Ten confirms it paid for interview with former Schapelle cellmate Renae Lawrence

SchapelleNetwork Ten has admitted it has paid for a prison cell “interview” featuring convicted Australian drug smuggler Renae Lawrence on her time sharing a cell with Schapelle Corby, raising the issue of whether police will again investigate an Australian TV network under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The news special entitled “Schapelle’s Secrets” is being promoted by the TV network as a “world exclusive” and is understood to feature video shot on a mobile phone where according to the Ten promo she “reveals all” about her time as Schapelle’s cellmate. Lawrence is still in jail in Bali.

It will be aired on its 5pm Eyewitness News bulletin, with a follow-up special on The Project from 6.30pm, on host Charlie Pickering’s last night.

The Corby family has since issued a statement slamming Ten for airing the interview for “ratings and money”. See it here.

Ten’s decision to air the paid-for interview with an Australian citizen convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia follows raids conducted by the Australian Federal Police on the Seven Network in February seeking documents around an alleged deal between the network and the Corby family for an interview with Schapelle, shortly after her release from prison.

A spokeswoman for Ten told Mumbrella today that “a small fee was paid to an agency for this interview” with Lawrence. She adds Ten does not believe the interview contravenes Australian proceeds of crime laws.

“The interview was done in recent weeks, not when Schapelle and Renae were cell mates,” said the spokeswoman. “Network Ten paid a news agency representing the interviewer, not Renae Lawrence.”

It is currently unclear whether the interviewer paid Lawrence for the interview.

Ten’s decision to screen the interview comes only weeks after the AFP dropped its investigation into the Seven Network’s attempt to conduct a paid interview with Schapelle Corby, arguing an investigation by Indonesian authorities superseded their own. Seven has since won a court victory against the AFP over the validity of the search warrants executed on that day, which may make any potential investigations into Ten’s deal more complex.

Mumbrella understands the footage was offered to rival networks by a third party asking for as much as $150,000 although it is thought that Ten paid substantially less than that for the footage. The video is thought to show Lawrence stating on camera that Schapelle told her she was guilty.

Ten has been plugging the interview hard over the weekend after announcing it had secured it on Friday, as it bids to gain greater audiences after recent poor ratings.

Despite intense media interest around her release, and reports of a bidding war between rival networks to secure an exclusive interview, Schapelle’s story has failed to translate to bumper audiences for rivals Nine and Seven.

Nine aired a telemovie about her case on the night before Schapelle was released, which pulled in just 1.022m metro viewers, while Seven got 1.9m for its INXS drama. But, when Seven showed heavily touted footage of her first moments of freedom on its Sunday Night show the audience halved from the previous week, an interview with the remaining members of INXS.

Lawrence is serving 20 years in an Indonesian prison after being found with 2.6 kg of heroin on her body in 2005.

Update 3:30pm:

The Australian Federal Police has responded to Mumbrella saying it is aware of the interview this evening, adding: “At this stage it is not appropriate to speculate or comment in regard to this matter.”

Nic Christensen 


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