Choppergate: News director resigns and Nine fires three journalists for faking live crosses


Eva Milic crosses to Melissa Mallet - dismissed


Eva Milic crosses to Cameron Price - dismissed


News director Lee Anderson - resigned

Three journalists involved in faking a live cross to the Nine News chopper have tonight been fired, and the network’s Queensland news director Lee Anderson has resigned.

Melissa Mallet, who took part in Saturday’s faked cross, and Cameron Price who was in the helicopter when it was repeated on Sunday, have both been dismissed.

aaron wakeley

Aaron Wakeley - dismissed

Nine News Queensland’s producer Aaron Wakeley has also been sacked over the incident labelled by the network’s rivals as “Choppergate”.

The departure of Anderson – a veteran Nine news staffer who led its coverage of the Queensland flood disaster – will come as a major blow for the network.

In both incidents, viewers were told the chopper was hovering near the search for murdered teenager Daniel Morcombe. In reality, on Saturday it was hovering near Nine’s Brisbane HQ, while on Sunday it was parked on the helipad with the lights turned off so viewers could not tell it was on the ground.

Sunday’s faked cross was the first to be revealed by Mumbrella, after video footage shot by a rival network came to light of the Nine News chopper on the helipad.

Nine initially told Mumbrella that it had been ordered to touch down by air traffic control because of bad weather and the producer was unaware until it was too late.

However, it then emerged that air traffic flight data suggested the Nine chopper had been nowhere near Beerwah during a live cross the previous day when weather was fine.

In both cases weekend host Eva Milic was presenting the bulletin.

Last night the network apologised to its viewers in a message read by weeknight co-presenter Melissa Downes.

This evening Nine released a statement to Mumbrella saying:

QTQ Director of News, Lee Anderson, tendered his resignation today, and three Nine employees have been dismissed in the wake of the misrepresentation by Nine News of QTQ helicopter’s location during two live reports last weekend.

Further, newsroom procedures and lines of communication have been reviewed, resulting in immediate changes to QTQ’s news gathering guidelines. All News staff will receive further training on their editorial, legal and code obligations

These actions follow a full internal investigation of the incidents ordered by Nine Network Managing Director, Jeffrey Browne, and conducted this week by Nine Queensland Managing Director, Kylie Blucher and Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Mark Calvert.

In a letter today Mr. Anderson said “This morning I tender my resignation as Director of News accepting full responsibility for the events of the last few days. I have served this network to the best of my ability for almost 25 years. It has been a privilege and I wish the team all the very best.”

Subsequently, Nine management dismissed Nine News Reporters Cameron Price and Melissa Mallet, and QTQ News Producer Aaron Wakely.

Kylie Blucher and Mark Calvert said in a joint statement:

“This has obviously been a very difficult process, but our primary consideration was always Nine News’ commitment to accuracy. This is critical not only to our charter, but to maintaining the trust we have developed with our audience over a very long period. “

While Mr. Anderson’s resignation was accepted, and his decision was the right one in the circumstances, they acknowledged his long and distinguished service with Nine.

Jeffrey Browne said: “Our position is unequivocal. We rightly demand accountability and high standards of others, and we must meet those expectations ourselves. Over the weekend, we did not. Our clear determination is to ensure that sort of conduct is never repeated, and we have drawn a very clear line in the sand by removing the staff involved in in that breach of trust with our viewers.”

Cameron Price joined Nine in 2008 after a stint with WIN. He has a BA in journalism from the University of Queensland.

Melissa Mallet also joined Nine in 2008 after a stint at WIN during which time she was also crowned Miss Toowoomba Showgirl, her Nine profile states. She studied a BA in journalism at QUT, where she won young student metro journalist of the year in the Queensland Media Awards.

There was no word in the statement about weekend presenter Eva Milic – a former model and Miss World Australia – who conducted both live crosses. She has a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication degree from Griffith University. Most of her on air career has been as a weather presenter.

Nine veteran Lee Anderson was given his current brief almost exactly a year ago when Kylie Blucher was named MD of Channel Nine Queensland.

Earlier this year Anderson took part in a NineMSN livestream during which he talked about how the network uses its choppers for newsgathering.

trust_nineThe timing of Choppergate is particularly poor for Nine because the network has just begun to air a promotion based around it being the network to trust.



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