Media Watch ~versus~ Good Game

Besieged by angry nerds, Media Watch‘s Jonathan Holmes has made the following comment on Jeremy Ray’s sacking by the ABC:

Author Jonathan Holmes (Presenter)
Date/Time 06 Nov 2009 8:21:00pm
Subject Re: Junglist demoted from ABC’s Good Game

Ok gamers. Think about this.

If the ABC had decided it wanted to change the host of The Good Game [sic] to appeal to a different audience, or because it wanted a woman instead of a man (though both of those things MAY be true) would it really have done so a few weeks before the end of [T]he Good Game’s run? Wouldn’t it have waited until the end of the season? Would it have courted the reaction it’s got from its hard core fans by just dumping Junglist without even a chance to say goodbye, without explanation etc?

We have looked into this. If we thought there had been a gross and high-handed management intervention we’d happily have said so. But we don’t. And like the team at The Good Game, we can’t say why without making matters worse.

Frustrating, I know. But there it is. Calling me a coward won’t change anything, or make Junglist feel better either.

Noel Coward Jonathan Holmes has a point: in retrospect, it doesn’t make very good sense for the ABC to change the host of Good Game before the end of the current series — if this situation could be avoided. Sadly — or fortunately — as the ABC PR department put it (apparently — I can’t seem to find the original press release): “The reason for replacing Jeremy Ray was ongoing behind the scenes performance based issues”.

In which case, the issue becomes just how bad an employee was Junglist?

Given his sudden dismissal — not only as host but also from The Good Game [sic] and the ABC as a whole — he must have been a very bad employee indeed. Legal agreements apparently prevent the ABC from embarking upon any further disclosure, so consumers/clients/citizens will have to take ABC management at its word — or not (as the case may be).

So: from Media Watch‘s perspective, dumping Junglist had nothing to do with any desire on the part of Good Game / the ABC to re-position Good Game in the market, and everything to do with some unspecified failure on the part of Junglist-The-Employee. For legal reasons, these reasons cannot be discussed, but in any event they do not involve any “gross and high-handed management intervention” (in which context, Johnathan implies, Media Watch would be more interested).

The situation is slightly complicated, however, by Amanda Duthie, the ABC’s ‘Head of Arts and Entertainment’, who on October 26 released the following statement to the blog ‘TV Tonight’:

After three years, we felt Good Game needed a refresh to take the program into 2010 and beyond, and the decision was made to change the hosting team.

Jeremy had travel plans which meant he was not going to be available to tape the final show of the season, the one hour Christmas Special, and we were announcing details of the launch of the Good Game: SP program on our new channel, ABC3. So it made sense to work in with these timings to introduce Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen as our new host.

Understandably, Jeremy has many fans who are disappointed to see him leave the program. However, we are absolutely confident that Bajo and Hex will bring a new dimension to the show and, along with the dedicated behind the scenes team of gamers, continue to bring Australian audiences independent reviews and information about video gaming in Australia.

Obviously, one could read this as spin; even as an attempt by Amanda — concerned over Junglist-The-Bad-Employee’s future job prospects — to distract attention away from the supposed fact that Junglist was indeed a very bad employee. Thus, in this version, Junglist’s replacement as host of Good Game was simply a question of timing, prompted, on the one hand, by a need to “refresh” the format and, on the other hand, Junglist’s unavailability — through his own choice — for a super special one hour Crassmas special.

However, the situation is further complicated by the fact that one of Good Game‘s producers (production manager Gannon Conroy or ‘TheGog’) stated on the Good Game forum — on the same day (October 23) that Junglist’s sacking was announced — that:

You’re all smart enough and have heard enough to know that it wasn’t Jung’s choice and I can tell you it wasn’t anything I personally had a say in, so it is a decision made from above which certainly had a lot of us behind the scenes worried BUT having personally seen Hex in action I can see why such a decision was made…

In relation to which, there are two points.

The first is the fact that here TheGog explicitly contradicts a later statement released by the Good Game team to the effect that the decision to dump Junglist had its unanimous support; the other is the fact that, after having made this statement, the ABC moderator has edited TheGog’s statement to remove the offending passage.

A “gross and high-handed” example of “management intervention”? Apparently not.

Of course, the Good Game statement can not only be held up against TheGog’s statement of October 23, but also the statement Junglist made in reply to Good Game; one which, if correct, lends further weight to the possibility that the Good Game statement of October 29 is, in fact, untruthful. That is, “the decision to take Junglist off air” was, in fact, “forced upon [Good Game] by ABC Management”.

Author Junglist (Reviewer)
Date/Time 29 Oct 2009 4:48:18pm
Subject Re: Statement from the team…

I can tell you that this is a lie. There was no vote taken, no consensus reached. In fact, the GG team was completely unaware of the change until the same day I found out. The same confidentiality clause that prevented me from saying anything publicly, prevented management from telling them anything.

I have spoken to members of the GG team who clearly DON’T support this, but can’t say anything publicly. Of course they’ll tow the party line. They have to.

Up until now the situation has just been poorly handled. But to now LIE to your own audience, in an effort to save face for replacing an experienced reviewer/presenter with an inexperienced one, is quite simply the lowest thing I’ve ever seen ABC management do.

I feel now as if I’m being professionally attacked, so here’s a truth bomb. In the meeting where I was told I would be replaced, the reason given was they wanted a girl on the show. “Mass appeal” was a direct quote from that meeting. After a half-hour of explaining how they’ll lose their hardcore following, they responded that yes, they knew this, but expected to make up the numbers with a new following. “A show can grow beyond its hardcore base”, is another direct quote.

The decision was forced by ABC management, for a mass appeal direction, and will naturally be dumbed down for the loss of experience. Case in point: Monday night’s show. Both Forza 3 and Kingdom Hearts clearly written by people with no idea about those franchises. Hell, no one on the team even thought to correct the presenters on how to pronounce “Forza” correctly? Expect a lot more of that…

A “gross and high-handed” example of “management intervention”? Apparently not.

One might also consider the fact that during the course of the first, Junglist-free Good Game (October 26), Bajo announced that Junglist, while no longer host, would continue to work ‘behind-the-scenes’ at Good Game.

OK gamers. Think about this.

If the decision of October 23 to sack Junglist was not forced upon the Good Game team/work unit by ABC Management, and was one that was “fully supported” by all the Good Game team, would Bajo really have stated — wrongly — in the episode of October 26 that Junglist “has just taken a behind-the-scenes role on the show”? After all, according to ‘Team Good Game’ (October 29), “things … have happened over many months inside Team Good Game which have impacted on the production”; and if you substitute ‘things’ for ‘Junglist’, ‘Team Good Game’ had been preparing itself for this decision for months. It therefore makes more sense to assume that Junglist is in fact correct; the decision to sack him was taken by ABC Management — for whatever reason — not ‘Team Good Game’. Subsequently, ABC Management requested/ordered ‘Team Good Game’ to issue a statement condoning its decision, and the one piece of evidence belying that claim was removed from the Good Game forum.

A “gross and high-handed” example of “management intervention”? Apparently not.

In closing, one might also consider the following (Axed Good Game host sticks to his guns, Sarah Collerton, ABC News Online, November 2, 2009):

[Junglist] says he was told in a meeting almost three weeks ago that he was going to be replaced by a woman because the ABC wanted the video gaming show to garner “mass appeal”.

Ray, who was born in Australia but lived in the United States for most of his childhood, says there was “a lot of internal politicking” going on behind the scenes, but that was not the reason for his dismissal.

“In the meeting, the only reason they gave was that they wanted a female presenter,” he told ABC News Online.

“There were comments made in that meeting that it would be great if the audience assumed, seeing as there is only four or five weeks left in the season, that I was sick or on holiday and that this whole thing was my idea.

“It was even suggested [at a different time], that I say on air that I’m going back to the States, which I found a little offensive because I’m an Australian citizen.

“Those sorts of comments made me worried that I was going to be misrepresented.”

See also : Junglist, Or; How Not To Fire An Under-Performing Employee (October 30, 2009) | Axed Good Game host sticks to his guns (November 2, 2009).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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