Shock jockery: Sky News can do better than this

Mark Latham claims Australians are scared to declare their faith and belief for fear of reprisals.

Mark Latham claims Australians are scared to declare their faith and belief for fear of reprisals. Photo: Channel Nine

After insulting everyone from respected broadcasters to his own colleagues, and even some Sydney schoolboys, Mark Latham has finally been sacked from Sky News.

Mr Latham was slammed on Media Watch last week for attacking Sky News colleague Peter van Onselen and his wife Ainslie van Onselen over her previous role in Westpac’s women’s markets, inclusion and diversity division.

He later took aim at fellow Sky News commentator Kristina Keneally, making insinuations about her ethics during her time as the premier of New South Wales between 2009 and 2011.

Mr Latham then decided to turn on ABC radio host Wendy Harmer, suggesting she was a “female with a disability” who could only get a job at the “sheltered workshop” of the ABC.

Then on Wednesday, he was roundly castigated for questioning a schoolboy’s sexuality by calling him “gay” after he appeared in an International Women’s Day video on feminism.

Those comments were slammed by Labor leader Bill Shorten, and both the Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham and the NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes on Wednesday. It was also the moment that cost Mr Latham his job on Sky.

But why sack him? He was only doing what all good shock jocks do: insult, offend and rant.

Angelos Frangopoulos, CEO and managing editor of Sky News, obviously decided that the reputational damage had to be corrected.

Why stop at Mark Latham? The next outrage, whenever it occurs, will only confirm that Sky News is becoming a ratbag channel.

Sky had gone out of its way to hire shock jocks and provocateurs for its 2017 schedule. And given the relentless need to keep subscribers sitting on the edges of their rocker-recliners through a daily schedule of dogmatic denunciation, someone is bound to get hurt.

Prior to the Sydney schoolboy, it was Mr Latham’s offensive put down of Ms Harmer, the great Australian writer, broadcaster and comedian, now hosting the morning show for ABC Sydney AM radio.

“Now Wendy, of course, we know her well. She’s a proven commercial failure, so naturally she got a job at ABC Radio at the sheltered workshop there for all the lefties.”

I do so love the term 'gender fluidity', says Wendy Harmer. It explains everything, really.

Wendy Harmer has demanded an apology from Mark Latham.

Ms Harmer has lodged a formal complaint and is demanding an apology. Her personal success, in spite of a cleft palate which was surgically corrected when she was 15, has been an inspiration.

To be able to stand in front of a rowdy crowd in stand-up comedy and face down discriminators and bullies is truly courageous.

She was right to stand up for herself again and has hastened Mr Latham’s departure from Sky News.

Ms Harmer declined to comment on Mr Latham’s sacking when approached by The New Daily late on Wednesday, only confirming that she was still seeking redress from him and Sky News.

“I am still in negotiation with Sky News seeking an apology,” she said.

This and other recent incidents highlight something sick about Sky News as well. It is a pity because its professional political coverage can be very good, thanks to two-time Walkley Award winner David Speers and Sky’s Canberra man Kieran Gilbert among others.

Mr Frangopoulos seems to have developed the shock jock TV schedule from Rupert Murdoch’s highly successful Fox News in the US.

On Fox News, ranting and bile, sometimes very cleverly delivered, has been used to exploit the Trump/Tea Party mentality for very profitable ends.

Sky News in Australia is now totally owned by Mr Murdoch after he recently bought out its founding consortium shareholders. It was almost as if Mr Frangopoulos designed the 2017 schedule with the incoming Murdoch ownership in mind.

One thing Mr Frangopoulos has won from all this is publicity. But it may come at the cost of a damaged reputation for Sky News.

If it gets Sky more subscribers, revenue and advertisers, it will prove all the critics are the commercial failures we undoubtedly are. Some Sky subscribers have told me they watch the network’s output until about 7pm then switch off as “all the ranters” get on air.

Until someone is prepared to take the investment risk in reinvigorating quality commercial TV current affairs in Australia, all pay TV subscribers can hope for is that Mr Frangopoulos leavens his shock jock schedule with presenters who treat subscribers with the respect they deserve.

Playing up to popular prejudice is the oldest trick in the shock jock book.

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