Melbourne: Oprah Winfrey had grabbed headlines by gifting her 300-strong studio audience an all-expenses paid trip to Australia. But her gesture has caused a furore in the host country after it emerged that Australian taxpayers will foot the bill for the sojourn.
Winfrey`s audience clapped, cheered and some even teared up when she kicked off the 25th and last season of `The Oprah Winfrey Show` by announcing a free eight-day trip to Sydney, dubbed `Oprah`s Ultimate Australian Adventure`.
But the billionaire host failed to mention that the "gift" is actually being paid for by the Australian Tourist board and the news has been met with hostile reactions in Australia.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the trip will cost local taxpayers more than USD 2.3 million. Australia`s Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson called the deal "a major coup", claiming he had received federal and state funding to convince Winfrey to come to Australia.
And the government will contribute more than USD 1 million, "mostly in accommodation costs", according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
Ferguson insisted it was money well spent as it would put Australia in the spotlight, with the popular TV show watched by 40 million Americans and screened in 145 countries.
A finale will be shot at the Sydney Opera House, which will be renamed the `Sydney Oprah House` for the occasion. And John Travolta himself will be piloting the plane. The audience also each received a Motorola Smartphone.