TV personality Jessica Rowe has reinvented herself of late, showcasing zany outfits and quirky videos on Instagram and hosting a podcast, The Jess Rowe Big Talk Show, which hit No 1 on Apple Podcasts after the first episode. “I’m in a sweet spot,” she said last week.
Drawing up a wish list for guests, the former Today show co-host chose Pauline Hanson because she found her “fascinating”, and admired the One Nation leader’s “resilience and strength”.
“Pauline Hanson is someone I’ve butted heads with over the years, I don’t agree with her politics, but she fascinates me as a person,” Rowe said. “Regardless of what you think of her views, her resilience and strength is something, she does not give up.”
Adding the caveat that she didn’t agree with Hanson’s politics, Rowe tweeted breezily that in her podcast Hanson “talks love, raising kids & why she keeps going”.
The backlash was swift. Australian of the year Grace Tame set the tone when she said: “Pauline doesn’t need help to be heard, but those whose oppression she’s both driven and reinforced do.”
Hanson has a history of vilifying Indigenous Australians, Asians and Muslims, and last year was dumped by Channel Nine after she labelled locked-down public housing residents in Melbourne “drug addicts” who “cannot speak English”.
Rowe said it was not her intention to “normalise” Hanson’s views, “which we don’t talk about in the podcast”, but several hours and hundreds of comments later later she took the podcast down and apologised.
Unsurprisingly, Hanson seized on the incident as a political opportunity and called on people to join One Nation.
“Cancel culture in this country is killing debate, freedom of speech, and shutting down conservative political representation,” Hanson said.
Rowe had supporters, including journalists Chris Uhlmann and Peter van Onselen.
The Australian splashed the story on page one on Friday, referring to “a seemingly innocuous podcast” and quoting Hanson at length.
In an editorial headlined “The mob wins yet again”, the Daily Telegraph praised Hanson as “humane”.
“Hanson didn’t add to Rowe’s stress. ‘While I’m disappointed that Jess succumbed,’ she said yesterday, ‘I understand why she pulled the episode.’
“The most humane person in this episode was the target.”
The former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi told his newsletter subscribers the episode was “an insight into the cannibalistic nature of feminist leftists”.
“When they have finished destroying their imagined enemies they create other monsters to vanquish. They invent new evils with which to condemn and vilify.”
Pressure is building on the Age to dump cartoonist Michael Leunig, whose creations can occasionally be considered so inflammatory they can’t be published in the newspaper.
On Monday the Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, spiked a Leunig cartoon which compared mandatory vaccination to events in Tiananmen Square, and sources say it is not the only one to be rejected. Leunig posted his anti-mandatory vaccination drawing on Instagram but many who saw it thought it had been published in the Nine papers. Senior journalists on the paper believe his work, whether published in the paper or not, brings the masthead into disrepute.
The 76-year-old, who has been cartooning for daily papers since 1969, followed it up with a cartoon comparing the anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne to Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Leunig has been offending large sections of the population for years, notably parents who use childcare or vaccinate their children, and in recent years has been criticised for suggesting mothers love their phones and Instagram more than their children.
Last month Alcorn defended another Leunig cartoon about vaccine passports, which was published by the Age, saying it was “not an anti-vaccination cartoon”.
“People may or may not like the cartoon, but it does not discourage vaccination or spread misinformation about vaccination,” Alcorn told Weekly Beast.
Leunig was approached for comment. Alcorn declined to comment.
The launch of the widely perceived as rightwing channel GB News by former Sky News Australia boss Angelos Frangopoulos has been a car crash in slow motion. Just three months after its debut, Frangopoulos is facing accusations from founding broadcaster Andrew Neil that his creation is an amateur outfit beset with lighting failures, sound glitches and a dysfunctional set.
“GB News barely had a week [of rehearsal], and there were so many hitches with the technology,” Neil said after sensationally quitting the channel he launched. “The CEO wanted to get on air, even if it was ramshackle, and then improve things.
“That stress was just huge. It meant you couldn’t think about the journalism. You were just constantly wondering: ‘Will we make it through the hour?’ By the end of that first week, I knew I had to get out. It was really beginning to affect my health. I wasn’t sleeping. I was waking up at two or three in the morning.”
For former Sky staffers in Australia much of the criticism resonated, as they too suffered under a management that ran a low-budget outfit where presenters did their own make-up and booked their own guests.
The bad publicity is a career low for Frangopoulos who spent almost two decades helming Rupert Murdoch’s Australian television business and was credited with developing a Fox News-style formula and bringing the Sky After Dark line-up of Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and Peta Credlin to our screens.
Harmer and Buck bow out
ABC Radio Sydney breakfast presenters Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck shocked listeners by announcing on Friday that they would step down in December after three years on air.
The pair, who have the second most popular show in the Sydney market, said they had decided to “go out on a high”.
“I hadn’t worked with Robbie but the decision to put us together on brekkie turned out to be inspired,” Harmer said.
“We always enjoyed each other’s company and I think that’s what’s made the partnership so good,” Buck said.
ABC on back foot over back pay
The ABC has begun paying back staff who were underpaid between 14 July 2014 and 20 June 2021 due to a buyout scheme which estimated overtime, penalties, allowances and other entitlements.
“We are sorry to all those impacted by this error, which falls short of the standards expected of the ABC,” the broadcaster said this week as letter went out to affected staff. It was revealed in 2018 that the broadcaster had underpaid casuals to the tune of $25m. The amount owed in this round of underpayments is significantly lower.
The ABC section secretary for the Community and Public Sector Union, Sinddy Ealy, said the underpayment was “extremely disappointing and unacceptable”.
“The evidence clearly shows that ABC underpayment isn’t just a compliance problem, it’s is reflective of a serious cultural problem inside the organisation, especially in the News and TV areas where we know most of the underpayments are occurring,” Ealy said.