Sacked Channel Nine employee Glenn Dyer – Crikey’s “Terry Television” – and Peter Meakin have combined in one of the industry’s big lies.

Now that we’ve got your attention, here’s a sobering insight into the dangers of webblogging and so-called mainstream journalism alike.
Before the detail, a quick history lesson for those subscribers who’ve been reading Terry Television for several years (er, he started in February 2004) under the assumption he was a well-connected objective industry insider. The majority probably missed his outing by The Australian as Channel Nine’s embittered former Executive Producer (er, he was supervising producer) of Business Sunday, Glenn Dyer.

Those who read Dyer’s outburst over both the outing and his sacking (Glenn Dyer: sacked, outted and banned) were left in no doubt of his extraordinary bile towards his old network. It explained the sometimes daily and often frenzied attacks on the Nine management team of the day, John Alexander, David Gyngell and then News and Current Affairs boss Jim Rudder.

It put into focus his ongoing and vicious attacks on the personalities and product of his old program Business Sunday. It didn’t really explain, however, the psyche of someone whose bitterness is so acute he ridicules and lambasts friends or colleagues of decades – like Jim Waley (flak jacket episode) and Ray Martin (Aceh assignment and many others) – apparently just to wound Nine.

Not as frequent, but just as acerbic, were missives by another former Nine staffer who left in unhappy circumstances, xxxx xxxx, writing under the alias Chanel No 9. (CRIKEY: We’ve taken out the name here because the person named is not Chanel No 9. As much as we enjoy a good guessing game it would be defamatory, and plain wrong, to impugn an innocent bystander.)

Dyer and Chanel No 9’s main “inside” information often emanated from yet another former disaffected Nine employee, Channel Seven Director of News and Current Affairs Peter Meakin. Everyone at Nine knew it and, after a while, so did most mainstream media writers and editors. How did we know? Because Meakin almost daily would ring the newspapers planting the seed with some anonymous anti-Nine titbit, mostly (not always) as inaccurate or speculative as it was mischievous.

For a long while he got away with it – some saw it as a laugh and good sport. But as some of it it got more personal, potentially libellious, clearly ludicrous or easily refutable, the newspapers started balking at taking Meakin at face value. When none of us ran it, suddenly it would pop up in Crikey as a Terry Television exclusive.

Sometimes a lazy columnist somewhere would see it and repeat it without checking. Thereafter it became a “matter of record”… to be googled. Hey presto. Fiction had become fact. Reputations sullied, fear and uncertainly about people’s livlihoods spread.

Forget the collateral damage, often to long-term friends and colleagues who were damaged as two bitter old blokes struck a blow against the network that sacked Dyer and virtually forced Meakin out. Well, they went too far with the big lie over Peter Overton.

This was that a clause existed in Peter Overton’s contract that he would succeed Jim Waley as Nine’s Sydney newsreader. Dynamite if it were true – surely Overton could sue – but a Meakin lie that Glenn Dyer promptly published. It’s a fact.

How do we know Meakin lied? Because Peter Overton himself told Meakin it was not true when Meakin rang him to peddle it on Friday January 21. Overton has also told Nine colleagues and others of this bizarre conversation with Meakin.

Yet Meakin went ahead and fed it to willing puppet Glenn Dyer (Terry Television) who duly published. Meakin also repeatedly tried to peddle it to mainstream outlets. We checked with Nine and people close to Overton, got the real story (below) and didn’t write Meakin’s mischief.

Overton has openly told Nine friends and others that he had a phone call from Meakin the day after Waley’s removal (and replacement by Mark Ferguson) was announced. In that call, Meakin opined that Nine had breached Overton’s contract. It was time for Overton to talk about moving to Channel Seven.

Overton immediately put him straight: there was no such clause in his existing contract. Confused? Why would Meakin make such a call? Because some years ago when he was Overton’s boss at Nine, Meakin had indeed inserted such a clause in the young aspirant’s then contract. That was after Jim Waley surprisingly got the 6pm gig ahead of new breed Overton when Brian Henderson retired.
Overton and others had thought he was being “groomed” for the job. What Meakin didn’t know was that Nine life had moved on dramatically in his absence.

Overton made a big success of his Sixty Minutes role and is clearly on a path to fame and fortune at Nine. He could go anywhere. Meantime Mark Ferguson emerged as the obvious Waley successor. Crucially to this whole episode, Overton last year signed a brand spanking new long-term contract with Nine – with NO mention of hosting the 6pm News.

This was what Peter Overton told Peter Meakin in that January 21 telephone call. It was what he told friends and others subsequently . Overton is a one of Australia’s real TV stars not to mention a lovely bloke. He’s hot property so it only follows his new Nine contract is probably very lucrative. On a personal side, he and David Gyngell are close. He is mortified about the Big Lie getting column inches.

Despite this, Meakin cajoled newspaper hacks to publish what he knew to be untrue: that Overton (currently) had a clause in his contract saying he would succeed Jim Waley. That Nine was in breach. Why let truth get in the way of a good story, especially if it painted his old network and old bosses in bad light and sprayed a bit of mud and uncertainly at Nine on the way?

Trouble is, we all followed the basic tenet of journalism: check the facts. We – rival newspaper journos who have cross-referenced on this issue in rare collegiate fashion after seeing Glenn Dyer (Terry Television) publish what we know could only have come from Meakin. You see, apart from ringing our newspapers, Meakin was one of only a handful of people in a position to know about the OLD contract and the only one with the slightest motivation to make mischief with that privileged information. The others, presumably PBL boss John Alexander, Nine CEO David Gyngell and John Westacott (Sixty EP) obviously didn’t leak the flawed information.

So it can only have been Meakin to whom Sydney columnist Annette Sharp referred last Sunday when she wrote in the Sun Herald “my sources insist” that Overton had the clause in his contract. (“I Can Hate Too” Chanel No 9 had a tiresome new twist in getting it wrong today when she wrote that Overton’s contract had been amended since the Mark Ferguson appointment)

Whether Meakin has broken a legal confidence on the old contract is arguable. Less probematical is the breach of ethics and journalistic standards. Mystifying is why Meakin would risk his substantial reputation which such dangerous pettiness. Only Meakin can answer this but it is clear from the above and Channel Seven sources that he is absolutely obsessed with sticking it to his old network. To the detriment of his real job.

One of his alleged colourful quotes was describing John Alexander as a “24 carot c—“. Okay, Alexander and Meakin have big differences. But his willingness to attack and slur anyone – even old friends – to “get back” at Nine has lost this crusty veteran the one thing he craves: respect, especially among his old team at Nine.

If Crikey has any doubt on this, go through the alphabet of Nine staff and ask them. For that matter do some slog and ring the Seven Network journos and see what they think! As for Glenn Dyer – it is one of the great mysteries why Crikey has continued to allow his hoax of hiding behind the cloak of Terry Television.

Perhaps it wasn’t commercially wise to have your “insider” writing under his own name. Loses a bit of the mystique and streetcred doesn’t it when he’s exposed as a jaundiced , inaccurate Channel Nine discard – when most of his missives are about Nine? More than any other journalist, Glenn Dyer was positioned to check out this story by use of his old Nine phone lists and the odd contact still inside. He chose not to as he has done so often. Others with less inside access did – and got it right.

And when they didn’t write it, Dyer went into print and boasted a second time about his “exclusive” break. Bit like his double standards when he knifed Jim Waley all last year then rode to his rescue after Jim was moved on. Dyer’s code is, whatever the development – attack Nine.

The Packers and Murdochs – the establishment- are such soft targets aren’t they? Easy grist for your readership mill. But the real target here has been the craft and reputation of journalism itself. Something about which you are passionate. Now that you know , you owe it to your subscribers and Eric Beecher and Di Gribble to print this and put the record straight, no matter your perceived loyalty to a bloke you thought was giving your good mail and readership but really was running a personal vendetta.

If Glenn Dyer continues to post for Crikey, anyone reading this surely would want you, Beecher and Gribble to be honest and use his real name. To check the central and crucial information in this article, why don’t you simply ring Peter Overton and ask him on or off the record – is there such a clause in your contract and did Peter Meakin ring as described? No doubt many journalism students read Crikey. I hope they learn from this sordid little tale.

A response from Terry Television

Dear Clark Scribblewright and friends,

Fancy being sledged for using a pseudonym by someone using a pseudonym! Amazing, you really couldn’t see the absurdity of using a cover ‘name’, when mine is known. How unfortunate for you.

Thank you though for all the corrections and setting the record straight, as you know Crikey welcomes corrections, amplifications and information from subscribers and other readers.

For example I only started writing for Crikey after being sacked by Nine on January 19 last year and not for “several years” as you claim. So that’s wrong!

You have also failed the high standards you set me by claiming to identify that Crikey author, Chanel No 9 . Wrong again. Your allegation is just plain wrong Charles, old chap. To use the name you have written would be defamatory of that person and we have to protect the innocent, and people like you, Charles.

Don’t let yourself be made a bigger creature of the Third Floor at Willoughby than you already are. Bad luck for your silly Willoughby centric theories. By your own high standards, getting it wrong over Chanel No 9 means you do not know very much.

As for Peter Meakin. I contact him for reaction like I do others in the industry. Meakin sometime contacts me to tell me when I have got it wrong on Seven, under his name, Clark.

As for the “sordid little tale”. Were you referring to the way Jim Waley and others have been so abruptly dispensed with with over the past three years? Oh, you weren’t. That’s a pity, because that’s the real story about Nine.

How standards have dropped. How producers have been replaced by politicians who know next to nothing about television and that’s why you are struggling. If you were talking about all the loyal staff who have been removed, then I’d take you seriously.

When you defend a company that shows no loyalty to long serving staff (and there are many others including me), your argument falls very flat.

Disgruntled. Nah, getting on with my life. Very glad not to be still at Nine, despite the respect I still have for many of the people and the
culture of the company pre-2002. Now I’m just amazed at the way the Nine Network has descended and far it has fallen from those lofty days of Chisholm and Leckie.

So Clark Scribblewright, why don’t you use your real name? Don’t tell me it took more than one person to write all that. Get your ‘friends’ to fess up as well. Come on Charlie, Live by your own standards, have some courage, don’t be a Willoughby ghost all your life.

CRIKEY: A final point from the editor. If we were so pro-Seven and anti-Nine, how on earth did this piece about Seven’s tsunami disaster and this piece about security guard Karen Brown ever appear on our website.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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