Channel Nine have issued a blistering statement in defence of Today Show host Georgie Gardner, after a newspaper made false claims that focus groups have branded her “cold” and an “ice maiden”.
A report in the Daily Telegraph alleged that the network had organised secret meetings in response to the show’s recent plummeting ratings, after taking on a new line-up of presenters.
The report also claimed that independent analysts had been commissioned to conduct focus groups, in an effort to speak to viewers and understand why they’re not tuning in as much following former host Karl Stefanovic’s exit.
An insider reportedly told the news outlet that issues that arose from these ‘focus groups’ included the dynamic between the new presenters – which include ongoing host Georgie Gardner and new face Deborah Knight – as well as a lack of “banter”.
The insider apparently added: “Audiences are not loving Georgie. The data shows she was accepted as a newsreader, then when she returned as host they never warmed to her. They find her cold, an ice maiden.”
However, Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Darren Wick, has now slammed the false claims in a damning statement – accusing News Corp of “bullying”.
“This is one of the most deliberate acts of bullying I’ve ever seen,” he said, before insisting that there are no facts to the claims whatsoever and adding that the reporter did not contact the network for comment before publishing the story.
“Nine’s position is that this is an outrageous, false, reckless and defamatory attack on Georgie Gardner and the Today Show,” he added. “The claim by the Daily Telegraph reporter that Nine has conducted focus groups this year is wrong. We haven’t as yet commissioned any focus groups for the Today Show, let alone held them in 2019.
“The allegations from the article that Georgie Gardner was perceived as an ‘Ice Maiden’ and is somehow responsible for the poor numbers of the show this year is a fabrication and irresponsible reporting.”
He went on to confirm that Nine conducted focus groups for the last six months of last year, and insisted the feedback about Georgie was “overwhelmingly positive” at the time – even rating “head and shoulders above every other on-air presenter”.
“And that’s consistent with all Today Show focus groups we’ve held during the last seven years, while I’ve been in the National News Director role,” he added.
“I don’t shy away from the weaker numbers the Today Show has recorded in 2019. But just five weeks into a new team on-air, we’re not about to hit the panic button. We’ve been through this battle before with other programs, where a section of the media is quick to write us off. We’re in for the long haul.”
Today‘s first show back earlier this year starred Georgie and Deb in the hot seats, alongside news presenter Tom Steinfort, sports presenter Tony Jones and entertainment reporter Brooke Boney, alongside existing star Richard Wilkins, as they filmed live from the Australian Open.
Sadly they have failed to impress in their first few weeks on air, with the show suffering a decline in ratings.