A casual journalist at the ABC, Natasha Exelby, has been taken off air after she missed her cue on live TV and video of her dramatic reaction went viral.
The ABC director of news, Gaven Morris, has denied Exelby is being punished and said reports she had been fired or banned were untrue.
“Live television is a demanding art and slip-ups will happen – our presenters are humans, not robots,” Morris said.
“We take on-air standards extremely seriously, but we don’t expect perfection. No one would ever be punished for a blooper and, while it isn’t appropriate to publicly discuss confidential details of people’s personal work arrangements, this has not happened to Natasha.”
Morris said he has assured Exelby the ABC wants her to continue working various shifts she has been rostered for.
“While she is not currently doing any on-air shifts, this will be subject to normal performance management. I have spoken to Natasha and conveyed our regret that this has attracted such attention.”
Footage of Exelby playing with her pen then apparently realising she is on air and gasping in horror has endeared her to the public, with calls for her to return to Australia’s TV screens and a petition, which had garnered more than 3,000 signatures by Tuesday morning.
The ABC has denied Exelby has been banned or sacked.
Guardian Australia understands that after a series of missteps including Sunday’s high-profile blooper she was “read the riot act” by news management on Monday.
Sources said Exelby had been offered more training and may be given on-air shifts again at a later stage.
After the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that the Queensland-born journalist had been “banned”, the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, led calls on Twitter for her reinstatement.
Presenters and other journalists shared stories about their embarrassing mistakes while at work.
It’s not the first time Exelby has been caught in an inappropriate reaction on live TV. Several years ago on Ten she giggled repeatedly while reading serious news items about deaths and disasters.
The ABC would not be drawn on the circumstances of the blooper and released a statement saying Exelby was a casual contributor and not a staff member: “She has been booked for occasional on-air shifts when needed, and also does other occasional shifts for the ABC News channel. Contributors work out their shifts with managers on a per-needs basis. We don’t comment on the details of people’s work arrangements.”
Exelby is best known as a co-host of the disastrous breakfast show Wake Up on Ten, which was launched by the former Seven Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland in late 2012.
She was dumped as co-host after just 13 days on air and rock-bottom ratings. Boland blamed her sudden exit on her “chemistry” with the two other co-hosts, James Mathieson and Natarsha Belling.
The entire show was axed in May 2014 owing to lacklustre ratings.
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