Network 10 successfully gags Peter van Onselen over critical op-ed

Network 10 has been successful in its legal bid to effectively gag its former star reporter Peter van Onselen.

The academic and high-profile journalist penned an opinion piece in The Australian criticising the performance of his ex-employer, sparking a speedy court stoush.

Peter van Onselen left Network 10 earlier this year.

The network claimed van Onselen had breached a non-disparagement clause in his employment contract by writing he had “reason to doubt” the company’s “long-term viability” based on its falling share price and low ratings.

“You could choose to be a little more upbeat about [US parent company] Paramount and Network 10’s future if the streaming part of the business was firing, but it’s not,” he wrote.

American media giant Paramount purchased Network 10 in 2017 after it entered voluntary administration.

“Since that time the network’s ratings have slowly ebbed lower and lower, elongating the divide between it and its more successful commercial rivals in Australia,” van Onselen wrote, blaming “brand and management”.

Network 10 on Monday sought an urgent injunction in the New South Wales Supreme Court, preventing van Onselen from criticising it further.

The request was successful. He is now barred from “disparaging or making any statement or publication” about the network that could “bring into disrepute or ridicule, or which may otherwise adversely affect the respective reputations” it or its staff, The Australian Financial Review reports, citing court documents.

Arthur Moses SC and Phillip Sharp will represent Network 10 while van Onselen will be represented by media lawyer John Laxon and barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC at a hearing on 29 June.

As Mumbrella reported yesterday, it’s understood van Onselen will dispute the claim his op-ed breached the non-disparagement clause and will argue a deed cannot be interpreted to constrain him ever speaking about his former employer, publicly or privately, for life.

The information contained in the op-ed was publicly available and not related to material sourced from the period of his employment, Mumbrella understands he will argue.

Network 10 and van Onselen both declined to comment.

Van Onselen left Network 10 earlier this year after serving as political editor and a regular panellist on The Project.

He is The Australian’s contributing editor and a professor of politics at University of Western Australia.


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