The office of Julian Burnside QC has confirmed to Crikey this morning that he will be representing Mary Kostakidis in her fight against SBS.

Kostakidis walked out the SBS door on August 10 and hasn’t been back since. The Australian is reporting this morning that Kostakidis will sue the network for breach of contract and the focus is falling on Stan Grant, the co-reader of the SBS World News Australia at 6.30pm.

Grant was brought home from CNN Hong Kong by former CNN executive, Paul Cutler, the SBS News and Current Affairs boss, who is also a friend of SBS Managing Director, Shaun Brown.

And with Grant’s history of being made to feel uncomfortable in the host role at Seven’s Real Life, he should have had some empathy for his co-host. But judging from the on air deep freeze, and the steady stream of tips sent to Crikey over the last few months, he didn’t.

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But there’s another group of people who should actually cop the blame because it’s all about where the buck stops in an organisation.

Look at the composition of the SBS board.

One is the SBS chairman, the very well connected Carla Zampatti, a Liberal Party appointment. Given her business background she should have known been the one who chatted to MD Brown and made sure that Kostakidis, the public face of SBS, was feeling OK.

The other well-known Liberal Party appointment on the SBS board, former Howard speech writer, Christopher Pearson, wouldn’t know the first thing about managing a modern media company. The person who really should have realised there was a problem developing was the deputy chairman, former Nine current affairs executive and author, Gerald Stone.

Given his extensive background at the ABC, Nine, Seven and SBS he should have been very aware of the problem developing at 6.30 pm between Kotsakidis and Grant and forced action to repair the problem.

A central observation included in Stone’s recent book, Who Killed Channel 9? was the damage that a group of senior managers without TV experience could do at a place like Nine. And at SBS? 

The board and all of SBS have been content to bask in the profile Kostakidis built for the organisation.

Here’s what SBS says about her on the news website:

Mary Kostakidis has been the enduring face of SBS TV news for the past twenty years.

However, her involvement with the organisation began seven years prior to that.

27 years experience at SBS: Kostakidis is part of the place, its public face and corporate memory, which is especially important in SBS’s current headlong rush to be the fourth commercial TV network in this country.

But it seems SBS is now run by a group of people with no appreciation of the past, or willingness to acknowledge the brand value of such a credible and experienced newsreader.