Why Lindt survivors deserve to be paid
TOMORROW night we are going to hear exactly what went on inside the Lindt Café siege.
We will hear first-hand how people felt when they believed they were going to die at the hands of gunman Man Haron Monis. We will hear about their plots to escape, their pleas for mercy and their desperation as the hours passed.
We will even hear how one woman said goodbye to her three young children over the phone, thinking she would never see them again. It’s going to be heart-wrenching viewing. Given everything they have been through, I have absolutely no problem with some of these people being paid large sums of money to tell their stories.
I disagree totally with former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett who called the move “just plain grubby” a few weeks ago.
The television networks will make money out of their stories. The advertisers will too. Those like me who are writing about their ordeal are also getting paid.
So why shouldn’t the individuals who spent 17 harrowing hours inside that cafe receive a financial benefit? It’s not as if these people have anything to apologise for. They aren’t criminals cashing in on their bad deeds; they are simply victims of crime who have a value in our media market place. They deserve to take money from networks that can well afford to pay.
It’s pretty outrageous for Mr Kennett, who has always been well paid in his professional life, to suggest others should turn their back on money that may make a material difference in their lives. In fact, I think it’s a pity the sums paid to victims aren’t bigger.
Back in 2006, Beaconsfield miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell received a reported $2.6 million to tell their story. They’d get nothing like that these days.
I do admit, however, that it’s a pity there seems to be such disparity in the amounts of money paid.
It says much about our society’s values. For example, the attractive mother-of-three Marcia Mikhael is reportedly getting paid $400,000 by Channel 7 after turning down $300,000 from Channel 9.
Ms Mikhael, pictured, was forced to hold a black flag in the window of the cafe and also appeared in videos during the siege. She also begged the gunman to let her call her family to say goodbye to her three children.
To be honest, I’d suggest an experience like that is worth any money a media outlet is willing to pay.
Ms Mikhael’s lawyer has said the money she is paid will be put into a foundation to help all victims, so what’s wrong with that?
Channel 9 is rumoured to have signed Lindt Cafe workers Fiona Ma, Harriette Denny, Joel Herat and Jarrod Morton Hoffman for up to $1 million together.
In comparison, 83-year-old John O’Brien’s story is reportedly worth just $100,000. Perhaps this is because he was one of the first to escape.
These figures are just rumours — the exact amounts have not been officially confirmed.
Not all survivors have sold their stories. Some, such as Louisa Hope, who was used by the gunman as a human shield, have declined all offers to speak publicly.
From the networks’ perspectives, there is a right way to deal with such programs, and a wrong way.
For a start, it would be nice for both channels to run these shows without commercials. To cut to an ad break for beer or dishwashing detergent in the middle of such horrific accounts will inevitably cheapen things.
If ads are run, it would be nice for the companies involved to commit a percentage of revenue to a fund for the siege survivors.
It would also have been nice for both stations to drop the competitive promotion of these “special TV events” — not to mention the overly emotive ads.
It is also disappointing — but not surprising — that both channels have sat on these interviews for weeks and will air their programs at the start of the official ratings period.
Despite all this, the shows will both rate well because they contain ordinary people who have lived through a terrifying and extraordinary ordeal.
Tomorrow, let’s not just think about those who survived, but those who weren’t so lucky.
Of course, the two people who lost their lives in the siege, lawyer Katrina Dawson and cafe manager Tori Johnson, will get no handsome payments from the television networks.
Dead people do not have stories to tell or sell. Blog with Susie at susieobrien.com.au, Facebook.com/NewswithSuse and follow her on Twitter @susieob