TEN yesterday made a rare statement about the proliferation about “fake news” that has become prevalent online, describing it as “lies and deception.”
At TEN’s Annual General Meeting yesterday, Chairman David Gordon said businesses should be held to account for the accuracy of the news they report.
His comments follow recent criticism of women’s magazines by Nine’s Director of News, Darren Wick.
“While it is true that much of our programming focusses on entertaining our audiences, we also have a public duty that comes with our role as a public broadcaster in a democratic state,” Gordon said.
“We have a duty in our news and current affairs programming to shine a light on the words and actions of our public figures and ensure that our community gets to hear and see the truth. Only armed with the truth can we all make informed decisions as to how we wish to exercise our most important choice of all: our democratic right to vote.
“There have been times in world history when lies and propaganda have cast a shadow over the truth, and where good and decent citizens have been deluded into believing those lies and supporting regimes that then committed terrible acts of violence and evil, often against minorities or the disadvantaged.
“As a modern, peace-loving society, we respect the human rights of all members of our community, we look after those less fortunate than ourselves, and we reject violence and oppression. And we have a right to expect to be told the truth, or if not that offenders will be held to the truth.
“I believe that reputable media organisations such as ours have a fundamental duty to help deliver that outcome for our community.
“The news and current affairs teams at TEN, and at other reputable media businesses throughout Australia, are professionals who work to an ethical standard that is founded on investigating and uncovering lies and deception.
“We are there to hold our public figures to account and to provide context and clarity where there may be obfuscation, subjective omission or attempts to divert attention from the true issue (such as with an outrageous tweet), so that our community can form views and make decisions on an informed basis.
“The work is neither simple nor obvious and relies on the professional skill and judgement of the journalist. We are not perfect, and occasionally we might err, but where we do we are held accountable by the regulator.
“‘Fake news’ is just lies and deception by another name.”
“I believe that it is not acceptable that social media and other online businesses, some of the largest companies in the world with enormous resources, employing thousands of the smartest people, and accessing billions of citizens on this planet, can claim to be unable to monitor and ensure that the truth is delivered on their sites.
“In my opinion, ‘fake news’ is just lies and deception by another name.
“In my opinion, our leaders are entitled to have a view on policy, but whether something is factually accurate or not should not be a matter of personal interpretation.
“For those businesses, as for ours, nothing less than the truth should be acceptable. Moreso, given the size of their audiences, their global impact and the fact that they are almost entirely unregulated, we should hold them to an even higher standard.
“If they choose to be media businesses, as they have, then they have a responsibility to their stockholders, to their employees, to their advertisers and to all of us – and we should all hold them accountable.”
He also reiterated TEN’s push for lower licence fees from the government, as part of a broader industry campaign.
“Australian television networks pay far more than any other free-to-air broadcasters in the world, despite having the heaviest local content obligations,” he said.
“We pay 115 times more than in the US, where broadcasters pay 0.06% of revenue. In the UK, broadcasters pay 0.18% of revenue, which covers spectrum access and a licence fee.
“We should be paying no more than 0.18% of gross revenue”
“Given the similarities that exist between the market here and the UK, particularly in relation to the level of local content obligation, we strongly believe that the UK is the single best and most fitting model for us to adopt in Australia. On that basis, we should be paying no more than 0.18% of gross revenue. Our current rate is almost 20 times higher.
“In all comparable markets around the world, governments proactively reduced or abolished television licence fees years ago because they recognised that the competitive environment for broadcasting has changed completely with the rise of alternative delivery platforms for video content. They recognised that unless they acted, free broadcasting services, and the volume of local production they generated, would be threatened.
“When Australia’s licence fee regime was introduced in the 1950s, free-to-air spectrum granted exclusive access to television sets in lounge rooms across the country.
“Clearly, that is no longer the case. Our television sets and other devices are crowded with content and services from many different players including the global powerhouses such as Netflix and Apple.”