Dr Mumbo

When the news hots up, commercial TV falls apart

It was a night where few people in commercial television covered themselves in glory.

Dr Mumbo refers of course to the small matter of the leadership spill.

Gold medal for the most disastrous coverage goes to Today Tonight and presenter Helen Kapalos.

She experienced every news presenter’s worst nightmare. No autocue, no script, and no idea where to go to next.

For an excruciating minute and a half she floundered:

“Obviously it’s firming up that Kevin Rudd obviously is getting the numbers with the support of Bill Shorten.” Obviously.

But at least she was kind of making sense at that point. But then:

“The same opinion.. and we’ll have to move on to our next story now… but all very interesting down in Canberra. Of course we’ll continue to bring you continuing coverage throughout the evening on our news but now we’ll also be crossing to our viewer poll shortly.”

At which point the viewer poll vanished from the screen.

Like a weak swimmer caught in a rip, Kapalos reached out for a lifebelt. Which in Today Tonight’s case is, of course, stories about Muslims.

“Now to a Muslim who was on his way to becoming a radical…”

At which point it began to get really agonising, as Kapalos peered down at her script, and appeared to find nothing more about her radical Muslim, no matter how desperately she shuffled through the paper in front of her.

Dr Mumbo would pay good money to know what was going on in the control room by this point.

‘I’m sorry, we’ll have to go to something else there. But it is all happening in Canberra as we can see,” floundered Kapalos who couldn’t really.

But good news. The Muslim was back on the agenda.

“Now to a Muslim who was on his way to becoming…”


“I apologise for this. Okay. Now. We are heading to another story.”

There then followed nearly ten seconds of close-to-coherent speech.

“And just to quickly if you have switched on I’ll give you a quick summary. Bill Shorten has thrown his support behind Kevin Rudd. It seems the numbers are firming up for Kevin Rudd this evening in the leadership ballot, who is most likely to become our next PM before the election.”

“In fact that could result in an early election. We’ll bring you continuing coverage throughout our news this evening. Now something a bit different…”

If it’s any comfort to Kapalos, only 993,000 viewers watched her on-screen death.

With the end of Today Tonight much speculated about, Dr Mumbo wonders if he just watched its death knell.

helen kapalos tweet sorry

Meanwhile, silver went to Nine for abandoning its coverage before the result was announced in favour of the build up to State of Origin. Viewers wanting to hear about Rudd’s ascension had to switch to GEM. If they had an HD set top box in order to do so.

And bronze went to Ten. For an odd reason, although it labelled its pictures of the leadership announcement as live, they were an a time delay of about 90 seconds compared to the other channels.

Happily for the ABC, it stayed out of medal contention for the biggest leadership howler. Although Leigh Sales’ promise to avoid speculation and stick with the facts was somewhat undermined by the graphics on the screen with her speculating that Kevin Rudd was about to become Prime Minister.

Still, Sky News were good.

A big hand for Australian journalism, ladies and gentlemen…


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