Let’s be blunt. The payment of at least $160,000 — quite possinly more — by Australia’s  60 Minutes programme to Gable Tostee in return for an “exclusive” interview is cheque-book journalism of the most sickening kind.

Tostee, of course, is the creep who was last month acquitted of murder and manslaughter following the death of Warriena Wright, the New Zealand woman who fell from the balcony of his 14th floor apartment on Australia’s Gold Coast.

No-one will have been surprised Tostee has flogged his version of events on that fateful night more than two years ago to the highest bidder.

That he has done so tells you all you need to know — and probably all you would want to know — about this low-life’s character.

It is worth recalling, however, that Tostee did not ring for an ambulance after Williams  plunged to her death. He instead called his father and then his lawyer and then left the apartment block and dunkenly wandererd around nearby streets in the early hours of the morning befor buying a pizza.

Australia’s Nine Network, which screens 60 Minutes, has said that Tostee,  who did not take thr stand during  his trial, saw the interview as a “chance to clear his name” .

He did not need to pocket the thick end of $200,000 to do that.

He had also declared that he would make a formal request to talk to Wright’s family.

Believe that when it actually happens.

Regardless, there is no pot of gold waiting for the family at the end of any rainbow.

To be fair, Tostee did rxpress regret regarding Williams’ fate in a lengthy post on a body-building blog some four months after her death. Against the advice of his lawyers, he gave a pretty detailed account of his version of what happened.

That only begs the question as to why he feels the need to spout it all again on nationwide television. The answer, of course, is that the sheer size of the fee negotiated with 60 Minutes makes it worth his while, even though he will be regarded with approbrium and detested and distrusted by his county men and women for the rest of his life.

All said and done,Tostee is cashing in on Williams’ death. That is obscene.  You would not expect anything better from someone so callous.

But you should expect current affairs programmes of the ilk of 60 Minutes to display at least a modicum of responsibility in deciding which stories to cover — and how.

If so, you thought wrong.

The likes of 60 Minutes have long preyed on human misery in all of its infinite manifestations. If  instances of that misery can only be accessed by forking out hard cash, then the only thing that will stymie an “exclusive” is the price being set by those who have a story to tell.

In paying 30 pieces of silver to Tostee, 60 Minutes and the Nine Network, which will screen the interview in Australia tonight, are as complicit as as he is in  exploting Williams’ death to boost ratings and advertising revenue.

This is, of course, the programme which arrogantly believes it can write its own rules  — as was the case earlier this year with its involvement the botched operation in Lebanon to snatch an Australian mother and her two children off a Beirut street.

That ended up costing the Nine Network a small fortune in legal fees and compensation. But in the warped world of tabloid television, the public outrage that followed that incident would have been seen as good publicity.

In Tostee’s case, the programme’s producers were probably likewise too busy congratulating themselves for beating Channel Seven, another mass audience channel, in the race for the “exclusive” to have even noticed they were now rolling around in the same gutter as the subject of the interview..

The feelings expressed on social media, radio talkback, and, most notably, by a very angry Queensland police, who prosecuted Tostee, shows that many people believe 60 Minutes has crossed a line into ethics-free territory.

The very programme which highlights bad behaviour by others is itself morally bankrupt.

That conclusion is reinforced by something else which really scrapes the bottom of this already putrid barrel.

Judging from the advance promo of the programme, Tostee’s replies to questions are interspersed  with the recorded screams of a terrified woman in the last few minutes of her short life.

It is one thing to have played that audio as evidence in Tostee’s murder trial in Brisbane’s Supreme Court. It is a very different story to regurgitate it on nationwide television.

In doing so, 60 Minutes is providing proof that it is interested in little else but serving up the salacious to satisfy the voyeuristic.

It is also cruel to Williams’ family who are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered  lived and who hardly need such reminders of what’happened.

60 Minutes would argue the interview is justified  in order to interrogate Tostee to get tomthe truth of what really happened on that grisly night.

The interview would be portrayed as cutting-edge current affairs.

This isn’t  journalism. It is the modern equivalent of a public witch trial in which the witch is known in advance.

Tostee has been paid a king’s ransom in the hope that his emotions will have got the  better of him and he breaks down and he incriminates himself in the glare of the lights of the television studio

But that won’t have happened. If it had, we would have heard by now.

There are some uncomfortable questions, however, that the Nine Network’s executives and directors should answer.

Would they have paid for a supposed “tell all” interview if it had been one of their daughters who had ended up in Tostee’s apartment?

Likewise, would they have done so had it been an Australian woman who died rather than an anonymous New Zealand tourist.

Had Williams been the former, the Nine Network would have had a ton of bricks falling on its head from those who knew her or who lived in her local community.

That Williams was an unknown New Zealander who had just arrived in the country has made her easy pickings for the vultures at the Nine Network.

Let’s say it once more. This is not journalism. It is out-and- garbage, nothing more and nothing less.

Perhaps above all, it explains in part why viewers are deserting free-to-air television in droves now that there are far more — and far better — alternative viewing options available to viewers.

When it comes to substance, programmes like 60 Minutes rarely deliver. They hype each week’s show. But the content more often than not disappoints.

In order to shore up ratings, the hype becomes ever more intense to the point of being dishonest. The content leaves viewers feeling even more shortchanged.

It is a vicious circle, but one over which few tears will be shed.

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