Downloads a key in Underbelly case
The first episode was set to screen last night at a roof-top cinema in St Kilda, but was pulled yesterday by Nine.
Over at www.underbellytv.com the official website is still promoting internet users can see “Episode 1 of Underbelly before it premieres on Channel Nine. Download it from here on February 10.”
That won’t happen.
The Victorian Supreme Court has subpoenaed all 13 episodes of the crime drama, the bulk of which are still undergoing post-production, to be delivered by 10am Monday morning.
Neither the Director of Public Prosecutions nor the legal defence for a forthcoming courtcase will want to see the series impede a fair trial. But time is not on Nine’s side. It will take almost 13 hours just to wade through the material. Legal counsel will need to re-convene to consider argument.
Meanwhile Nine has its eyes set on an 8:30pm premiere on Wednesday.
Nine and Screentime are adamant they are fully aware of their legal obligations and are believed to have been changing names of the characters in their story.
The legal scramble over Underbelly is of course the kind of publicity money can’t buy. But Nine doesn’t need this. It already flooded the market with promotion for the series, and it has all but overwhelmed us. If this drags on there is a chance sections of the audience will be put off before it even starts.
And as ratings kick off tomorrow, Nine needs to make impact. It is already smarting over a bad start to The Chopping Block and the exit of Ray Martin.
So in a worst case scenario, where does legal action over the drama leave Nine?
Nine could still air the series interstate, and frankly they need to. Just as Blue Murder was unable to air in NSW it screened in the rest of the country. But that was before the days of downloading.
As Leadbelly co-writer John Silvester himself wrote: “The issue of a drama impacting on trials is not new. The ABC series on crime and police corruption in Sydney, Blue Murder, was banned in NSW for six years and was not seen there until 2001. But with the leap in technology, such state-only bans are less effective. If Channel Nine decided to show Underbelly in all states other than Victoria, it would be downloaded onto the web and available here within hours.”
How ironic it would be if Victorians themselves resorted to breaking the law with illegal downloads to see a programme about gangsters.
Additional source: The Age