Crikey is happy to run this grovelling apology to Steve Price but we have to point out he is a complete hypocrite in suing over such a trifling matter when he and 3AW have badly defamed Crikey over the years. The documents were formally served on me at 10am on January 2 and so we have taken immediate steps to publish this formal and grovelling apology to Mr Stephen William Price, one of the great protectors of free speech in Australian journalism.

Steve, we're terribly sorry for publishing the opinions of a Frankston East candidate, Mr Raymond Hoser, as an addendum to an article we wrote explaining how Labor had made a cash for preferences offer to Crikey during the Burwood by-election in December 1998.

We did point out that Raymond is "a self-proclaimed corruption fighter, taxi driver, reptile collector and spammer who is certainly on the mad side". No, we didn't seek a response from you we just said this is one man's press release. We would be most happy to run your response if it was written journalistically and not legalistically.

Having read through it again and read your expertly drawn up writ (well done Gina), we've concluded that you do deserve a genuine and heartfelt apology.

We shouldn't have allowed about 200 people to download a story carrying an addendum from colorful Raymond. We're sincerely sorry and won't do it again. We even removed the material from the site within one hour of the email from [email protected]

It is fair to say that Price was the victim of incorrect allegations to the Australian Broadcasting Inquiry by Raymond. And he was cleared by the ABA, unlike Southern Cross Broadcasting's Perth station 6PR which got slammed for 17 breaches. The Hoser press release we ran erroneously suggested he went down personally and we regret running this aspect of it.

Price never got the public apology he demanded from the ABA, moaning on air that: "the ABA didn't even bother to reply". He then said that he now knew "how innocent people feel when charged with a crime".

We were quite flattered to read in the Price writ that we publish a website that has "a wide and extensive readership throughout the states and territories of Australia". Maybe 3AW should take out some banner ads on the site to increase its exposure. Anyway, we're extremely sorry and apologise for any hurt or suffering you've encountered from those foul and ill-founded Hoser words. Here ends the apology.

So, what happens from here

It is interestingly that 3AW and the brilliant Price have given up on threatening and suing Hoser but have chosen to proceed against a back-yard website. Clearly, some people are taking notice of us but have given up on Hoser.

The Hoser material also claimed that Price had blackballed and verballed him during the Frankston East by-election where he came last in a field of 17 with just 13 votes.

It was a bit over the top but not much different from the defamatory comments made about Crikey on 3AW by Half Price and morning host Neil Mitchell.

Together these lads have called me a "fruit cake", "idiot", "dill", "not a journalist's bottom" and said I believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden. Is this true? Well, a few weeks later I won the Walkley award for business reporting in 1999 and knocked off the Green candidate to finish third in a five-man field in the Burwood by-election.

And did I sue? No way. There is nothing more odious than journalists suing journalists. We all rely on the principle of free speech for our profession but then guys like Price, who has more goes at people than any other journalist in Melbourne, turn around and sue other journalists.

It is just not cricket in this regard but it is plain stupid in many other regards. To start with it generates more related party transactions for John Dahlsen, the Southern Cross Broadcasting director who founded the company and is still a consultant to legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

I asked about these at the last Southern Cross AGM because Dahlsen's old legal firm picked up more than $500,000 in fees last year. The board explained that defamation actions were part of the reason for the blowout. If they want to get the bill down the board would not allow the company to fund this sort of ridiculous actions against Crikey.

In 1997 Dahlsen's firm picked up $458,000, falling to $327,000 in 1998, rising again to $453,000 in 1999 and then finishing at a record $530,000 in 2000.

The key question to be asked is whether Price is funding this himself or whether the company is taking the action. As someone who has twice held shares in Southern Cross Broadcasting and will probably buy them again ahead of a tilt at the board this year, I need to know who will get the massive payout from Crikey after a two year legal battle over an article downloaded on the web 200 times.

I've managed to hang onto the 1971 rally red HG Monaro so far but would be loathe to hand it over to Price personally given that he reportedly gets a free Volvo as part of some sort of sponsorship.

But if it went to the company and was painted up with the 3AW logo and used for marketing purposes then that would be okay. The 350 chevy engine leaves everyone for dead at the lights.

Apart from the heavily geared Monaro, we've got no money down here at Crikey Media so suing our battling back-yard operation will generate no cash and lots of bad PR for 3AW and Price.

They took the high ground when Channel Seven launched that ridiculous defamation writ against them after the Olympics and then turn around and launch a ridiculous writ of their own.

I've a good mind to run for their board next year on a free speech platform and one that opposes cash for comment given that 3AW has just reinstated Bruce Mansfield to the night line shift despite all his past sins.

The other crazy thing about this provocative writ is that some of the accusations that Hoser made against Price could quite rightly be made by me against Price.

You see 3AW slapped a ban on me after my criticisms of them for being too close to Kennett during the last Victorian election. This ban extended to any mentions of me during the Burwood by-election. I was included in one news story about the Liberal candidate Cherie McLean but then, according to our spy in the 3AW newsroom, Price rang up from home at about 7am and demanded I be removed from the story. I'm not sure what the Australian Broadcasting Authority licence rules say about the need for stations to be fair during elections but this might just be a good issue to test them out on. Anyone fancy drafting the first letter.

There are some other interesting ironies in all this. Price hates Ash Long, the distributor of e-letter Media Flash, because he was the business partner who dished the dirt on Bruce Mansfield in 1998, leading to his sacking.

Rash Ash was a former friend of Crikey's until he distributed our subscriber list to the 5000 people he largely spams each week.

Colorful Hoser then spammed them as well so we terminated his free subscription to Crikey and exchanged unpleasantries by email.

So if you sat Half Price, eccentric Hoser, Rash Ash and Crikey in the one room it would be interesting to see who punched who first.

The other irony is that Corrs Chambers Westgarth briefed a barrister called Gina Schoff to draw up the particulars of the writ against us. Gina's rooms are just a couple down from super star family law barrister Paula Piccinini, who signed up on the Crikey rollercoaster as wife for life last October.

Lastly, Steve Price should be warned of the curse of Crikey. The first people to sue Crikey are a group called Webster Publishing. They were bought for $2.2 million 18 months ago by Michael Schildberger's Infosentials group and Infosentials have just gone into administration.

The father and son combination of David and Tony Webster were top 10 shareholders in Infosentials and took home $300,000 between them in 1999-2000. Unfortunately for them, the music has stopped playing.

Steve Price would be well advised to withdraw his vexatious writ against Crikey before he is afflicted by the same curse.

Lastly, we'd like to reinforce the following:

Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price. Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price. Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price. Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price. Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price. Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price. Steve is straight. Sorry Steve. Don't believe Hoser's half truths about Half Price.

Here ends the grovelling apology to Stephen William Price and now let's look at an amazing hatchet job on 3AW's convicted contra for commenter Bruce Mansfield by his jilted former partner Ash Long.

I wrote the letters seeking contra but now dump on my old mate

There is nothing like a falling out between partners to get the public salvos firing and convicted cash for commenter Bruce Mansfield has one hell of a vindictive former partner in Ash Long.

Below we have run some extracts from Rash Ash's e-letter Media Flash. Whilst an exercise in axe-grinding it is also one hell of a stitch-up of Mansfield and 3AW who have taken the freeloading Mansfield back into their stride on Nightline from this week.

We don't like Rash Ash after his reckless publication of our subscriber list in July last year but we don't impose churlish bans like 3AW have done on Crikey. As the man writing the cheques and letters for Mansfield no-one is better positioned to write this story than Rash Ash so check it out in all its glory below.

A complete hatchet job on Bruce Mansfield

"Now I hate to say this, but the fact is that the station's integrity, the business of 3AW and Southern Cross is greater than the individual. And if an individual makes a choice to breach their contract and policy, then as sad as it may be, they can't be here."

-- Graham Mott, general manager 3AW, Dec 1999.

* JOHN BLACKMAN has just fired a 'no holds barred' salvo at former 3AK partner BRUCE MANSFIELD, who resumes his radio career this week on 3AW's Nightline program with PHILIP BRADY.

* BLACKMAN posted a stinging 'fiasco' message at his www.blackman.com.au web-site. The outburst - which has just been removed from the Web - said, in part: '(BRUCE MANSFIELD'S) recent departure from 3AK is a spectacular example of ... (what) we've come to associate with him and the mob down there at Bank Street. After 3AK threw Bruce a lifeline when he was sacked and publicly disgraced by 3AW twelve months ago - this is the gratitude and loyalty he exhibits to my station and our listeners.'

* 'I personally feel betrayed and hope his next stint at 3AW is a miserable one - and it will be when that station's listeners realise what ... he really is - believe me, he'll never change. As my old mate BILL JACOBS once said, 'Leopards never change their spots, they just get bigger'.'

* BLACKMAN'S entire message cannot be reproduced here, because of legal reasons. * BLACKMAN conducts the 3AK breakfast session with ANNA PINKUS and DENNIS DONOHUE (CONNELL). MANSFIELD announced his comeback on BLACKMAN'S program. At the urging of MANSFIELD, he and BLACKMAN re-created their daily Storytime session, made popular for the first time at 3AW in the 1980's. Mansfield played the segment twice daily on his lowly-rating four-hour show.

* MANSFIELD organised a Christmas function for his listeners, with his show organising FREE goods and services provided by sponsors in return for on-air mentions on 3AK. He resigned from the station the night before the December 22 Christmas party. This left 3AK Operations Manager JIM HILCKE to battle through the on-air shift. YVONNE LAWRENCE is currently covering as MANSFIELD'S temporary From Midday replacement.

The Facts - Revealed

* BRUCE MANSFIELD was fired by 3AW GM GRAHAM MOTT in December 1999, after Mansfield admitted taking products and services in exchange for on-air radio comment. This included a three-week holiday to England flying free with Lauda Air, driving a free Avis Rent-A-Car Mercedes-Benz, and enjoying free accommodation at Borrowdale Gates luxury hotel in The Lakes district.

* MOTT told The Age: 'The difference is that in this case, it's not a cash-for-comment case ... the case is someone who's used 3AW air time in order for personal gain. That is strictly prohibited under our policy and the terms of contracts.'

* MANSFIELD told MELISSA FYFE of The Age (Dec. 23, 1999): 'The deal with Lauda Air was not for any, I repeat, any on-air comment. That was clearly a promotional activity, involving me and Lauda Air in terms of compering cocktail parties, etc.'

* FACT: RICHARD FROGGATT, General Manager of Lauda Air in Australia, is pictured above with PHILIP BRADY and BRUCE MANSFIELD in a March 1999 on-air interview at 3AW's studios to promote the airline, in association, in part, with Mansfield's free trip.

FACT No. 1: In a letter to organise Mansfield's first of two trips to the UK, it was said in writing to publicity agent TONY HEALEY: 'On air promotion for Lauda Air would include substantial radio and TV publicity, including TV spots across Australia on Bruce's TV programs.'

* FACT No. 2: MANSFIELD received two free London-Paris Euro Star tickets worth more than $A2000, where the fast rail's PR men CHRIS RANDALL and ROGER HARRISON were promised (April 22, 1999 letter) that there would be an 'interview on Australia's top-rating night-time show, Nightline.'

* FACT No. 3: MANSFIELD received a free premier room and meals from TERENCE HENDERSON, Proprietor of The Borrowdale Gates, with the written promise that 'publicity would be provided on Australian media, as well as BBC Radio.' (Letter: April 22, 1999)

* FACT No. 4: MANSFIELD received a free Mercedes-Benz car from Avis Rent-A-Car for the duration of his holiday 'in return for media publicity as already outlined'. This was confirmed in a letter to JOCELYNE SIMPSON of Consolidated Communications Management Ltd, London (Letter: April 29, 2999)

* FACT No. 5: MANSFIELD received concessions from NICK LOGUE, General Manager of The Chletenham Park Hotel, Gloucestershire. 'Publicity would be provided on Australian media, as well as BBC Radio, in exchange for complimentary Dinner, Bed and Breakfast' (Letter: April 22, 1999)

New Facts - Revealed

* BRUCE MANSFIELD accepted Cheque No. 1664 (Commonwealth Bank, Dandenong A/C 063-125 1049-4234) for $1200.00 from REYNOLD W.B. GILSON of Advanced Precast (Aust.) to compere the Melbourne Advent Brass Concert featuring JAMES MORRISON on August 21, 1999. The payment saw MANSFIELD offer free nightly on-air radio mentions on 3AW for the concert. GILSON'S covering letter (July 29, 1999) includes the implicit agreement with Mansfield regarding free 3AW commercial time: 'It would be appreciated if BRUCE could advertise and promote the Concert as much as possible over the next three weeks to help us in the selling of tickets.'

* This payment was AFTER a meeting which MANSFIELD told The Age was held at 6.30pm on July 28, 1999, when GRAHAM MOTT was said to have asked for, and received, assurances from BRADY and MANSFIELD that they had no deals outside 3AW that would breach station guidelines. 'Free' on-air mentions for the concert continued until Thursday, August 19, 1999.

* BRUCE MANSFIELD received a $500.00 cash payment from 3AW advertiser MOSHE ELKMAN of The Coat Man, Glenhuntly Road, South Caulfield, for a personal appearance on Thursday, August 6, 1998. ELKMAN wrote on August 4: 'Free Radio Mentions. Yes! I was listening last night ... thanks a lot for so many extra mentions ... really very much appreciated!'

* BRUCE MANSFIELD claims he had an arrangement with Lauda Air to receive the free return flights to London, in exchange for 'compering cocktail parties, etc'. The only cocktail party was when airline chief NIKI LAUDA made a rush trip to Melbourne around Grand Prix time 1999. The 90-minute party for travel agents, with BRADY and MANSFIELD taking the podium for less than 10 minutes, was held at Crown Casino on 24 hours notice. Two Amadeus-class return air tickets for two to London, worth more than $8000, for a 10-minute MC job?

Now, Mansfield's Return To 3AW

* BRUCE MANSFIELD returns to 3AW, following the sacking of DERRYN HINCH from the Nightline shift. As reported in Media Flash (Dec., 2000), Mansfield has been hosting the 3AK afternoon shift, with the lowest commercial radio rating in Australia - 0.4, representing fewer than 2000 listeners in any quarter hour. MOTT says HINCH'S sacking was because ratings which had dropped to 11. It is not so much the ratings for the shift per se, but the effect it has on the Melbourne radio station averages, where just a fraction of a single percentage point can decide the overall winner - advertising rates and profitability - in a brutally competitive marketplace.

* Just a year ago (Dec. 24, 1999), GRAHAM MOTT, General Manager of 3AW, described MANSFIELD as a 'disgrace' and a 'liar', in an Age report written by MELISSA FYFE. Mansfield admitted taking free products and services including a three-week trip to England, but insisted he had done nothing wrong: 'You say it is wrong. I ask what is wrong with it?'

Flash Backs

* GRAHAM MOTT said of DERRYN HINCH, upon his appointment (Feb. 11, 2000): 'He will naturally understand that the night-time audience likes some warmth, likes companionship, it also likes to be informed, to be entertained and doesn't mind sharing in the issues of the day.'

GRAHAM MOTT said of MANSFIELD'S dismissal, in 1999: 'I think something happening like this clearly shows that the station is serious about the integrity of our business.'

* MOTT, quoted in The Age (Dec. 23, 1999): 'Now I hate to say this, but the fact is that the station's integrity, the business of 3AW and Southern Cross is greater than the individual. And if an individual makes a choice to breach their contract and policy, then as sad as it may be, they can't be here.'

* STEVE PRICE, 3AW Program Director, used the word 'theft' on-air (Feb. 8, 2000) to describe a broadcaster using a station's air time to promote businesses, without the station's authorisation.

* PHILIP BRADY was quoted in the press (FIONA BYRNE, Herald Sun, Feb. 2000) to say that he ruled out ever working with MANSFIELD again. The pair are understood not to have spoken during the 12-month hiatus. Both BRADY and MANSFIELD have told close friends - in differing stories - about avoiding each other at the Channel 10 studios in Melbourne where they perform individual segments on BERT NEWTON'S Good Morning Australia program.

'Management Knew'

* BRUCE MANSFIELD insisted to The Age that 3AW management knew of his outside commercial arrangements, openly broadcast on their own air-waves. The first Lauda Air contra arrangement was in January 1999 with a week-long broadcast from the BBC. Co-host PHILIP BRADY had previously given volumes of Lauda Air free publicity on 3AW, but told the station's management that this travel arrangement was in return for publicity on his Good Morning Australia TV segment. The Ten Network offered no view on this 'contra-for-comment' arrangement. Nor did the Australian Broadcasting Inquiry take BRADY'S matter further.

* Broadcast arrangements for MANSFIELD'S broadcasts between Melbourne and Gloucestershire, including ISDN lines, were put in place by 3AW Operations Manager STEPHEN BEERS, with faxes on record between 3AW and the BBC's Head of Programs VERNON HARWOOD.

An extensive memo (Jan. 7, 1999) detailing arrangements, was sent on MANSFIELD'S behalf to 3AW General Manager GRAHAM MOTT, Program Director STEVE PRICE, co-host PHILIP BRADY, Promotions and Marketing Manager DAVID MANN, STEPHEN BEERS, and producers SIMON OWENS and DANIEL GOLDSTEIN.

* DAVID MANN (pictured), 3AW Promotions and Marketing Manager, had given prior permission to MANSFIELD for the first Lauda contra arrangement, where on-air mentions were given to the airline, hotel and Avis at least twice each hour. DAVID MANN sent a fax memorandum (below) - on 3AW letterhead - to MANSFIELD on January 12, 1999: '... my thoughts are with you for what is already shaping up to be a great series of broadcasts. The parts of what I heard of last night's program were excellent quality, very informative, funny at times, and most significantly very illuminating about that very special part of the world from where you are broadcasting ... you sounded extremely bright and refreshed and that surprised me, given the hectic schedule you had from Melbourne to London - obviously you don't suffer from jet lag!

* 'From Management here in Melbourne, we don't take it for granted and realise that this is very much a team effort; not only you and PHILIP on air but also all the people behind the scenes assisting you with the broadcasts. Keep up the good work!'

ABA Inquiry: 'Systemic Failure'

* PROFESSOR DAVID FLINT'S Australian Broadcasting Authority ordered an Inquiry at the start of 2000. The ABA is now imposing, from January 15, 2001, three new program standards on commercial radio licensees which relate to disclosure of commercial arrangements by presenters of CURRENT AFFAIRS programs, the need to distinguish advertisements from other programs, and the establishment of compliance programs by commercial radio licensees.

* FLINT said: 'In its commercial radio inquiry, the ABA found a systemic failure to ensure the effective operation of self-regulation, There was, if not an ignorance of the commercial radio codes of practice, little commitment to them as the guiding force in the presentation of current affairs on commercial radio. The Authority concluded that the codes were not providing appropriate community safeguards for commercial radio.'

* The Authority - www.aba.gov.au/what/investigate/commercial_radio/index.htm - found: 'MR MANSFIELD failed to disclose fully to 3AW management agreements, arrangements or understandings he had with suppliers of goods and services; and 3AW management did not make sufficient inquiries between July and December 1999 to determine whether MR MANSFIELD had agreements, arrangements and understandings with suppliers of goods and services.

The conversational mentions of various businesses on the Nightline program were of promotional and commercial benefit to those businesses. Such mentions are "advertisements" within the meaning of Code 3.

In some circumstances these conversational mentions were made in return for goods and services rendered free of charge to Messrs MANSFIELD and BRADY.'

Whistle Blowing

* The Australian Broadcasting Authority Inquiry heard that BRUCE MANSFIELD'S TV Producer until early 1999 was ASH LONG, now Media Flash Publisher. The ABA Inquiry in March 2000 found that LONG had sent confirmation letters to sponsors at Mansfield's behest. LONG was not asked to attend or contribute towards the ABA Inquiry. There has never been any suggestion of wrongdoing by Long, who had previously cut all ties with Mansfield in June 1999. LONG requested a meeting and independently detailed the arrangements made by MANSFIELD and BRADY, to GRAHAM MOTT and Southern Cross Broadcasting CEO TONY BELL, on November 24 and 25, 1999.

* This meeting with MOTT and BELL was a full month before The Age article was published, when GRAHAM MOTT was reported to say: 'His (MANSFIELD'S) behaviour is a disgrace ... This information was never disclosed to 3AW ... When I read (the story in The Age) it absolutely floored me. I was absolutely stunned by that.'

3AW Flash-Back File

* BRUCE MANSFIELD'S contra-for-comment list included Abbotsford Leather luggage, Bob Stewart's Mensland clothing, Cafe Como Fiori drinks, Cafe Greco meals, Flowerdrum Restaurant meals, John Dee hairdressing, Ivanhoe Tavern meals, Lone Star Restaurant meals, Qantas air flights, Raine & Horne real estate services, Rivers clothing, Rose Bouquet flowers, Sparkles car washes, Coatman clothing, Vlado's Restaurant meals, Charcoal Restaurant meals, Frasers Restaurant meals, Hyatt Canberra accommodation and liquor, Hyatt Regency Perth accommodation, Sheraton Mirage Resort Port Douglas accommodation, Novotel Palm Cove accommodation, Park Hyatt Sydney accommodation, meals and liquor, The Sebel of Sydney meals and accommodation. And more.

Ends

Wow, what an amazing hatchet job. You can't fault the arguments as 3AW look pretty stupid now. Rash Ash even quotes the cheque numbers. He's got the goods and he's delivered, regardless of what you think about his motives.