Too little too late. Yet more apologies and mea culpas at Sky News over the Blair Cottrell debacle — for the second time in just over a month it’s damage control at the News Corp-controlled pay TV channel for an atrocity that was preventable. What does News Corp Australia boss Michael Miller think? It’s time we heard an explanation from the parent company.

In the meantime at Sky, some changes have been made. A statement from Sky News chief Angelos Frangopoulos on Monday stated Cottrell would not be allowed back on the station and that “after a review of the editorial processes in relation to an interview, Sky has appointed Greg Byrnes to the newly created position of acting program director and named Kaycie Bradford as acting news director”.

Having worked in TV current affairs for more than 16 years, two points need to be made. Firstly, there was clearly no one checking who was appearing as guests on Sky’s programs, especially its right-wing efforts after 7pm (Credlin, Jones &Co, Outsiders, Paul Murray and The Bolt Report). The suspension of the Giles program tells us that there were no structures in place to start with and certainly none were put in place after the Leyonhjelm debacle a month ago. It was a typical cheap Sky effort — hire a well known talking head, find a time slot (former politicians and News Corp journos will appear anywhere in the schedule), book studio and off you go.

The executive changes (acting mind you, not permanent) also tells us that there was no vetting of interview talent at all (and can you seriously see a Sky acting program director forcing Alan Jones, Peta Credlin or the likes to dropping a controversial right-wing guest?). It would be no contest. Credlin is reported to have opposed operational decisions on strong terms, such as staff allocated to her and interview suggestions. At the Nine Network, for example, executive producers or news director would check each week to see who was being interviewed or would check the electronic program rundowns. Nothing like that occurs at Sky: the talent (interviewees) are suggested by the hosts and booked by producers (who are all young).

Sky has been part of News Corp since December 2016 and its standards have slipped since then. Before the News Corp grab for power Sky was controlled by Nine, Seven and Sky News of the UK and seemed to run OK without the atrocities we have seen in the past few months.

As Crikey reported last month, Frangopoulos was handed a gong by the Turnbull government in January ‘for significant service to the broadcast media sector, to higher education and the promotion of journalistic standards, and to the community’. At the time we asked what Frangopoulos had really done to be given a gong. That still remains the question.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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