Sydney siege stories: Why did networks make viewers choose?
|09/07/2018||Posted by admin under 南京夜网||
Siege survivor Harriette Denny spoke to 60 Minutes. Photo: Nine Network Over contrived? The Lindt cafe workers who survived the siege were reunited on 60 Minutes. Photo: Nine Network
Most traumatising footage … Marcia Mikhael as she was held hostage. Photo: Seven Network
Seven had the footage advantage … Elly Chen being held hostage inside the Lindt cafe. Photo: Seven Network
60 Minutes Fiona Ma proved popular on Twitter, with comments such as ‘amazing young woman’. Photo: Nine Network
Ratings: the surprising winnerMikhael’s criticism of policeHarrowing siege details
There were many startling moments during Seven and Nine’s head-to-head Sydney siege battle on Sunday night.
Marcia Mikhael’s visible anger as she was told how Tony Abbott was too “busy” to deal with calls from the hostages as she stood making the call at gunpoint. Pregnant Harriette Denny’s description of how she came to terms with facing death. Louisa Hope’s small reassurance to the colleagues of Tori Johnson, the slain Lindt cafe manager, that he died instantly, without knowing what had happened.
The biggest shock of all is that the two networks chose to pitch both finely crafted programs, covering one of the biggest stories in recent history, directly against each other. The networks had held off broadcasting their efforts until Sunday night when the official 2015 ratings season began. Seven’s Inside the Siege: The Untold Story was originally due to air at 6pm. Nine’s 60 Minutes special was due to follow later.
On the night, however, both kicked off at 6.30pm, in an ill-considered competitive decision that did the hostages featured and viewers a disservice.
Commercial preoccupations were distastefully, blatantly at the forefront, forcing audiences to choose between the harrowing stories they were invited to share.
And the sad fact is that both shows did a brilliant job of pulling together these harrowing first-hand tales from this unimaginable event.
60 Minutes scored the edge on ratings, pulling 1.72 million nationally, against Inside the Siege’s 1.62 million. But these numbers fell far short in comparison with the rest of the night’s big-hitters, with Seven’s My Kitchen Rules winning 2.38 million, while Nine’s Gina Rinehart drama House of Hancock pulled in 2.02 million nationally.
Did Seven and Nine’s head-on battle prove self-defeating by cannibalising their audience numbers? Did their strategy backfire in diluting what could have a been a bigger audience if both shows aired separately?
60 Minutes went hard on the emotional tack – often in danger of falling into melodrama as it strung out its interviews into two hours and 15 minutes of coverage. It featured eight of the hostages, amid reports it forked out $1 million for interviews. Most attention-grabbing was the account of Selina Win Pe, 43, a digital manager at Westpac, whose animated, vivid and often teary lowdown was captivating. Also intensely moving was 19-year-old cafe worker Jarrod Morton-Hoffman’s story, related with strength and maturity as he spoke about losing Johnson, his friend and colleague.
Judicial editing by Nine wouldn’t have gone amiss, with one too many shots of single shot “moments” of victims staring into the middle-distance padding out the broadcast. Re-enactments of events inside the cafe seemed unnecessary and often borderline hammy. And a reunion of the interviewees at the end fell dangerously close to being overly contrived.
But, Liz Hayes’ authoritative steering of the program served to keep the spotlight on what was most important – what the hostages had to say.
Inside the Siege, helmed by an occasionally teary Melissa Doyle, went for a harder, news-documentary style, centred on the account of 43-year-old mother-of-three Marcia Mikhael. Her story was nothing but compelling as she told of the confusion and disbelief as the event unfolded, and her anger over the police response.
It was Seven’s harder-edged coverage that ultimately made better television. Both shows centred on lengthy, harrowing accounts by the hostages of their traumatic experiences – the calls to loved ones, the pleading with gunman Man Haron Monis, the support given to one another as the drama unfolded.
But Seven had, for want of a better term, the advantage of being able to use footage filmed on the day from its vantage point directly opposite the cafe in Martin Place.
What said more than the hours of emotional interviews compiled was the simple footage of the day. There is a shot of Mikhael as she stood facing the window and holding the flag as directed by Monis. Her face shows sheer terror, trauma and despondency, all hope has gone.
It is this image that unequivocally shows how, for all those at the Lindt cafe that day, they had to live through one of the most unimaginable extremes of human existence.
Their stories told themselves. What a shame the networks made us choose between them.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.