It’s the world as Paul Murray sees it
It can be the "loneliest place" on TV to stick your neck out with an opinion, but Paul Murray wouldn't have it any other way.
Whether breaking news, politics or unfolding disasters, Murray covers it all Live on SKY News five nights a week, dating back to 2008, there’s really nowhere to hide -especially when he gives his own views to boot.
“I never purport to be the independent journalist. I am the passionate observer,” Murray tells TV Tonight.
“You show everything live and raw, but I will have an opinion straight off the back of that.
“I love live telly and I love that at SKY I don’t have a Line Producer telling me what to do or an EP who is really the star of the show. I like that I am trusted with 60 minutes of television to do a good job or a bad job… but certainly my job.”
Usually joined by a conservative, a performer, and another guest who is a ‘progressive or overtly lefty’ the show is frequently in the Top 10 shows for the night on Subscription TV. It has also attracted its share of influential fans, including Lachlan Murdoch.
With the Gillard / Rudd years transitioning to Abbott, there’s been no shortage of hot topics to discuss. But there can also be a bit of shrapnel along the way.
“Politics is my stock and trade so the last 3 years were phenomenal, because a lot of people were really passionate about what they thought was going right or wrong. Now is a bit more of a difficult time to talk about Politics, because the bulk of the population doesn’t care,” he says.
“The stuff that gets you into trouble is when you decide to speak very directly about an individual. Because Politics is my purview most of those people get the shits but they don’t threaten to sue you.
“I think something that can limit genuine opinion in Australia is not Defamation law it’s lawyers that can tie you up in Defamation proceedings, or the threat therein of. That’s a real handbrake on free speech.”
Whilst Canberra has never been shy to express its feedback, Murray says SKY News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos has always defended his right to an opinion.
“Normally they try to go you through the back door not the front door, but luckily for me –and I mean this with all honesty- I can’t remember a time when Angelos told me to stop saying something,” he insists.
“He’s certainly told me when people were pissed off. Kevin Rudd and his staffers were furious a lot of the time with what I had to say. John McTernan and Gillard’s people were furious with what I had to say, but it’s the world as I see it.”
The audience can be less polite in response, with social media attracting the best and worst of opinions. Murray prefers Facebook to Twitter feedback, because it stays visible for longer on its platform. But he’s been called everything from ‘a dog’ to those championing him to run for PM. As the show’s popularity has grown, so too have ‘the haters.’
“When you take a strong stand that is something that is a social issue, a lot of people line up who are just as passionate the other way,” he suggests.
“Twitter will overreact to everything and there are people who, it seems, their entire job is to find things to be pissed off about on Twitter and ascribe the sins of everyone else to this one thing that you said on the air.
“There are plenty of people who think the way to dismiss what I am saying on air is to question who owns the channel, or which political party they think I am secretly representing. That’s an easy way of dismissing someone.
“Equally there are a lot of bullies in the media who try to use ratings figures to dismiss whether you are making a good point or not. If that’s the logic then the only people who would be allowed to offer an opinion on anything that ever happens in our world would be the judges on The Voice.
“I take both on the chin because I don’t expect to live in a world of people who just say nice things about you.”
But sometimes viewers jump to conclusions about his political persuasions, even without having seen the show.
“If you think that all I do is read Liberal party talking points then that’s not fair, because it’s not true. The thing with doing an opinion show is that people don’t listen to the whole hour, or pay attention to the whole week. They judge you based on one tweet that they liked or didn’t like, or an editorial that they didn’t like.
“I get the shits when people say shows like mine are just right-wing shouting shows. It’s just as disrespectful as somebody saying you’re just a TV blogger. Everyone and everything can be dismissed by the shortest-possible description. Surprise, surprise things are a bit more complicated than that.
“When you put it out there you have to be willing to cop it. But that doesn’t mean the criticism is fair. There’s some truly, truly nasty stuff that is sent to you and you just have to block it or delete it or put it in the Get Stuffed bin.
“There’s nothing I’ve said on the show that I don’t believe, but the volume with which I say it is the ‘showbiz.’ Sometimes I will curt and direct but that is as much about making my point in an entertaining way.”
While people often compare him to Bill O’Reilly, he prefer’s HBO’s Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC for their editorial storytelling.
“I think Real Time is fantastic discussion show and I actually tried to base the mix of guests and the role of host a lot off what he does.
“Hinch has always been a phone call away and we talk about how to do it, how not to do it. In the early days before I even got on the air I talked a lot about how TV works with Clive Robertson.
“I will very gladly say I think our show is the most honest on TV because the people will say on the air what they say off the air unlike a lot of network TV where I know the people have a very strong view on something but they literally never exercise it.”
While speaking your mind sometimes comes at a price, Murray shows no signs of backing down.
“It’s the loneliest place to be is to be out on a ledge and reaching even further into the abyss,” he admits.
“But I don’t think that I am anything more than someone who has been given an incredible forum to have an opinion. ”
Paul Murray Live airs 9pm Sunday – Thursday on SKY News.