Why did Douglas Wood and his family sign
the controversial deal with Ten to tell his story next Sunday night
with Sandra Sully? Sure, it’s about money, but just as importantly it’s
about control – which makes it a deal that could change the nature of
chequebook journalism.

The deal is a “co-production,” which means greater control lies in the
hands of the talent and not the media outlet. If it becomes the norm,
it will mean audiences will have less chance of obtaining an
independent and explainable version of these stories. Unlike similar
stories on 60 Minutes, Today Tonight or Four Corners, this not independent in any way – it’s no more than an officially sanctioned version of the story.

The Australian
and The SMH missed the point on Tuesday, but The Age
had most of the important detail, including the involvement of Steve
Vizard, a part-owner of Wood’s management company Profile Talent
Management. Vizard, who was known in the 1990s for “clipping the
ticket” across a wide range of arts industry deals, is clearly back in
the game. Industrial barrister Mark Klemens, the front man for the
agency, is Molly Meldrum’s manager and was the beak who got Darryl
Somers off a drink driving charge three years ago.

Nine’s 60 Minutes apparently had the deal all but in the bag until the Ten co-production idea and more money surfaced. The Age
and TV sources say the Ten bid was around $400,000, but the
co-production arrangement makes that difficult to work out. Because of
revenue sharing deals from any on-sales, Ten could have bid low and
offered PTM a bigger share of revenues at the back end from any
on-sales, say to the US, which is interested in the story because Wood
lives in California.

Ten and Douglas Wood have blown a big hole in the comfortable world of chequebook journalism.