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Nov 9, 2011

‘Bali boy’ in grubby TV rights deal: are Nine’s cameras ready to roll?

Has the Nine Network opened its chequebook for the family of the now infamous "Bali boy"? The agent and the network aren't talking, but network rivals insist it's been done.

Jason Whittaker — Former <em>Crikey</em> editor and publisher

Jason Whittaker

Former Crikey editor and publisher

On Sunday it was a done deal …

By yesterday it was all a beat-up …

And today nobody is talking about whether the Nine Network has opened its chequebook for the family of the now infamous “Bali boy”. Except television rivals, who insist the deal has been done and cameras are set to roll once the teenager accused of marijuana possession has been judged.

Nine issued a terse “no comment” to Crikey this morning after repeated requests to clarify recent denials that a deal has been signed. But Channel Seven’s veteran news boss Peter Meakin insists the contract was signed last week.

Meakin told Crikey yesterday Seven was sounded out about a chat with the family for its Sunday Night program but refused to pay a fee given it was a criminal case. “We said we were interested but not using money,” he said.

A Seven source confirms: “That was our decision from the get-go.”

And anyway, Meakin said he couldn’t see the value in an interview before any conviction and one that couldn’t name the minor in question: “I didn’t think there was much appeal in running an interview without disclosing his identity.”

According to a source involved at one point in the negotiations, celebrity agent Grant Vandenberg approached the networks in early October, soon after the 14-year-old was arrested, with a starting price of “at least $100,000”. A joint media deal was suggested, with interviews on television and in a magazine.

The weekend reports from unnamed sources at Nine suggest a $300,000 deal, with an interview to run on 60 Minutes and Nine Entertainment Co title Women’s Day.

Vandenberg, who said yesterday a deal with Nine is yet to be signed, wasn’t returning calls this morning. The former corporate spinner and freelance agent has 2GB hot head Alan Jones and Oscar winner Russell Crowe on his books, and represented former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld during his legal troubles.

Parents of the NSW teenager issued a statement yesterday through the boy’s lawyers “vigorously” denying they have sealed any media deal that would profit from their “son’s misfortune”. The statement said the father is a successful businessman who ”does not need the money that has been suggested”.

One source says a deal may have unravelled after the leak to the media, when the parents realised they may not be able to keep the proceeds due to laws against profiting from crime and that it may jeopardise chances for a light sentence.

“From the Indonesian perspective, they’re no doubt thinking that they have bent over backwards — personal intercession from the Justice Minister, expedited court case, better conditions than most, etc — and, in the light of all of this, to see the boy and his family likely profiting from the crime has/will no doubt tick them off,” they suggested.

“So what might well have happened is that when the shit hit the fan on Sunday and the worst consequences became starkly apparent everyone decided to deny everything. Which, if these suspicions are true, is probably where we are now.”

Another scenario being suggested is Vandenberg struck a deal with Nine through network spinner David Hurley, who is believed to be close to the agent, without telling the family. Hurley told other media yesterday there is “categorically no deal”.

Prosecutors will recommend a sentence for the NSW teenager on Friday. He was found with 3.6 grams of cannabis and is pleading for no charges to be laid.

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36 comments

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36 thoughts on “‘Bali boy’ in grubby TV rights deal: are Nine’s cameras ready to roll?

  1. SusieQ

    What a murky mess. Clearly the commercial networks have no boundaries on who they will exploit. However, it takes two to tango – lets hope the parents think again about profiting from all this (if they have in fact done a deal) – how could they do that to their child?
    Certainly an interview I would not watch.

  2. Whistleblower

    The really revolting thing about this whole sordid business is that programs like 60 Minutes hold up a mirror to society and it’s not a good look. In order to flog tampons and toothpaste, the media will prostitute itself and degrade any decency standard in order to gain the attention of the fickle consuming public.

    They know that the public as voyeurs will tune in to the program in exploiting this situations and the advertising sales managers will rub their hands with glee. The situation has some parallels with the death of Princess Dianawhere reportedly advertising executives in one of our major television channels were jumping for joy at the prospect of the tripling of spot advertising rates as a consequence of the attention surrounding her death.

    It will be interesting to see the outcome in view of the “weasel worded” denials from Channel 9 and representatives of the so-called “Bali boy’s” family as to what deal has actually been struck, and the extent to which all players in this sordid affair tell porkies to cover their tracks.

    If I was a member of the Indonesian judiciary involved in this case I would be outraged at the prospect of a defendant subject to criminal proceedings profiting so massively from the situation of the application of Indonesian justice. This includes whole of the voyeuristic Australian media and associated political apparatchiks including both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs prostituting themselves in a populist vote buying exercise. Now that the carpetbaggers have moved in I would be even more revolted.

  3. Liz45

    I heard Ray Martin say on Monday night(Q&A) that there’s no deal!

    I hope that this is so. Talk about using your child for monetary gain if it is true! I’d not watch it either!

    If there’s any truth in it, it could jeopardise this young person’s future? I just hope he’s allowed home to Australia and is treated for any addiction he has. No doubt he’ll require counselling also. (If I was his mother, I would too! What a traumatic time – a nightmare?)

  4. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    It’s amazing, the fall from sobriety of the Australian media-consuming public. There are two lumbering elephants and an ugly gorilla in the room here and we are so drunk with trough-feeding we won’t even notice, let alone mention them:
    Shapelle, the Bali Nine and the Australian tabloid media.
    Drug busts in Bali are celebrity news. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as it’s an Aussie. They’re all innocent, we want them back so we can exploit them and Indonesia’s interests are irrelevant. It goes straight to the tabloid extreme and no one gives a stuff.
    Australia seems to be completely bamboozled by Indonesia – their Muslim religion (except Bali), their slaughterhouses, their ‘people smugglers’ and yet their strong views and standards about drug offenses on their territory. Our media participates in the scrums around Indonesian court proceedings (because they are ‘larrikins’ of course) and pretends not to understand how hypocritical and scungy it all seems.
    Liz45, if you were his mother, you would probably already have been ‘counseled’ by a whirlwind of legal, financial, diplomatic and media-handling professionals. The shock, grief and scandal of your personal trauma would probably not be helped by most of the ‘advice’. These guys have no standards and mostly, neither does their audience. It’s simply entertainment, on TV. This is how it’s done and we all know it. Why are we shocked?

  5. drmick

    I want to see the Murdoch/9/daily telegraph treatment of this.
    “Government refuses to legalise grass. Kid forced to buy overseas”
    “Hell hole baits and traps unsuspecting innocent addict”
    “I was used as a political pawn”
    “Parents of addict blame government. Again”,

  6. zut alors

    Not only from the ‘Indonesian perspective’ would people be ticked-off, I’ll be riled if this rumoured deal comes to fruition.

    Any interview with a fourteen year old is guaranteed to be seriously monosyllabic. For thrills I’d rather wash the car than hear some youth recount the details of their petty drug deal. Receiving a telephone call from the PM is bound to be ‘awesome’.

  7. Aphra

    @Whistleblower –

    Yet another wrong-headed attack on the PM, this time for allegedly ‘prostituting’ herself. For the record, she rang Greg Moriarty, the Ambassador, for an update. He said that he was in actually in the prison with X at that moment and asked if she’d care to say a word or two to him. Hardly wrong and inappropriate in my view that she did, but it might have been hard on the kid had she said ‘no’. Now, you’re not going to tell me that there’s anything untoward in a PM’s ringing one of her ambassadors, are you?

    As for the inappropriateness of an Australian youth’s being in an Indonesian prison, let’s turn our attention to the dozens, some say hundreds, of Indonesian children in Australian jails.

  8. Viking

    Some questions. Is cannabis addictive? Is it not well known that cannabis is readily available in Bali despite harsh penaltys if caught? Would you, as a parent, take your (allegedly) addicted son to this resort.? If you did, would you allow him to wander around there with money in his pocket alone and unsupervised? Who may be responsible if the boy is guily as charged?

  9. Liz45

    @Hugh McColl – If I was his mother and knew of his addiction to marijuana, we’d never end up in Bali? I’d be too scared! But I’m in no way judging these parents. My sister once said a very wise thing while we were raising our own kids -‘never run down other peoples’ kids, you never know what your own might bring to your door’? Indeed! Good advice!

    @WHISTLEBLOWER – APHRA is correct about Julia Gillard. It’s the job of Foreign Affairs to care for people overseas who end up before the Law. The media don’t tell us the whole story – truth tends to take the ‘shine’ off their headlines. I thought you’d be more savvy than this!

    If both these people hadn’t taken an interest or played a supportive role, you’d be accusing them of letting people rot in jail blah blah! Their involvement was correct. In fact, seeing he’s only a child I’d expect nothing less of them. Children are citizens too you know!

    My heart goes out to the whole family. When(I hope?) they arrive home, they should be left alone to seek counselling etc as they require – but LEFT ALONE!

    If I was the Attorney General I’d tell them and the relevant TV network(if it’s true re a story) that it’s not appropriate and could be detrimental to the young boy!

    If I was Julia Gillard I’d be making sure that Indonesian boys in our jails are also sent home – not left to languish in adult jails among awful criminals who could abuse them! That’s what I’m critical of our Govt for! Let’s make sure all underage kids are protected – not just Aussie kids!

    @VIKING – Not only is cannabis addictive, but recent research now shows, that relying on this drug over a period of years could bring on a more serious mental illness/disease in later life – as a young adult perhaps! I suggest you do some research – it’s far from a harmless drug – even taking out the risk of lung disease as with ordinary cigarettes!

    Even if he is guilty – it’s only a small amount, and he is only a BOY. In Australia he’d be cautioned, and the police hopefully would have a discussion with his parents???As a parent, I was responsible for my boys when they were under 17, or is it 18 now?

  10. drsmithy

    Some questions. Is cannabis addictive?

    Not in the physiological sense.

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