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Marriage, Affairs, Pay Disputes and Reputation Loss: 2017 Aussie Media Wrap-Up – By Rachel Demarco, PR/Marketing Manager, InsideOut PR

While the Australian media landscape might not have the same level of outrageous scandals as Hollywood, we’re certainly no stranger to a media whirlwind.  Below we take a closer look at some of the key stories that captured the attention of the nation and dominated the headlines this year.

Same-Sex Marriage Debate

There was no bigger media story in 2017 then the VOTE YES and VOTE NO campaigns over same-sex marriage. With 25 countries around the world having already legalised same-sex marriage, the discussion was finally brought to the forefront of Australia, with the government’s announcement of a postal plebiscite vote.

Celebrities and media personalities were quick to show their support for marriage equality, from Mia Freedman’s #Married4MarriageEquality and Macklemore’s performance of Same Love at the NRL Grand Final, to Liam Hemsworth’s passionate Instagram post. While others, like former PM Tony Abbott, were vocal about why it was ‘okay to vote no’ and the ABC advised their employees to keep hush on the debate. Even big brands got behind the vote, including Pedestrian, AFL, Wallabies, Coca-Cola, Deliveroo, Spotify and Qantas just to name a few, changing their logos in support of a YES vote.

On November 15 all eyes were on the Australian Bureau of Statistics, garnering more publicity than ever before, when revealing the YES result.  Aussie’s had finally spoken and the news crossed international borders with many Hollywood celebrities, from Ellen DeGeneres to Miley Cyrus, feeling the love.

Executive Affairs

Amber Harrison is no stranger to the media, with a career spanning well over a decade. News broke in late 2016 of the apparent two-year long affair between Harrison and Seven West Media CEO, Tim Worner. Harrison was allegedly pushed out of the company after complaining about the inappropriate actions of Worner. The saga has been summarised by Harrison as being “…about abuse of power and also workplace safety,” but it also put Seven’s brand in the firing line.

While this consensual affair gained arguably the most media coverage of the year, with Amber claiming of a lack of action taken by Seven to handle the matter. With allegations of drug use within working hours, former lovers compensated with promotions, fraudulent credit card expenditure and the over-all lack of empathy for Harrison in order to protect a leader who multiple employees wanted fired, Seven has taken a hit in brand reputation this year.

The most recent revelation is the launch of a GoFundMe Page by Harrison, in hopes of the public donating to her legal costs.

Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap has been a huge talking point this year, with a Melbourne café introducing a tax for male customers. But no story brought this to a head quite like the shock departure of Lisa Wilkinson from The Today Show after 10 years. It was confirmed that Wilkinson asked to be paid equal to her male co-host Karl Stefanovic, however Nine could not meet this request which had been an ongoing discussion since early 2017.

Fellow women in media were quick to show their support for the bold move including Sylvia Jeffreys and Tracey Spicer, praising the way Wilkinson is paving the way for other women in television to know their worth and reigniting the old debate: why do women still earn less than men?

Jacket Gate

If you haven’t heard about the ‘jacket gate’ incident, then you must have been living under a rock this year. TV presenter, Amber Sherlock unfortunately shot to fame when video of an off air ‘chat’ was leaked in March this year – one minute she was doing her job, the next she’s all over social media!

Sherlock was quickly cast as a villain and a bully, and despite admitting she didn’t handle the situation as well as she could have, it didn’t stop the story blowing up enough to be the butt of jokes by late night US TV host Jimmy Kimmel.

This fiasco came up again recently when Nine’s Livinia Nixon and Seven’s Jane Bunn wore the same outfit while filming their segments alongside the track at Caulfield Racecourse in October.

The Australian Weinstein

When the #metoo campaign prompted US women to share their stories of sexual harassment, Tracey Spicer reflected upon the failure of generations of executives to clean up the Australian media industry. Spicer tweeted and encouraged Australian women to share their harassment stories involving well-known media personalities. The response was overwhelming, with many women admitting the harassment was never reported due to fear of losing their job.

Last month Don Burke was exposed with more than 50 people making serious allegations against him. Nine’s The Today Show asked why the news was just breaking now when a number of former executives have said they were already aware of allegations around his behaviour, but an official statement from Nine revealed no official reports against Burke had been made.

It was reported that media mogul Kerry Packer had spoken to Burke about his behaviour after an encounter with Susie O’Neill in 2000, and if this is proven to be true Nine could be dragged into an ugly lawsuit. This is surely going to be one of the biggest stories leading us into 2018 – stay tuned.