Media Watch (TV program)

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This article is about the Australian television program. For other uses, see Media Watch.
Media Watch
ABC Media Watch July 2013.png
Directed by David Rector
Presented by Paul Barry
Theme music composer Roi Huberman
Country of origin Australia
No. of seasons 26
Executive producer(s) Lin Buckfield
Running time 15 minutes
Original network ABC
Picture format 576i (SDTV)
Original release 8 May 1989 – 6 November 2000
8 April 2002–present
External links

Media Watch is Australia's most-watched media analysis television program currently presented by Paul Barry for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The program focuses on critiquing the Australian media.

It played a key role in revealing the unethical behaviour of radio talkback hosts, which became known as the "cash for comment affair" and was the subject of an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Authority.


Former host Jonathan Holmes sitting at the desk.

Media Watch is viewed by some as a watchdog of the Australian media, that investigates and exposes media bias and breaches of journalistic ethics and standards.

The series initially presented a roughly even mix of amusing or embarrassing editing gaffes (such as miscaptioned photographs) and more serious criticism. Over the years, the emphasis has shifted towards the latter, although the show often begins or ends with a more humorous piece.

Although most episodes of Media Watch focus on any recent incidents of media misconduct, episodes sometimes focus on a single issue of particular importance (for instance, media coverage of a recent election).


Stuart Littlemore was the inaugural host of Media Watch and remains the longest-running host to date. Following his nine-year tenure, various other journalists have hosted the program. Paul Barry, who previously hosted the program in 2000 and for a brief period in 2010, resumed hosting duties in 2013.

Notable pieces[edit]

"Cash for comment"[edit]

In 1999, the program revealed that influential talkback radio hosts Alan Jones and John Laws had been paid to provide favourable on-air comment about companies such as Qantas, Optus, Foxtel and Mirvac, without disclosing these arrangements to listeners. It also persistently criticised the then Australian Broadcasting Authority (superseded by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2005) as impotent or unwilling to regulate broadcast media, and to properly scrutinise figures such as Jones and Laws. The revelations won Media Watch staffers Richard Ackland, Deborah Richards and Anne Connolly two Walkley Awards: the Gold Walkley, and the Walkley for TV Current Affairs Reporting (Less Than 10 Minutes). In 2004, Media Watch played a major part in forcing the resignation of ABA head David Flint, after it was discovered that Flint had sent Jones admiring and effusive letters at a time when the ABA was investigating Jones concerning further cash for comment allegations. The reports won Media Watch another Walkley, TV Current Affairs Reporting (Less Than 20 Minutes) to staffers David Marr, Peter McEvoy and Sally Virgoe.

60 Minutes 1995 massacre at Srebrenica story[edit]

Australian 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton sued Media Watch over allegations of plagiarism. The judge found that the allegations were untrue and declined to award any damages. The ABC World Today reported on 18 December 2002: "The veteran reporter was horrified to see Media Watch accuse him of plagiarising a BBC documentary on the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica for his Channel Nine program. But today a judge ruled that even though the program did defame Mr Richard Carleton and two colleagues, it was fair comment and no damages were awarded."[9]

Cancellation and return[edit]

This ability to generate controversy led to the temporary cancellation of the show. In 2000, host Paul Barry was controversially sacked and in 2001, the program itself was axed by Jonathan Shier, the head of the ABC. However, in early 2002, after Shier was himself sacked in equally controversial circumstances, the show returned with Marr as the new host.[10] While Media Watch was off air, Stuart Littlemore returned to the ABC to host Littlemore, a media program that ran for 13 episodes between March and May 2001.[10]


The show's presenters have taken some pride in the vehemence of the criticism it attracts; at one point, the opening credits were made up of a montage of such criticisms, prominently featuring a description of original presenter Stuart Littlemore as a 'pompous git'. In 2002, the then-editor of The Daily Telegraph, Campbell Reid, sent host David Marr a dead fish; a replica of it is now awarded as the Campbell Reid Perpetual Trophy for the Brazen Recycling of Other People's Work.[11] Known as "The Barra" and bearing the motto Carpe Verbatim, it is awarded annually for bad journalism and particularly plagiarism (a practice for which Reid was frequently criticised).

Media Watch scrutinises all media outlets, and has criticised its own network, the ABC.[12] When David Marr was host from 2002 to 2004, the show often criticised Marr's employer John Fairfax Holdings.[citation needed] David Salter, a former executive producer of Media Watch, has suggested that it is "unwilling to subject Michael Brissenden, a journalist in the ABC's news and current affairs department, to the same level of ethical scrutiny it applies to others."[13]

Robert Manne, writing in The Age in 2007, commented that:

Media Watch was once, unashamedly, a program of the left… was sometimes unbalanced and unfair, usually intelligent and witty, always fearless and tough. No program more effectively tracked the steady drift of the political culture to the right. No program more effectively scrutinised the politics and practices of the contemporary commercial mainstream media — the rise of commentariat Islamophobia, the scandal of "cash for comment". The fact that it was not "impartial" was the key to its unpopularity in certain quarters, but also to its importance and success.[14]

The Australian, which is regularly criticised by Media Watch, has been a long term counter-critic of the show. In August 2007 it editorialised that Media Watch "lacks journalistic integrity and conducts its affairs along the lines of an insiders' club that pushes its ideological prejudice at taxpayers' expense".[15]

In June 2007, an episode of Media Watch entitled "Have Your Spray"[16] strongly criticised The Daily Telegraph, among others, for failing to censor racist comments on their website forums posted over an extended period, but then allowed strongly anti-Semitic comments to remain on its own web forum for a "few minutes" until removed.[17] The ABC later launched an internal inquiry into Media Watch's reliance on IslamicSydney, "an Islamic website that peddle[s] anti-Semitic and jihadi messages", for this story.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Delaney, Brigid (6 October 2004). "Media Watch presenter to hand over reins". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  2. ^ "Liz new Media Watch host". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. 2 February 2005. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Baker, Jordan (25 November 2005). "Media Watch on the prowl again for a host". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Joran, Baker (7 December 2005). "Attard fronts Media Watch". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  5. ^ Matthew, Ricketson (17 September 2007). "Media Watch presenter steps down". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  6. ^ Welch, Dylan (27 November 2007). "Holmes is new Media Watch presenter". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  7. ^ "Paul Barry to fill in as Media Watch host". ABC News. Australia: ABC. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Paul Barry to host Media Watch". The Spy Report. Media Spy. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  9. ^ Michael Vincent (18 December 2002). Carleton, Media Watch divided over defamation ruling. The World Today. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved on 19 January 2012.
  10. ^ a b Tabakoff, Jenny (2 April 2002). "The watchdog barks again". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  11. ^ "The Barra 2005". Media Watch. Australia: ABC. Retrieved 12 February 2006. 
  12. ^ Enker, Debi (9 December 2004). "Fifteen minutes of fame". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Retrieved 4 December 2007. 
  13. ^ Salter, David (23 August 2007). "Watchdog must bite all hands equally". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 22 December 2007. [dead link]
  14. ^ Manne, Robert (4 April 2007). "The new bland and dull ABC". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Retrieved 4 December 2007. 
  15. ^ "Old tricks back at Media Watch". The Australian; Editorial. News Limited. 23 August 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2014. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Have Your Spray". Media Watch. Australia: ABC. 18 June 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007. 
  17. ^ "Media Watch fails racism test". The Daily Telegraph. News Limited. 25 June 2007. Retrieved 26 November 2007. 
  18. ^ Kerbaj, Richard (12 July 2007). "Media Watch's jihadi sources". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 22 December 2008. [dead link]

External links[edit]