Peter van Onselen lost a court case against Channel Ten after he wrote a column criticizing the network’s management, the court found.
Peter Van Onselen loses breach-of-contract case Ex-Network Ten political editor takes aim at Paramount He sued over scathing column in The Australian
Former Network Ten political editor Peter van Onselen has lost a breach of contract case against his former employer over a scathing column he wrote in The Australian.
NSW Supreme Court Justice David Hammerschlag said in his ruling on Friday, ‘I am convinced that the article is a singular error.
‘One declaration, in the particular circumstances of this case, is sufficient indulgence for ten charges.’
Dr Van Onselen left 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 later sued political commentators and academics for columns in The Australian, questioning Paramount’s declining share price and referring to the network as ‘the minnow of Australian commercial television’.
Former Network 10 political editor, Peter van Onselen (pictured), has lost a breach of contract case against his former employer over a column he wrote in The Australian.
Dr Van Onselen left his position in March and signed an agreement not to disparage the Ten Network or its US-based owner Paramount in exchange for a $71,000 redundancy payout.
Zooming into his hearing last month from Italy’s Amalfi coast, Dr Van Onselen said he had not read the non-disparagement clause in his redundant contract after being assured by Paramount human resources executive Anthony Macdonald that he could insult ten people under various circumstances.
‘I used the phrase “if the CEO is caught making a goat and the rest of the media piles on, I’m certainly not going to be deterred from doing it”, Dr Van Onselen told the court.
‘I remember Mr MacDonald being reassuring and saying something to the effect of “sure, hope it doesn’t come”.’
Mr Macdonald told the court the conversation did not take place.
Tenn’s counsel Arthur Moses SC questioned the commenter about the phone call, saying he was using a ‘fabricated’ memory to ‘get away from the effect of the non-disparagement clause’.
When asked by Mr Moses if he had read the final redundant document before signing it, Dr van Onselen replied: ‘No I did not’.
He had earlier claimed that his legitimacy as a journalist and media commentator was at risk by media company contract rules.
His barrister, Sue Chrysantho SC, argued that the non-disparagement clause was liberal.
But a few months later he questioned the decline in Paramount’s share price and referred to the Ten Network as ‘the minnow of Australian commercial television’ in a column in The Australian.
He said the commenter would technically be in contempt of court if he was unhappy with his Paramount+ streaming service and wrote an email of complaint to the company.
‘It puts him in breach if he says to his mates in the pub “I’m surprised Network Ten bought that programme, it’s not a good programme”,’ Ms Crisanto told the court.
‘This is seeking a lifetime injunction against a man whose profession it is to speak, and only to be able to speak glowingly about Network Ten for the rest of his life will affect his legitimacy and professionalism as a commentator and an academic.’
Justice Hammerschlag rejected his claim.
‘Well then why did he sign? It’s a contract case,’ he said.
Ten sought a declaration that Dr. Van Onselen had breached the contract and a permanent injunction restraining him from further breach.
Justice Hamserlag did not grant the injunction, concluding ‘there is no realistic risk or likelihood that Dr van Onselen, in the light of my findings, will breach the contract again’.
The ten have made no claim for compensation, but have until July 21 to submit claims for costs to the court.