The Nine network has responded to criticism of its publication of ads for Clive Palmer’s political party, revealing it has rejected some the mining magnate wanted to place.
Ads for the Palmer United Party have featured prominently on the front page of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review in recent weeks.
They have also run on the front pages of News Corp’s The Australian the Herald Sun and regional mastheads.
The ads – in PUP’s signature bright yellow and with the headline “Freedom, freedom” – say the Liberal and Labor parties are untrustworthy. Others claim “lockdowns destroy jobs”.
They ran in some of papers again on Friday.
Last week, marketing and media industry website Mumbrella published a piece by regular columnist and media analyst Ben Shepherd, who asked why a brand such as The Age would publish such ads while also running a campaign focused on “minds wide open”.
“Running an ad like this is akin to a business claiming you have environmental credentials but then actively supporting the coal lobby. It’s completely incongruent with what you claim to be all about,” he wrote.
PUP’s campaign also drew criticism from five federal crossbench MPs, including the Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt. This week, they wrote a joint letter to Nine Entertainment and News Corp, calling on both to stop publishing ads from Mr Palmer that spread misinformation about the virus.
Mr Bandt, Helen Haines, Rebekha Sharkie, Zali Steggall and Andrew Wilkie urged both major media companies to reject the advertisements.
“We call on Nine Entertainment and News Corporation to acknowledge the harm done, live up to their civic duties as a national publisher and broadcaster in relation to the pandemic, and refuse to publish advertisements of this nature in future,” the letter said.
The MPs acknowledged the newspapers called out the misinformation in their reporting. That, they said, was “in stark contrast to Nine Entertainment Co and News Corporation’s subsequent corporate decision to publish front page anti-lockdown advertisements from Clive Palmer in these same mastheads for profit”.
Shepherd also acknowledged the “excellent Age and SMH journalism”.
Mr Palmer has been criticised for advertisements discussing so-called COVID-19 vaccine concerns, and for ads claiming debunked treatment hydroxychloroquine as Australia’s best hope for COVID sufferers.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has previously called on him to stop spreading “misleading information” after a pamphlet outlining disputed claims about vaccinations was distributed across the country.
Radio ads from Mr Palmer that falsely claimed COVID vaccinations had caused hundreds of deaths were also pulled after the TGA labelled them misleading.
This week, Nine Entertainment confirmed it had rejected other ads that Mr Palmer wanted to published that went against health advice or ATAGI’s vaccine guidance.
“Nine has been vocal in our support for the health advice and has actively used our TV, newspaper, digital and radio properties and ad space to urge Australians to get vaccinated,” a Nine spokesman told Mumbrella.
“We would also note that when we have received ads which contravene the health advice or ATAGI guidance on vaccines, we have rejected them.”
But the company said “individuals in a free society have the right to purchase clearly labelled political advertising which questions lockdowns as a policy response”.
“These views do not reflect Nine’s position on these issues, which we have clearly expressed, and have no impact on the work of our journalists,” the spokesman told Mumbrella.
“As a media organisation, we do not believe in censoring ads that do not contravene the health advice or ATAGI guidance on vaccines.”
An Ad Standards spokesperson told Mumbrella that it had received complaints about some of Mr Palmer’s ads.
“Currently, there is no legal requirement for the content of political advertising to be factually correct. Complainants are advised to raise their concerns with the advertiser directly and/or with their local Member of Parliament,” a spokesperson said.