Andy Muirhead, a popular Australian television compere, comedian, and radio broadcaster, has been charged with accessing child pornography.
In response, the ABC has placed him on leave without pay (effectively suspending his employment), suspended his TV show, The Collectors, including at least one episode that has already been taped, and even taken down the show's website.
Muirhead may well be guilty, though he is presumed innocent in the courts. A charge like that brought against him is of such a nature as to bring the accused's employer into disrepute, especially when it's a managerial employee or one who provides a public face for the employer. Muirhead fits into the latter category, so I'll have no problem with it if they fire him in response to a guilty verdict (and they can hardly continue to employ him if he goes to jail). Also, this charge is not the sort of thing they can investigate themselves, when the evidence is in police hands - it's not as if it were something simple like punching his boss in the pub. So I don't think it would be fair for them to fire him at this stage. Sending him off on leave without pay may be a reasonable compromise, and perhaps accords with their policy and the terms of his contract.
No solution is entirely fair in these circumstances, but I'm the last person to deny that employers, as well as employees, have legitimate interests. Muirhead probably agreed in advance that this is how any such incident would be handled, and some of the reports talk as if going on leave without pay was his initiative. There might even be an agreement with his union to handle such things in this way. It's a little bit murky, but I'm basically cool with it.
But why refuse to show episodes that are already taped? Why suspend the entire show? This seems enormously unfair to the show's other presenters, whose careers will be harmed by it. Whatever Muirhead has done, it's hardly their fault. Surely one of them could step up and compere The Collectors in Muirhead's absence, or another compere could be found within the ABC. And why delete the show's website as if it doesn't even exist? This all seems like magical thinking, as if the show and all associated with it have now been polluted. Perhaps that's how ABC managers think the public will react, but will it? It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why would they not react with worry about the careers of other (much-loved) people on the show - careers that Muirhead has jeopardised if he's guilty?
It looks to me as if the ABC has overreacted. Perhaps that's to be expected as soon as anything to do with pedophilia becomes public. What do you think?