Two Australian television journalists and a producer have been sacked for conducting live reports in which they pretended to be flying close to a murder investigation site.
The scandal also forced the Nine Network’s Brisbane news director Lee Anderson, a 25-year veteran at one of Australia’s top-rating commerical broadcasters, to resign.
The reporters had claimed they were in a helicopter near the town of Beerwah in Queensland state, where the high-profile search for the remains of a missing teenager was ongoing, when in fact they were near their studio.
In one incident last weekend they were hovering close to the studio and in the second the helicopter was still on the station’s helipad — an error noted by a rival network which filmed the fake “live cross” as it went to air.
“We rightly demand accountability and high standards of others, and we must meet those expectations ourselves. Over the weekend, we did not,” Nine Network managing director Jeffrey Browne said.
“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 that breach of trust with our viewers,” he added.
The network said newsroom procedures had been reviewed and all staff would receive further training on their editorial, legal and other obligations.
The disappearance of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe in 2003 sparked a nationwide hunt avidly followed by the public and press.
In a long-awaited breakthrough in one of Australia’s most high-profile missing children cases, a 41-year-old truck driver was this month charged with Morcombe’s abduction and murder.