It’s been all apologies and niceties since yesterday’s explosive revelations by Nine’s personalities, the Stefanovic brothers Karl and Peter, after they were apparently recorded berating colleagues and the network in the back of an Uber.
However, some are now speculating if Nine’s “golden boy” and Today host Karl Stefanovic hasn’t so irrevocably tarnished his brand that his days at Nine may well be numbered.
Of the many claims that have come from the now infamous cab ride, the most biting was the allegation that Karl has described Today co-host, Georgie Gardner, as “wishy-washy’’, a “fence sitter”, who was “too neutral” and apparently moaned that she was void of any strong opinions.
Karl, of course, is still suffering the backlash of his much-publicised divorce and his relationship with new and much, younger girlfriend, Jasmine Yarbrough.
Nine would be acutely aware of how that would be perceived by Today’s predominately female audience and the fallout from Lisa Wilkinson’s shock defection to rival Ten late last year.
Seven’s Sunrise also continues to pummel its rival in the ratings, while it was the Seven-owned New Idea that published the explosive Uber conversation after reportedly paying the driver $50,000.
Interestingly, Gardner was photographed yesterday boarding a private jet and was reporting on the NSW south coast’s bushfires this morning as Karl manned Today’s studio desk. Apparently, a move by Nine bosses to diffuse any tensions between the two and show Gardner as a serious journalist.
Despite both the Stefanovics apologising for their now very public conversation, some commentators are suggesting Karl’s end may well be nigh. Antics tolerated by mate and former Nine supremo, David Gyngell, would be less enthusiastically received by new Nine chief, Hugh Marks.
In a column piece yesterday, News Corp entertainment writer Debbie Schipp wrote: “The highest paid man in Australian television now comes across as arrogant, and his nine lives with Nine must surely be stacking up.
“But behind the scenes, Nine bosses aren’t smiling. He’s on the nose with his most devoted viewers — the mums who tune into Today, who haven’t forgiven him for his marriage breakup. Now they also think he’s overpaid and entitled and slags off his colleagues and bosses,” Schipp penned.
Editor of the industry site TV Tonight David Knox added: “On-air boofhead comments are one thing, but Karl has questioned the credibility of his co-host which is highly damaging to her as an individual and them as a team. One can’t imagine Georgie ever thought she was signing up for this sort of mess.
“It’s quite possibly the best gift Sunrise has ever had,” Knox added.
Meanwhile, media personality, Jessica Rowe, led the defence of Gardner. “Georgie’s one of my dearest friends,” Rowe told Ten’s Studio 10 yesterday. “No, I don’t think the phone call should have been recorded. But I don’t think these two [Karl and Peter Stefanovic] are victims. If you have nothing nice to say about someone, do it behind closed doors.
“Don’t do it on speakerphone where people are listening. Georgie is an incredible journalist. She’s strong, she’s committed, she’s passionate and I’m sick of blokes saying negative things about women.”
While 2Day FM host Em Rusciano also criticised the Stefanovics for bitching so publicly. “I certainly wouldn’t have a private conversation in a car with a driver I didn’t know on speaker phone,” Rusciano told her listeners. “No good, man. Also, to the Uber driver: Come on! Your job is to drive and not destroy people’s lives and careers and what have you.”
However, both Peter and Karl did find some supporters on last night’s episode of The Project. Host Waleed Aly said that although “nobody came out looking great” from the public airing of the conversation, he had grave concerns that private conversations were being recorded by taxi drivers.
“I mean there is nothing wrong with these two guys talking about someone they work with,” Aly said. “The criminal here or the person who is at fault is someone who has intruded on that conversation. That’s the problem” and, he added, Australia was “building a really sick culture of surveillance”.
“In the end when all this was supposedly revealed, and we have no idea if it is even accurate, right?” he said.
Fellow Project panellist and radio host Steve Price agreed with Waleed’s comments and expressed disappointment that “these days you really cannot say anything”.
“You have to stop yourself whenever you’re referring to another individual and really think twice about it,” Price said.
“In the old days you could spray people all you liked, nothing ever happened and no one dragged you off … and you could bag people and swear about them.”