Television staff

Cleo Smith Interview: Nine employees furious over $2 million in fees paid by network for TV rights

Nine Network staff are reportedly furious after revelations the network paid well over $2million – an Australian record – for an exclusive interview with the parents of four-year-old Cleo Smith, with some horrified that the little girl be interrogated. his ordeal in front of the camera.

The deal would include a plan for interviews with Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, and stepfather, Jake Gliddon, to air on the networks’ news programs and flagship current affairs program 60 Minutes.

It’s also rumored that Cleo will be asked to face the cameras, with the interviews set to be turned into print reports in the Nine newspapers and a six-part special for Stan.

The possibility of Cleo being questioned about her horrific 18-day ordeal after she was allegedly abducted from a tent at a remote campsite near Carnarvon and held captive by a local man, Terence Darrell Kelly, has outraged many on the network, reports The Australian.

Camera iconCleo Smith in hospital after being rescued by police. Credit: Washington State Police/Washington State Police

The staff are also worried about the commercialization of the family, with agent Max Markson claiming he could pocket at least $400,000 to arrange the deal.

“What are the possible consequences if we ask this young girl to talk about what happened to her, when we don’t know what she went through? a reporter told the national newspaper.

“And what is the optics of it, as far as the viewing public is concerned?”

Nine’s staff are further angered by the fact that the network recently suffered massive budget cuts. the Cleo deal is reported to account for around a quarter of 60 Minutes’ annual budget.

Seven West Media, owner of The West Australian, also bid for the deal.

It is understood that SWM was concerned that the size and marketing of the deal – including the commission for the talent agent – could have long-term negative effects on the family.

Industry sources have speculated to the Australian that Nine boss Mike Sneesby is determined not to be beaten by Seven this year, having lost last year’s ratings war by a small margin.

Sounds like an inexperienced CEO who had a blood rush in his first bidding war.

“Nine got scared at the end of the year after losing their No.

“This is insane. This is dinosaur checkbook journalism,” an insider said.

“Sounds like an inexperienced CEO who had a blood rush in his first bidding war.

“Shareholders will scream. Kerry Stokes is a shrewd judge – he knows what a story is worth – and instinctively he knew it wasn’t worth that much.

Offers for the exclusive interview began almost immediately after the baby girl was discovered, with producers flocking to the remote town.

It is unclear when the talks will take place, as Mr Kelly has not yet pleaded against him. Public release of information that has not yet been put before a jury, if Mr. Kelly chooses to fight the allegations, could harm the case and constitute contempt of court.

Cleo in the arms of the police after being rescued.
Camera iconCleo in the arms of the police after being rescued. Credit: Washington State Police/Washington State Police

Mr Kelly is then due to appear in Carnarvon Magistrates Court on Monday.

The previous biggest payout for a TV interview went to Brant Webb and Todd Russell, who survived the Beaconsfield mine disaster, with Nine paying them $1 million each.

Previously, 60 Minutes paid Lindy Chamberlain $250,000 for her 1985 interview where she spoke about being falsely accused of murdering her daughter Azaria.

Shortly after Cleo’s remarkable discovery, Mr Markson told The West Australian there could be ‘continued revenue streams’ after a deal is struck, including on her birthday or to mark the anniversary of when the police broke down Mr Kelly’s door and found her.

“There would also be the possibility of doing a TV show, but like in a TV movie or a mainstream movie,” he said at the time.

“When you look at how big the story has been over the last 18 days and the fact that it’s a global story – not just an Australian one – you could really make a movie and that would again generate income – and there could be a book in that too probably.

Mr. Markson has been contacted for comment.