Sky News Australia CEO Paul Whittaker delivers opening address to Senate media diversity inquiry

Sky News Australia chief executive Paul Whittaker told a Senate media diversity inquiry that YouTube is a publisher that escapes any “regulatory or statutory burdens” that traditional publishers face.

In his opening statement on Monday, Mr. Whittaker told the Senate Environmental and Communications Credentials Committee that the Google-owned platform was not neutral.

“YouTube’s actions make it clear that it is not a neutral platform, but a publisher selectively distributing content and censoring certain views, while allowing blatantly false, misogynistic and racist videos to proliferate,” he said.

“It is now indisputable that YouTube is a publisher, selectively publishing content for political or commercial reasons, but unlike traditional media, it does not accept any of the regulatory or legal burdens that come with being considered a” editor” implies.

“We welcome vigorous debate over new terms of service that should apply to YouTube as a publisher that benefits everyone in our society, not just the self-interested internet elite.”

Read Mr. Whittaker’s full opening statement here.

Mr Whittaker told the inquiry that YouTube’s decision to temporarily suspend Sky News Australia from its platform for seven days demonstrated glaring inconsistencies in the platform’s policies.

“Major Sky News videos on crucial COVID-19 issues, from important discussions of treatments to prevention measures, have been removed from public view, while sordid tutorials on drug use, videos glorifying gang violence and a rich diet of crackpot conspiracy theories are freely and widely available on YouTube,” he said.

“Not only is YouTube’s policy incapable of compliance, unlike other publishers’ policies, but YouTube’s process for reviewing and removing content lacks transparency and a clearly articulated process that offers operators chains the opportunity to address concerns or challenge an assessment before a suspension occurs.

“Sky News has repeatedly asked YouTube to confirm that historical content will not be subject to a new YouTube notice and that Sky News has the opportunity to address concerns or dispute the notice before any further strikes. “

However, despite repeated requests for information, Mr Whittaker said YouTube refused to share details about content that specifically violated its policies.

“In the absence of transparency, Sky News has taken a proactive approach by removing a batch of videos all posted in 2020 from online platforms to ensure continued compliance with YouTube’s arbitrary editorial guidelines,” it said.

“Sky News’ removal of content is not an admission of non-compliance with YouTube policies, but merely an attempt to navigate its opaque policies.

“We recognize that YouTube has terms of service that publishers must adhere to. However, YouTube’s process lacks transparency, and this affects all media.”

Mr Whittaker said Sky News Australia had a long history of public interest journalism and if a mistake was made the record was always corrected.

“Sky News has proudly served the nation for 25 years delivering public interest journalism and a diverse range of news, opinion and investigative programming,” he said.

“Like all live news channels, we strive to always do things right. When mistakes are made, we correct them.

“We operate within the same legal framework as all media outlets and are subject to both the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice and the Subscription Television Codes of Practice.”

Sky News Australia has not been found in breach of codes of practice for over a decade.

“This record is significant given that the Sky News and Sky News Extra channels alone publish over 17,000 hours of coverage, much of which is broadcast live,” he said.

“Our strong audience growth demonstrates that our news service is resonating with traditional Australians.”

Mr Whittaker said YouTube undermining Australian journalism had far-reaching ramifications for the principles of free speech and a free press.

“We are very pleased that Google is investing with News Corp in Australian journalism, but very disappointed that YouTube is undermining that same journalism, without cause but with serious consequences for the Australian public and the principles of freedom of expression and free press,” he said. noted.

“It is clear from the extensive media coverage of the pandemic that not all governments, medical professionals or expert commentators agree on the direction or implementation of strategic policies.

“Sky News is not shy about the wide range of views on a number of issues affecting ordinary Australians.

“Our viewers are not expected to agree with every opinion expressed by every host, guest or panelist. But it now seems commonplace to discredit any debate on contentious issues as ‘misinformation’.

Mr Whittaker said Australians deserved local journalists to hold politicians and governments to account without foreign interference.

“So the question becomes, why is a California-based tech giant, YouTube, and faceless, nameless, algorithm-backed individuals deciding that holding governments and policymakers to account is ‘misinformation'” , did he declare.

“Why do they decide what is and isn’t allowed to make the news?

“When platforms such as YouTube are the public squares of the digital age, how do we ensure the protection of freedom of expression and open debate, to ensure that we have more, not less, media diversity of information and of points of view.

“Some, it seems, think that the voices you agree with should be uncritical and the voices you disagree with should be silenced.

“We believe in open debate on all issues by a wide range of people, which is not only acceptable but is a fundamental tenet of our society that must be respected and protected.”

Norman D. Briggs