Walkley Awards to review entry rules after Spotlight revelations

Walkley Awards to review entry rules after Spotlight revelations

The Walkley Awards has issued a statement following revelations this week that Seven paid 12 months accommodation for Bruce Lehrmann for a Spotlight interview.

The episode received a Scoop of the Year nomination but not a win.

While the Walkleys made enquiries at the time it now says “the judging panel should have been equipped with all the relevant information” and is to review its Ts&Cs for full disclosure on “chequebook journalism.”

Walkley Foundation statement:

The Board of the Walkley Foundation has become aware of evidence given by Bruce Lehrmann in the Federal Court of Australia that the Seven Network has an agreement in place to cover the cost of Mr Lehrmann’s accommodation during the production process for a series of stories in which Mr Lehrmann is a participant.

In light of this evidence the Board has reviewed the disclosures made on the entry of the Seven Spotlight story “Trial and Error” into the All Media Scoop of the Year category of the 2023 Walkley Awards. The story was subsequently nominated as a finalist in this category by the first round independent judging panel.

In the second judging round, conducted by the Walkley Judging Board, the story was not selected as the winner.

The Board has made enquiries of Seven as to the nature of the agreement in place with Mr Lehrmann at the time of entry.

It is the Board’s view that the judging panel should have been equipped with all the relevant information about payments made or benefits flowing to a participant in a story under consideration, regardless of whether related stories were not submitted for consideration or were to be produced in the future.

As a result of this situation, the Board has resolved to review all terms and conditions of entry to the Awards, including with a view to ensuring transparency and full disclosure around the practice of “chequebook journalism”, where a media organisation makes a payment or provides a benefit to an individual in exchange for access.

The Board will make it clear to entrants that where an entrant fails to make a full disclosure of any and all payments or benefits-in-kind to participants or third parties, the Board can and will remove stories from consideration for the Awards at any stage of the process, or revoke status in the event that the entry is a finalist or winner.

According to Guardian Australia, yesterday Seven said “7NEWS Spotlight adhered to the Walkley Foundation’s guidelines as part of the nomination process and, in disclosing its arrangement with Bruce Lehrmann, fully met the entry criteria. We welcome the Walkleys’ findings after its exhaustive ‘review’ confirming this.”