Channel Seven has broken its silence over allegations that a Sunrise camera crew failed to show up at a pre-arranged dawn live cross to volunteers and victims affected by the Adelaide Hills bushfire.
On Tuesday, animal welfare campaigner Mark Aldridge posted on Facebook claims that the leading morning television show contacted him the previous day to arrange a segment on his property featuring dozens of animal rescuers and people who had lost their homes, and then without notice simply failed to show up.
With some of the exhausted volunteers having to get up as early as 3am to prepare and transport animals and feed to Mr Aldridge’s Willow Wood native animal sanctuary for the 5:30am television segment, thousands of angry social media users took to Facebook to condemn Sunrise, with many vowing to never watch the program again.
@sunriseon7 if it’s true what you did to the poor people of SA shame on you!
— Kate Smith (@KateSmith52) January 6, 2015
After refusing to publically comment on or refute the allegations for over 30 hours, the Sunrise team eventually moved to address the controversy with a statement on the program’s website.
See the full statement from Channel 7 here
According to Channel Seven, Sunrise producers got in contact with Mr Aldridge’s animal sanctuary in South Australia on Monday afternoon, and it was agreed that Mr Aldridge would need to see what could be arranged and call back.
“When Mark did not call back in the afternoon, producers and other crew members made numerous calls into the late evening, leaving phone and text messages for Mark, including messages to let him know the weather cross would need to be cancelled due to a lack of information from Mark,” the statement read.
“Producers again made contact with Mark early on Tuesday morning to check he’d received the previous evening’s messages.
“Mark replied that he had received the messages sent the previous evening, but had been unable to respond as he had returned to the fire zone.”
The statement also claimed that the show’s producers received a text message from Mr Aldridge confirming he received the messages on the Monday afternoon, and that the following day he told Sunrise he would amend the controversial Facebook post to clarify that Channel Seven was not at fault.
Mr Aldridge did not do so, only putting up a second post on the matter on Tuesday claiming Channel Seven had told him they had been unable to get in contact as he was out of mobile phone reception for parts of the Monday afternoon, while delivering emergency supplies to animals and people affected by the fire.
Channel Seven did not respond to The New Daily’s requests for more detail, and Mr Aldridge was again on the road on Wednesday providing further assistance in the Adelaide Hills.
Whatever proves to be the truth of the matter, many on social media have concluded that the saga is simply a case of miscommunication between the two parties, prompted perhaps by their dealing with the respective pressures of live television and an out-of-control bushfire.
Max Opray is an Adelaide-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter at @maxopray.