Should former 60 Minutes executive producer Gerald Stone continue to oversee the Nine Network’s inquiry into the Beirut debacle? Stone has an independent mind, but he has form in this particular area.

According to Fairfax, former 60 Minutes reporter and Nine star Ray Martin ‘fessed up to being a part of a similar story back in 1980. That was in the second year of 60 Minutes’ life.

“Veteran Australian journalist Ray Martin has defended the actions of the 60 Minutes crew imprisoned in Lebanon, recalling how he was involved in filming a remarkably similar child recovery operation in Spain in 1980 while working for the same television program.

“In fact, Martin even drove the vehicle carrying the recovered one-year-old boy and his mother from Barcelona to the Spanish capital Madrid, before the mother and her son later boarded a boat to Gibraltar and fled the country.”

And who was EP of 60 Minutes at the time? Stone, of course. According to former staff members and Martin, Stone authorised Gordon Bick (producer and formerly of Four Corners) and Martin to pursue the Spanish abduction story. Stone told Good Weekend magazine in 1984 the story was “my finest hour”. Bick, by contrast, told the magazine:

“It meant being on the inside of a kidnap plot and siding with the mother against the father, something that worried me.

“It certainly made a good story for 60 Minutes, with a lot of promotion value. But should we have taken sides in a family dispute over a baby?”

Now Stone is set to decide whether 60 Minutes should have taken sides in a family dispute over two children, good television or not.

Stories this morning raise further questions, with documentary evidence Nine paid $69,000 into the account of the child recovery service involved in this story. News Corp is reporting Nine paid half a million dollars to the former husband of Sally Faulkner.

Peter Fray

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