Behind The News celebrates 50 years, from ‘pet porn’ incident to Wookie attack on first host


Updated

June 04, 2018 17:34:08

The first presenter of the ABC’s long-running Behind The News (BTN) program — and this is true — was beaten up by Chewbacca in 1977.

Peter Sumner, reportedly the only Australian actor in George Lucas’s original Star Wars film, had a speaking role as Pol Treidum, a gantry officer aboard the Death Star.

BTN producer Sarah Larsen said Sumner’s last moment in the film was when Chewbacca and Han Solo trick their way into a docking control room before “Han shoots a guard and Chewy whops another one on the head”.

“Chewy knocked out the first presenter of BTN, which is a bit rough for the kiddies really,” she said.

BTN celebrating its 50th anniversary

BTN is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week, digging up the archives on past stories and presenters and unearthing some colourful stories behind the children’s news program.

One of these includes the infamous “pet porn” incident, which landed BTN on the ABC’s Media Watch program in 2006.

“They were doing a segment when they would put some photos kids sent in behind the presenter during the closer,” Ms Larsen said.

“This first pet on this particular day was a couple of kangaroos, and they were doing what kangaroos sometimes naturally do to each other, but really obviously front and centre behind presenter Krista Eleftheriou.

“I’ve got no idea how it ended up on air.”

Another moment Ms Larsen recalled was the time BTN had a graphic taken from the internet that flashed through countless password configurations to help illustrate one of its stories.

The package was ready to go to air when a producer with a sharp eye noticed “sex” among the hundreds of different words flashing across the screen.

“We slowed it down and went step by step, frame by frame, through all the passwords, and every swearword you could possibly think of, plus ones I didn’t even know, were in there.”

Outside of the occasional near miss, Ms Larsen said one of the fun parts of working with BTN was having to explain “the inexplicable to your serious journalist colleagues” while filming unique approaches to news and storytelling.

“Like, why are there zombies wandering around the ABC? Why are there fake brains in the fridge the zombies had to eat, which were actually flour and water and gelatin and were horrifically disgusting?”

A treasure trove of colourful stories

Despite BTN’s 45th being celebrated in 2014, children’s news national editor Ben D’Arcy said it was celebrating its half-century this year because research revealed its first episode aired in 1968 and not 1969 as previously believed.

He said there were countless colourful stories about working behind the scenes with BTN at the ABC’s Collinswood building in Adelaide.

“For a lot of the week you think you’re a normal, serious journalist, and then you’d get a phone call telling you there were two Hobbits waiting for you at reception, and it reminds you the job you do is unique and more fun than anything I’ve ever done before.”

But despite the fun, he said there was a serious side to the team, which gave journalists some of the best grounding available because it was “actually harder to write for kids and explain stories rather than simply report stories”.

“And our journalists on BTN can be authentic and can appear on screen as young people, not as reporters pretending they’re about 10 to 20 years older than they are.

“For a lot of young people who are given an opportunity in adult news at a young age, the first thing they’re told is to change their voice to fit in.

“At BTN you can just be who you are at the age you are and the audience will respond to it in a real, positive way.”

From the Galactic Empire to psychic mediums

Mr D’Arcy said many BTN reporters went on to have stellar careers after their tenure.

This included Richard Oxenburgh in 1969, who was originally “poached from Four Corners”, and Richard Morecroft in the early 1980s, who was also the host for the 7:00pm news in Sydney and went on to host Letters And Numbers for SBS.

“There was some interesting characters. One guy went on to be a psychic medium,” Mr D’Arcy said.

“Another significant presenter was Paul Higgins, who hosted the show for quite some time and is currently the Victorian 7:00pm weather presenter and has been for a long time.”

Mr D’Arcy said the show’s first female presenter was Tania Nugent in 1994, who went on to host Point Of View, a television program in Papua New Guinea.

“She really liked BTN because it was the first show that didn’t make her straighten her hair,” he said.

“Then there was Nathan Bazley, who presented for a decade, and is still working as part of the BTN production team.

“He’s really been one of the leaders into virtual reality and augmented reality.”

For current presenter Amelia Moseley, who took over from Bazley when he stepped down earlier this year, the thought of life after BTN has not crossed her mind.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity and so much fun working at BTN and such a great team,” she said.

“Most recently it was my birthday and, happy birthday to me, I got to go to the poo plant and spent the day in absolute pouring rain filming in a very smelly treatment plant, but it was actually so much fun.

“I feel honoured to take over the legacy of BTN.”

Tune into ABC from 6:00pm on Tuesday for a special documentary celebrating 50 years of BTN, followed by a Q&A from 6:30pm.

It includes many other colourful moments such as the time a crocodile on set became warmed by studio lights and made its way towards camera crews during a live broadcast.

Topics:

abc,

community-and-society,

offbeat,

journalism,

information-and-communication,

human-interest,

adelaide-5000,

australia

First posted

June 04, 2018 15:13:41



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