One of the key foundations of any modern society is a strong, accurate and objective media. Unfortunately, that's not always what we get in Australia, and it's time we did something about it.
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the National Broadband Network. Unfortunately, the most frustrating thing about the NBN for me is the barrage of demonstrably false articles written about it in certain sections of the media. It seems there's not a day goes by where a story written about the NBN surfaces, chock-full of factual errors and atrocious bias.
Like most Australians reading rubbish about a topic they personally understand, I had merely shaken my head when reading the errors without actually acting on the misinformation. Until now.
When a friend told me that they thought the NBN would be "too expensive to use", citing an erroneous Daily Telegraph story, it was the last straw. This conversation demonstrated to me, beyond a doubt, that the inaccurate stories were having an effect. The newspapers were misleading their readers and the general public. An effect that any responsible media agency should be ashamed of, and quick to correct once an error is found.
With this in mind, I went back through a few weeks of Daily Telegraph stories and identified three NBN articles with significant errors. Unfortunately, when I contacted the paper and provided them with evidence demonstrating the errors, I received no response and the articles were not corrected. For a publication which claims to be "committed to accurate, fair and fearless publication of news", the lack of action was disappointing. The next step was a formal complaint to the Australian Press Council, which eventually resulted in the paper being forced to print a damning adjudication, which upheld all of my complaints and criticised the publication for failing to correct the articles when they first became aware of the numerous errors therein. The full story can be found here, but this quote sums it up nicely:
"The Council expressed concern that within a short period of time three articles on the same theme contained inaccurate or misleading assertions. It considers that this sequence of errors should not have occurred and that they should have been corrected promptly and adequately when brought to the newspaper’s attention."
Regrettably, questionable newspaper stories are certainly not limited to the topic of the NBN. Another News Ltd publication, The Australian, has come under heavy criticism from the scientific community for their coverage of Climate Change. Their reporting is even making news overseas, but alas there have been no adjudications made on the coverage by the press council.
Perhaps this is a side-effect of having a print media industry which is so dominated by a single corporation.
Keeping the media honest
Ensuring the media are fair, accurate and honest is not an attack on free speech. It's about ensuring the public are able to make decisions based on the facts, rather than the bias of a particular reporter or an agenda being set by management.
The Australian Press Council is "responsible for promoting good standards of media practice" in Australia. They can consider and act on complaints about the printed media (newspapers, magazines etc) and their associated websites. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for television, and the ABC's Media Watch holds all forms of media to account.
So when you see or read something that is clearly unbalanced or you know isn't true, don't just get angry. Do something about it and help improve media coverage for all Australians. Make a complaint to the Press Council or send a tipoff to Media Watch. Let's do something about shoddy journalism in Australia, and hope our newspapers never descend to the despicable behaviour demonstrated by News Ltd's papers in the UK.