Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"We had this great idea that we wouldn’t use a card" - Sarah Murdoch on the ANTM fiasco

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Belated congratulations to Amanda Ware, the – eventual - winner of Australia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6. On July 16, after the series launch, frockwriter did say that our money was on Ware. Of this year’s field, she looked to have the most international potential - one of the reasons, presumably, that the show’s producers reportedly wanted her to win the series so badly. Or at least that’s what Edwina McCann, the editor of ANTM partner Harpers Bazaar Australia claimed on Nine Network's Today show this morning. McCann - who, once upon a time, was Murdoch's personal stylist - said the show's producers left the voting lines open in the hope that Ware might “get over the line”. Of course the main ANTM topic of conversation today was not Ware’s win per se – but rather the debacle of last night’s finale, at the climax of which anchor Sarah Murdoch declared Kelsey Martinovich the winner. Only to announce moments later, ashen-faced, that a terrible mistake had been made and that Ware was in fact the winner. But not before the pyrotechnics had fired and Martinovich had delivered her victory speech. Total ballsup in other words. What really went down is anybody’s guess, with numerous theories and explanations offered. Murdoch finally broke her silence on Nine's prime time current affairs show A Current Affair earlier this evening, interviewed - very sympathetically - by her former Today show colleague, Karl Stefanovic.

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In the interview Murdoch, who is also one of the ANTM producers, revealed that a new system had been implemented for this year's finale. She told Stefanovic:

"The last thing that had been communicated to me through my earpiece was Kelsey 1, Amanda 2... And we had this great idea that we wouldn’t use a card, that we would have it all communicated to me through an earpiece, so that I too in that moment would find out who the winner was. And I thought it will be great. So having heard the last thing was Kelsey 1, Amanda 2, I went into the read... the winner of Australia’s Next Top Model is....nothing. Nothing. So all I knew was the last thing was Kelsey 1, Amanda 2....The point was, it was going to be communicated through my ear and it didn’t come at that moment. So I went with what I had been told... just before that segment. It is a genuine miscommunication. As far as I knew it was the right call". 

Murdoch's revelation raises a number of questions. 

First and foremost, why rely solely on audio communications for the most crucial piece of information for the broadcast? Outside broadcast setup, fluid situation, large studio audience, noise, potential tech problems... Why not have a backup plan in place in case the sound went down? In the end, Murdoch told ACA, a card was held up by a production assistant with Ware's name on it - although this version of events does appear to conflict with the actual footage, which shows Murdoch clearly holding the earpiece and concentrating, as if she is listening to audio instructions.

When she heard "nothing" down the bird, why simply wing it with an assumption based on old information? 

Why not double check on air to be on the safe side? Awkward, granted, but surely better than the alternative: getting it wrong and looking like a twat.  

And finally, why was there not a clear winner after the voting had closed? Either Ware or Martinovich was in front, even if it was down to one vote - or else it was a draw. And this also begs the question: did the producers deliberately leave the lines open after the original planned cutoff time - as McCann imputed  - in the hope that the result they didn't want, ie Martinovich winning, might change? In a live tv situation, in which you are racing the clock in real time, an announcement based on split-second decision-making seems a very risky idea. (Be.Interactive, which managed the voting, insists voting closed at the correct time and the correct information was supplied).  

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The ACA story also conflicts with the version Murdoch delivered on air last night in the heat of the moment: that the information “was read to me wrong”. Murdoch is now claiming that the information wasn't read to her at all. 

Also confusing are Foxtel’s multiple statements today. 

Communications director Jamie Campbell initially tried to blame Murdoch [“in the heat of the moment in live TV... Kelsey’s name was read out and it was just the wrong name”]. Later this afternoon the company issued a statement exonerating Murdoch and backing up her claim that it was a miscommunication

UPDATE: 1/10/10 Foxtel and Granada now claim that upon a thorough investigation of the incident, it was "human error" on the part of an unnamed show producer - and nothing to do with Murdoch - that caused the problem.

Some have of course asked if the entire fiasco wasn’t a publicity stunt – denied of course by those on the payroll. And Murdoch herself in the ACA interview. 

"You wouldn't wish this on your worst enemy" she told Stefanovic.  

It’s hard to imagine Foxtel, which is 25percent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, being seen to slam his daughter-in-law - if indeed Murdoch had a "blonde moment" as one wag noted today.

The story has now generated global exposure for both Ware and Martinovich. Foxtel has generously offered to give the latter $25,000 and an all expenses paid trip to New York as compensation for the humiliation of being crowned the ANTM 2010 winner on national television, only to have that crown snatched away from her moments later. Harpers Bazaar has also opted to print both Ware's and Martinovich's covers of its upcoming ANTM issue. Some are seeing this as a win-win situation for both.

"What do you want to be?" Stefanovic asked Martinovich on ACA.

"Australia's Next Top Model" she replied. "But that didn't happen, did it?" 

amanda ware in brisbane, 10th august 2010

Australia's Next Top Model might want to rethink the live finale concept, given that it does not have the best track record in this arena. 

Murdoch replaced model-turned-swimwear designer Jodhi Meares (who was also once married to an Australian media mogul - James Packer). Meares left the show in disgrace in 2009 after pulling out of the live broadcast of the Cycle 4 finale less than 48 hours before the show, citing stage fright.

Murdoch has also had to do quite a lot of explaining in her two years on the show. 

According to Edwina McCann three votes separated Ware from Martinovich last night.

Last year's favourite, Cassi van den Dungen, was also ahead of winner Tahnee Atkinson by a mere one industry/show judge vote (four votes to three) before the final ad break. After finally declaring her the winner Murdoch told Atkinson, “The public got you over the line Tahnee”.

Van den Dungen, like Ware, was the model with the greater international potential. As clearly illustrated by the fact that immediately upon finishing the series - and in spite of her tantrums during the filming of the show - she was offered a contract with the Elite agency in New York. After turning that down, van den Dungen suddenly morphed into the Antichrist in the eyes of ANTM judges Charlotte Dawson and Alex Perry, who royally slagged her off on Facebook.

Murdoch and others had made a point of commenting on the body image issue throughout Cycle 5, with judge Charlotte Dawson telling The Daily Telegraph, that it would be “sending a nice message” if a “size 10 with ample bosom and a sexy bottom” won the competition.

According to Murdoch's Twitter feed after the show, the smaller, curvier Atkinson received 82.5percent of the public vote. However in an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph, she claimed Atkinson received 87percent of the vote and added, "in the end I just couldn't trust that Cassi would best represent the show and what I stand for".



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