The curious case of Seven’s voice artwork, ABC licks wounds after defamation loss | Amanda Meade

In the lead-up to the voice referendum, SBS and NITV created the SBS Voice Referendum portal, a place to access news, information and multilingual resources about the voice, including from First Nations perspectives.

An artwork featuring Canberra’s Parliament House with two small figures around a campfire in the foreground was commissioned for the portal’s landing page.

On Saturday night some viewers noticed that the same distinctive red and yellow Indigenous artwork was used on Seven’s voice referendum coverage on its streaming platform 7Plus.

The artwork on the SBS voice portal
The artwork on the SBS voice portal. Photograph: SBS

SBS confirmed the artwork was created in-house for the multicultural broadcaster.

“The image used on Seven Network’s 7Plus platform during the broadcast is artwork created by an Indigenous artist and NITV team member for the SBS network’s referendum coverage throughout the campaign,” an SBS spokesperson told Weekly Beast.

A spokesperson for Seven did not explain how the image came to be on its broadcast: “The image was unintentionally used briefly online as a placeholder and was quickly replaced.”

The image has now been replaced on 7Plus.

What a pity Seven producers didn’t think to use an image the company did own. Seven West commissioned a painting by Indigenous artist Brian James Devonshire just months ago as part of its reconciliation action plan.

How Courier Mail rose to Katrina’s occasion

The Courier Mail has devoted 1,300 words to a wedding proposal received by Seven’s Brisbane newsreader Katrina Blowers in the Maldives.

Just like the proposal, the story is epic. It describes in minute detail how the proposal was planned and executed, right down to staff at the resort who were recruited to peel thousands of rose petals off individually to be laid out in a swimming pool.

The Courier Mail’s coverage of Katrina Blowers’ Maldives proposal
The Courier Mail’s rosy coverage of Katrina Blowers’ Maldives proposal. Photograph: The Courier Mail

“In scenes straight out of a film, ‘one million’ rose petals covered the pool of the couple’s overwater villa in the Maldives, surrounding a wooden sign saying ‘Will you marry me?’,” the paper reported.

“With no roses on the tiny island, [Blowers’ new fiance] had ‘hundreds’ of the single-stemmed flowers shipped from India to the Maldives, about 2,000km away.”

Blowers was reportedly shocked by the detail, saying staff spent “the whole day individually peeling the petals off the roses to fill the pool”.

The lucky man was Surfing Queensland’s chief executive and former pro surfer, Adam Yates.

There is no mention in the report that the proposal took place eight weeks ago, as revealed on Blowers’ Instagram posts, from where the multiple pictures were sourced. But with a story this big, it was worth the wait.

We told you last week about the tough new social media guidelines released by the ABC, which can lead to dismissal if breached. In the last few days the ABC news director, Justin Stevens, has sent out an additional warning to journalists about “maintaining our discipline on social media” and reporters say they are on notice.

“We need to be conscientious about ensuring our personal use of social media doesn’t inadvertently undermine the great work we and our colleagues do every day,” Stevens said.

The trigger appears to be more negative coverage from the ABC’s critics following some social media posts about the Israel-Hamas war by ABC journalists.

The Middle East correspondent Tom Joyner was targeted by the Australian after his comment from a foreign reporters’ WhatsApp group was leaked to the Murdoch broadsheet.

“The story about the babies is bullshit,” Joyner posted in the immediate aftermath of claims that babies had been beheaded by Hamas during its attack on Israel.

The X feed of the ABC federal political reporter Nour Haydar was also scrutinised, prompting criticism from the 2GB shock jock Ray Hadley, the Daily Mail and

Haydar didn’t comment personally on the war but did retweet sources including foreign correspondents on the ground.

One of Haydar’s retweets that was highlighted was from Human Rights Watch that said: “Deliberate killings of civilians, hostage-taking, and collective punishment are heinous crimes that have no justification.”

Stevens pleaded with staff to think before they post. Under ABC guidelines, journalists, in particular those with profiles, such as presenters and broadcasters, are deemed “high-risk workers”.

“Will this damage the ABCs reputation for impartiality and independence?” Stevens said. “Will it undermine my effectiveness at work?”

Seven’s high-stakes spin on newlyweds TV

The Seven Network launched its 2024 offering to advertisers and media buyers on Wednesday, promising Kerry Stokes’ media empire was “the home of mass cultural moments”.

The emphasis was more on the “mass” and less on the “culture”, as the TV network did not offer the 1,000-strong crowd any new Australian drama and has decided to bring back Big Brother Uncut – 17 years after it was dumped when politicians complained about lewd content.

Stranded On Honeymoon Island promotional artwork
Can Seven’s new Stranded On Honeymoon Island take on Nine’s Married At First Sight? Photograph: Channel Seven

One of Seven’s new reality shows, Stranded On Honeymoon Island, is designed to take on Nine’s juggernaut Married At First Sight by raising the stakes for the couples who marry strangers. Once hitched, the couples will be dumped in their wedding attire on a desert island so they can get to know each other better.

Seven’s upfronts show, like Nine’s, began with an impressive acknowledgment of country presented by Indigenous staffers: journalist Brooke Boney for Nine and Home and Away actor Kyle Shilling for Seven.

But the lineup of shows on both networks is sadly lacking in Indigenous content, performers or voices. Unlike the public broadcasters ABC, SBS and NITV, which all devote significant resources to telling Indigenous stories, the commercial networks are yet to offer any meaningful change to the wall-to-wall white shows.

Home and Away actor Kyle Shilling performs welcome to country at Seven’s upfronts show.
Home and Away actor Kyle Shilling performs welcome to country at Seven’s upfronts show. Photograph: Scott Ehler/Seven

Defamation loss exposes internal battle

The ABC was licking its wounds after former commando Heston Russell won his defamation case against the broadcaster and was awarded $390,000.

The federal court judge did not only find the public broadcaster did not prove its reporting was in the public interest but he sided with Media Watch in the program’s bitter internal battle with ABC Investigations and award-winning reporter Mark Willacy. Willacy and Media Watch presenter Paul Barry are no longer on speaking terms, suffice to say.

Justice Michael Lee also seemed quite taken with the evidence of a minor player in the saga, Brisbane-based ABC investigative reporter Josh Robertson.

Lee said a Media Watch report that was critical of Willacy’s reporting sparked “a string of defensive correspondence”, a complaint by ABC Investigations to the TV program and even an allegation of “serious factual error” to the ABC’s audience complaints division.

While he found Willacy to have a “strong belief in the quality and importance of his work and an antipathy to criticism of it”, Lee said Media Watch’s criticism was “measured” and “justified”. “After all, these queries were not emanating from sections of the media that could be dismissed by those within ABC Investigations as ‘bottom feeders’ or protagonists in a culture war,” Lee said in reference to evidence whereby Willacy had called Murdoch journalists “bottom feeders”.

Lee found Willacy and his investigations editor Jo Puccini were at times “combative witnesses” while colleague Robertson “jousted effectively”.

“By way of aside (and reflecting his background as a philosophy undergraduate who had apparently read Immanuel Kant), [Robertson] had a familiarity with the structure and limitations of human knowledge and jousted effectively with his cross-examiner,” Lee said in his judgment.


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