When is it ok to get touchy-feely on TV?
These are questions we find ourselves asking after a week of awkward moments on Live telly.
Yesterday Seven sports presenter Hamish McLachlan was forced to apologise after a brief embrace with new Weekend Sunrise recruit Monika Radulovic, who just happens to be Australia’s recent entrant in the Miss Universe contest.
McLachlan later explained to viewers he was ‘just trying to have some fun’ -words not dissimilar to Chris Gayle’s explanation that his interview with TEN’s Mel McLaughlin were “just a joke.”
Radulovic had told viewers “Hamish does not want to leave my side,” before a brief embrace was met with “Professional, please!”
After a week of debate over Chris Gayle’s comments (including on Weekend Sunrise itself as recently as yesterday), producers were forced to include a follow-up chat with both.
McLachlan said he had received a phone call saying “people were making a lot of” what happened.
“I understand people have made stuff of it on social media and if I’ve offended anyone, I’m apologising for that absolutely.
“But more importantly, I apologise if I’ve offended you,” he told Radulovic directly.
“I was just trying to have fun, but it is my fault if I’ve offended you. Have I offended you?”
“Not at all,” Radulovic said.
“I’m so sorry as well, guys,” she said.
“I did not think twice about it. Like Hamish said, we’re colleagues and friends and we were just chatting like we normally do off-camera.”
Welcome to Live TV, Monika…
Also this week SBS sports presenter blasted social media comments that questioned him embracing his 8 year old daughter during the national anthem at a Liverpool Legends football clash.
“Shame my 16 yo girl and 18yo son couldn’t be there as well. I certainly would have hugged them very close too. Special for a father,” he wrote.
“My wife was there, as well as extended family.”
He later explained how nervous his daughter was and how criticising public figures should never impact on minors: “I shielded her as a fiercely protective father. Thankfully she is only 8 and will know nothing of what people are capable of in her father’s professional and public life until she’s much older. For those with their mind in the gutter, however, your depravity only has my sympathy. Thank you all for your kind and heartfelt support.”
Other comments this week over Chris Gayle questioned why a female presenter (Sunrise‘s Nuala Hafner in 2014) could flirt with a man on a beach without it attracting the same barrage of criticism as Gayle -and indeed whether this week’s interview has been blown out of proportion.
The latter is a fair question.
But the answer to all of the others is: it’s all about the context.
It’s not a matter of saying ‘being tactile / affectionate’ is wrong on TV. It’s not inappropriate, any more than it is in life. But it is about who is doing it, how they are doing it and in what social situation. All those points about gender, who initiates it, whether it was invited, whether it was welcomed, whether it went too far must all be judged on their own.
A father embracing his daughter on TV is just that …a father embracing his daughter.
A cricketer flirting with a sports presenter -who was clearly uncomfortable with it- is obviously inappropriate.
A female presenter flirting with a man on the beach was done with humour and no offence appeared to be taken.
Presenters and sports stars make judgment calls about what to say and how to act every day and are paid handsomely accordingly. That’s what they’re hired for.
They should know what is an appropriate context because they are professional, and they should also know when it can be misread by viewers. They are paid for that too.
This appears to have been the biggest mistake by Hamish McLachlan. You don’t embrace a Miss Universe entrant on air in the same week as Chris Gayle’s controversy, even if you are new best friends. You throw your producers and the show under the bus in doing so. Thankfully Monika was not offended, and some quick-thinking producers made sure we knew it.
But confused viewers and social media trolls would do well to look at context and not just where everyone’s hands are going.