MP accuses Fairfax and News Limited over NBN advertorials

nbn supplement

The SMH NBN wraparound

A Liberal MP has complained to the Australian Press Council, claiming that the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age indulged in distorted coverage of the National Broadband Network in what appears to have been a commercially led wraparound supplement.

The four page “Update on the NBN” wraparound, which was labelled as a “special report” rather than “advertising supplement” featured ads for Optus and a carried a number of reports bylined to Fairfax journalists.

Paul Fletcher, the Liberal MP for Bradfield, claimed that the NBN was indulging “in a blitz of misleading print media marketing which blurs the boundaries between news content and advertising.”

He also pointed to a supplement in News Limited’s North Shore Times.

NBN Co has distanced itself from the supplements.

Fletcher said in a press release: “In one of the local papers in my electorate The North Shore Times, a ‘special promotion’ appeared on 25 April 2012 entitled ‘Rolling out the NBN’. Much of the content is misleading. The ‘promotion’ also blurs the boundary between news content and advertorials.

“Similarly, on 23 April 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald published a four page ‘special report’ entitled ‘Update on the NBN’. This contained a series of articles seemingly by Herald journalists. These articles are largely an uncritical and distorted picture of NBN.”

He claimed: “There is widespread public debate and controversy over the NBN including: its costs; the failure to prepare any cost benefit analysis; whether a fibre to the premises design (as opposed to other options) is necessary; the prospect of higher broadband costs to consumers under the NBN; delays in NBN’s rollout schedule; and the detrimental impact of NBN on the competition in the communication industry. The ‘report’ fails to deal with these issues in any meaningful or detailed way.

“I have also raised these issues with both the Australian Press Council and the Sydney Morning Herald.”

Meanwhile NBN Co, the organisation responsible for rolling out the network, said that it had had no influence over the Fairfax supplement, and had only fact checked the News Limited editorial.

“NBN Co did not pay for or solicit the supplement that appeared in the Age & the SMH. Nor did we have any influence over the editorial content. We responded to queries from the journalists writing the supplement as we would every legitimate journalistic query of which we receive on average 100 a week.

“Nor did we pay for or dictate the editorial content in the article in News Community newspapers. The editorial space was negotiated free of charge after NBN Co took out advertisements in the titles to inform people of the rollout. NBN Co was asked to contribute information and check facts. But the article was written by a News Limited journalist. “

At the time of posting News Limited and Fairfax had not accepted Mumbrella’s invitation to comment.


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