Nine CEO Hugh Marks has admitted hosting a Liberal fundraising night was a “mistake” in an email sent to staff at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Group executive director of the SMH, The Age and The Brisbane Times James Chessal sent the email yesterday afternoon, stating he aired his concerns with Marks about the $10,000-a-head Liberal fundraiser at Nine’s studio on Monday night, which raised $700,000.
The fundraiser’s guests included prime minister Scott Morrison, communications minister Paul Fletcher and NSW powerbroker Michael Photios.
In the email, Chessell said Marks said the function was a “mistake”, that it was “regrettable” and that it “could have been handled better.”
Chessell further added: “I raised my concerns with Nine chief executive Hugh Marks yesterday morning. He has responded by telling me it was a mistake to host the function. Hugh made the point Nine’s primary motivation was to engage with the government on issues of importance to the newsrooms — such as press freedom and the ACCC’s inquiry into digital platforms — which is a valid argument for management to make. But he agrees it could have been handled better.”
He also touched on the views of staff who were concerned the event could “temporarily tarnish” the Nine-owned papers “reputation for independence.”
“I note the House Committee’s statement from yesterday which reflects the views of many staff worried the event could temporarily tarnish our reputation for independence. We have already seen rival outlets attempt to capitalise on the story even when they have no evidence to support their allegations.”
Nine hosting the function has been attacked by former and current staff, as well as unions, and despite Marks admitting the event was a “mistake”, Nine’s newspapers could still face action from staff.
B&T understands journalists on the MEAA house committees will be holding another meeting to discuss the ramifications of the fundraiser further.