The ABC’s decision to send two big-name presenters to anchor coverage of the royal wedding, a move slammed by Peter Dutton, is “standard practice”, a media expert says.
Media analyst Peter Cox said the ABC’s decision to send two presenters, Annabel Crabb and Jeremy Fernandez, to front their coverage in London was not surprising, though he understood people raising questions given the ABC’s budgetary position.
“It would be standard practise for any broadcaster,” he told The New Daily.
“If it’s only Annabel and Jeremy, the airfares to London and back aren’t going to kill anybody if they were going to be covering the wedding anyway.”
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Dutton criticised the national broadcaster for flying Annabel Crabb and Jeremy Fernandez to London to cover Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on Saturday night.
“Why they need to send people across when they’ve already got correspondents in the UK is beyond me,” Mr Dutton told 2GB radio on Thursday.
“If you have a look at the largesse of their studios at the ABC, these bonuses they’ve just paid out, I’d love to know the criteria.”
Mr Dutton, who also praised Annabel Crabb during the interview, was responding to a report in The Daily Telegraph that claimed the two presenters flew business class.
The report also said the ABC’s London bureau were furious about the decision.
But the pair had actually flown economy, the ABC confirmed in a statement on Thursday, while UK correspondent Lisa Millar said the suggestion London-based reporters were unhappy was “wrong”.
Ms Crabb said on Thursday in a tweet that she flew in “seat 52G (spooned against a very large stranger)”.
The broadcaster has asked for a retraction.
@matthewbenns Mate you could have checked that yarn with me in about 2min. For the record I flew Thai Airways in seat 52G (spooned against a very large stranger) Then went straight into full day's work. Same goes for @JezNews. Both happy and honoured to be here. AC
— Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb) May 17, 2018
Hi @MatthewBenns – I’d message you personally but Twitter won’t allow me so I’ll have to tell you publicly your story in the Telegraph is wrong. Check out Jeremy’s Instagram photo from his economy class seat. And the London Bureau is delighted to have them here.
— Lisa Millar (@LisaMillar) May 17, 2018
— abc730 (@abc730) May 16, 2018
So that newspapers don't get this wrong as well, I'm currently in London entirely at my own expense on holiday. Absolutely nothing to do with the Royal Wedding. I'm off to Sardinia instead on a cycling trip. I'll tweet my daily progress.
— Antony Green (@AntonyGreenABC) May 17, 2018
Channel Seven’s coverage on Saturday will be led by Melissa Doyle and Michael Usher, while Karl Stefanovic and Georgie Gardner will front Nine’s coverage.
Ray Martin, Joel Creasy and Myf Warhurst will be the face of the wedding special on SBS, while Channel Ten is not broadcasting the event.
The media analyst, Peter Cox, said Annabel Crabb had been a “big success at the ABC” and that the ABC’s wedding specials had generally been rating better than the commercial networks in the lead up to Saturday.
“I think the ABC has demonstrated that people are interested in the ABC view on the wedding. I don’t have a great problem with [it].”
However, Mr Cox said he could see “both sides of the argument” and noted the event was being shown by the other commercial networks.
The ABC has faced criticism in recent days from some quarters for paying $2.6 million in bonuses to some of its highest-paid staff.
Network bosses have said the station has “no more fat left to cut” after the government slashed its budget by $84 million over three years in last week.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten defended the broadcaster over the bonuses on Thursday, and said the budget cuts meant regional bureaus would need to wind back their coverage.
In 2011, the ABC’s coverage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding rated third behind Channel Seven and Nine, drawing an audience of more than 1.1 million Australians.
“ABC audiences expect more than simply a live feed and news reports of such a major event,” the ABC said in a statement.
“Co-hosts Annabel Crabb and Jeremy Fernandez will enrich our coverage by providing in-depth and insightful commentary that informs, engages and entertains our audiences.”
“All travel and accommodation falls within ABC guidelines.”