"60 Minutes" producer Stephen Rice lost his job at the Nine Network over the program's botched child abduction attempt, media reports said Friday. Rice, who spent two weeks in a Lebanese jail, along with reporter Tara Brown, cameraman Richard Malone and sound operator David Ballment, were detained last month in Beirut.
On Friday, Nine Network released its report into the case, blasting the "60 Minutes" operation for systemic failures at every level. Hugh Marks, the network's CEO, announced that the recovery operation exposed the crew to "serious risks" and "significant reputational damage." The other staff involved in the operation will reportedly keep their jobs, but have been given formal warnings.
The review — conducted by Gerald Stone, the founder of "60 Minutes" in Australia in 1979, senior Nine executive David Hurley and Nine Entertainment's in-house counsel Rachel Launders — found that a number of "critically relevant questions" related to the decision to film the attempted rescue-cum-abduction of the children of Brisbane's Sally Faulkner in Lebanon were never raised "by the executive producer who approved it, the senior producer who proposed it, or the reporting team that volunteered to participate in it."
Marks reportedly said that the company would improve its processes related to story selection and approval.
"We got too close to the story and suffered damaging consequences," he said in a statement. "Amongst other elements of the execution of this story it was inappropriate, and at odds with our standard procedure, for a payment to be made directly by 60 Minutes to the recovery agency that had been independently contracted by Sally Faulkner.
"It was also inappropriate, with the risks involved for our crew, not to have consulted with Nine's security advisers before the story was finalized."
Nine Chairman Peter Costello said, according to the Australian: “It is the determination of the Board to build a robust system of checks and balances to guard against such events occurring in the future. Our talented people are the most valuable resource of the company and their safety is our priority.”