Nine’s Director of News & Current Affairs has denied a Daily Telegraph report which claims focus groups have referred to Today‘s Georgie Gardner as an “ice maiden.”
“The dynamic between the hosts is one major issue which came from the research,” a network insider told the newspaper.
“Viewers feel that the banter between the hosts is forced.
“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.”
It claims independent analysts have been commissioned to conduct focus groups and that secret meetings were held by Wick on Tuesday.
“This is one of the most deliberate acts of bullying I’ve ever seen. There are no facts attached to the claims. And the reporter didn’t bother to contact Nine to put the claims to me or anyone else for comment,” Darren Wick said in a statement.
“Nine’s position is that this is an outrageous, false, reckless and defamatory attack on Georgie Gardner and the Today Show. 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.
“Nine conducted a number of focus groups throughout the last six months of 2018, under my supervision, and the feedback from those viewers was overwhelmingly positive about Georgie Gardner. She rated 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.”
Today remains under pressure as numbers fall for the show. Monday’s episode was the lowest rated episode of Today ever, using the 7-9am survey standard. Media articles continue to scrutinise its performance, including by Nine-owned and rival-owned newspapers.
“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,” Wick insisted.
Updated: On 2GB radio this morning Wick confirmed the News Corp journalist contacted Nine Publicity yesterday but did not enquire about focus groups.