It looks like Stephen Rice, the producer who spent two weeks in a Lebanese jail, might have taken the fall for the 60 Minutes child snatch fiasco.
Despite an “independent review” which recommended that no individual be sacked over the matter, Nine has announced that Stephen Rice “will be leaving the company, effective immediately”.
The report revealed the 60 Minutes operation had systemic failures at every level.
SMH reports, the review found that a number of “critically relevant questions” were never asked before a decision was made to film the attempted rescue-cum-abduction.
Amongst the questions the report says were never asked are:
1. Could payment to the child recovery agency encourage an unlawful act?
2. Could such a payment backfire on Nine?
3. Would Nine’s staff be participating in an unlawful act?
4. What were the potential consequences if the act failed?
5. What would be the impact on the reputation of Nine and 60 Minutes if the operation failed or resulted in injury?
6. Did the public interest in telling the story outweigh the risks involved?
The report also revealed that matters were made worse when 60 Minutes had come to operate with a degree of autonomy so great “that the executive producer saw no need to consult with the director of news & current affairs on the wisdom of commissioning this story”.
But was Nine was more culpable for having paid the child recovery agency, Child Abduction Recovery International?
“There was little practical difference in paying that company directly [or] paying Ms Faulkner, when Nine well knew what all of the funds would be used for”, according to the report by Gerald Stone, the founder of 60 Minutes in Australia in 1979; senior Nine executive David Hurley; and Nine Entertainment Co’s in-house counsel Rachel Launders.
The report also concluded that the commissioning and oversight of the story revealed “poor judgement” and a “failure to adhere to Nine’s usual procedures”.