MELBOURNE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation executives here are fearful that one of their locally based television celebrities’ obsession with returning to work at the ABC’s Southbank studios might ruin his health permanently – or worse.
My spies at Aunty in the Victorian capital tell me News Breakfast sports presenter Paul Kennedy is “itching to return to the studio” despite seeing an ongoing serious medical condition improve markedly during the months he presented sport from his home during COVID-19 lockdown.
I can now reveal that Kennedy has suffered from chronic punitis for a number of years. Typical symptoms of chronic punitis – face slapping, head shaking and dropping, eyebrow raising and, perhaps the worse of all for a professional electronic media performer, clearly audible oaths – had decreased markedly.
Colleagues fearful for his health have even sent him images from past years when Kennedy in the studio had clearly begun to show early symptoms of chronic punitis such as eye-closing and face slightly downcast (at top).
So why is Kennedy so keen to return to work? Don’t get me wrong. This loving husband and father of three fantastic boys has truly enjoyed his work-from-home experience, all the while noticing that his symptoms of chronic punitis had decreased markedly.
But he is a social animal and he is missing the camaraderie of his work colleagues, the bonhomie and banter, the takeaway cup of coffee on the boardwalk on his way to work, the fellowship of “cool down from a high” time with his mates after the 9am sign-off.
While viewers of recent times have noticed that other on-air presenters such as the daily “what the papers say” guests and finance reporter Madeleine Morris have all returned to the News Breakfast couch, on ABC management orders, Kennedy continues to do all of his half-hour reports from home.
One ABC source told me: “Not only that but as soon as he finishes each report, Kennedy has to disconnect from the studio immediately so he doesn’t get to hear any of co-presenter Michael Rowland’s dreadful puns that are, of course, the direct cause of his chronic punitis.
“His doctors can’t work out why Paul has been one of the unlucky buggers susceptible to catching this dreadful condition, considering his co-anchor Lisa Millar has developed only such mild symptoms that she can manage on air without risking her career.
“During her time on air with Rowland, Virginia Trioli was tested and apparently has the genetic makeup – or whatever it is – as Kennedy and would normally have shown the same physical afflictions but apparently she used to tune out Rowland’s puns as she mentally practiced the perfect pronunciations for her next introduction, say on a story of the major stations along the Trans-Siberian railway or all the major battlegrounds of the second Sino-Japanese War between 1937 and 1945.”
My ABC sources tell me that station management is determined to keep Kennedy at home for his own sake, and had to refrain themselves from warning him of what might have happened if he had been in the studio late last week when a grinning Rowland declared a story on young salmon escaping from aquaculture ponds in Tasmania “sounded a bit fishy”.
“Paul’s involuntary physical reactions and swearing could have gone to extreme levels and maybe even put his life at risk.
“It’s hard to tell what’s the sadder really,” the source added, “the fact that Kennedy caught chronic punitis so easily, or that Rowland thought that was a pun worth sharing.”