It’s fair to say, without any sense of hyperbole, that the issue that divided Australians with the most fervent passion this year did not take place in Canberra. Nor did it take place abroad in the Middle East. No, not even the plight of people trapped at sea ignited the kind of fire that the argument over whether Taylor Swift should be allowed to be counted in the annual Triple J Hottest 100 countdown did.
And the fact that that is true is either magnificent or deeply depressing. There is no middle ground there whatsoever, I’m afraid.
But one thing is absolutely for certain about this whole debacle – the ABC played an unusual hand like seasoned pros. They got dealt an off-suit deuce seven and bluffed everyone else out of pocket aces.
The #Tay4Hottest100 campaign, started by
a conveyer belt of GIFs mined from Tumblr Buzzfeed generated enough votes for Taylor Swift’s – the beautiful tropical fish that she is – megahit “Shake It Off” to propel the song to number 12 on the Hottest 100. Or at least it would have, if Triple J hadn’t independently decided not to cave to the pressure of a social media campaign by excluding it from the countdown.
Despite getting a rather tongue-in-cheek explanation from Triple J, in the form of an easier-to-digest-than-a-bowl-of-laxative-soaked-All-Bran listicle, the actual corporate reasons for Swifty Cent’s binning from the list have never been revealed.
And the ABC is doggedly keeping their reasons for doing so absolutely secret, even to the point where several Freedom of Information Act requests have been denied, using a nifty little legal loophole in the legislation.
The ABC has received four requests – including one lodged by The Guardian – two of which they straight-up threw in the shredder. As for the other two, which were granted access to some documents, Aunty bundled up a bunch of files that predominantly contained copies of emails denying journalists requests for comment. In essence, they’ve been sending the requesting media agency print outs of some of the contents of their own email inbox.
That’s more or less the broadcasters equivalent of losing a $500 bet to someone, rocking up to their house and dumping bags of 5c pieces on their door and then giving them one of these.
The reason they’ve been able to do this is thanks to a provision contained within the Freedom of Information Act that allows Aunty to block any requests for “program material” – i.e. any document created in the process of creating a program, regardless of whether it was ultimately used in the final broadcast.
The ABC’s legal heads assert that these Freedom of Information Act requests cover some materials that would not have been created if it weren’t for Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown, and thus they refused to release them.
So despite the considerable (and, frankly, baffling) amount of outrage that the nontroversy caused, Triple J and the ABC don’t actually have to ever tell anyone their reasoning if they so choose.
Fortunately for all of you, I did myself a little snooping around in the Triple J offices one night after dark* and came up with a hot little exclusive**.
I can reveal to you all that the decision to ban Taylor Swift from this year’s Hottest 100 was made on January 14th of this year*** and that the following genuine document**** that I obtained reveals that station management told their staff the reasoning for the move on the very same day.
Honestly, they’ve given out Walkley’s for less than this.*****
* No I didn’t.
** Not even close.
*** Could not be further from the truth.
**** No facet of truth to that statement whatsoever.
***** This one’s probably not entirely false.
Photo: Gareth Cattermole via Getty Images.
via The Guardian.