Stephen Rice, the producer who spent two weeks in a Lebanese jail, appears to have taken the fall for the 60 Minutes child snatch fiasco, despite a so-called “independent review” recommending that no individual be sacked over the matter.
The interim report into the saga, handed down on Friday, blasted the 60 Minutes operation for systemic failures at every level.
The report’s authors – Gerald Stone, the founder of 60 Minutes in Australia in 1979; senior Nine executive David Hurley; and Nine Entertainment Co’s in-house counsel Rachel Launders – found that a number of “critically relevant questions” relating to the decision to film the attempted rescue-cum-abduction of the children of Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner in Lebanon were never raised “by the executive producer who approved it, the senior producer who proposed it, or the reporting team that volunteered to participate in it”.
Amongst the questions the report says were never asked are:
Would payment to the child recovery agency encourage an unlawful act?
Could such a payment backfire on Nine?
Would Nine’s staff be participating in an unlawful act?
What were the potential consequences if the act failed?
What would be the impact on the reputation of Nine and 60 Minutes if the operation failed or resulted in injury? and
Did the public interest in telling the story outweigh the risks involved?
So these geniuses never even considered whether what they were funding was illegal and what might happen if it failed. Incredible. They’re lucky only one of them was sacked.
Further exacerbating the situation was the fact that 60 Minutes had come to operate with a degree of autonomy so great “that the executive producer saw no need to consult with the director of news & current affairs on the wisdom of commissioning this story”.
This is what surprised me. That a producer could decide to fund a televised kidnapping and not need to even consult with the director of news!