Former Project Presenter Lisa Wilkinson filed a formal complaint with Seven through attorneys this week, following a leaked audio in a 7News Spotlight story, as well as complaints about reporting in Sunrise.
The audio has since been handed over under a search warrant by the Australian Federal Police, while Wilkinson and 10 are involved in a libel battle with Bruce Lehrmann over a Project interview (separately there is an additional ABC / Lehrmann defamation case).
news.com.au (whose parent company NewsLife Media was part of a further libel, now dropped) reports 10 are angry about this Reflector it did not seek comment ahead of its broadcast, with some speculating whether this was to avoid an injunction.
“It’s incredible to believe that a 90-minute program was being prepared, seemingly over many weeks if not months, and at no time was any contact made with our client or Network 10 to attempt to get their comment,” they noted.
The complaint also concerned the “false” allegations transmitted Sunrise.
They disputed the claim that Wilkinson had “coached” Brittany Higgins to build a campaign against Bruce Lehrmann.
“This statement is false. The material (falsely described in the report as ‘secret recordings’) posted on Reflector on the Seven network on June 4, 2023 certainly does not justify this statement ”, reads the letter from the lawyers.
Wilkinson’s lawyers also say that Seven has made no effort to contact the broadcaster regarding the claims included Sunrise who also claimed that Mrs Higgins had written her an “angry letter”.
“Mrs. Wilkinson has no record of a letter as described in the report. We request that you urgently provide a copy so that our client can respond to the claims made,” she read in the letter.
It is also unclear whether an ACMA complaint has been filed about both broadcasts, which would trigger an investigation by the media watchdog.
Guardian reports the attorneys had seen a document described as an ACMA complaint of 10, agreed with it and approved, and “will file a separate complaint on behalf of Ms. Wilkinson and Mr. (Peter) Fitzsimons.”
A spokesperson for Seven denies that “the material being aired was improperly obtained from materials subpoenaed in the criminal trial or otherwise prohibited.”
“As a reporter, it is hard to believe that Ms. Wilkinson is suggesting that the background to those events is not a genuine subject of public interest investigation and reporting,” a spokesperson said.
They added: “Seven is aware that Ms. Wilkinson and Ten have apologized for certain matters captured in the audio recordings, but note that these issues were not raised in the Spotlight program. In any event, no made any specific comments questioning Ms. Wilkinson’s “professionalism as a journalist” or criticizing her as alleged in her attorney’s complaint.