Media Watch raises questions over 60 Minutes story
ABC vs Nine: Airfares, car hire & motel rooms... just production expenses or network payment helping to make a story?
Media Watch last night raised some serious questions about a February story on “Joe Donor” who travels the world impregnating women desperate to have babies, through the organisation ‘Sperm Donation Australia.’
A cynical Liz Hayes interviewed him during an Australian visit, including over whether he was a health risk.
ABC branded the story the height of hypocrisy after revealing payments to Donor covered his airfare from South America via two wire transfers of $975 US dollars from Channel Nine Pty Ltd into an offshore account. It also claimed it covered the cost of Joe’s hire car and several of his motel rooms.
Nine repeatedly told Media Watch “No – we did not help fund his trip” and other points about STI testing as raised in the program.
But ABC also noted 60 Minutes producers had offered to reimburse additional expenses if Joe ceased spilling on the show and deleted communications sent on WhatsApp.
“Paying Joe’s way is bad enough. But false promises, implausible denials and finally threats are a great deal worse,” Paul Barry told viewers last night.
Today a Nine spokesperson old TV Tonight, “There were expenses and production costs incurred in the normal course of filming. We maintain that 60 Minutes did not seek to pay his fare or fund his trip.”
But there may be a lot of semantics going on…
TV Tonight understands in its contract with Joe, Nine was clear it did not support his conduct, so he knew he would be in for a grilling.
Nine also stated it was not funding his trip. But it did pay a per diem amount for 4 days of shooting, in advance, which enabled Joe to cover his airfare and car hire himself.
Nine is also believed to have paid for the motel rooms used for interviews, which in the post-Beirut saga can be satisfactorily written off as a story expense.
There was also a request for further costs: a phone charger, petrol and a phone SIM card, which are understood to have been agreed to after filming, provided there was no further “acrimony” between parties. Whether that is fulfilled given the story’s exposure is unclear…
Nine did not respond to questions about whether producers asked him to cease the acrimony and delete his e-trail.
The total expenses for Nine would appear to be around $3000 (and only about $2000 actually paid) which is small fry compared to major news items. Nine could have easily acknowledged those expenses earlier and avoided the heat of ABC’s blowtorch.
As to why it didn’t is a good guess, but I would be looking at this comment by Paul Barry as avery telling hint.
“…the airfare was just the start of Nine’s largesse, because 60 Minutes also covered the cost of Joe’s Australian hire car. And paid for several of Joe’s motel rooms – including one where he says he had unprotected sex with one of what 60 Minutes called his desperate women,” said Barry.
Interview room or not, it’s a very bad look for the show to criticise Joe’s behaviour when its own expenses have covered the bill for his other activities, even if by consent.