60 Minutes’ producer Stephen Rice set to launch legal action against Nine following dismissal

Stephen Rice, the 60 Minutes producer fired last week by Channel Nine for his role in a story “child recovery” operation in Lebanon, is to launch legal action against the TV Network.

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Journalist Tara Brown with producer Stephen Rice, on her left (Image Nine News)

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that Rice – who is the only Nine employee to be dismissed over the incident, which resulted from the 60 Minutes’ TV crew being charged with kidnapping in Lebanon – has hired high-profile workplace lawyer, John Laxon.

The newspaper is quoting “friends” close to Rice, who claim that Nine reassured the experienced TV producer that no one would be fired and it was for this reason that Rice did not seek legal advice as Nine began its review of what occurred in Lebanon.

“They said right from the ­beginning no-one was going to get the sack,” the friend told the Telegraph, “because of this he wasn’t legally represented at the review and hadn’t sought any legal advice.”

60 Minutes on Sunday apologised to viewers for its role in the story which involved the TV network funding the abduction of Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s children from their father in Lebanon.

The program interviewed Gerald Stone, the founding producer of 60 Minutes, who led the review into the Lebanon kidnapping incident, which on Friday revealed major flaws in the story approval process that led to the 60 Minutes crew’s continuing involvement in the story.

Stone also took aim at the TV Network over the sacking of Rice, telling host Michael Usher the decision was “unfair”.

Stone; Rice's sacking was unfair.

Stone: Sacking just one 60 Minutes’ crew member “unfair”

“There were ways of doing it that would have reduced those risks but to try to  cover a parental kidnapping in one of the world’s most heavily guarded cities/capitals in the world was just a bridge too far,” said Stone.

“As long as management was not completely in control of the program it seemed to me to be unfair – and I am a journalist – that a journalist was picked out, and if one was going to be picked out it was going to have to be the producer of the program because things do rest heavily on the role of a producer.”

The internal review recommended no staff member be dismissed; however, management at Nine chose to fire Rice and issue the rest of crew – journalist Tara Brown, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment – with formal warnings.

John Laxon has been approached for comment. Nine has declined to comment.


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