Top journalist, Peter van Onselen, has lost a contract breach lawsuit against his former employer Channel Ten KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Thursday, July 13, 2023

Top journalist, Peter van Onselen, has lost a contract breach lawsuit against his former employer Channel Ten

Top journalist Peter van Onselen has lost a contract breach lawsuit against his former employer Channel Ten.

Zooming into his hearing last month from the Italian Amalfi coast, Dr van Onselen said he did not read the non-disparagement clause in his redundancy contract after being reassured by Paramount human resources executive Anthony McDonald he could disparage Ten in various circumstances.

'I used the phrase "If the CEO was caught f***ing a goat and the rest of the media was piling on then surely I would not be precluded from doing the same",' Dr van Onselen told the court.

'I remember Mr McDonald being reassuring and saying something to the effect of "of course, hopefully it won't come to that".'

Mr McDonald told the court the conversation did not happen.

Ten's counsel Arthur Moses SC questioned the commentator about the phone call, saying he was using a 'fabricated' memory to 'get away from the impact of the non-disparagement clause'.

When Mr Moses asked if he read the final redundancy document before signing it, Dr Van Onselen replied: 'No I did not'.

'The making of a declaration is, in the particular circumstances of this case, sufficient assuagement for Ten of its grievance.'


Dr van Onselen quit his position in March and signed an agreement not to disparage the network or its US-based owner Paramount, in exchange for a $71,000 redundancy payout.

The network sued the political commentator and academic over the column in The Australian months later, questioning Paramount's plummeting share price and referring to the network as 'the minnow of Australian commercial television'.

“I used the phrase, ‘If the CEO was caught fucking a goat and the rest of the media was piling on then surely I would not be precluded from doing the same,’” Van Onselen told the court.

“I remember Mr McDonald being reassuring and saying something to the effect of, ‘Of course, hopefully it won’t come to that.’”

McDonald told the court there had been no such conversation.

Ten’s counsel, Arthur Moses SC, questioned the commentator about the phone call, saying he was using a “fabricated” memory to “get away from the impact of the non-disparagement clause”. The network sued the political commentator and academic over the column in the Australian months later. The piece questioned Paramount’s plummeting share price and referred to Ten as “the minnow of Australian commercial television”.

Zooming into his hearing last month from the Amalfi coast in Italy, Van Onselen said he had not read the non-disparagement clause in his redundancy contract after being reassured by the Paramount human resources executive Anthony McDonald that he could disparage Ten in various circumstances.

When Moses asked if he had read the final redundancy document before signing it, Van Onselen replied: “No, I did not.”

He earlier claimed his legitimacy as a journalist and media commentator was at risk by the media company’s contract rules.

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