Natasha Exelby’s on-air lapse of concentration over the weekend has reportedly cost the ABC news reader her on-air job.
Despite viewers’ largely light-hearted reaction to the blooper, reports have emerged that ABC management has banned Ms Exelby from future presenting roles.
This has come the day after an unsuspecting Ms Exelby was caught fiddling with her pen, appearing to be deep in thought, when directors cut back to the studio after a pre-recorded package concluded.
She had not realised she was due to throw to the sport segment.
Rather than seamlessly maintaining composure, Exelby jumped with fright, audibly gasping in sheer horror and immediately dropped her pen.
Many viewers laughed off the news reader’s amusingly horrified facial expression as a “refreshingly human” reaction, while other presenters leapt to her defence.
SBS newsreader Janice Petersen tweeted footage of herself being caught applying lipstick on air with the comment “it happens”.
— Marc Fennell (@MarcFennell) April 9, 2017
— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) April 9, 2017
A change.org petition to reinstate the news anchor circulated within hours of the reports.
Exelby had recently returned to Australia after an 18-month stint in the Middle East, covering the war in Syria.
“I can understand why people found it funny, and it was certainly me at my most raw. But I also have to take some responsibility here. I’m a professional and what happened was far from professional,” she said.
“So many people were brought to tears this week when watching the news about Syria, this is an issue close to my heart as that’s what I’ve just returned from reporting on as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East.
Thank U all for ur generous support. Not my finest hour. Myself and my mesmerising pen honourably salute you!
— Natasha Exelby (@NatashaExelby) April 10, 2017
“So if I was able to make people laugh — even if it was at my expense — then I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Ms Exelby told News Corp “it would be inappropriate for me to comment” on being dismissed from her on-air position.
An ABC source rejected the idea that Ms Exelby had been fired from on-air work, but the broadcaster’s official response to The New Daily left the question of future on-camera appearances up in the air.
Ms Exelby is a casual contributor, “not a staff member”, the ABC statement noted, who has been booked for occasional on-air shifts when needed, and also does other occasional shifts for the ABC News channel.
“Contributors work out their shifts with managers on a per-needs basis,” the statement said, adding: “We don’t comment on the details of people’s personal work arrangements.”