Channel 9 addresses ‘axing’ rumours in memo to all staff

Channel 9 has moved swiftly to hose down speculation about the apparently uncertain future of one of its most prized and prestigious programs.

Darren Wick, the network’s boss of news and current affairs, sent a lengthy memo to all staff yesterday to address rumours about the future of 60 Minutes.

It followed an article in The Sunday Telegraph that quoted insiders as saying the long-running show was at risk of being dumped due to “enormous budget cuts” and a lack of competition.

“There’s been cost cutting in the millions and it is really expensive to do that sort of quality program well,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

“They have slashed their travel budget and are doing more local stories which means they are encroaching on A Current Affair territory and even sometimes news territory. Their promos have become ridiculous, outrageous and over the top.”

The speculation comes amid mounting criticism of the program’s recent reliance on tabloid-style stories and promos that fail to deliver on their promised revelations.

But Wick denied 60 Minutes is in trouble, instead saying he sees it being an important part of the Channel 9 schedule for many years to come.

“Let me put this on the record with my name attached to it as a genuine and verifiable source,” Wick wrote.

“There has never been a discussion between executives at Nine about axing 60 Minutes. That position has never been considered by myself, the CEO nor anyone else who matters. NEVER. EVER.

“It’s been part of our Sunday night ritual for four decades. It’s going to be on Nine a further four decades from now.

“The people who work on 60 Minutes are an extraordinary and wonderfully loyal family who take tremendous pride in the stories they produce and broadcast every week.

“Everyone at Nine is proud of our colleagues, the quality of their work and their passion for journalism.”

His emphatic reassurance ended with: “We’re here to stay.”

Like many small screen shows, 60 Minutes has endured fluctuating ratings in recent years but it’s still capable of delivering content that has enormous impact.

A week ago, its hugely damaging expose on branch-stacking in the Victorian Labor Party sent shockwaves through politics, both at a state and federal level, and saw a string of resignations.

But at the same time, the once highbrow show has seen a noticeable increase in puffy and shallow celebrity segments – many of which have left a lot to be desired.

And if online chatter among viewers is any indication, the lighter programming isn’t going down well.

Last month, the network teased its exclusive sit-down with FM radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands as being a revelation about a serious health diagnosis.

“Is this loudmouth of the airwaves about to be silenced?” a voiceover asked.

Vision of an emotional Sandilands and his on-air partner Jackie O was shown, along with a clip of him saying: “There’s a condition that I’ve been diagnosed with (that) I haven’t spoken to anyone about.”

But when the episode went to air, viewers were left feeling dudded – it was all a prank played by Sandilands as some kind of joke.

RELATED: Viewers lash 60 Minutes as Kyle Sandilands’ big health news revealed to be ‘a joke’

The following week, controversial celebrity chef and former My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans was a guest on 60 Minutes.

In it, he was asked about his various bizarre conspiracy theories, with many questioning the wisdom of giving Evans airtime.

He even boasted that he’d “played” the network.

RELATED: Pete Evans tells 60 Minutes he’s ‘suspicious’ about coronavirus in preview ahead of interview

Responding to a fan on social media, Evans said: “This is a game of chess that I enjoy playing. Look at who they sent in to do the interview and how this has been perceived.”

Acclaimed journalist Liz Hayes conducted the interview.

He also uploaded his own recorded video of his full interview as the episode went to air.

Late last year, the show’s segment on Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, sparked international condemnation for featuring controversial right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins as an “expert”.

It was described as “disgusting” and “smug racist babble” by a string of celebrities and high-profile personalities, including Mia Farrow and Jameela Jamil.

Hopkins has been routinely labelled “racist” and a “bigot” for her views about immigrants in British media, making headlines for comparing migrants to cockroaches.

In 2017, Hopkins also made headlines for a tweet after the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

She tweeted that “we need a final solution” to the terrorism problem, later deleting the post.

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