Nine veteran’s major call amid network scandals

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A former Channel 9 boss has sharply criticised the company’s management under controversial Nine Entertainment chairman Peter Costello.

Collingwood President Jeff Browne told the Herald Sun on Sunday that he had been asked to consider returning to the broadcaster after Costello had a physical altercation with a journalist at Canberra Airport on Thursday.

“I am deeply disappointed by the recent press reports about the Nine Network, a once powerful organisation that I proudly served for nearly eight years,” Browne told the newspaper.

“It reminds me how important corporate culture in the workplace and good governance at the boardroom are.

“It also reminds me of the new role I took on at Collingwood three years ago and the importance of values-based leadership.

“Not only has the company failed to build a culture of mutual trust and respect, it has also failed to deliver any value to shareholders.

“There is clearly a need for a top-down and bottom-up review and a cultural reset.

“I have been contacted by several Nine executives who are lamenting the current situation and want to see change.”

Browne, Channel 9’s chief executive from 2009 to 2013, confirmed he was interested in replacing Costello as chief executive to “restore the company to its true position as a leader in the Australian media sector”.

He said that while he did not know “all the details” of the airport incident, “there is obviously some investigation that needs to be done.”

Mr Costello was accused of The Australian‘s Liam Mendes to the ground while the journalist followed him through the terminal and asked him a series of questions about Nine’s handling of harassment allegations against its former news director Darren Wick.

Mr Costello denies having pushed Mendes over.

In the video, it appears as if Mr Costello is walking toward Mendes before the reporter falls to the ground, falling backwards with his legs in the air as the camera continues to roll.

Mr. Costello, standing over Mendes, then turns and walks away while the reporter lies on the ground.

“You just attacked me,” Mendes tells Mr. Costello as he lies on the ground.

Mr Costello said Mendes fell when his back hit an advertising billboard.

“I didn’t hit him,” Costello later told reporters in Parliament.

The Nine chairman was in the nation’s capital to attend the opening of Nine’s newly refurbished Canberra office from the press gallery.

He said any suggestion that he should resign was “nonsense” and that he “didn’t lift a finger” at the reporter.

“As I walked past him, he ran into an advertising poster and fell down,” Costello told Nine Newspapers.

“I didn’t hit him. If he’s upset about it, I’m sorry. But I didn’t hit him. I wasn’t angry. Just like you guys here, if you’re reversing and there’s a poster behind you, you can run into it. I’ve seen it a million times, I’ve seen it a million times here in Parliament, reporters reversing into the bollards and falling over.”

Mr Costello strongly denied any suggestion that he had attacked the journalist.

“It’s not an attack,” he said.

“Like I said, he was walking backwards. He hit an advertising billboard. I didn’t lift a finger or a fist or anything.”

Australia’s longest-serving treasurer and former deputy leader of the Liberal Party received support from opposition leader Peter Dutton, who said the two had been friends for over 20 years and that he had “never experienced any active aggression from him”.

“First of all, I don’t know Liam, but he’s obviously an excellent journalist,” Mr Dutton told Channel 9 on Friday.

“And the most important thing is that I hope he is OK. But the Peter Costello I know is someone who does not carry aggressive behavior of this kind, and I hope that the matter can be resolved amicably. And then we will move on.”

But Finance Minister Jim Chalmers sharply criticized Costello, saying the head of a media giant must know how to treat reporters with respect.

“I think it’s really important that we treat journalists with respect and that journalists are safe in their workplace,” he said.

“And if anyone should know, it’s the chairman of a major media company. It’s up to the journalist whether this is pursued further or not.”

Sydney radio personality Ben Fordham of 2GB said on his Friday show: “Boss, you’ve been in for a shock.”

“I wrote that last night to the former Federal Finance Minister, who is now chairman of Nine, the owner of this radio station,” Fordham said on his show.

“I said, ‘You have to deal with the incident at the airport, you know that better than anyone else, and there is only one place to do that: 2GB at 7:15 a.m.'”

“I did not get an answer.”

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