Press Council finds News Limited misled over NBN

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Press Council finds News Limited misled over NBN

Three articles judged “inaccurate” and “misleading”.

The News Limited-owned Daily Telegraph has been found to have published inaccurate and misleading information in its coverage of the National Broadband Network.

Australia's Press Council has asked the newspaper to print a correction after upholding complaints made by Jamie Benaud, a firefighter fed up with the flaming News Limited papers have directed at the NBN project.

Benaud took the Daily Telegraph to task over three articles published in June and July of 2011:

  • “Australian taxpayers’ latest NBN horror show”
  • “Join the NBN or you’ll be digging deep”
  • “Low interest in high speed internet”

The first misstated the number of customers signed up to the network, using figures that were several months old, despite an updated figure being published on the public record one month before the article was written. Benaud also complained that the newspaper compared these outdated figures to a projected total of staff it predicted NBN Co would hire in the future. The Press Council upheld this complaint despite the “minor” factual errors because the errors were used as the basis for the inflammatory article.

The Press Council found the second article “clearly and seriously inaccurate”. The article warned readers that they would be charged $900 if they chose not to have the NBN connected during the rollout, but later changed their minds. It also claimed NBN connections cost $140 a month, but did not mention that cheaper plans range from  $30 per month.

The third article attempted an “apples for apples” comparison of a consumer’s broadband plan today with an NBN connected plan, neglecting to mention the latter included a bundled phone service.

The Council said it was concerned that “within a short period of time three articles on the same theme contained inaccurate or misleading assertions.

“This sequence of errors should not have occurred and that they should have been corrected promptly and adequately when brought to the newspaper’s attention."

Benaud told iTnews he had no financial interest in any telecommunications or media companies or any other conflict of interest.

“I just got sick of the reporting in the Telegraph!” he said.

Benaud, incidentally the nephew of Australia's most famous cricket commentator, said the newspaper had been ordered by the Press Council to print corrections on December 22. News Limited had argued that it could not accommodate this request, and has suggested December 26, a public holiday.

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