The host of The Bachelor, Osher Günsberg, once known as Andrew G, forged a career as a music video host on Channel V and then as the co-host of Australian Idol. He is used to being in the spotlight but when Daily Mail Australia targeted him in a classic fat-shaming piece he decided to take a stand. In September Günsberg was appalled when paparazzi photographs of him taking a break from filming while on location for the Ten reality show were published.
“The Bachelor host Osher Günsberg shows off his ‘Bali belly’ as he goes shirtless while filming finale of reality TV show on Indonesian island,” the Mail said, accompanied by three unflattering photographs of Günsberg wearing a wetsuit up to his waist. The story said Günsberg never had a hair out of place on the reality show he hosted but was now showing his “portly frame and unkempt hair”.
In a heartfelt complaint about the piece to the Australian Press Council, Günsberg said it was akin to bullying and that his weight gain was the long-term effect of medication he was taking for a mental illness. He described how the photos were taken surreptitiously at a remote village two hours’ drive from his hotel in Bali. He said he was changing into a wetsuit to go snorkelling and wasn’t deliberately exposing himself, as he was accused of doing by the Mail. The council ruled against the Mail on several, but not all, counts of Günsberg’s complaint.
The Daily Mail was found to have invaded his privacy with the covert photographs which did not relate to his work as a public figure on television, and to have ridiculed his weight gain. “The council considered the complainant’s history of mental illness and weight gain are in the public domain as a result of the complainant’s own doing,” the adjudication said. “But by referring to ‘Bali belly’, and using the photographs in the manner it did, the article ridiculed the consequences of his mental illness medication and was likely to cause substantial offence or distress.” The Daily Mail, which is Australia’s fifth most popular news website, had to run the adjudication on its homepage. Günsberg said “It was important to me to make a stand, regardless of the outcome. Thanks everyone for the support.”
Justin Milne, whose five-year term as ABC chairman was confirmed by the government on Thursday, appears determined to start off on the right foot. In his first public statement since he was handpicked by the PM, Malcolm Turnbull, to replace James Spigelman, the former Telstra executive said the ABC was a “national treasure” and “fundamental to the proper functioning of our democracy”.
That would be music to the ears of the staff, the unions and the Friends of the ABC who are a tad worried about job losses and management restructures recently announced by former Google exec Michelle Guthrie. “I relish the opportunity to serve the nation by chairing the ABC,” Milne said. “At a time of disruption, digitisation and fragmentation in the media landscape, the ABC continues to be valued by the community for its editorial standards and quality and breadth of programming.”
As a former head of Telstra’s BigPond internet division and CEO of OzEmail, Milne shares a digital background with Guthrie and appears to speak the same language. They both speak about ensuring the ABC meets the challenges of disruptive technology and fast-changing audience trends. Turnbull, who calls Milne a friend, said he has a “proven track record of managing complex organisations”, adding that “his technical and marketing savvy, inclusive leadership style and understanding of technology shifts will help shape the ABC’s strategy in an environment of rapidly changing technology and consumer preferences”.
Several names were confidently predicted by media reporters to be the new ABC chairman, among them the chair of the ANZ Bank, David Gonski, the chair of the CSIRO, David Thodey, and then as late as Monday, Danny Gilbert, managing partner of law firm Gilbert and Tobin. (A similar charade played out before Guthrie was appointed MD, when the Australian named Channel 4 executive Jay Hunt as the top contender.) They were all wrong until this week when Joe Aston revealed in the Australian Financial Review that it would be Milne. He takes the helm on 1 April.
To the power of one
In a clear example of why ABC management is sometimes indistinguishable from the in-house satire Utopia, the ABC has redefined the term management. It’s not an executive but anyone who has a single direct report. There has been some considerable confusion since the MD Michelle Guthrie announced the restructure earlier this month, and that up to 200 jobs would disappear as the ABC streamlined its workforce. “We aim to reduce management roles by 20% across the corporation, with support areas to bear a heavier percentage of this cut,” Guthrie told staff.
Who are these managers that have been targeted, staff wondered. Now, according to advice given to the staff unions about the 150 to 200 positions to be made redundant, a manager can be a staffer with just one direct report. “ABC confirmed the look at managerial roles is not restricted to ‘middle managers’ only and where appropriate, it could in fact encompass managers covered by the Red Book,” the advice said. The Red Book refers to staff who are covered by the enterprise agreement and are not in senior management at all. It has also been confirmed that about 60 positions would come from content-maker and support staff redundancies in TV and News but exactly where the remaining 90 to 140 job cuts would come from no one seemed to know.
Antisocial media management
The ABC’s social media manager may want to have a look at what The Drum account has been tweeting out lately because the tweets have attracted a lot of interest –almost all of it negative. “Does making a polarising #auspol figure like Julia Gillard the head of @BeyondBlue, risk alienating people who just don’t like her? #TheDrum”, asked The Drum on Tuesday to howls of protest and mostly angry replies from almost 500 people.
The ABC was accused of being unprofessional, tabloid, stupid and sexist – and they were just the kind comments. Wasn’t her predecessor Jeff Kennett a polarising figure, many people pointed out. “What an amazingly stupid question,” said one response.
Perhaps the ABC could hire a social media manager with the finesse of Benjamin Law, who hit his stride this week with a series of tweets with the #freedomofspeech hashtag. It was a reminder that not everyone in the media was enamoured by the government bowing to the campaign, led from the offices of the Australian and enveloping other News Corp outlets, to dilute section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Law started the hashtag when he asked people to share stories of racism to “celebrate the Coalition tampering with the RDA on #HarmonyDay”. On Thursday, on a different subject, he made us laugh too: