M-Net hits back hard at Cliff
Gareth Cliff (CliffCentral)
Cape Town - M-Net on Friday night filed an answering affidavit in the TV divorce between the broadcaster and former Idols judge, Gareth Cliff. Cliff filed an urgent application in the Johannesburg High Court asking that he be reinstated as a judge on the show. Should a judge not rule in his favour, a second part of the application asks that Idols, which is due to begin its audition phase on 30 January, be halted.
M-Net has finally responded, saying it can't and won't delay the upcoming start of the 12th season's auditions, and that it's seeking the immediate dismissal of Cliff's urgent court application, with costs.
M-Net has revealed that it told Cliff that he could have said that he decided to step away from Idols, thereby preserving his, M-Net and Idols' dignity and image. Cliff declined and M-Net issued a statement to the media announcing its decision.
"In the interest of preserving an amicable relationship with him, he was offered the opportunity to issue a joint statement with M-Net in order to voluntarily step down from the show, which he declined," says M-Net. The broadcaster says it can't and won't delay the start of Idols since it will have "far-reaching financial and reputational consequences for M-Net and [SIC] Entertainment should the 2016 auditions be stopped".
"Venues and crew have already been booked and all freelance contractors and crew members would lose out on their income. Any changes to the filming schedule would also have a detrimental impact on the Idols contestants themselves, many of whom are students, who have already made arrangements to participate in the scheduled auditions".
M-Net is hitting back at Cliff's claims of defamation, saying the only damage to his reputation was the damage he did himself. "Any harm done to Gareth Cliff's reputation is a direct result of his own actions and not as a result of M-Net's decision to exclude him from the Idols judging panel". "Gareth Cliff chose to enter the fray in the midst of an acrimonious public discussion about race relations and made statements which he admits were highly insensitive and ill-advised," says M-Net.
M-Net says it got rid of Cliff because as a commercial TV broadcaster "M-Net did not wish to participate in fueling further racially based divisions in the country."
Cliff got the axe after commenting on a racist social media post by estate agent, Penny Sparrow. The matter is set to be heard in court on 26 January. Part of the application includes the possibility of a R25m lawsuit against M-Net. This would only be launched should he not be reinstated as a judge on the show.