So Nine has appointed the former (and founding) executive producer of 60 Minutes Gerald Stone, former A Current Affair boss David Hurley and the network’s general counsel Rachel Launders to conduct a review of the Beirut debacle. Stone will lead the review.
Some will argue this inquiry will make sure the real reasons never see the light of day — a cover-up. But Stone, in particular, has shown since his Nine days that he is of an independent mind; Hurley has been an off-and-on adviser to Nine, especially to former CEO David Gyngell, but can think for himself. But it’s still not a good look: both Stone and Hurley produced the chequebook regularly while running those programs. Will both have an interest in minimising any criticism of that and protecting the name of 60 Minutes? It would have been far more credible if the inquiry had been overseen and conducted by independent directors, or outsiders. Two Nine board members, Liz Gaines or Holly Kramer, would have been ideal.
This is an in-house inquiry — but it should examine not only the performance of Nine people but the involvement of non-Nine contractors and bodies in the recovery team, lawyers in Beirut and the Australian government. It should examine all emails and other communications at Nine, and how high — to news director Darren Wick and/or Nine CEO Hugh Marks? — it went.
What are the terms of reference? Will it be made public in full? Will it be given to the media regulator? Will Nine repay any costs incurred by the Australian taxpayer in extricating the 60 Minutes crew and giving them consular assistance? And what will it find on the practice of chequebook journalism? There are big questions to answer.