‘One of the most deliberate acts of bullying I’ve ever seen’: Nine news boss slams Daily Tele’s Today Show article

Nine news boss Darren Wick has described an article in The Daily Telegraph relating to Today Show focus groups as a “fabrication” and “irresponsible reporting”.

The article, which was published overnight in The Daily Telegraph’s Sydney Confidential, suggested secret meetings and focus groups were being held following the poor television ratings numbers delivered by Nine’s recently revamped Today Show.

The Tele illustrated the article with an image of Gardner with phrases like “ice maiden” and “smiling assassin” superimposed on it

According to The Daily Telegraph’s article, Nine has conducted focus groups to understand why audiences aren’t watching. The research, which The Daily Tele claimed came from a “Nine insider”, said the banter between hosts Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight was “forced”, and that audiences were not “loving Georgie”.

“They find her cold, an ice maiden,” the article said.

Wick has disputed all claims made in the article, adding the reporter had not contacted Nine or put the claims to anyone for comment.

“Nine’s position is that this is an outrageous, false, reckless and defamatory attack on Georgie Gardner and the Today Show. The claim by the Daily Telegraph reporter that Nine has conducted focus groups this year is wrong. We haven’t as yet commissioned any focus groups for the Today Show, let alone held them in 2019,” Wick said in a statement.

“The allegations from the article that Georgie Gardner was perceived as an ‘Ice Maiden’ and is somehow responsible for the poor numbers of the show this year is a fabrication and irresponsible reporting.”

Wick said while they have conducted a number of focus groups in the last six months of 2018, the feedback was positive with regards to Gardner.

“She rated head and shoulders above every other on-air presenter. And that’s consistent with all Today Show focus groups we’ve held during the last seven years, while I’ve been in the national news director role.

“I don’t shy away from the weaker numbers the Today Show has recorded in 2019. But just five weeks into a new team on-air, we’re not about to hit the panic button. We’ve been through this battle before with other programs, where a section of the media is quick to write us off. We’re in for the long haul.”

Nine completed overhauled the Today Show in January this year, after it axed long-standing co-host, Karl Stefanovic, from the lineup. The new lineup saw co-host Garner joined by Deborah Knight and 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort.

When the show first went to air, it premiered with just 197,000 metro viewers. Back in January last year, when Georgie Gardner came on board to replace Lisa Wilkinson as co-host, 256,000 metro viewers tuned in, and the day after Nine revealed Karl Stefanovic would not be returning, 239,000 metro viewers tuned in to see the remaining hosts’ reactions.

Since launch five weeks ago, the gap between Seven’s morning show, Sunrise, and Nine’s Today Show had widened. On Monday this week, The Today Show had a metro audience of 168,000, versus Sunrise’s 287,000. On Tuesday, the numbers were 188,000 and 273,000 respectively. On Wednesday, Today Show’s metro audience was 182,000, compared to 227,000.

In a statement to Mumbrella, News Corp said: “It is a matter of public record the new Today Show is facing ratings challenges. We take on board Mr Wicks’ comments and are reviewing the issue.”


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