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Oct 25, 2012

Will Clarke and Dawe be shown the door? ABC duo face uncertain future

John Clarke and Bryan Dawe have been satirical stalwarts of the ABC. Now they're at risk of being boned, according to whispers in Aunty's Sydney corridors.


For the past 12 years, John Clarke and Bryan Dawe’s mock interviews have been an ABC institution — an oasis of satire in a sea of oh-so-serious news and current affairs. Each Thursday night you can bank on them showing up, at around 7.55, to take the piss out of whichever politicians or other public figures have been in the news that week.

Well, you used to be able to. For the last two weeks, 7.30 watchers have been denied their weekly satirical fix — and there’s no guarantee the duo will be returning to our screens next year. Within the ABC there’s no topic more sensitive right now than what to do about Clarke and Dawe.

The official line from the ABC is that no decisions on the segment have been made, and that’s true. But Crikey understands its future is being keenly debated by heavy-hitters in Aunty’s news and current affairs department — including 7.30 EP Sally Neighbour and current affairs boss Bruce Belsham.

Some senior staffers believe the segment has passed its use-by date and they would like to see it shelved. There is also talk about moving the slot to another program or “freshening it up”. Exactly what that means is unclear, but we doubt the ABC would do a Frontline by suggesting the duo dress and speak like the politicians they’re impersonating.

Neighbour declined to respond to specific questions about whether the segment is likely to return next year. “Clarke and Dawe have a current contract with the ABC for the 2012 calendar year,” she said. “There have been no negotiations yet regarding 2013.

“As is normal when a contract ends, those discussions will occur over the next couple of months. Any discussions held within the ABC on programming issues are necessarily private, as are all contractual negotiations.”

According to Neighbour, the October 11 sketch was dropped because of “significant timing issues” (it was posted online). Stories that got a run that night included pieces on offensive Facebook posts, a Bali bombing anniversary terror threat, an interview with Julie Bishop and calls for a royal commission into clergy s-x abuse. Neighbour says a “computer malfunction” prevented Clarke from preparing an original sketch last week and a standby offering was rejected because she considered it out of date.

7.30 has undergone a radical overhaul this year under the leadership of Neighbour, a former Four Corners journalist, with a greater focus on news breaking, investigative reporting and edgy stories that appeal to younger viewers. Clarke and Dawe, who could not be reached for comment, joined the 7.30 Report in 2000 following eight years at A Current Affair and previous stints on 3AW and ABC Radio.

Although the future for their segment appears cloudy, there’s some good news for the duo’s devotees: we’re told they’ll be back on air tonight. 



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48 thoughts on “Will Clarke and Dawe be shown the door? ABC duo face uncertain future

  1. paddy

    The ABC surely can’t be serious.
    What other reason is there to watch 7.30?

  2. David Sanderson

    Fine with me, it’s been too unfunny for too long.

  3. izatso?

    aye Paddy, indeed. Surely the subjects of Mr Clark and Mr Dawe absolutely are in need of the pathetic piss taken out of them, whomsoever they may be ? The ‘allergic to nuance’ crowd especially …. ?

  4. Sanjay

    7.30 needs a real presenter and producer. For the national broadcaster to give us 30 minutes of rubbish for four nights a week with nothing new from the news at 7.00 is a waste of prime time.

  5. Crumpet

    Noooooooo! Clarke and Dawe are my absolute favourites; don’t do it, ABC!

  6. David R

    Clarke and Dawe has gone past its use-by date. The joke is no longer funny.

  7. Warren Joffe

    I can’t agree that “the joke is no longer funny” assuming that by “the joke” is meant “the formula”. On the contrary, the formula will be found, in 500 years, to have eternal life. And part of the Clarke-Dawe appeal is that its humour appeals to those of us – nearly everyone with a sense of humour and especially of the ridiculous – who enjoy a certain kind of predictability, especially in our friends and family – as in, e.g., “OMG what did Dad do/say next?”.
    John Clarke has been known to say that there are no new jokes, giving in the context I remember and imagined example from ancient Mesopotamia for a current version. But he and those he has worked with in the last 20 years have the nuanced skill to give us still the necessary surprise, if only slight and verbal, to heighten our appreciation of the absurd that we have noticed and to point to absurdity which only needs a little exaggeration to be recognisable.

    True, perhaps, there is not always quite the zip of the early performances – but that may well be us, the over-familiar listeners/viewers – but who/what else is going to make sure one tries to watch at least part of the Thursday 7.30 Report?

  8. drmick

    They are the closest thing we have to Stewart and Colbert. Of course the abc will get rid of them. They take their news leads from ltd news/fox, they imitate ltd news/fox at every opportunity and the next logical step is to get rid of people taking the piss out of ltd news/fox.
    Give them a job Crikey

  9. Malcom Hutton

    Along with Media Watch, Clarke and Dawe are the two best things on ABC. Over many years I have learned that the ABC hates success, and management fiddles with good shos and destroys them. Stick with what works, please. Clarke and Dawe must stay.

  10. my say

    Thursday night is the only night we bother then we leave it. Till

  11. my say

    Lets not have a 7.30 show. Do we really need it,

    just look up things. We need to know on line,

    Since. Mr obrien left we have not bothered, also gave up late line and q and aactualy when i think about it we don’t watch much abc. Only. Q. And. I

    Stephen fry. My favourite britsh actor and entertainer

  12. zut alors

    Thursday is the night to religiously watch 7.30 – one reason only, Clarke & Dawe.

    The political satire offered by The Hamster Wheel is not in the same league. In fact, I no longer tune in.

  13. fredex

    Get rid of Uhlmann.
    Keep Clarke and Dawe.
    Get rid of the people who want to keep Uhlmann and lose Clarke and Dawe.
    Oh and send Scott with the in the same direction as those who want to keep C & D.
    Change the management – fast.

  14. fredex

    That should be:
    “Oh and send Scott in the same direction as those who want to keep Uhlmann” – not C & D.
    Dear me, ‘standards’.

  15. pritu

    fred, completely agree! Get rid of Uhlman and his supercilious sneer. I switch of as soon as I see Cassidy or Uhlman on the screen. Complete waste of space.

  16. fredex

    Maybe I can persuade you to watch Cassidy in action some time ago [I would never attempy to persuade you to watch Uhlmann ever].
    He attempted to interview Julia Gillard but was taught a lesson, starting with the response to his leading leading [thats not a mistake] question and continuing to about halfway thru when the converstaion got onto boring stuff.
    Its at the “insiders” [sic] site of 21-06-09 under the heading “Julia Gillard discusses the OzCar scandal”.


    Julia Gillard discusses the OzCar scandal

  17. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Oh dear, the seniors brigade is certainly out in force today. Like The Australian, the ABC is in danger of getting stuck with an aging Baby Boomer set who don’t want anything to change and are still wondering what happened to twin sets and James Dibble. Clarke and Dawe are a great act but they could change too. Find a new scene, a different combination or even a different channel – maybe give Lateline or the boring old Drum a bit of a lift? Or team up with HG and Roy to call the next 6-12 months of Australian politics as if it is drug and alcohol free sport.

  18. Vivushka

    I agree with Paddy (below). Always look forward to Clark and Dawe on Thursday. Their satire is brilliant. Maybe the younger set being aimed at, requiring their news in one liners with no depth of coverage, don’t understand the nuanced satire of Clark and Dawe. Come on ABC – do you want to keep Baby Boomers watching?

    And re the 7.30 Report, I find the technique of the interviewers far too belligerent now. Come back Kerry – incisive but not rude!

  19. paul walter

    A journalistic lapse at Crikey?
    What the position of the “heavy hitters” (Belsham, Neighbour, etc), re retention/ disposal of Clarke and Dawe?
    Is a comment later regarding Neighbour and “edgy stories that appeal to younger viewers” a cryptic clue that it is Neighbour responsible for the dumbing down, given the satirical and politician unfriendly nature of Clarke and Dawes excerpts.
    Should we hint at racism, since Dawe comes from Adelaide and Clarke, NZ?
    Most posters here have suggested the ABC would do far better to get rid of tabloid reporting and folk like Uhlmann who typify this sort of “Murdoch Media” approach to current affairs.

  20. Suzanne Blake

    Lots more should be boned first, like Insiders, Qanda, 4 Corners and News 24 compares and some panel. Further EVERY political journalist whose family, spouce etc are an MP or work for a political party

  21. Warren Joffe

    Does anyone every watch the BBC’s Hardtalk? Now that is really a test for the victims who mustn’t bridle at aggressive even rude questioning? Chris Uhlmann hardly rates in that company, nor Leigh Sales even if she wanted to be a “fair cow” with someone. BTW, isn’t Uhlmann married to a Labor MP? It doesn’t seem to affect his professionalism. He has always shown up those young ignorant tabloid reporters who should probably be cross-examined by any politician before answering any questions for them to see if they have the first clue about the subject they want to quizz him/her on.

  22. Plane

    Great respect and humour for and by John Clarke and Bryan Dawe but their segment needs a refresh.

  23. Iva Gripe

    So, Sally Neighbour, renowned arbiter of political satire, and similarly neuron-deprived members of ABC management imagine they can secure a younger audience by ridding 7.30 of the only segment worth switching the show on for?!

    The younger viewers the ABC are seeking have the sense to use alternative media while without Clarke & Dawe to relieve the tedium of 7.30, the existing audience are rethinking their commitment and abandoning the show in disgust.

    While it is commendable that the ABC supports struggling authors, the recent decision to drop Clarke & Dawe in favour of promoting J. K. Rowling’s latest contribution to world literature, “The casual vacancy” (which was to be featured on Jennifer Byrne Presents at lip-biting length immediately following 7.30) was breathtaking evidence of the EP’s more than casual vacancy where grey matter would normally reside.

    Without Clarke & Dawe, the only ‘edgy’ element of 7.30’s reports are the hosts teeth – like a demented poodle hanging onto to an oversized bone, Ms Sales determination to adhere to proscribed questions quashes intelligent debate, reflection or insight.

    Do the ABC really believe by removing the humour of our two finest satirists, leaving only a tiresome poodle in their wake, that they will succeed in galvanising Generation Z to locate the ‘on’ switch?

  24. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Bring back Fred Dagg!

  25. puddleduck

    FFS! Clarke and Dawe is pure gold – comedic and analytic.

    I’ve noticed the dumbing down of 7.30, but wasn’t sure why. When I saw Leigh Sales standing in the middle of some disco lit floor, with swirling lights behind her, for a minute I thought I was watching A Current Tonight by accident. But lo! It was 7.30. Jazzed up for a younger crowd? That’s what we’re calling it now. Right o.

    I despair.

  26. paul walter

    There’s another good show from ABC warehoused away on the news channel, with Jane Hutcheon hosting, “One plus One” I think, an in-depth half hour interview show.
    Only caught it once, in this episode without the need for screeching or harping she nonetheless surgically dismantled kiddieporn campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist in an object lesson for the likes of Uhlmann, of how a professional presenter operates.
    So much valuable material on both SBS and ABC is hoarded away till after 11 at night, as if current affairs and docos should be the programs that “scarce dare mention their own names”.
    Instead, peak time is squandered away on idiot quizz and lifestyle shows from the BBC and Andrew Denton; are we being told this is the “edgy” stuff “younger” (ad-conditioned?) audiences want?
    Isn’t the youth market attended to more than sufficiently on the commercial stations, Faux, etc?
    Why does a public broadcaster need an “ad friendly” audience anyway, particularly at the expense of a literate one?

  27. Lindsay Boyd

    I was watching the October 11 episode of 7:30. It ended not with any of the stories mentioned in this article, but with a highlight of a J.K. Rowling interview. I’m not going to assert that Clarke and Dawe are better television than that interview (even though I strongly believe so), but the same interview was then aired in full at 8:00, immediately after the highlight was aired. If there is no original content to fill that timeslot, then why not allow Clarke and Dawe to remain?

  28. Cuppa

    I suppose the edict has come down from the IPA

  29. Cuppa

    Warren Joffe,

    [BTW, isn’t Uhlmann married to a Labor MP? It doesn’t seem to affect his professionalism.]

    Chris Uhlmann has dabbled in politics himself – as a (failed) candidate for a right wing Christian minor party in the ACT Legislative Assembly, 1998.

  30. floorer

    The abc is run by inner city cyclists.

  31. paul walter

    Checked briefly. Think it wasn’t on again.
    Dishonest cowards, they are.

  32. Warren Joffe

    It was on. About what VIAL (running world competitive cycling) didn’t know anything about. Not one of their best by a long way.

    Cuppa. Thanks for the goss on Chris Uhlmann. It surprises me mildly. I am a bit more surprised that you, well informed about Uhlmann, should be so ill-informed about the IPA and the kind of people who are associated with it. Perhaps that is because Michael Kroger has been, I think, on both boards. Not only would the IPA not even imagine it had influence on the ABC today but I can well imagine most of the IPA connected I am aware of enojoying Clarke and Dawe very much. Rod Kemp is I think President and was Minister for the Arts, though not, I think Communications or whatever is responsible for the ABC. But, though rather distant in politics perhaps from the early Brian Dawe, you could be sure he would have a good laugh at C & D not least when having a go at Liberals.

  33. Aliar Jones

    Stopped watching a few years ago…the ABC seems to have a death wish that no iPad app will prevent.

    Being only slightly better than the moronic sludge below them on the commercial networks is not much of a victory.

  34. Cuppa

    Warren Joffe,

    Perhaps the fellow you’re thinking of is Ron Brunton? A director of the ABC for five years from 2003 he was also Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs from 1995-2001.

    Michael Kroger, usually written up as “Liberal powerbroker”, is probably best known for his time on the Board of the ABC for pressuring journalist, Chris Masters, to portray Alan Jones in a positive light in a Four Corners special Masters was working on in 2002. Chris Masters wrote about his experience here.

  35. AR

    Please don’t remind the muppets organising 7.30 of that Frontline suggestion – they’d probably think it an absolute spiffing whizz and implelment it, with different people.
    Most people here refer to “watching” ABC, news or 7.30, which raise to question, for me, as to ‘WHY?’.
    Except for an integrally visual story, rare, it is just radio reportage, with colour & movement signifying very, very little.
    I have it on but rarely feel the need to turn & watch, except for C&D. Oh and Kohler’s jiggy-jaggy graphs & the weather.

  36. paul walter

    What really makes me angry and bitter is that for five years, starting with the refusal to reinstate the staff board member, the minister, the anal Stephen Conroy, has sat on his hands and nothing but stubbornly look the other way.
    You expect no better from the likes of Shire, Scott, Brunton Newman, Albrechtsen, Kroger,etc but what excuse from a government that should and does know better.

  37. by the sea

    The simple things in life. news accurate self effacing jounos, in depth, level headed.. now the wheels have fallen off. Telstra syphons content from ABC streaming (AFL) and the new crikey web site had a dogs home flashing at me, and now some gambling web site. Seems Mr Packer v1 V2 v3 are really enjoying the day, skimming what they want and trashing content over revenue. Can’t wait for the news of the new Sydney Casino.

    I came to crikey, payed for it. For just for news, and a small amount of satire, now I can’t find the stuff I liked, and have a f* blinking add.

    Dawe and Clark are as predictable as snags at a BBQ. I don’t watch TV for news anymore. It is crap, immediate live to air trauma reporting. I can’t wait for NSW ambos to be privatised with live to air cams, then some producer can never have to leave their edit suite.

    I watch what I want when I want now on line. For one reason. The rest is crap, and I have run out of patience for crap.

    and can please at Crikey we have better adds than lost dogs homes, and blokes whipping the b’jesus out of horses for a bet, (and no not the banks pls, thats the same, or how nice mining guys are -vomit)

  38. Venise Alstergren

    This is an outrage. WTF would I be watching the ABC at this time, except for this marvellous duo?

  39. Venise Alstergren

    DAVID R: The joke?? Is no longer funny?? Political lampooning has been in fashion for the past six thousand years. Suddenly it’s no longer funny? Give over.

  40. paul walter

    Is there some reason why my reasonable comment, 38, is moderated?

  41. Venise Alstergren

    Why does the ABC continue with the news? Why not swing straight to Leigh Sales and Chris Ulhmann? The news can’t be so important when the commercial channels invent their own news anyway?

  42. fractious

    Clarke & Dawe’s youtube site puts all their work up anyway, so if the soulless ghouls at Their ABC decide to can their segment that’s just one more reason to never bother with 7.30. In the first fit of forgiveness and curiosity I’ve had for well over a year I tuned in last night – puddleduck #25 is right, if you didn’t read the 7.30 watermark you’d think you’d accidentally watched a re-run of Prancing with the Stars or some such dreck. I’m with Paul Walter, go online or rummage around on SBS (Insight is still worth watching even if a bit patchy). There may well be a couple of half decent journos and interviewers on Their ABC but Neighbour and her minions make sure they’re buried in a dungeon.

    paul walter #41 – probably no reason at all. This place is famous for its immoderation.

  43. paul walter

    Thanks fractious. The comment concerned the despicably perverse refusal of Labor over five years in government to wind back the Tory era takeover of public broadcasting.
    If anything, the right wing policies have been expanded, as with security legislation, surveillance, etc.

  44. Warren Joffe

    Paul Walter. I have never been sure I know all the arguments for and against a staff rep on the ABC Board. Like putting students on university councils it is surely a product of quiet appeasement which doesn’t worry anyone much because they are never let in on anything really important.

    Of course it is desirable that the ABC board have some people with real hands-on knowledge of the media, especially electronic media, though not all staff would want that: e.g. someone with the experience of being a CEO for Kerry Packer, having risen through media busineses, mightn’t be welcome but for the general public a few with that sort of experience would seem desirable.

    One can expect a staff rep to be a pretty smart person but what is his/her role? The critical question, critical not least to being able to hear what fellow board members really think and to be trusted and regarded as on the same team is how far he/she represents the staff and can disclose normally confidential board matters to staff rather than merely guaranteeing that there is someone who knows some important things about the ABC but supports board solidarity if votes are taken or a consensus declared without opposition.

    If there is something worrying most staff might it not be better to have staff association senior officers lobby individual board members and, perhaps, to ask for a chance to make a case to the board as a whole?

  45. paul walter

    “Board Solidarity”? Could a board have been more compromised ideologically as the one Labor found when it came to government in 2007 and management less employer sympathetic?
    But Labor backed off returning the staff member, an election commitment, because it might offend the likes of Brunton, Newman and Albrechtsen and the powerful, vile and anti-social interests they represented, whose attitude was inamicable to both the concept of public broadcasting in a civil society and the role the ideas worker in cultural production.
    Rofl at your foolish statement that staff member approaches management or board, certainly without the protection of a strong union!
    This is tantamount to the barnyard chicken reporting a fear of predators to a goshawk.
    I really feel as if I have my intelligence grievously insulted by Warren Joffe’s neoliberal dissembling.
    Enough of your guff..

  46. klewso

    I thought Leigh Sales had taken over “The Irony Dept”? Interviewing Liggett on Tuesday and having a go at his chronic defence of Armstrong?
    From a conservative journalist that had abandoned her objectivity – like so many others in on the “joke” – while employed “presenting” their special subject “politics”?

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