Misha Ketchell writes:

What was really behind Australian Story‘shagiography this week on Wizard home loans founder Mark Bouris? On Monday, ABC News Online published a yarn claiming that night’s episode of Australian Story had the scoop on Bouris’s plan to press for a banking licence in Australia:

The home loans company Wizard wants to take on Australia’s big four banks.

Wizard Home Loans founder Mark Bouris told the ABC’s Australian Story that if he is granted a banking licence, he would like to become number one in the industry.

He says Wizard would provide products such as insurance, loans and credit cards.

“I think what this will do is bring a new level of competition to the banking sector and I think that’s what Australians need,” he said.

General Electric Corporation bought Wizard two years ago for more than $400 million.

…The full report will be shown tonight on ABC TV’s Australian Story.

But according to Ian Rogers, the editor of online banking industry newsletter The Sheet, GE has been talking about its banking licence for at least 12 months and it’s not a major issue because GE Money already has a restricted banking licence in Australia for its credit card business.

The second possible explanation for the story is the explanation given by Australian Story, that behind Bouris’s profile there is “very private man” whose character is revealed on the show. Yet the closest Bouris comes to genuine self-revelation is probably this admission that he may have contributed to demise of his two marriages by working too hard:

“Marriages ending are complex things. I have no doubt, though, that the amount of sort of dedication I put to my business interests, and the level of support I had to give to kids growing up, had impact on the quality of relationship I was able to give to my partners.”

According to Rogers, who worked at the Financial Review in the mid to late 1990s and watched Bouris assiduously court journalists when he was building his business, “there was nothing new in this story. I couldn’t see why Australian Story took the trouble. That’s a criticism of Australian Story. Not Bouris.”

Australian Story‘s acting executive producer, Philip Williams, said the story wasn’t pitched by a PR company and the idea was to look at a rising star in the business world. “We’re not running with anyone else’s agenda. We’re simply telling a story in the Australian Story style. Is this a legitimate story? Of course it is. I think the approach was fair and reasonable… We don’t pretend to be Four Corners. We don’t pretend to be the 7:30 Report.”

Fair enough, but as Lord Northcliffe said: “Journalism is something that someone somewhere doesn’t want published. Everything else is advertising.” And as we understand it, the ABC doesn’t take ads.

Peter Fray

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