Victorian State Government accused of bullying and bias by Sky boss over train station news ban
ANGELOS Frangopoulos is angry, very angry, and he’s letting you know it.
As the Sky boss sat at the airport lounge in Melbourne watching his news service on the various screens yesterday, he is fuming the same broadcast is no longer being shown on the city’s metro rail network.
It was though — just 48 hours ago — before something of a hijacking by the embattled Spring Street Labor government.
“This channel is being used for political gain, it’s corporate and political bullying based on misrepresentations and absolute lies,” the Australian News Channel CEO thundered yesterday of the apparent Trump-esque style policy-on-the-fly tweeting based on fake news by Labor.
Victoria’s Transport Minister Jacinta Allan on Wednesday banned Sky News from the city’s train station screens after reading on social media the network was looping an interview to commuters with Right-wing extremist Blair Cottrell.
She imposed the ban, took to social media to brag about it and then called a press conference to declare her credentials on “hatred and racism” tolerance.
The problem was the Cottrell interview was never aired on the rail network which just shows Sky’s news, sport and weather.
The State Government then did what every state government does to stall, defuse and distract — it ordered a review.
Frangopoulos said there was no doubt his network made a mistake in interviewing the neo Nazi in the first place, despite him having been on other networks including 7, 9 and the ABC, but the opinion broadcast was not shown to commuters.
The network did not receive a single complaint nor did APN Outdoor that manages screen broadcasts on the rail network.
“What the Victorian Government did is an absolute outrage, they acted without any consultation with anyone based on information they acquired on social media and took a decision based on falsehoods,” he said.
“For the minister to stand up and say we are running Cottrell interview on loop repeatedly on the railway network is just appalling and is just not true. She didn’t check the information at all, government decisions based on watching social media.
“I am angry, I am very angry. Sky News is being used for political purposes; we’re to report and take part in the political conversation not to be used as a political football to assist in political aims by a government. It’s not what Australia is about … what we have seen is absolute bullying.”
He didn’t list those “political aims” but the government — with its one seat hold on power ahead of State elections later this year — is under intense pressure and scrutiny on various fronts including the “Red Shirts” scandal that has seen 17 former State Labor campaign staff raided, Labor MPs being investigated over parliamentary guideline breaches and public money misuse allegations and spiralling African youth gang violence on the streets.
Sky has in the last 18 months seen a year-on-year average audience increase of 25 per cent and is expected to lift that when it goes free-to-air television on WIN in regional Australia and its commentators, of both Labor and Conservative backgrounds, have not held back on commentary on the state of the State Government.
“This (Sky) is a distraction for Labor in Victoria and on another level actual political bullying based on lies and misrepresentation,” Frangopoulos said.
He confirmed Sky advertisers were now questioning the controversy and he respected that right but appealed to corporates to base their decisions on fact and not social media bullying.