Updated: Senate committee hearing featuring Alan Jones & Kevin Rudd postponed due to snap lockdown

Update: The media diversity in Australia senate hearing has been postponed, due to a snap lockdown in Canberra.

A statement on the APH website read: “Due to the snap lockdown in Canberra – the committee has agreed to postpone the public hearing scheduled for Friday 13 August 2021. A revised hearing date will be advised in due course.”

Chair of the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee Sarah Hanson-Young also posted on her Twitter account late yesterday evening an update:

The media diversity in Australia senate inquiry will again return tomorrow, Friday 13 August, recalled following Sky News Australia’s seven day ban by Google-owned YouTube.

The hearing tomorrow will see a line-up including a Sky News presenter panel, made up of Alan Jones, Rowan Dean and Rita Panahi, as well as Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Sky News Australia CEO, Paul Whittaker.

Nerida O’Loughlin, chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the deputy Creina Chapman and GM, Cathy Rainsford will also appear for questioning, after committee chair, Greens Senator, Hanson-Young and Rudd both approached ACMA to ask why the regulator was not taking action, leaving it to a tech company to impose sanctions on the broadcaster.

Two weeks ago, the News Corp broadcaster received a ‘strike’ from YouTube after the video streaming platform deemed it to have breached its COVID-19 misinformation policies through 21 different videos.

Earlier this week, The Guardian Australia reported that Sky News had deleted 31 videos from its YouTube page that put into question the public health response to COVID-19, or promoted unproven treatment, ahead of the hearing tomorrow.

Sky News commentator, Jones will appear as a witness, as several of the videos that were taken down, one of which included him interviewing a Canadian pathologist who claiming the virus was a “hoax” and Jones affirming “there you are, as I have said all along, there is no epidemiological justification for any of this. Lockdowns, face masks, social distancing”.

The hearing will begin tomorrow at 9am, with the Sky News presenter panel appearing via video conference. This is the fourth sitting of the Media diversity in Australia inquiry, with Rudd in February telling the committee he only ceased being fearful of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp once he left office.

Rudd giving evidence to the committee in February

Whittaker has since written to YouTube global CEO, Susan Wojcicki, complaining that the policies imposed are “internally inconsistent and incapable of compliance”. Following the initial strike ban, Sky News Australia’s digital editor, Jack Houghton wrote an opinion piece arguing that the crackdown from YouTube was “a disturbing attack on the ability to think freely”.

This week it has been reported that 25 journalist roles had been cut across several News Corp titles, including The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, despite News Corp last week reporting its “most profitable” financial year, in its current form, with revenues rising 4% in the full year and up 30% in the fourth quarter. News Corp declined to comment on the recent job cuts.

Deals this year with tech giants, Facebook and Google were set to bring in around $100 million according to News Corp, in addition to around 100 new editorial positions.

The YouTube ban also came in the same week that News Corp outlet, The Daily Telegraph pulled Alan Jones’ regular column following controversial commentary over the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to News Corp’s new regional broadcasting service, Sky News Regional’s launch.

Sky News Australia was contacted ahead of the hearing, however had no response at the time of publishing.


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