The Seven and Nine Networks are at loggerheads today over the ‘stolen’ interview in a story on A Current Affair
last night reacting to the non-jailing of a Victorian woman teacher who
was found guilty of having sex with an under age student.
(Here’s a story for background http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,11351365%255E26462,00.html)

Seven has accused Nine and ACA of ‘lifting’ an interview Today Tonight did with the 15 year old boy six or seven weeks ago. Today Tonight
used excerpts from their interview in their story last night and
Executive Producer, Craig McPherson, told Crikey today that “we sat and
watched as our interview, changed, went to air on ACA”. He said TT people had not been happy.

McPherson says the original interview was recorded “about six or seven
weeks ago.” “He the boy went with us free of charge, there was no money
paid for the interview.”
“We had his parents’ permission and his permission”
“Both of us were wanting to get the interview, but the boy went with us
because he didn’t like someone from them and how they were pressuring
him.”

“Without the boy’s interview, our interview, ACA’s story last night was
nothing. They would have nothing. Just Martin King (the reporter)
harassing the school teacher outside court, grabs from a child
psychologist and Neil Mitchell, the Melbourne talkback radio star ”

In Melbourne the boy’s face was covered up but in Sydney it was full-framed.

Craig McPherson said the interview looked like it had been recorded
from off air, then replayed, and then shot (by a camera) off a TV set
after the interview framing was manipulated to turn the boy around.
That would have been done to hide the fact that it had been recorded
and used and to make it look slightly different.

Another TV executive said the boy’s interview looked like third
generation (it had been recorded three times and each time there’s a
loss in quality) and the boy’s hair on Nine was parted on a different
side of his head to that shown on Seven.

Nine doesn’t deny it happened. A spokesman says the program was all set
to go with an interview with him, had his mother’s permission, had
agreed to present it to accommodate the law (masking the face in
Victoria because there is a possibility of an appeal), and then
permission was withdrawn. “Hence the dilemma later.”

But no permission and no attribution. Which would have been humiliating for ACA, but covered themselves from the ‘theft’ jibes from Seven today.

The spokesman for Nine said Seven has done similar things in the past to Nine stories on ACA, and Seven says Nine always writes legal letters, especially about programs like The Block when Seven has used vision or shot stories about that program.

Nine also claims TT paid $80,000 for the story of a young child attacked by a dingo on Fraser Island in Queensland. ACA wasn’t prepared to bid much for the story.

Life is very competitive between Nine and Seven at all times, but in
the News and Current Affairs battle, it’s a ‘no holds barred’ battle,
so lifting, non attribution, whatever you call it, it is part and
parcel of the business, as much as outsiders might decry it.

But seeing the sensitivity of the story, an under age boy talking about
an affair with a 38 year old teacher, you’d think someone at ACA would
have stopped for a moment and thought about what they were doing,
especially the senior producer who ordered it.

What happens if that boy’s parents become upset at appearing on a
program he rejected in the first place and start asking questions? Nine
doesn’t have much to defend itself with except that three-legged stool
of a line of ‘in the public domain’ and ‘fair dealing’

All I would ask them, what would you do if it was your son whose
interview had been lifted from another network and shown without
permission?

So in the tale of the tape what happened last night with the ratings of TT and ACA.

Both missed the top national and In Sydney. ACA beat TT with 1.105 million viewers to 1.068 million, and in Sydney by 304,926 to 294,244. In Melbourne ACA won 323,774 to 258,097 people.

With that result, ACA producers will justify what they did by the ‘result’ having a story and beating Seven. But what about the way it was done?

It’s no wonder both programs are struggling to hold viewers now with
their audiences at their lowest levels some nights since 2001.

Crikey: In the media it’s call ‘research’. Others, of a more literal
mind might call it theft or plagiarism. Whatever it’s called it’s as
old as the profession itself.

I refer to quoting from someone else’s work as part of a piece of work
by you. Normally that’s handled by attribution, but as endless episodes
of Media Watch can attest, it’s not always the custom to quote and
attribute.

Many, many times it’s quote and be damned, or caught, which sometimes they are.

That’s why at Crikey we quote and wherever we can we provide a link so you, the reader, can go and look for yourself.

But the commercial television networks do it all the time. Some justify
it as ‘fair dealing’, using other networks vision and audio grabs under
the so called fair dealing provisions of the copyright act. Sometimes
vision and grabs are lifted holus bolus, as Nine claims TT did a couple
of weeks ago in a story about a man secretly videoing people, including
female relatives.

The various news rooms complain about pictures being recorded from off
air or during ‘pool transfers’ and then used on air, sometimes in
promos before the other station has had time to look at them and assess
their worth. It’s a dog eat dog world.