'A Current Affair' was the most watched program of 1991 on Australian television. On reflection, TV critic Jim Schembri remarked, "The popularity of 'A Current Affair' has got less to do with the reporting than with the persona of Jana Wendt." Hence in January 1992, Paul Keating, described as "an Australian politician of working-class origins" chose 'A Current Affair' for his inaugural television interview after taking over as leader of the federal Labor Party. The interview attracted 30 ratings points in Sydney and 33 ratings points in Melbourne.

Then in February 1992, Bob Hawke, which 'The Guardian' described as "former Prime Minister and self-styled larrikin of Australian politics" made the announcement he was resigning from Parliament. However he did so by went on television on 'A Current Affair'. As reported, "After Jana Wendt had finished pre-recording the program in Hawke's suite at the Ritz-Carlton, Hawke's assistant hand-delivered a one-sentence letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives announcing that he was resigning from the Parliament, effective as of 4pm that day."

Ross Warneke of 'Fairfax Media' made the comment, "Of greater and more enduring significance than the matter of money (paid interview), however, was the apparently choreographed nature of the whole affair, in particular Mr Hawke's decision to participate on Wednesday (the day before his resignation from Parliament) in a 'teaser' promotion (an advertisement) for the Nine network in which he hinted at what he would be doing the following day – quitting politics – and what he would be telling Ms Wendt, exclusively, in his 'A Current Affair' interview.

"While it was only a station promotion, it was little different in intent from an advertisement for toothpaste – it was aimed at selling a product. When the interview – not the 'teaser' - was recorded is unclear. While channel Nine says it was taped on the afternoon that Mr Hawke resigned, it is interesting that in both the 'teaser' promotion (filmed and screened on Wednesday) and the interview (allegedly taped on Thursday), he and Ms Wendt appeared to be wearing the same clothes.

"Channel Nine's spokesman confirmed this, saying it was for reasons of 'continuity', an industry term more common in TV drama and sitcoms than current affairs. For example, even though a scene in a drama may be shot over several days, the continuity provided by identical costuming and hairstyles on each day suggests to viewers that there had not been a break in filming.

"But why this should have been thought necessary for what both channel Nine and Mr Hawke's media minders want us to believe was two separate interview sessions anyway – 24 hours apart – is hard to fathom. Interestingly, channel Nine's response to my clothing query also elicited another puzzling variation on what we had heard before – that the Thursday night interview was recorded that afternoon, on an embargoed basis, prior to Mr Hawke's formal resignation at 4pm.

"Now, channel Nine's spokesman says it was taped after 4pm, but before 'A Current Affair' went to air at 6.30pm. If that were true, why did Mr Hawke not head off the furore over the 'A Current Affair' interview by saying just that when approached by reporters the following day? What ever the case, there is a suspicion in many minds now that, as the 'teaser' promotion was first aired 21 hours before Mr Hawke handed in his resignation, his retirement was stage-managed for TV.

"I suspect it has done great harm to the credibility of commercial current affairs television. After all, many viewers might wonder in future how much of the material that they see there is as choreographed and susceptible to commercial considerations as this story seemed to be." In March 1992, Bob Hawke, then 62, flew to London to begin his first report for '60 Minutes', "The marvellous thing about television is that no bugger can get between you and your talker."

In 1992, channel Seven hired Stan Grant, then 28, to host 'Real Life'. The program was designed "to loosen the stranglehold of 'A Current Affair' on the early evening time slot" at 6.30pm. "The show will have authority and the team itself has a lovely mix of ages and personalities," Stan Grant explained at the time. "I really got cracking in journalism when I got into politics. I hope to keep developing in that area because it's important for any presenter of a current affairs program to have a reasonable understanding of politics.

"It's important to me that ordinary working people like my parents can relate to this show. And if I see them relating to it, then I feel much happier because that's the background that I come from and they're the people I want to be able to get to. It's far more important that people like that get to know what's happening in the world in a way that is not going to alienate them."

Political correspondent Jim Middleton observed, "It's very hard to knock 'A Current Affair' off because it is a very professional product. But I would think on the basis of what I've seen and heard that Seven ought to be really pleased with the audience they have got." Stan Grant insisted, "We are not going out there to destroy 'A Current Affair', we want to win the spot because it's a competitive game but we are going to do it by carving out our own audience. We are not going to have someone interviewing Paul Keating one night and doing a Madonna review the next. The reporters will be carving out their own areas so when viewers turn on the television and see David White they will know what to expect."

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