Hillsong may sue over Idol

HILLSONG church is not ruling out legal action against Today Tonight it was revealed today. My regular readers will recall I lambusted Today Tonight over their hatchet job of Hillsong last week, voicing “By the end of the show I still had no idea how many, if any, of the Australian Idol finalists were actually Hillsong members.” Well it turns out it was even more of a hatchet job than I thought, for it has now come to light that none of the Australian Idol finalists were Hillsong members. Here’s the what the Daily Telegraph had to say:

Australian Idol’s production company Fremantle Media said it told Today Tonight producers there were no Hillsong contestants in the show before the story went to air.

Prompted by a TV promo about the first story, The Daily Telegraph questioned Today Tonight’s executive producer Craig McPherson before it went to air.

He conceded the five in his story were not Hillsong contestants but were “at least all under that pentacostal (sic) banner”.

So the Australian Idol finalists were targeted by the reporters simply for being Pentecostals, nothing more. Whatever criticisms people may have of Hillsong (and I’ll say again, I think fair criticisms can be made) they were not guilt of the “branch stacking” and “vote rigging” claims made by Today Tonight. This was nothing more that a cynical exploitation of latent fears against Pentecostals to boost their ratings.

6 Comments

  1. I wonder if Media Watch will pick it up.
    I see on their site an amusing tale from last week involving a surveillance camera clip showing Sudanese gang members intimidating a bottle shop owner. This made all three commercial news networks, and was in each case linked with current government policy regarding African immigration.
    Only no one in the clip was actually Sudanese, amongst other problems with the story.
    http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2054150.htm

    It’s a classic case of the commercial networks long held obsession with so-called ethnic gangs, fitting perfectly with the political interests of those supporting the freeze on African migrants.

    When they added dishonesty to that mix, the commercial networks did a serious disservice to African migrants as a whole.

    The motivations seem different in the Hillsong case, but the basic dynamic seems similar: bias leads to misinterpretation while disabling normal journalistic integrity / common-sense / fear of embarrassment.

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  2. Maybe since Hillsong is such a big brand name, TT decided to confusing then with pentecostal churches in general.
    Although the church gains some positive publicity by having Idol winners, I think the church loses overall, because people in the church are power-voting, indeed are often encouraged from the pulpit to do so.
    Someone said the Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit being an Idol. So the performer is in the clear, but the church members who power-vote their parishioner to stardom can be said to be “making an idol” of someone. And Ch 10 is laughing all the way to the bank.
    At least in politics, though some groups will still vote en bloc, the “one person, one vote” rule applies.

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  3. Eric, you state that “…indeed are often encouraged from the pulpit to do so,” but I must ask who your sources are. For Hillsong has released a statement explicitly denying that any Australian Idol contestant was endorsed from the pulpit, and no one has yet challenged that. Do you have someone credible enough to make an official statement? Have you actually seen Hillsong do that yourself? I would be very interested if that is the case, but I sense you are shooting from the hip here.
    And as far as “making an idol” of someone goes, I think we need to go deeper than simple semantics. Are you saying it is sinful to make anyone famous? In that case we must condemn any Christian musician who is half way successful, or indeed any preacher who is know outside his own diocese must we not? I am not disagreeing that there are worrying aspects of competitions like this, but a semantic argument isn’t going to hold much weight in this context.

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  4. I confess I overstated things, relying on guesswork to fill in gaps I don’t know, and am drawing a long bow. I’ll try to keep to what I do know.
    When we read in the OT about the Israelites falling into idol worship, we say “You idiots! How can you ignore God’s law and do something so obviously wrong?”. And then as present-day Christians we ask ourselves what the equivalents are to bowing down to idols these days. We talk about wealth, fashion, and anything that we are tempted to elevate above God as an idol. But there’s not much in western culture exactly like the statues that people bow down to. (I guess you’d have better answers on that one, both with your experience of various spiritual movements and with your having looked at our culture from different angles)
    Then in 2003 along comes Australian Idol. The word ‘idol’ is in the name. I say to myself “at last, here is something named as an idol, a chance for the church to NOT idolise”. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rising to fame, nor watching the show and admiring the giftedness of performers, but I ask myself where we ought to draw the line.
    My thought was that multiple voting is a good place to draw the line. I don’t have any good argument for that, except that it costs a lot of money.
    When I said “does the church gain from having an Idol winner” above, maybe I should have used capital C. I was meaning both the wider Church and the individual church they’re part of.
    As for endorsing contestants from the pulpit: Here’s a recent clip which has been getting around. Not Hillsong, but Shirelive, which two of the favourites are associated with. The pastor is saying “don’t vote for them” but in a joking manner which suggests he’s advocating votes for them, and has done so previously.

    I don’t know of any other endorsements from the pulpit. A sign on a baptist church which usually one of the better “church signs” in Adelaide encouraged votes for Guy. And my friend’s school there was encouragement to vote for Guy (the details I couldn’t vouch for) – a school where Christian teaching is central, hence whose leadership would be regarded the same way as the leadership of a church.
    And I don’t know of anyone specifically advocating multiple voting. If I were a leader of a Christian community who were into Idol at the moment, my exhortation would be to pray for the Christian contestants, who have the potential to be great examples (as Guy has been) or bad ones.
    Thanks for getting me to clarify myself!

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  5. Eric, thanks, that reflection was a lot more engaging. I was particularly interested in that clip and while I was viewing it noted that the original program that sparked this all off is now on YouTube here. A follow up segment of some disgruntled ex Hillsong members is here. And there is also another, earlier, report which warrants attention here. It’s this last one of the three which I think has the most substance behind it.

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