SYDNEY — In an embarrassing twist in the assault by Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network on the news and cur-rent affairs supremacy of Kerry Packer’s Nine web, Jana Wendt, Oz’s equivalent of Barbara Walters, took Seven management to court Thursday, claiming breach of contract.
Australia’s highest-paid and most popular current affairs reporter/anchor, Wendt was lured to Seven after 13 years at Nine on a three-year contract, said to be worth around A$4 million ($3.1 million), to spearhead efforts to boost the web’s news and current affairs credibility.
But strains in Wendt’s relationship with Seven producers and management started from the third month in, and Wendt had contacted her lawyers by May as disputes over content of her big-budget public affairs show, “Witness,” intensified. After several staffers were removed at Wendt’s request, Seven announced Wendt would not be hosting the program in 1997. Seven last week barred Wendt from entering the web’s premises and has suspended her on full pay.
“She was to be the No. 1 personality at Channel Seven. She was promised a real voice in the direction and editorial control of the program … appraising the events of the week as witnessed through her eyes,” Wendt’s lawyer, John West, told the Industrial Commission, before claiming Wendt was “treated as a mere figurehead.”