Eden Wood - at the centre of a tug-of-war between Today Tonight and A Current Affair

The 2011 version of current affairs television is most often anything but current affairs. Burqas, Boob jobs, bludgers… fodder to fill the outrage-ometers of the ill-informed nationwide. Occasionally an actual story does sneak in but it’s all too rare.

The fabrication of a story surrounding the television show “Toddlers and Tiaras” started as a simple filler – this is a show that people are watching and have been outraged about, and have a look at those crazy Americans. Enough interest piqued, and so an Australian pageant organiser arranged to bring out the American pageant featured in the show, and one of it’s little stars – Eden Wood. Cue sharks circling.

According to Amanda Meade in The Australian yesterday, that’s when the one-up-manship commenced. A Current Affair reportedly paid $20,000 to the American Pageant’s organisers for exclusivity when they were in Australia. All of a sudden Today Tonight were in the US interviewing Eden and her mother (and arranging an exclusivity deal with them for a reported $70,000).

Eden lands in Australia. ACA film the pageant organisers landing. TT film an interview with Eden and her mum (after the obligatory performance on Sunrise), and then she goes dark. Protestors had been popping up on both Channel 7 and Channel 9 programs to provide a “balance” to the story, and then during the actual pageant on Sunday protesters took to the streets elsewhere to ensure the children taking part in and attending the pageant were not distressed.

Then: a no show. Eden doesn’t appear at the pageant to perform. In the lead up to the pageant Eden’s Mum had appeared on a number of shows and offered that if her child was going to be in danger, she wouldn’t appear. Eden didn’t appear, leaving many fans upset and out of pocket. But promises of a performance to make it up to disappointed fans seek to make amends… at some point.

Not one to let the story lie, breakfast television stood up and took sides. Sunrise postulating that there’s more of the story to come, and that Eden’s mum did the best thing to protect Eden. Today offered an interview with the Australian pageant organisers, asking what they were doing to rectify the issues for the many fans. And where was Eden? She didn’t seem to know. The most telling statment in the Today interview was when the Australian organiser mentioned “the networks and the issues they brought with the two identities” (referencing Eden & her Mum vs the US pageant organiser).

It’s a bit rich, and very easy to cast stones. Neither TT or ACA are innocent in this latest fracas, and the revelation of cash influencing outcomes to spite the other network is appallingly expected. It’s the counterpoint: “If they are taking that stance, then we’ll take the moral high ground.” This week. It’s pure Frontline.

UPDATED: David Eccleston from Today Tonight has appeared on The Morning Show (plugging his story tonight) taking the moral high ground a step higher somehow, saying that ACA have made it grubby. This is current affairs GOLD! Check out his “interview” here:

And, of course, ACA has their class act Martin King delivering their counter-story coming tonight (if the embed isn’t working, try this link):