The ABC has announced that veteran political journalist Barrie Cassidy will make a temporary return to hosting the national broadcaster’s Sunday morning Insiders program.
An ABC TV spokesperson said the decision was prompted in part by the ongoing delay in having new host David Speers of Sky News take up the job but also by a fall in viewer numbers after ABC personality Annabel Crabb (main picture) took over as fill-in host from Cassidy.
Although he was announced as the program’s new host in June, Sky News has required Speers to serve out his full notice period after quitting so that he will not start at the ABC until early next year.
“We were sad to see Barrie Cassidy (pictured) stand down as host after 18 years but also happy to know that we had David coming on board, and we were quite comfortable in signing up Annabel to perform hosting duties until David arrived,” the ABC spokesperson said.
“But we didn’t know Annabel would insist on such a strict interpretation of her contract as fill-in host.
“Well, when I say ‘contract’ it was really just an agreement we bodgied up in the Insiders‘ production office and had her sign. We never thought it would lead us to the position we find ourselves in now.
“Annabel has taken some of the sections in the agreement quite literally. She has justified her cooking segments on the program by citing wording that requires her to give viewers ‘a taste’ of the events of the week in Canberra and to deliver them ‘food for thought’ about federal politics.
“While we have always strived to give Insiders a relaxed feel, given it airs on Sunday mornings, we think it’s a bit over the top having Annabel cook for 40 of the program’s 60 minutes.
“In retrospect we probably should have spent some of the program’s budget on having a lawyer draft a tighter contract because the one we wrote has been a recipe for disaster. Quite literally,” the spokesperson said.