In which I vent my frustration with Channel 9 and disappointment with Eddie McGuire

As anyone who has watched mere minutes of Channel Nine’s coverage of the Winter Olympics can attest, it’s a complete hatchet job.

Last night’ s coverage saw them repeat whole swathes of material they had broadcast the night before (of the women’s 500m speed skating and luge).

Perhaps they could have shown a number of complete routines in the men’s ice skating which many of us were hanging out for rather than the number they decided was enough. Two. Channel Nine deemed that the return of champion skater Yevgeny Plushenko from retirement and the only man attempting quad jumps as only worthy of coverage in their ‘updates’.

If the appalling programming wasn’t enough, Nine has kicked the boot in well and truly in having the mess hosted by Eddie McGuire. One search on Twitter of his name will reveal the depth of anger and hatred viewers are feeling about Eddie’s delivery. A Facebook page has even sprung up as another forum for people to share their displeasure.

Eddie McGuire is one of those personalities on Australian television that polarise people more than most. His background and main stomping ground of experience comes from hosting the Victorian version of The Footy Show – the last bastion of inappropriate jokes at the expense of homosexuals, women, immigrants and any other section of the community that does not drink beer and watch a minimum of three footy matches a week. While he has moved on his attitude – from his performance hosting the Winter Olympics – has not.

Patronising toward women

One Tweet said “The only way Eddie McGuire could be more patronising to (Australian competitor) Jacqui Cooper would be to pat her on the head.” (Twitterer: indefensible). His demeanour interviewing Katarina Witt was bordering on school boy with him mentioning the Playboy shoot she did once and then raising it in a question further down the uncomfortable track. While interviewing two of Australia’s youngest (and female) competitors he made a grossly inappropriate comment along the lines of it ‘warming his heart to be sitting next to two young girls’. Last night in his intro to Leila McKinnon’s update he referred to her sporting a ‘power ponytail‘. The mere fact he did that reveals that he just does not get what is appropriate and what is not. She could barely stop her eyes from rolling.

Poor interviewing skills
No one questions the fact Dale Begg-Smith is a hard person to interview but any journalist worth their salt will attempt to tap into his nature and make it work – something McGuire’s attempt was not. Eddie McGuire’s behaviour for the first hour of that evening’s broadcast was an embarrassing, unsportsmanlike, oafish ‘we were robbed’ (of a Gold medal) tirade. Alyssa Camplin looked clearly uncomfortable with his relentless pen-tapping-the-table pen-gesticulating rant. When he interviewed Katarina Witt he asked he the same question in three different ways – how does someone who has won Olympic gold go on to live – which Katarina somewhat expectantly answered the same way. In a forum highly inappropriate to bring it up she answered his questions about posing for Playboy with grace and goodwill. A less media-savvy individual may have told him to shove it.

And don’t get me started on the pen tapping on the desk or at the camera, the obscenely large wristwatch or the use of phrases like ‘climactic finish’. A fellow Twitterer also swears they heard him say Canadia.


The greatest complaint most have levelled at Eddie is – apart from his complete lack of knowledge about winter sports and clearly being out of his depth commentating on anything other than AFL – is just how offensive he is towards segments of the population and how willing he is to sacrifice them for a jibe, quip or poorly delivered joke. The banter between him and fellow fish-out-of-water member of the Channel 9 Winter Olympics team Mick Molloy on the competitors in the men’s figure skating on last night’s broadcast was inappropriate, offensive and incredibly disappointing. All it did was show McGuire for the homophobe juvenile puerile individual he is.

Meanwhile, apparently there is an event taking place called the Winter Olympics. While Channel 9 fill rafts of their broadcast with commentary from this ill-informed, close-minded, homophobic, misogynistic individual viewers are missing out on airtime that could be filled with the actual sports.

Update: have posted this story.
THe SMH: Here, here (great insights from Michael Idato) and here

Some more thoughts on the matter, originally posted on the Facebook page:

I’m not sure if any of you watched the Four Corners report about the NRL, Matthew Johns (amongst others) and the sexual assault on the girl in NZ?

In part of that report they showed NRL players having classes on what was sexual assault and challenging their attitudes towards women. In it they presented a scenario that went along the lines of some footballers going out on the turps, bringing a girl back to their place and then assaulting her. They then presented the same senario but it put them in the place of the woman.

Of course, when asked what they thought about the woman’s predicament it was all, ‘she deserved it’, ‘she had led them on’ and so on and so forth.

When asked what they thought when it was the footballer who’d been assaulted by the men they were all, ‘he didn’t deserve that’, ‘he’s been violated’ and so on and so forth.

As totally disheartening as this is – that these young men needed to be taught this, that they had not been brought up in an environment which had taught them this already, that you could see the discrepancy so markedly in their minds – Eddie McGuire is the pin-up boy to this type of male. Where women are there to run the home, perform in the bedroom and ideally have a good pair of tits. The faster the car the better, the bigger the drinker the more of a man, the ‘no son of mine is goner be a fag’. Of course the slipperiest part of this slope comes out in things like the Cronulla riots and the hijacking of the Southern Cross to become the symbol of close-minded rednecks rather than representing a land where all are welcome and equal and no one gets left behind.

The most puzzling aspect of all this is that Eddie McGuire managed to rise from the muddy bank of The Footy Show and walk on two feet into positions of relative power and subsequent wealth.

So here we have a free-to-air TV channel paying an absolute fortune for the broadcast rites of the 2010 Winter Olympics. You would think that would ensure a team of sports reporters rich in knowledge and experience and perhaps one or two ‘lifestyle’ reporters to give us the fluff and bubble pieces about the Olympic experience. You would expect a tight broadcast of live action and pertinent replays that respect the fact we now live in a highly connected world and while we may not know the ins and outs of ice-hockey, the luge or speed skating we have a deep respect for what it takes to reach Olympic standards and indeed have a national identity of loving sports whatever they may be.

They got it partly right with one of the fathers of Australian sports reporting Ken Sutcliffe hosting the morning/daytime schedule. Indeed, that broadcast can be quite enjoyable and slick (although even he has come unstuck in the last few days with a jibe about the mens double luge which would probably have otherwise gone unnoticed was it not for Eddie’s previous foray into the gay gay). Leila McKinnon seems to have the right level of enthusiasm and professionalism to pull off her role in the team and it strikes me she has realised this opportunity to be the Johanna Griggs of Channel Nine and is running with it. Hard.

But then ‘they’ (they being I’m not entirely sure but some sort of senior management committee because only this sort of decision could come from a committee) made the fatal decision to put Eddie at the helm. The poster boy of Channel 9’s Olympic team. And well, it was just an out-of-control downhill ski from there. Crashing into gates and fences by trying to bait the unbaitable in Dale Begg-Smith into some uncomfortably narrow-minded ‘we was robbed’ beat up. Going head over tail by gushing like a schoolboy over Katarina Witt and making her clearly uncomfortable in raising a playboy shoot she did when? decades ago. Smashing into barriers with his deeply patronising exchanges with every female sportsperson he’s interviewed and revealing his own pathetic, antiquated and completely inappropriate attitudes towards homosexuals with his gay gags about the male figure skaters.

Oh sure, we all chortle at the flamboyance of those guys – similar to our reaction to ballroom dancing competitions I imagine, but there is a time and a place and a way to do it where people are not offended. Where it is obviously coming from a place of a ribbing not a derision. Where it is a dig not a revelation of your own hang-ups. The saddest part of that incident was at no time did Eddie acknowledge the incredible athleticism and skill of those ice skaters. As if somehow the fact they wore costumes and danced! on ice! completely discredited the ability and hard work it took for them to reach that point.

And so here we sit. A man with an attitude clearly more at home in Australia in 1970 than 2010 but with more money and subsequent power than the rest of us will ever see.

And I guess that is the most depressing part of all.