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Now for the soul searching

Time for answers from Channel Nine.

https://twitter.com/tomsteinfort/status/722783699389980674

With the good news that four 60 Minutes crew members are homeward-bound attention will now turn to Nine for answers.

Desperate Brisbane mum Sally Faulkner, who is expected to follow soon, appears to have paid a high-price for freedom after a “child-rescue” plan went wrong. The fate for those from the Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI), headed by Adam Whittington, is less clear.

Nine has paid compensation for the release of reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment.

Until now it hasn’t confirmed rumours it paid $115,000 to effectively finance the CARI operation. Nine’s official line is that it wouldn’t comment while its crew were behind bars. It also claimed it does not comment on payment for stories.

But Nine has indeed commented in the past.

One of those was for a 60 Minutes story on Baby Gammy presented by Tara Brown in 2014:

60 Minutes executive producer Tom Malone said: “We never comment on any commercial arrangements between 60 Minutes and our interview subjects but given the nature of this story, it’s important our viewers know that no money has been or will be paid to the parents.

“However, 60 Minutes will be making a donation to the charity Hands Across the Water, which is raising money for Gammy’s ongoing treatment and care.”

In 2012 Nine was criticised for alleged payments in an interview with the wife of killer Max Sica, after he was locked away for 35 years for murdering three children:

A Current Affair bureau chief Amanda Paterson said “For the record, ACA has not paid Shiv Sica or the Sica family one cent.”

She declined to comment on whether Brisbane public relations agent Lyall Mercer was paid for arranging the interview.

Also in 2012 60 Minutes interviewed the girlfriend of Kings Cross bash victim Thomas Kelly:

A Channel 9 spokeswoman said that the interviewees were not paid for their 60 Minutes appearance.

In 2009 ACA also interviewed family members at the centre of a “Kyle & Jackie O” radio prank involving a 14yo girl:

Nine advised there was no payment sought nor offered for this interview, after an approach was made by the family to Nine.

Meanwhile reports claim the Sally Faulkner story was offered to other media who rejected it, before it landed at 60 Minutes under former executive producer Tom Malone, and was inherited by current EP Kirsty Thomson.

TV Tonight understands both Inside Story and A Current Affair also rejected the story.

Attention must now turn to Nine management under CEO Hugh Marks to be frank with audiences about the mistakes and responsibilities therein.

It’s something his predecessor was particularly good at doing whenever the network ‘mucked up.’

Viewers are also likely to take a dim view if the post-analysis with participants is played out for TV ratings. The audience has already ruled on the legality of 60 Minutes participation in the story. Many express concern for the children at the centre of the case. Nine’s brand has taken a battering.

Payment for media stories by TV networks is unlikely to cease and, as a recent case with Kerri-Anne Kennerley demonstrated- often benefits both sides of the table. But the 60 Minutes saga does give pause for thought: How far do we go in the pursuit of news? What are the risks?  Is it legal? Is it safe for crew?

On that front Nine gets a fail. And it’s time it said so.

13 Responses

  1. Yesterday on twitter – A tweet from Nine around 5.45pm referred to “breaking news re 60 Minutes and Lebanon – see it first on Nine at 6pm… yet I scroll through the tweets and find out what has happened anyway from other news services including Seven News.

  2. Yes I’m not swayed by the various statements and sentiments expressed by journos and commentators defending the pedigree of Tara Brown and Stephen Rice. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck…it is a duck. Like others I feel for the camera crew. Heads may roll and it may seem as if Brown and her crew have suffered enough but they need to account for what happened. It’s easy to upwardly refer blame too, but they were the people writing, telling and planning the story. It’ll be interesting to see how candid or sanitised this whole saga will be played out from here. I hope there is some deep searching, but not holding my breath.

  3. This is a PR disaster for Nine. They will forever be known as the network that bribes judges with millions of dollars in order to get their own way. I would compare it to the 2004 Beslan “rescue” where the Russians were hailing the slaughter of half the hostages as “a great outcome”.

  4. I’d love to watch a Four Corners investigation into this – follow the money trail from start to finish, finding out who knew what, interviews from the guys left behind etc.

    No fluff and nonsense

  5. You can only soul search if you have a soul. I wonder if the kidnap attempt had of been successful would 60 Minutes reported that a 70 year old grandmother had been knocked down and hurt in the process. I doubt it.

  6. Not only that, but Nine should also reveal how much they paid Ali al-Amin to drop the charges. And there is still the prospect of criminal charges. The drivers of the ‘getaway’ car are still in custody. I presume the 60 Minutes story will tell us about Faulkner’s child born to a new partner three months ago.

  7. Considering Tom later tweeted “We travel with the 60 Minutes crew as they head home to Australia. See it only on @TheTodayShow” it’s clear they have no shame at all and will milk it for every penny.

    1. I’ve seen similar promos for the news – “only on 9”. I find their shameless exploitation of this story horrendous. Especially when they’ve given the lightest attention to the matter up until the crew’s release.

  8. What a complete disaster, Channel 9 messed this up well and proper, there is no way they could’ve copped a worse outcome if they tried.

    Despite their denials, the figure paid would’ve been huge, in the millions and a lot of palms would’ve been greased along the way, and given the nature of things in Lebanon, it would be a safe assumption to say that some of the money would’ve ended up in unsavory places. There should be a huge internal clean up also at 9 HQ after this disaster

  9. If Nine wants to retain what little integrity they have left, they should not do any exclusive interviews with the 60 mins crew. But of course they will do it and milk it for all it’s worth, using the BS justification that there’s huge public interest . The most dignified way to handle things now would be if all of them stayed silent and carried on as normal and if they need counselling do it in private not in front of a tv audience.

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