“For example, 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.
“I have identified specific misleading statements in the ‘promotion’ including: claims about the costs of the NBN; the ability of private companies to invest in the NBN, and the time-frame for the completion of the network.
“I have written to the ACCC to ask it to investigate whether these statements are misleading and deceptive.
“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.
“The ‘report’ focuses on a number of uses of the NBN including education and distance learning, business applications, video conferencing, and eHealth.
“The reality is that most, if not all, of these applications can be provided either on current networks or networks which would be lower speed (and less expensive) than the NBN.
“The implication from the ‘report’ is that these are applications for which the construction of the NBN is necessary. This is wrong and misleading.
“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.
“In addition, there multiple errors of fact, and multiple instances of contentious or speculative statements which are presented as fact.
“In short, the ‘report’ reads very much as a promotional piece for NBN, is one sided and contains significant inaccuracies.
“I have also raised these issues with both the Australian Press Council and the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The Australian public deserves to know who is paying for this misleading public relations material, and for there to be a clear delineation between news content and flagrant promotion”, Mr Fletcher said.
Note to editors: Copies of Paul Fletcher’s letters to the ACCC, the Australian Press Council, the Sydney Morning Herald and News Limited (Publisher of the North Shore Times) are available on www.paulfletcher.com.au