Let this be a lesson to you, kids. If you’re going to use company resources to help you climb the career ladder elsewhere, you’d be well served to make sure your contract doesn’t have any nasty non-compete clauses in it that frown upon you doing so.
Or, at the very least, you should probably move mountains to make sure your Qatari oil bosses don’t find out about it.
Australian comedian and satirist Dan Ilic had up until recently been employed by Al Jazeera‘s digital, youth-centric off-shoot AJ+ at its US base in San Francisco. Through his position as Senior Satire Producer, Ilic had taken his stylistic approach first fostered through A Rational Fear to a global scale.
But now Ilic finds himself heading back to familiar shores after the organisation unceremoniously gave him the boot when it emerged that he had used studio down time to film and edit an audition reel for a gig as a correspondent on Trevor Noah‘s upcoming incarnation of The Daily Show.
According to Ilic, he used roughly 40 minutes of otherwise vacant studio time to shoot the promo reel, in addition to the use of company bought make up.
Now this, in and of itself, isn’t an uncommon practice – particularly when it comes to on-screen talent. For TV presenters, it’s the equivalent of browsing Seek and knocking together a job application while you’re at your current workplace.
But where Ilic ran into trouble was when the upper hierarchy of the company caught wind of it. Al Jazeera bosses in Qatar received a complaint via HR – which was not made to Ilic’s immediate management at AJ+ in the US. And despite AJ+ US’s protestations, the organisation terminated Ilic’s employment.
In a quick catch up with us here at PEDESTRIAN.TV, Dan explained his actions and subsequent departure from the organisation.
“I just didn’t think it would be a big deal, people do it all the time. Thousands of hours of editing time gets billed to the company while presenters work on their showreels.”
“You may think that it’s ridiculous … for such a small thing. It’s not ridiculous to the bosses in Qatar. They also believe that playing soccer in the desert is not ridiculous.”
“I’ll miss working with AJ+ in San Francisco, they really are doing things there that are 20 years ahead of Australian media. They have brown people in their videos.”
“The team [at] AJ+ are really talented and are making innovative work. They’re skating where the puck will be, bringing context to the news cycle, and engaging millennial audiences on really important issues like race, privacy, and freedom of speech…. and they only censored my work once.”
“If I’ve learnt anything during my time at Al Jazeera it’s that journalism is not a crime, unless you’re a BBC journalist exposing the deaths of migrant workers during the construction of football stadiums in Doha…or you use the studio and make up for 40 minutes”
The comparison Dan makes there – that being between potentially breaching contract by using employer resources to make an audition tape for a light entertainment show on Comedy Central, and a group of journalists who were detained by Qatari government officials as an alleged matter of “national security” after they tried to investigate the housing conditions of migrant workers who have been dying en masse whilst constructing sport stadiums for the desert nation’s highly contentious FIFA World Cup in 2022 – is what you call “something of a long bow.”
But as that ages old media adage goes, “never let the truth get in the way of a good lol.”
And as far as Dan himself goes, he harbours no ill-will towards the organisation, and retains a trademark tongue-in-cheek sense of pride about his tenure.
“I really enjoyed my time at AJ+ got to make a heap of great work, travel the US and play to a broad international audience, despite looking Jewish.”
In the interim, mate, you might be able to find your next gig on Pedestrian Jobs. Just sayin’.