Channel Seven’s Sunrise is in damage control after being accused of stealing footage from an ABC special on the Thai cave rescue.
Host Edwina Bartholomew and executive producer Michael Pell have publicly apologised for the move, in which the breakfast show aired scenes from the Four Corners ‘Out of the Dark’ special on Tuesday with the ABC watermark obscured.
Bartholomew described it as a mistake, while Pell said it was an error.
Channel Seven’s official response was that the ABC watermark was covered up by other on-screen credits in an early cross on Tuesday morning. It was corrected for later crosses.
An angry Mark Willacy, the ABC journalist who documented the international rescue effort that ended in the incredible rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from the Tham Luang caves, said Channel Seven had “no shame”.
— Mark Willacy (@markwillacy) July 17, 2018
The Four Corners special was an in-depth look at the massive rescue operation in northern Thailand to save the 13 Wild Boars. It featured interviews with those involved, including British diver Jason Mallison – who brought some of the boys out of the flooded caverns.
“It’s one of the most difficult and dangerous and risky things I’ve ever done, not in terms of my own personal safety, but in terms of the people I was responsible for,” he told Willacy.
ABC News Sydney presenter Juanita Phillips also joined in the criticism of the watermark-free footage, saying “it seems to be becoming accepted practice. They should be ashamed”.
Pell responded in a series of tweets on Wednesday, describing airing the scenes as an error. He apologised – but that didn’t stem the criticism.
It was a genuine oversight. A mistake. It was corrected on air. I’ve apologised. Never our intention.
— Michael Pell (@MichaelPell) July 17, 2018
Four Corners researcher Lucy Carter, who produced the special tweeted: “It was theft. Plain and simple.”
“How dare you, Channel Seven?” she said.
Pell denied that: “Theft is intentional. This was not. It was corrected this morning. We move on,” he wrote, acknowledging the Four Corners special was “outstanding”.
Bartholomew also took to Twitter on Wednesday to issue her own apology, saying use of the footage without attribution was “unacceptable”.
Our use of @4corners #ThaiCave special without attribution was unacceptable. I raised concerns yesterday morning that there was no watermark on screen. This mistake was fixed but it is still not good enough. @markwillacy and @lucethoughts did extraordinary work. My apologies.
— Edwina Bartholomew (@edwina_b) July 17, 2018
She said she raised concerns when she had noticed there was no watermark. Even fixing that was “not good enough”, she said.
She congratulated Willacy and Carter for their “extraordinary work”.