Victims' misery a goldmine for chequebook TV

Victims' misery a goldmine for chequebook TV, by Peter Weekes, Ben Doherty - 7th May 2006
(Credit: The Age)

Bidding for exclusive rights to the Brant Webb and Todd Russell story is believed to have reached an Australian record, with Channel Nine close to signing a deal worth $500,000.

Eddie McGuire, the new chief of the Channel Nine was rumoured to be personally involved in overseeing discussions to secure the story.

Yesterday, one source told The Sunday Age that the Nine Network had "all but sealed" the deal with the Webb and Russell families.

McGuire later denied any direct personal involvement in negotiations and would not comment on any rumoured offer price for fear of tipping off rivals.

"I'm CEO of the Nine Network so obviously I would be involved in any discussions going on . . . but I am not personally involved and haven't spoken to anyone in relation to doing any deals down there, but someone from our organisation had better be," he told The Sunday Age.

If the half-million-dollar figure is correct, it would be the biggest story deal in Australian television history, topping the $400,000 paid to Iraqi hostage Douglas Wood.

Channel Seven is the only other television contender after Channel Ten ruled itself out, citing cost. Seven's news and current affairs head, Peter Meaken, said the network "would be interested in speaking to the miners and their families, and we don't expect them to do it for nothing".

Celebrity agents such as Max Markson, who describes Beaconsfield as a "miracle story", and Harry M. Miller are reluctant to name a price until the men are safely above ground.

But it would be out of character if they held back and allowed a rival to clinch the deal. "I would be surprised if Max Markson and Harry M. Miller haven't got something going on or some plans," said public relations specialist Greg Tingle, of Mediaman.

Over the past week a media outlet reported an unsourced claim that Webb and Russell could gain as much as $2 million should they decide to sell their story, but Tingle thinks this was more hype than commercial reality.

"If you look at some of Australia's biggest news stories where people have gone down the commercial road, it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that the figure would be closer to a couple of hundred thousand dollars," he said. "There is potential for a motion picture, documentary and book deals in it. Just what each of those segments are worth needs further exploring."

It is not unusual for victims in tragic events to sell their story. Thredbo survivor Stuart Diver sold his for $250,000, as did Lindy Chamberlain, but when freed Iraq hostage Douglas Wood hocked his tale of captivity to Channel Ten, the deal did not live up to the network's expectation, Tingle said.

Still, this story is different. Instead of one person trapped under the ground there are two, and the central characters in this story are miners who were simply doing their job when the roof literally caved in around them.


The Age


Media Man Australia

Markson Sparks!

Harry M. Miller Group


Beaconsfield Mine