Cheque book journalism is a grubby business involving all sorts of moral contortions. Even worse, it sometimes doesn’t work.

Take last night’s A Current Affair, starring Ron Vigenser, the man accused of planting drugs on Schapelle Corby. ACA got close to bitter rival Today Tonight in the ratings, but finished a distant last in the PR stakes after an extraordinary exchange in Sydney yesterday between both programs.

TT won the national ratings with 1.278 million viewers, 27,000 in front of ACA, but did it win the war of words between the bitter rivals? In last night’s ACA, Vigenser denied being involved in planting drugs on Schapelle Corby, presently on trial in Bali. ACA paid $15,000 for that interview, a fee its EP David Hurley justified by saying TT was offering more.

At the end of TT last night, host Naomi Robson launched into a dramatic verbal assault on Hurley: “There is no nice way of saying it. Mr Hurley is lying – we made no offer of money”.

Earlier, on 2GB, Hurley had said: “Despite denials by Today Tonight, they were up to their eyeballs (on Wednesday) offering to pay more than Nine … the truth is I agonised about this … at the end of the day it’s a fine line but we were doing the right thing in a legal sense”. Hurley also told the Daily Telegraph that Vigenser had signed a statutory declaration confirming that TT had offered him money B

But what are we to make of a statutory declaration from a man who admitted in the ACA interview to being jailed 11 times on 150 convictions?

Peter Fray

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