ABC criticised for allegedly benching newsreader over blooper, Bill Shorten calls decision 'just ridiculous'

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Bill Shorten
Australian Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten speaks at his election night party in Melbourne, July 2, 2016 on Australia's federal election day. Reuters/Jason Reed

ABC is in hot water following its alleged decision to bench a newsreader over a blooper. The network’s management opted to ban Natasha Exelby from making an on air appearance after she was caught off guard while engaged at a live news shift.

In a short clip, Exelby was caught “daydreaming” on the job and then made a quick recovery. The video was brought to attention by ABC’s own Media Watch on the program’s Facebook page.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took to Twitter to oppose the decision to axe Exelby. He called the move “just ridiculous” and defended that it was live TV.

Georgie Gardner, a presenter at Channel Nine, also condemned ABC’s move as she defended Exelby’s reaction in the viral clip, saying she thinks it was an amazing recovery. “I don’t get this - we all make mistakes. I’ve certainly made my share and the audience loves live TV, they love this stuff,” Gardner said in a Today Extra’s panel discussion.

The broadcaster suggested that there should have been a floor staff that could ensure Exelby was alerted when she was about to appear on camera.  “So whether there’s any follow-up there, I reckon you’ll find she’ll be reinstated,” she added.

Janice Petersen, an SBS newsreader, shared a screen grab of herself caught putting lipstick on while live. Along with the photo, she wrote “it happens.”

Meanwhile, Studio 10 host Sarah Harris, said it seems like a harsh decision from the ABC. She pointed that she had also made mistakes in the past.  Tom Steinfort, a Weekend Today presenter, called the decision of “sacking someone for an innocuous mistake” an absolute disgrace.

Even Exelby herself thinks her “daydreaming” moment is not a bad thing if that makes people laugh. But she recognised that she is a professional and her latest live television appearance was not her “most professional moment.” “I also have to take some responsibility here,” she told News.com.au before reports of her axing surfaced.

An ABC spokesman released a statement regarding the news that involved Exelby, saying she was not a staff member, but a casual contributor. It explained that the presenter was booked for occasional on-air shifts and does other occasional shifts for the ABC News channel.

Per the statement sent to News Corp Australia, shifts were being decided on a per needs basis and were between the contributors and their managers. The spokesperson did not provide details about Exelby’s shift, claiming the information is confidential.

Video Source: YouTube/New York Post