60 Minutes producer fired over Lebanon botch
CHANNEL 9 has released the findings of an independent review into the child abduction fiasco of its flagship current affairs program 60 Minutes.
The independent review was conducted by the founder and former producer of 60 Minutes, Gerald Stone, former producer and senior executive at Nine, David Hurley, and the company's general counsel, Rachel Launders.
Mr Stone described the botched 'child recovery', which saw mother Sally Faulkner, 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown and her production crew and two child recovery experts arrested and jailed in Beirut, Lebanon, as the gravest misadventure in the show's 37-year history.
"I had the honour to help start that stopwatch ticking 37 years ago and regrettably this has been the gravest misadventure in the program's history," he said.
"It's clear from our findings that inexcusable errors were made. I still believe, however, that 60 Minutes - lessons learned - can continue to earn the respect and attention of the viewing public for years to come."
Stephen Rice, the producer of the Sally Faulkner story, has been fired, while other staff involved in the planning and execution of the story have received formal warnings.
Nine CEO Hugh Marks said as a result of the review the broadcaster will change its processes related to story selection and approval, risk assessment and contracts and payments.
"We also accept a broader obligation to get our judgement calls right regarding what stories we pursue, and how we pursue them," he said.
"Implementation of the recommendations of the review will assist us in making the right choices in the future."
The review found that Ms Faulkner's story could have been told "in a number of ways that did not expose Nine to formidable risks" and that the show had "begun to blur the line between stories of genuine public interest and those catering to public curiosity".
It said even if the crew had not actively participated in the brazen daytime abduction, the fact Nine had directly paid the child recovery agent still tarnished the company's reputation.