Nine drops legal case against former news chief

Rivalry with rival net Seven hotting up

SYDNEY — The Packer family’s Nine Network has given up its legal battle to block the publication of an explosive affidavit from its former news chief, which alleges Machiavellian plotting and editorial interference by senior Nine management.

Mark Llewellyn, who ankled Nine last week to join rival network Seven, claims that he was ordered to prepare a story attack-ing Seven’s proprietor Kerry Stokes, and that Nine’s new topper Eddie McGuire was planning to sack Jessica Rowe, the co-host of the “Today” show.

Llewellyn made these allegations in sworn evidence for a court case brought by Nine to stop him defecting to Seven. His affidavit was leaked to newspaper groups News Ltd and John Fairfax Holdings, and Nine has been pursuing court action to prevent them from publishing it. Nine also tried to force them to reveal how they obtained it.

”There are many threats to press freedom in this country but few are as disturbing as this assault by Nine,” News Limited’s corporate affairs director Greg Baxter said.

Nine subsequently dropped that court action but won a court order banning rival media outlets from publishing its details in New South Wales.

Then late Friday the network retracted its publication ban, issuing a statement that Llewellyn’s affidavit was erroneous anyway.

”Nine strongly refutes much of the affidavit’s contents, which it rejects as little more than a series of unsubstantiated allegations [but] there [is] no longer any point to be served by pursuing the matter in the courts,” read the statement.

Separately McGuire issued a statement supporting Rowe and stating her position was secure.

The story has captured the local media’s attention, given the fierce battle Nine is raging with Seven for auds and advertising dollars, and the instability at Nine since Kerry Packer’s death in December.

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