Nothing like a good controversy to whip up some attention. The thing is, The Gruen Transfer doesn’t really need it. Last week it was the #1 show on the ABC. But today the ABC has been forced to defend its hit show on advertising, The Gruen Transfer, after a potential conflict of interest by one of its star panellists.
TV pin-up Todd Sampson rubbished a child abuse ad on the show but failed to disclose that his agency worked for the charity until an acrimonious split five years ago.
On the most recent episode, Sampson let rip into the ad for Adults Surviving Child Abuse, which shows the father of a bride making a humorous wedding speech, halfway through which he says: “I remember the first words that I ever said to her after sex – ‘Don’t tell Mum.’”
While other panel members questioned the charity’s ad’s strategy, Sampson said it was “insensitive rubbish” and that he was “embarrassed” by it.
He said the ad would make ASCA’s job of counselling victims harder “because now you’ve ridiculed these people in front of millions of people on national television”.
Panellists or the host Wil Anderson usually disclose any conflicts of interest on air.
ASCA chairwoman Cathy Kezelman defended the ad saying it was working and hit back at Mr Sampson.
“He appeared to have made up his mind before viewing the ad and didn’t partake in the discussion but rather sought to drive an agenda home,” she said.
“His comment about government funding [Mr Sampson said it was made as a pitch to get more government funding] came from left field, [and] implied prior and additional knowledge and had nothing to do with the ad itself at all. He sustained a scathing attack throughout, calling the ad ‘insensitive rubbish” and saying that he was embarrassed by it.
Telling the Australian, Kezelman added, “Many survivors, some in their 60s and 70s, are speaking out and seeking help. ASCA has given them a voice and the opportunity to be heard. The first call to our 1300 line after the campaign launched was from a 77-year-old lady who had never told a soul about her ‘dark secret’ – until now. This advertising campaign is breaking through the conspiracy of silence and the shame and stigma which have long prevented survivors from getting the help they need.”
Sampson said that he was unaware Leo Burnett had ever acted for ASCA and that he only found out the morning after the show went to air.
“I stand by what I said,” adding that had he known of the previous relationship between Leo Burnett and ASCA he would have disclosed it on the show. “Absolutely,” he added.
A spokesman for the ABC and Denton’s production company, Zapruder’s Other Films, said guests were required to disclose clients to avoid conflict of interest.
In a statement the ABC said: “He could hardly make a disclosure on something he didn’t know existed.
“Conflict, disclosure, criticism and review issues are considered in relation to the content of every show and specifically discussed with panelists prior to every show. In addition, all panelists are required to declare current clients relevant to any discussion.”