Sunday, September 30, 2012

On the problems inherent in making an application to SA when banned!

Screen Australia Board
Level 4, 150 William St
NSW 2011                                                                                                     1st. Oct 2012

Dear Members of the Screen Australia Board

Mr Nowicki , Senior Investigator with the office of the Ombudsman, has decreed that he cannot further investigate my complaint vis a vis ‘intimidating correspondence’ unless I put the Screen Australia ban to the test by making an application for funding of one kind or another. Mr Nowicki does not understand (and seems to have no desire to understand!) the processes whereby a producer makes an application to Screen Australia for funding or seeks to take advantage of the ‘Producer’s Offset’ through Screen Australia. Both of these necessitate a conversation with a human being at Screen Australia – something that has been denied to me on the basis that I have intimidated and placed Screen Australia staff at risk. No evidence of this has been presented to either myself or Mr Nowicki (after five months of asking) but then facts and truth are of no consequence to Screen Australia (including the Board, it seems) when the narrative that has been decided on is one that seeks to silence a critic of Screen Australia such as myself.

Given that it is yourselves, as Board members, who have given Ruth Harley permission to make conversations between myself and members of SA staff impossible (and hence applications that require such dialogue) it is up to yourselves to provide Ruth Harley with a new directive – one based on facts and not spin. Yes, this would involve the Board acknowledging that it made a mistake in banning me in the first place and perhaps the Board is reticent to make such an admission and would prefer that I simply make an application as Mr Nowicki suggests. You could then advise Ruth to accept the application – in which case my ban is effectively brought to an end (the official ban, that is) without there being any acknowledgement of the fact by either Ruth or yourselves that there was/is no intimidating correspondence. This may make sense to you all as you sit around a table trying to figure out how to extricate yourselves from a problem of your own creating but it makes litte sense at all in the real world that I must work within.

Consider this: An international broadcaster provides me with a draft contract to acquire certain rights to my documentary ‘Chanti’s World’. I seek legal advice relating to it – a cost to myself – and negotiate with the broadcaster re terms and conditions. Ideally, at this point, I would present the draft contract to Screen Australia with a request that the relevant person let me know if the terms and conditions outlined in it are acceptable to SA. If not, what modifications would be necessary to satisfy Screen Australia’s guidelines? This option is closed off to me as a result of your ban so I must second guess what Screen Australia’s contractual requirements might be and negotiate in the best faith possible with the international broadcaster. We arrive at a contract that we believe if fair and equitable and, on 19th Oct, I make an application to Screen Australia for post-production funds. At this point one of two things can occur: (1) Screen Australia tells me that it cannot accept my application as a result of the ban that you have placed on me or (2) That the application can be accepted but the terms and conditions agreed to by myself and the international broadcaster are not acceptable to Screen Australia.

At this point I must go back to the broadcaster and alert them to the fact that Screen Australia wants to X, Y and Z changes made to the contract. The international broadcaster finds these new conditions unacceptable and the deal falls through. The international broadcaster feels more than a little put out by the fact that it has negotiated in good faith with me only to find that I have kept a significant potential contractual problem secret from it. Alternatively, I could say to the broadcaster now, “I should warn you that I have been banned by Screen Australia, I am not allowed to speak with members of Screen Australia’s staff so there is no guarantee that the effort you are putting into drawing up a contract with me will lead anywhere. It may just be a waste of your time. Sorry about that. I hope you understand.” The international broadcaster could, with more than a little justification, shake its corporate head in wonder and respond with, “Sorry, we don’t want to get involved in this. Too complicated. We’ll pass.” I wouldn’t blame it. Indeed I am surprised that it has not happened already. It is not aware of the ban you have imposed I guess.

The Board should, this week, do one of two things: (1) Signal that it intends to continue with the ban on myself based on the evidence that has been provided to it by Ruth Harley or (2) Lift the ban based on the fact that Ruth Harley has not been able to provide it with evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff.

There is, of course, the third alternative (that the Board has adopted this past five months) which is to ignore this letter and hope that I give up, hope that the Supreme Court dismisses my Statement of Claim tomorrow, hope that the Ombudsman continues to ask no questions (which seems likely) and that all avenues of appeal, now closed to me, will bring the matter to a close and the status quo will remain.

best wishes

James Ricketson


  1. Having had an experience with the Ombudsman (when the Ombudsman was a man, and before Mr Asher became a Reality TV star) I read all of your Ombudsman posts with interest. My experience was similar to yours and brings to mind Sir Humphrey, in Yes, Prime Minister, advising that it not a good idea to conduct any kind of investigation unless you know in advance what the outcome will be. I suspect that in your case the Ombudswoman (yes, the Ombudsman is a woman) has got onto Crean and asked what outcome he would like and he has requested that this one go through to the keeper. I would strongly recommend that anyone who thinks the Ombudswoman will investigate impartially, think again. Not only will you be wasting your time. You will also be added to Screen Australia’s unofficial list of banned filmmakers.

  2. At least Alan Jones got to eat his crow hot. Looks like the Screen Australia Board and Dr Harley are going to have to eat theirs cold.

  3. This is the same Board that has given Dr Harley a blank cheque to run up as large a legal bill as she likes defending her right in the Supreme Court not to produce evidence of Ricketson’s intimidating correspondence! Interesting!