“To make it in this game you have to have f*ckability,” journalist and former Channel Nine correspondent Christine Spiteri was allegedly told by her boss at the time, Nine news director John Westacott.
She sued the network in 2008 for six figures after she was sacked the year before.
It was neither the first nor the last time a woman would be the subject of alleged sexist comments or behaviour within the organisation.
For many years, there have been many women who have spoken privately about their alleged mistreatment at the hands of former and current Channel Nine executives, both past and present. Women who say they have been the subject of smear campaigns. Who claim they have been derided to the media behind their backs while they worked at the network and even more brutally sledged after they left.
This week though, we didn’t hear about “f*ckability”. Instead, one of the network’s biggest stars (until Monday), Lisa Wilkinson, was portrayed by Nine executives as a greedy diva who dared to ask for more than her bosses thought she deserved – who dared to want the same shot at prime time hosting gigs as was repeatedly offered to her co-host Karl Stefanovic.
It’s been an ugly week as the network has sought to place its version of events in the media.
Lisa Wilkinson’s move to Channel 10 after Nine “failed to meet her expectations” regarding pay, however, is just the latest in a string of incidents stemming from the workplace, where a “boys’ culture” appears to continue unabated just as it has for years.
“Certainly the Australian TV industry borders on misogynous,” Michael Bodey, one of Australia’s leading media writers, wrote for The Australian in 2011 – he was referring in particular to Channel Nine. “The sexist culture that holds sway at the free-to-air TV networks is embarrassing to the industry and a matter of deep humiliation to many women.”
What we are left with is the stories from countless female professionals who have spoken out about the treatment they allegedly faced at the network. Many more refuse to go on the record for fear of retribution.
There was Christine Spiteri, who, “f*ckability” aside, had also allegedly been told by John Westacott: “You should work for SBS, you certainly have the name for it.”
There was Jessica Rowe, who years after her time at Nine, told a Studio Ten audience it was a “terrible time in my life and it was not helped by public abuse; abuse from within the network that I worked at; and abuse from someone who was in charge of that particular network,” according to the Daily Mail.
There was reporter Ellen Fanning, who in a 1999 profile with The Sydney Morning Herald, claimed the news and current affairs boss Peter Meakin had told her: “[You’re not] drop dead gorgeous, which is a minus to some people in TV.”
How many men have to endure having their physical appearance rated by their boss?
There are also the revelations from veteran journalist Tracey Spicer. On Thursday, she labelled late Nine News director John Sorell a “monster” and said multiple instances of sexual harassment are recounted in her memoir Good Girl Stripped Bare.