Pauline Hanson’s inflammatory comments about Melbourne’s public housing lockdown have blown-up, exposing a wider strategy by the Today show to plug divisive guests in return for an avalanche of publicity.
The Nine network was forced to axe the firebrand politician’s regular appearance within hours of her appearance on Monday. But will it be a case of ‘too little, too late’ for the program’s credibility?
Today, hosted by Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, appears to be begging forgiveness after the fact in order to appear politically correct.
As TV commentator Colin Vickery points out, Senator Hanson is hardly an unknown quantity.
“Today should never have hired Pauline Hanson,” Vickery said.
“It felt like a cynical ratings grab at the time and now it has blown up in their face. The irony is that Senator Hanson’s appearances have done nothing to claw back Today’s ratings one iota.
“In fact they have likely hurt the show’s standing with a large section of Aussie viewers”.
Senator Hanson’s appearance has garnered juicy headlines (mostly negative) and immeasurable publicity for the Today show, according to media commentator Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy.
“She ignites a massive amount of publicity. So every time they get her on and she makes a controversial statement, regardless of what we think about the tone and the correctness of it,” Allen said.
“The show that puts her on gets a mile of free publicity.”
However Allen doesn’t believe the headlines will cause regular viewers to turn off.
“Of course people who dislike Pauline Hanson and what she stands for will take exception,” he said.
“But will it stop them from viewing? Probably not.
“She just pours petrol on the fire, she couldn’t give a rats about political correctness.”
Repeat ‘ill-informed, divisive’ appearances
Senator Hanson’s comments on the lockdown of Melbourne public housing blocks were widely condemned following her appearance on Monday’s breakfast program.
She appeared to blame the lockdown situation on residents “who can’t speak English”, saying that migrants “from war-torn countries … know what it is like to be in tough conditions”.
Her appearance – Senator Hanson appears fortnightly on the program – was swiftly followed by a public distancing from Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Darren Wick.
“The Today show has advised Pauline Hanson that she will no longer be appearing on our program as a regular contributor,” Mr Wick said in a statement, adding: “This morning’s accusations from Pauline Hanson were ill-informed and divisive”.
Surely it’s time for an #auspol code of conduct, #PaulineHanson cannot keep getting away w/disparaging comments abt marginalised ppl. Shes the ultimate school yard bully & sets the lowest standard
At a time we should be pulling together her answer is to divide #dontbelikePauline
— Emma Husar (@emma_husar) July 6, 2020
A Nine spokesman confirmed that in lieu of payment, the Today show makes charitable donations to the Australian Men’s Shed Association on the One Nation leader’s behalf.
He could not confirm whether Senator Hanson would return to the network at a future date, only adding that “all our guests add value.”
Up until March 2019, Senator Hanson made a weekly appearance on Today’s rival, Sunrise, on the Seven network. She parted ways with the program after a heated discussion with host David Koch following the Christchurch shootings.
Nine journalist Sylvia Jeffreys was quick to support the network’s decision to dispense with Senator Hanson, tweeting, “Pauline Hanson’s commentary this morning was as ugly as it gets. Shameful, ill-informed and dangerous.”
Rapper and writer Adam Briggs was scathing about the decision to have her on in the first place, with this sarcastic tweet: “Like, how could @thetodayshow possibly know that seasoned racist @PaulineHansonOz would say something extremely racist?”
Please enjoy this brutal take down of Pauline Hanson…
— 🇦🇺Dumb Blonde🇦🇺 (@thetopjob) July 6, 2020
While Senator Hanson is currently persona non grata with the breakfast programs, it is unlikely that we’ve seen or heard the last of her.
The fiercely competitive nature of breakfast television wars means that even the most contentious guests inevitably return eventually.
“Unfortunately screaming headlines attract people,” Steve Allen said.
“It’s unfortunate that Hanson has been allowed to say these things but there’s some consistency to her thinking and saying these things. This is just the latest iteration of it.
“She’s in your face, and she divides people. You love her or you hate her.”