Ever since Nine snared The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald there’s been speculation on how its newly acquired newspapers would treat its television shows and on-air personalities.
Just last week, one of SMH’s entertainment reporters penned a rather scathing assessment of Today’s fortunes since Karl Stefanovic’s abrupt departure just before Christmas titled, “Nine has tossed the baby out with the bath water and with it went Today’s ratings”.
A Nine spokesperson has repeatedly told B&T that there’s absolutely no meddling or coercion in the newspaper’s editorial and, judging by Fairfax journos’ feisty reputation, you’d expect nothing less.
Which leads us to a piece on The Age and SMH websites yesterday titled “The unlikely viewers hooked on Married at First Sight“.
Penned by The Age’s entertainment reporter Charlotte Grieve, the piece serves as a sickly sweet homage to the dating show which, even B&T has to admit, has proven to be 2019’s ratings juggernaut.
Interestingly, the piece fails to include a disclaimer that Nine owns both The Age and SMH as well as being the broadcaster of MAFS.
In an emailed response to B&T, The Age and SMH’s deputy entertainment editor Nathanael Cooper said Nine bosses hadn’t ordered a glowing critique of MAFS’ fortunes.
“Nine management did not commission this story. I did,” Cooper said. “It is the highest rating show on television and a piece exploring the reasons people who are not traditional reality television viewers are watching has valid news value.
“We cover Nine programming as vigorously and independently today as we did prior to the merger and a quick Google search would lead you to the same conclusion,” Cooper said.
In Grieve’s piece, we’re introduced to three people who wouldn’t typically be MAFS fans but have apparently become magically hooked on this year’s series.
Forty-four-year old financial adviser, Matt, says he usually only watched Netflix and Sky News After Dark but now admits that his “routine has been disrupted by this program”. Although we’re given little more to understand what the disruption entails.
Meanwhile, Melbourne musician Mitch says his partner introduced him to MAFS and he’s “hooked”. Mitch also suspects other “musician dudes” have been “closet watching” the show.
While 68-year-old Fran Pagdin, a retired mental health worker from a small town in North Adelaide, appears to be in two minds about the show. Fran says she’s joined an online group of “really fun women” who exchange commentary during each episode, before adding that the “contestants – some of whom Pagdin says display symptoms of mental illness – has caused her to slowly turn the show off.”
Nor were reader comments to the article particularly favourable. “MAFS has degenerated from a, and I use the term loosely, ‘social experiment’, to a predictable confected piece of crap. I love escapism as much as the next person but this stuff is just vacuousness at its best,” wrote non-fan Andrew.
“I don’t know what is worse. That this tripe exists or the Herald making a story of it,” penned Craig.
While Impatients added: “Rude, or hurtful and unnecessary? It just encourages people to spew their hateful thoughts even to total strangers. Amazing. AND it’s not OK.”