Over 1.44 million Australians tuned in last night, Sunday 21 October, as the Nine Network Australia presented the first televised Great Debate between Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd in a special 90-minute edition of 60 Minutes at 7.30pm.
Nine’s commercial-free coverage of the debate was hosted by Ray Martin and won its timeslot along the combined East Coast. Nine’s coverage featured its “Worm” which is a computer-generated analysis of 90 uncommitted voters who judged the debate live in-studio at Nine. The “Worm” provided continuous analysis throughout as well as the exclusive verdict declaring Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, the winner with 65% of votes versus 29% for the Prime Minister (the remaining 6% undecided).
Nine’s televised feed was cut twice during the coverage with the Network picking up a signal from Sky News.
Nine Network’s Director of News & Current Affairs, Mr John Westacott, said: “It’s not the preserve of the Liberal Party to determine the editorial policy of the Nine Network.
“The pulling of the feeds from the Great Debate last night was a blatant act of political censorship.
“The ABC and the National Press Club conspired to do the bidding of the Liberal Party to present the blandest possible Leaders Debate. At no time did the Nine Network agree to any conditions – either verbally or in writing – about how the Debate should be broadcast.
“This is an appalling display of bias and censorship from two organisations who have publicly declared the support of free speech in this country.
“The boss of News Ltd, Mr John Hartigan, just two days ago in his excellent Andrew Olle Media Lecture warned that free speech and press freedom in this country was under serious attack. Two days later, here is a perfect example.”