Andrew Bolt’s first show on TEN offered up some of his favourite topics: refugees, climate change and politics.
If the intent of The Bolt Report was to do what Bolt does so eloquently in print and talkback radio -provoke a reaction- it is off to a good start.
But how does it fit with TEN’s news revamp as a serious news broadcaster? Its first outing succeeded more as a forum for its host than its subjects, with a distinct lack of impartiality and balance.
On a Coca-Cola red set, Bolt’s opening editorial let rip at the Gillard Government’s new deal with Malaysia, to send 800 Refugees back in exchange for accepting 4000 of theirs. It was as if the announcement had been timed perfectly for his premiere episode. Bolt made lots of comparisons with the Howard Government’s policy on “boat people” (a term that featured throughout the show) and Gillard’s “disastrous” policy. It was uncompromising, personal and stilted.
It was followed by Tony Abbott as Bolt’s first interview, in a free kick at the government. Bolt didn’t let Abbott finish his first 3 questions, but a friendly Abbott was still happy to congratulate him on his first outing -“May it flourish,” he said.
Bolt didn’t tackle Abbott hard enough on his own policies, laughing when an answer was avoided.
Next up were Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger and former Labor Leader Mark Latham, continuing with the refugee issue. Kroger was the show’s best performer: articulate, concise, covering several points. Latham didn’t defend Labor policies, raising more questions about balance. Given his zeal for the spotlight of late its doubtful that he was looking to push a Labor line rather than a Latham line. As a result it felt like one opinion from three mouths rather than a black and white conversation with a moderator.
More refugee content followed via an edited interview with Riz Wakil, billed as an “Afghan Refugee” rather than “Former Afghan Refugee”, despite telling Bolt he arrived here at the age of 18 -11 years ago.
“I understand your family is still in Pakistan, why didn’t you stay in Pakistan? Why didn’t you stay in Indonesia?” asked Bolt.
A testy discussion followed with Bolt keen to footnote his own views on the back of Wakil’s answers. After more than 15 minutes of anti-Refugee discussion, this did little to show another side to the issue. With no credits (either on the show or on the TEN website) it’s hard to know which producer to blame for this imbalance.
The show rounded out with a Spin of the Week segment (I thought we had been watching it already?) and two more called Under the Radar and Free Speech Award.
Bolt’s hosting of the show was awkward when reading the autocue, but more effective when in a debate.
However, Insiders showed he is more effective as a commentator than host, a role which requires more moderating and less editorialising. Can Bolt possibly have it both ways?
Or is there room for a show where the guests are there to further the views of the host? Ask Glenn Beck of FOX News…
But the bottom line may be about “shock jock” television, to ignite the viewer to become as mad as hell and simply tune in to cheer or hiss the lead player -either may well win them more viewers than a replay of the latest Video Hits clip.
The more considered viewers will stick around for the balance of Meet the Press at 10:30am hosted by Paul Bongiorno. Yesterday it interviewed Greens leader Bob Brown. He wasn’t a fan of Gillard’s new agreement with Malaysia either, but not for the same reasons as Bolt. Questioned by two other journos everybody shared a range of views without raising their voice or being interrupted.
Meet The Press has been on TEN since 1996.
The Bolt Report airs 10am Sundays on TEN.