News

Seven and Nine release siege survivor promos, while downplaying risk to coronial inquest

The first big news battle of 2015 is shaping up with Seven and Nine both releasing promos highlighting their news specials with survivors of the Martin Place siege.

Both the Seven and Nine networks are understood to have paid for the interviews with survivors, which has drawn criticism amid concerns by a former coroner that they could prejudice the coronial inquest into the Sydney siege, which begins at the end of the month.

At this stage the air dates for the two rival specials is undecided and both networks have played down the risk that evidence could be tainted by the specials.

Seven has signed mother of three Marcia Mikhael and 82-year-old John O’Brien who have both been interviewed by Melissa Doyle. The Australian earlier this week reported they had been paid $400,000 and $100,000 respectively.

The Seven promo details what Mikhael thought might be her final phone call to her children.

Nine built a broader special signing eight of the siege survivors including Lindt cafe workers Fiona Ma and Harriette Denny along with other survivors such as Joel Herat and Jarrod Morton Hoffman. Fairfax Media had reported that the survivors had been paid close to a $1m, although this figure has since been downplayed.

In the Nine promo siege hostage Selina Win Pe talks of the terrifying ordeal and reveals gunman Man Haron Monis allowed her to make one final call to her children telling her she only had 15 minutes to live.

While the air dates appear undecided it is likely that both networks will wait until the return of the ratings years on February 8.

A spokeswoman for Nine told Mumbrella the network did not believe the TV special would negatively impact the coronial inquest.

“60 Minutes has been working closely with NSW Police to ensure the factual integrity of the story,” she said. “The survivors who are speaking to 60 Minutes have done so after finalising their police statements, and with the knowledge of police.”

Seven yesterday also downplayed the risk of interviews telling Fairfax it would never wish to “interfere with the conduct of a proper inquiry”.

“But these are intensely personal stories which go beyond the witness box and it’s a bit beyond the pale to accuse people of colouring accounts of what would have been an horrific and harrowing ordeal,” a spokeswoman said.

Nic Christensen

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