Predatory behaviour was ‘known and tolerated’ at Channel Nine, staff claim

<span>One Channel Nine employee said there appeared to be ‘a kind of protection racket’ being run for staff whose behaviour was excused.</span><span>Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP</span>
One Channel Nine employee said there appeared to be ‘a kind of protection racket’ being run for staff whose behaviour was excused.Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

Predatory behaviour was “known and tolerated” inside Channel Nine for years, say staff who are concerned an independent review at the network may not lead to meaningful change.

Employees have this week alleged there was a toxic culture within Nine’s television newsroom and the broader organisation.

The former news and current affairs director Darren Wick abruptly left Nine in March after 29 years with the company following a formal complaint from a staff member.

Further allegations have since been reported in the media of inappropriate behaviour by Wick towards female colleagues and also accusations that he led a toxic culture in the newsroom.

Wick has not yet publicly responded to the allegations and they remain untested.

Related: Nine commissions independent review into ‘broader cultural issues’ after complaints against former TV news boss

A Nine source, speaking anonymously to Guardian Australia, alleged that predatory behaviour by some in the organisation was “known and tolerated” and that there appeared to be “a kind of protection racket” being run for staff whose behaviour was excused, minimised or dismissed. It is understood the allegation of predatory behaviour does not relate to Wick.

People would not speak out because they knew nothing would be done and they would be the ones to suffer the consequences, the source claimed.

“We will see, maybe this will be the cultural change we need, but after years of this we don’t have much faith.”

Another source alleged “bullying and harassment” inside Nine was “swept under the rug”.

The source alleged that some staff who bullied and acted inappropriately towards female staff were safeguarded by executive management above them who “act as protector”.

Fiona Dear, who replaced Wick as director of news and current affairs, told a newsroom meeting this week she knew what it was like to encounter inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and promised “the power games stop today”.

“I worked in the newsroom over that period,” Dear told staff.

“I know what it’s like to decide to get a different taxi, to walk away rather than say something, to move to another table. I know why you didn’t say something at the time.”

In an email to staff this week, Nine’s chief executive, Mike Sneesby, said it was “critical we face up to any failings”.

“The recent reports that detail alleged serious failings of leadership in television news clearly tells me more work needs to be done to ensure we have a safe and inclusive workplace throughout Nine,” he wrote.

He said the reports and “internal feedback” from within Nine had “made it clear that we need to accelerate the work we are doing to build a culture of respect and trust”.

Sneesby said Nine would commission an external review of the “behaviours and concentration of power that has damaged trust and fairness” within the company’s television newsrooms.

Nine would also set up an external formal complaint line for people to raise complaints, he said.

News Corp reported Wick received a $1m payout when he left Nine despite management being aware of the allegations.

Nine has not confirmed the figure but it is understood that a payout would have included entitlements from Wick’s 29 years of employment with the company – including long service leave and holidays.

A Nine spokesperson confirmed Wick received a payout, which was handled within the company’s governance processes.

The payment was not signed off by the Nine board, chaired by the former federal treasurer Peter Costello, but was instead approved by Sneesby, they confirmed.

The spokesperson said the company took “all allegations of inappropriate conduct seriously”.

“There is a review in place. We encourage anyone with concerns to come forward.”

Additional comment was sought from Nine.