Channel Nine released its review into 60 Minutes‘ Lebanon kidnapping debacle on Friday. Producer Stephen Rice was sacked while reporter Tara Brown, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Bellment were censured. Higher-ups escaped punishment — the suits say Rice, of his own accord and without consulting anyone else, paid a “child recovery agency” to kidnap Sally Faulkner’s children.
It stretches incredulity to believe Rice would have a spare $69,000 lying around he could spend on kidnappings without any approval from above. Even if that were the case, Nine has created a culture where this kind of “journalism” is encouraged. Had the Lebanon operation gone off without a hitch, there would have been champagne and accolades, not censure and sackings.
How do we know? Because Nine has done this before. Gerald Stone, the “godfather” of 60 Minutes who led the investigation into the botched operation, was boss of the show during a similar kidnapping in the 1980s in Spain. Stone told Good Weekend magazine in 1984 the story was “my finest hour”.
In that instance, Nine actively participated in the operation and drove the getaway car. So why would Rice not think similar glory awaited in Lebanon …?