The Graham Kennedy Show
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|The Graham Kennedy Show|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||4|
|Running time||Approximately 60 minutes (inc. commercials)|
|Original channel||Nine Network|
|Original run||19 September 1972 – 17 April 1975|
On 23 December 1969, host Graham Kennedy has quit as host of In Melbourne Tonight, exhausted, and rested for two years. In spite of his fame and fortune, he later described that period as "years of misery". After a special on 2 March 1972, he returned with this series.
Kennedy sparked controversy after a "crow-call", which sounded highly reminiscent of the word fuck, was broadcast in March 1975 (see below). Forced to pre-record from that point on, he abruptly departed following GTV-9 censorship of the 16 April 1975 edition.
The Crow Call Incident
On the show of 5 March 1975, Kennedy imitated a crow ("faaaaaaark") during a live read of a Cedel hairspray advert by announcer Rosemary Margan. The Nine Network reportedly received hundreds of complaints, followed by a rash of newspaper headlines the next day, and furious Nine executives reported the incident to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's Broadcasting Control Board. Kennedy was banned from performing live on TV for an indefinite period of time and was forced to pre-record the show on videotape. Some have claimed that Kennedy deliberately engineered the crow-call incident so that the show would have to be pre-recorded, allowing him to get home earlier, while others suggest that he did it so that Nine would sack him.
In 2002, in The Age, writer Jonathan Green reported that the crow-call segment was in fact pre-taped, not live, and that in fact the bad language controversy was probably just a pretext for other issues. Rival Nine personality Ernie Sigley, who presented his own variety show on different nights to Kennedy, has claimed the real reason Kennedy was axed was that his ratings were so poor compared to Sigley's. Even in 1975, it would have been unlikely that utterance of fuck itself would have been sufficient to cause the axing of the entire show.
According to Age reporter Suzanne Carbone, the first known use of the expletive on Australian TV was in the Sixties, when Nine Adelaide evening news presenter Kevin Crease said "fucking hell" during a mishap in a live advertisement on variety show Adelaide Tonight. Crease told The Age that "The audience fell off their chairs laughing," and that he was amazed no complaints were received, but although he feared he would be sacked, nothing happened.
Criticism of Doug McClelland
Having been forced to tape his shows indefintely by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the network took advantage of the pre-taping to completely edit out Kennedy's scathing attack on Senator Doug McClelland, the then Minister for the Media, for his failure to support local content regulations for TV on the 16 April 1975 edition.
According to Kennedy's biographer Graeme Blundell, Kennedy resigned from Nine after this controversy, just six weeks after the "crow call" incident.
His words which never made it to air were:
- Good evening.
- Little serious bit to start with: Senator Douglas McClelland, ahh, is really copping it in the press at the moment. All this week, every paper you pick up, there's a, there's a roast of the Senator.
- And like most Australians, I hate to kick a man when he's down.
- (audience laughter)
- But in Doug McClelland's case, I happily make an exception.
- (audience laughter)
- He has failed, and he knows it too. Now, the public know it.
- This misguided Minister took credit for a mythical boom in television production. Now, there is no boom.
- Employment in television production is down this year, by over 30 percent, and that's a fact.
- His point system has proved utterly ineffective, and I wonder if you can remember who that little blond-headed fellow was, who works on television, who originally pointed out that it wouldn't work.
- (audience: Graham!)
- That's right.
- (audience laughter)
- We are all suffering from the lack of local content at the moment. I'm being trashed in the surveys because constantly being thrown at, up against me are shows like the Academy Awards, and cheap television series, all purchased for a few hundred dollars from the Yanks.
- Now some of these - when I say a few hundred dollars, by the time it's amortised over the network, that's how much the program costs. Now we can't compete, umm, with the price of these shows.
- We cannot: this is a, what is this, a six thousand dollar a night ... uhh, we can play Mrs. Miniver for, err, ninepence.
- (audience laughter)
- It's beneath my dignity to even go into the laughable and inane carryings-on of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which the good Minister of the Crown, Senator Douglas McClelland, is in charge of, but I know I can speak for a lot of my colleagues in this industry, and several other industries in the entertainment field, when I demand, here, tonight, nationally, that Senator McClelland be dismissed from office; and I would suggest most strongly that the portfol ... the portfolio itself be dropped.
- That's all I want to say.
The segment was edited out before the show went to air and Kennedy resigned in anger.
Australian content on TV was a highly sensitive issue at this time.
In the wake of the controversial McLean Report, the Whitlam government was taking major steps to open up the radio spectrum with the introduction of community broadcasting and the ABC's new rock station, Triple J (launched as "Double Jay"), but it had done nothing to address the low levels of local content on Australian TV.
Aware of the media's crucial role in its own election in 1972, and understandably fearful of a backlash if it forced unpopular content quotas on the industry, the government steered well clear of any serious re-examination of the current structure and did little to increase levels of Australian content on TV.
Understandably, the proposal to increase local content had long been advocated local producers, writers and actors, but it was bitterly opposed by the networks, who relied on being able to buy large blocks of American programming at a fraction of what it would have cost to produce similar shows locally.
The problem was compounded by the Whitlam government's far-reaching 1973 decision to reduce tariffs across the board by 25% in the first move towards today's highly successful "free trade" policies. The immediate result of the tariff reduction was that overseas programming became even cheaper.
Also at this time, the networks were being targeted by the "TV - Make It Australian" campaign, which involved a number of prominent Australian actors and TV personalities including Kennedy and several leading actors from the popular police shows made by Crawford Productions, notably Gerard Kennedy and Charles "Bud" Tingwell. The cancellation of all three major Crawford Productions police shows within months of each other during 1975 has been portrayed by Tingwell and others as an act of revenge by the networks for Crawford's active support for the campaign and the participation of its contract players.
Following this logic, Blundell suggests that Kennedy too was a victim of the Nine TV network's sensitivity about the local content issue. It has also been suggested that, with a federal election looming, Nine used the crow call incident as a pretext to remove the politically vocal Kennedy, who was known to support the ALP.
- "Umbrella Entertainment". Retrieved 19 July 2013.
- "The Graham Kennedy Show", April 16 1975 on YouTube - the unedited McClelland comments which never went to air.