Talking Heads: Ray Martin

Ray Martin has told the ABC that A Current Affair lost its journalism mojo many years ago.

In an interview with Peter Thompson to air on Talking Heads, Martin admits in his later years as host he found himself questioning some of the stories.

“I used to sit there when I was hosting A Current Affair at times and say ‘Who cares about this story?’ I think the audience is much smarter than we give them credit for,” he says.

“It went from being, I think as being as credible as 7:30 (Report) in the days of Jana, Willesee, and myself to being almost a consumer affairs programme.”

But he laments that interviews with politicians on ACA were a ratings killer.

“You would lose 100,000 in Sydney like that. People just switch off,” he says.

In the one on one interview to air on August 16th, Martin talks about early family years, sleeping at Sydney’s Central Railway station, his alcoholic father, the influence of his mother and older sisters, and the discovery of Aboriginal ancestry in his family. He shares memories of his marriage to wife Dianne, and speaks about his daughter “living the life of an out of work actor” and his son who is studying international relations after being inspired by Barack Obama.

In some 10,000 interviews in his career, Martin highlights talking to Don Bradman, Fred Hollows and Lindy Chamberlain for 60 Minutes.

He also speaks fondly of hosting Midday, which he began hosting from 1985.

“There was nowhere in the world in the 1980s and 90s where you were doing live television, certainly not 90 minutes a day. This was a lunchtime programme that I was told at the time was making about $10m in profit. I did ten years there and it was probably the most enjoyable ten years of my life.”

Martin also admits he has “complained for thirty years the fact that women dictate what Australians watch on television,” a view which seemingly differed to that of legendary network owner Kerry Packer.

“Kerry had a good feeling for what Australia wanted, women and men, and he would let the bosses of the network know. I think that’s changed since Kerry left, since he died, since it was sold by the Packers to a venture capital company,” he said.

“But I think that was the eternal problem; that people were doing it because it was a fiefdom, because it was a private enterprise. I don’t think they really cared about the audience. But somehow they got it right.”

After Packer purchased the Nine Network back from Alan Bond, Martin made the mistake of asking his boss about his future.

Packer retorted, “‘You’re effing future? I don’t know what my effing future is. Why would I give an F about your effing future?'” says Martin. “I got up to leave because I overstayed my welcome and he wrapped this big bear arm around me and said ‘Don’t worry son, you’re alright, we’ll look after you.’ And that was it.”

He also reflects on the career highlights of hosting Carols by Candlelight and the landmark broadcast of the Bicentennial celebrations he co-hosted with Jana Wendt and Clive James.

The Gold Logie winner laughs off suggestions that he could have become an ‘Australian Oprah’, and adds that he would be no good as a radio host.

But he hints at more to come.

“I love to chase stories,” he tells Thompson. “I want to go back to journalism. I want to go back to telling stories and I want go back to doing what I do best and doing what I like best.”

Talking Heads with Ray Martin airs 6:30pm Monday August 16 on ABC1.


  1. It seems odd that he’s at aloose end and still relatively young. At 60 Minutes in America the reporters stay on the air well into their 70s and 80s. I wonder where he’ll pop up next.. Maybe personality based show on Sky News?

  2. I’ll only be satisfied with the interview if Ray reveals his true feelings for his clipboard. That’d be emotion charged television to be savoured.

  3. I don’t mind Ray Martin, he seems like a nice enough chap, but there is a whiff of hypocrisy that he struggled with the quality of the content he was presenting. He started at the ABC, became a household name at 60 minutes, and became a celebrity journo rather than a hard core reporter or investigative journalist. Midday was schlock, and ACA no better. I have no idea how Ms Grimshaw sleeps at night either, with dodgey stories and ethics by her reporters and producers. Money is good i;m sure, but if you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

  4. What a worm, trying to re-invent himself in the deep twilight of his career!
    You sold out Ray, you swapped your credibility for the big bucks – don’t try to have your cake and eat it too.
    ‘Frontline’ wasn’t a comedy satire, it was a documentary!

  5. People who say 60 Minutes is as bad as ACA clearly don’t watch 60M – while it’s not to the high standard of a decade ago it is miles in front of ACA and actually does some good stuff.

    As for people not caring about these shows – well clearly many do given how well they rate so can you blame the networks? That’s not to say I like the direction they’ve taken which i certainly don’t.

  6. Nine has gone to the dogs since Kerry Packer died.They replace the Midday Show with all these American Type talk shows in it’s place.Sale of the Century replaced with 2.5 men and the copy cat techniques of all the current affairs shows to the point where except for the 7pm project over at 10 you can’t tell them apart except for the hosts and the night of the week.

  7. I’m surprised Ray didn’t mention 60 minutes – another program that has slipped to the bottom of the ladder over the years. Its hard to pick the difference between ACA (and TT) and 60 minutes – maybe just the hosts. These programs were top notch under Packer, but when his dollars disappeared, so did the quality.

  8. That’s how we felt about every story Ray.

    Except now it’s How much did [Womens Day, Harvey Norman, Coles etc] pay for this wafer thin ad masquerading as a story?

    Or perhaps it’ll be a Bra story hiding as ‘serious medical research’

  9. Ray may ask ‘who cares about this story?’, this occasional viewer asks ‘why do they bother’? Time and again ACA recycles the same old story ideas, regularly re-using vision and interviews from old stories. Lately they’ve taken to cut and paste “journalism” where they simply cobble together “stories” out of content from ABC’s Australian Story and Four Corners. Cheap and nasty epitomises ACA these days. Who says we don’t need the ABC to invest in journalism?

  10. Nice to know that Mike Moore from Frontline – whoops! – I meant Ray Martin from ACA – is still hanging in there.

    If he didn’t like the stories on ACA he should have said so….or maybe that shows what little power he had while hosting it?

    Still – he was good hosting The Midday Show – he got into the spirit of things quite well – surely Ch 9 should do a ‘reunion’ style show for it sometime – get the gang back for a week of Midday nostalgia.

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