Everything you need to know about A Current Affair

A Current Affair
Photo: Channel 9 Australia

A Current Affair (also known as ACA) is an Australian current affairs television show which airs on weeknights on the Nine Network. The show is currently presented by Tracy Grimshaw, a well-known Australian journalist and presenter.

A Current Affair has had a long broadcast history in Australia. The program first began to air in 1971 with Mike Willesee and was air on week nights at 7:00 pm. It was initially broadcast on GTV-9. For part of its initial run the program featured comedian and actor Paul Hogan, who would deliver comic social commentary in a segment on the show. With Willesee at the helm, the show was a Transmedia production for the Nine Network. Willesee left the network in 1974 and move to it’s rival network.

Australian journalist Mike Minehan replaced Willesee as a presenter on the show. Other presenter’s for the show have included Sue Smith, Kevin Sanders and Michael Schildberger. The original version of the show was later cancelled in 1978 due to strong competition in the timeslot. Later, in 1984, Willesee returned to the Nine Network with plans to revive the format with a series that was titled Willesee which aired on Mondays to Thursday’s at 9.30 pm.

The following year, the show moved to an earlier timeslot which was extended to five night a week and run until 1988. The production company, Transmedia then sold the rights to the Nine Network.

In 1988 following Willesee’s departure from the show, the former 60 Minute’s presenter Jana Wendt took up the presenting role on the show, and the show once again became called A Current Affair. This occurred in the same week as the Seven Network’s soap opera, Home and Away’s premiere.

The Seven Network introduced the direct competitor show ‘Real Life’ which later became known as Today Tonight. Jana Wendt left the shoe in 1992 after a story that featured topless women, which left her unhappy. Mike Willesee replaced her for the entirety of 1993 before Ray Martin took over in 1994. Ray Martin left the show in 1998, and Mike Munro replaced him. He was later axed from the show and replaced by Ray Martin. The show was the rested and revamped, returning in 2006 eith Tracey Grimshaw.

A Current Affair family
Photo: Channel 9 Australia

State editions of A Current Affair

There have been several state editions of the show since it was first started, including a Brisbane version of the show called ‘Extra’ which launched in 1991. The show features local stories and often coverage of NRL games in the lead up to the Grand Finals. It was a ratings success for eighteen years, but was eventually axed during a clean-up of the Nine Network. The show was axed to make room for the now defunct ‘This Afternoon’ which was presented by Andre Dado. In 2002, Adelaide also introduced a local version of the show which was presented by Georgina McGuiness. The show was short lived due to the competition from the Seven Network’s Today Tonight. In 2008 a local version of the show was produced for WA, the show only lasted into 2009.

What is the format of A Current Affair?

A Current Affair is a news broadcast program which reports on current Australian events, global events and local events. They complete reports on topical issues and events taking place in the country, and sometime deliver special investigative reports about important issues.

Ratings on A Current Affair

The current format of the show rates strongly but trails behind the Seven Network’s Today Tonight. In 2008 the show was averaging 1,124,0000 viewers on average each night, 250,000 less than competitor program Today Tonight which averaged 1,374,000 viewers.

A Current Affair news
Photo: Channel 9 Australia

Presenter’s on A Current Affair

The show has had a number of presenter’s over the years. The national version of the show has had Mike Willesee, Michael Schildberger, Jana Wendt, Ray Martin, Mike Munro, Ray Martin and Tracey Grimshaw in its history. Currently Leila McKinnon is the main stand-in presenter on the show when Grimshaw is on leave. Ben Fordham, Deborah Knight, Karl Stefanovic, Brady Halls, Sylvia Jeffereys, Peter Overton and Eddie McGuire have all also filled in for Grimshaw.

Jillian Whiting and Heather Foord have both also presented on the Brisbane version of the show. Georgina McGuiness and Kate Collins were the presenters for the Adelaide version of the show.

Controversies surround A Current Affair

The show has received a great deal of criticism over the years. The primary critique aimed at the show is that is used sensationalist journalism to achieve ratings. The stories covered by the show often revolve around community issues such as diet fads, miracle cures, welfare cheats, bad builders, negliegent doctors, badly run business or government corruption. Several shows have made fun of the sensationalist nature of the show including the ABC’s Media Watch.

Some other high profile controversies surrounding the show include;

A Current Affair report
Photo: Channel 9 Australia

The Paxton Controversy

In 1996 the show produced a report on the Paxton family from the poverty-stricken Melbourne suburb of St Albans. The family was told that the segment was about helping the family to get jobs, but the version of the show that went to air claimed that the family were ‘dole bludgers’ who were refusing reasonable offers of employment. The family received death threats after the episode went to air. The family were revisited in 2018 with some fresh media scrutiny aimed at their lifestyles. It was revealed that the eldest Paxton sibling (one of whom had been labeled one of the ‘putrid Paxton sibling’s by A Current Affair) was still living at home. The brothers were portrayed as lazy and unwilling to work in the initial broadcast due to their refusal to cut their waist length hair for a job.

The Greg Hodge defamation scandal

In 2006 A Current Affair was ordered to pay more than $320,000 to former Australian Swimming coach Greg Hodge in connection to an indefensible defamatory allegation that the program made in 2003 during a story that related to Hodge’s conduct towards a former swimming student under his direction.

A Current Affair Ben Fordham
Photo: Channel 9 Australia

The Peter Anthony Haertsch defamation

In 2010 A Current Affair was found guilty of defaming the highly acclaimed plastic surgeon Peter Anthony Haertsch, due to allegations that the show aired in a 2008 report about a Gold Coast woman’s breast enlargement procedure. ACA were ordered by a court to pay $268,000 in damages.

A Current Affair Lev Mizikovsky
Photo: Channel 9 Australia

The Lev Mizikovsky defamation

In 2008 A Current Affairs broadcast a program about Queensland property developer Lev Mizikovsy who sued the program over the broadcast. In 2011 a jury agreed that Lev Mizikovsky had been defamed, but found that it was defensible. Mizikovsky is therefore liable for the costs of the court proceedings, which exceed $2 million.

The All-Asian Mall Controversy

In 2012, the show broadcast a segment which gave the impression that a shopping centre in Castle Hill in New South Wales was being overtaken by Asian people. The segment received numerous viewer complaints and was later found by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to be in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice in three clauses, including a likelihood of inciting intense dislike of peoples of an ethnic origin. The show was later forced to deliver an on-air apology in 2013.

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