Why Lindt sur­vivors de­serve to be paid

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP -

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

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