveiled by Crikey on May 24 and eagerly followed up by Channel Seven’s Today Tonight and The Sydney Morning Herald.
But ATN has refused to release its statement publicly — Crikey understands it has demanded all parties to refrain from leaking it on pain of legal sanction.
Still, snippets can be gleaned from Bouman’s response. Woods apparently alleges that Bouman had discussed with him whether “he was attractive enough for television”, a claim denied by Bouman. And ATN’s argument that ATN “chops and changes” reporters to suit requirements appears to be contradicted by other reporters’ longevity that helps build a rapport with viewers.
Bouman also denies leaking information to Sydney Morning Herald gossip columnist Andrew Hornery, claiming that Hornery had contacted him last year on the day of his last shift on Nine with “information he already had”. “A little birdie”, had worded him up, Hornery said.
ATN was sold to a New York-based private equity firm in September. Its parent company dominates eye-in-the-sky traffic reports in Australia and the United Kingdom and in eight Canadian markets.
On Monday, Sydney radio legends John Costello, Nils Gustafson and Don Moxham rounded on the organisation that they claim has been controlled by a management clique led by the New York-educated Pezzimenti, who is paid more than $US1 million a year.
Legal observers contacted by Crikey wondered why the firm was yet to settle the case to staunch the gushing wound of damaging leaks and a subsequent free-for-all in open court.
A spokesman for ATN said this morning that the company wasn’t making “any comment”. When asked why, he said “we can’t disclose that” and then, invoking The Beatles, told Crikey to “let it be”.