Sunday, July 27, 2008

Deceitful Australian TV channel pays up

Channel Seven has paid a retirement village operator a six-figure sum to settle a defamation proceeding after Today Tonight broadcast footage an 84-year-old resident chained on the premises.

The program, broadcast in February last year, said Shirley Frey was being kicked out of Willoughby Village.

"Shirley Frey would have to be the oldest person in Australia to be kicked out of a nursing home," the reporter, Nicholas Boot, had said. "But this feisty 84-year-old is refusing to budge, chaining herself to her room."

The first problem was that Boot had brought the chain with him to film his story. The second problem was Mrs Frey was not being kicked out.

Lindy Kearns, chief executive of the Willoughby Retirement Community Association, which runs the village, said she told Boot it was taking Mrs Frey to court for breaching her residential agreement by trying to avoid paying a $250,000 accommodation bond. Ms Kearns said Mrs Frey had claimed she had only $5000 in assets but she owned an apartment in Cammeray.

Mrs Frey left in February after losing her legal battle.

The association sued Seven, saying it suffered financial loss as a result of damage to its reputation and goodwill. Yesterday Ms Kearns said Seven had agreed to pay $250,000 plus legal costs.

"This vindicates the longstanding position held by our residents, staff and volunteer directors against the reporting by Today Tonight," she said last night.

Two days after the story was broadcast, Boot left Seven, which said he had gone "to pursue other opportunities. There is no ill feeling between Nicholas and Seven and we wish him well in his future endeavours."

Seven did not respond to the Herald's request for comment.

In May Seven lost a defamation case against Mercedes Corby, the sister of the jailed drug trafficker Schapelle.

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