We had a rare example of good triumphing over pap on TV last night as an outstanding edition of Australian Story plus The 7.30 Report relegated Nine’s increasingly lightweight What’s Good For You to fourth place. Australian Story focused on the Beaconsfield rescue and the continuing aftermath.

It has again underlined the paucity of thinking at the Nine and Seven Networks which fought bitterly for the exclusive rights to the story last year. They just never followed up and allowed those involved to tell the story without it being embellished or filtered through a reporter.

936,000 people watched Australian Story last night; it deserved more. It was compelling viewing as the people who were involved in the rescue teams spoke for the first time about the feelings they still have about the crisis and for each other. The Nine Network paid millions for the exclusive interview with Brant Webb and Todd Russell and yet it completely ignored this story.

It was Australian Story at its best last night. But what are we to make of the news that the program is running a two-part story on our Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. According to a draft press release doing the round of the ABC, it will go to air on Monday, 23 April and the following Monday night:

The job of foreign minister is one of the most sought after in any government. Alexander Downer has held the job throughout the Howard years, but it has never been more gruelling and controversial than it is now.

Australian Story producer Belinda Hawkins gained unprecedented access to those at the centre of power here, in Washington, and in Indonesia. It makes this Monday’s episode of Australian Story reminiscent of a real life ‘The West Wing.’

To prepare the two-part documentary, Australian Story filmed behind the scenes with Mr Downer, his family and his entourage during a tumultuous 16 weeks that ended in disaster in an Indonesian field when Garuda flight 200 crashed killing 21 people, including five Australians.

Some of those who died included journalists and officials who had been working closely with Minister Downer and who were well known to him. The program observes the minister as he deals with the unfolding tragedy.