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  • News, Telecommunications - Written by on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 9:40 - 91 Comments

    Turnbull accuses ABC of NBN “propaganda”

    news Malcolm Turnbull has accused the national broadcaster of creating “relentless propaganda” to support Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network project, in a stance which the Shadow Communications Minister yesterday described as “embarrassing”.

    The ABC’s Technology & Games sub-site has published a number of articles over the past six months by its editor Nick Ross going into a great level of detail about Labor’s NBN project and the Coalition’s criticism of it. In general, the aim of the articles appears to have been educational, although their broad line has been positive in favour of the NBN.

    For example, Ross published an article on 14 June this year, entitled “NBN stats: Australia’s broadband future and why the Coalition’s alternative ‘won’t work”. The article attempted to use a global research study published by networking equipment manufacturer Cisco to show why “the Coalition’s alternatives won’t just be unable to support the benefits to health, education, power distribution, business and society that NBN Co’s current planned infrastructure will provide” and also “that they won’t be able to support the regular organic growth of the general internet requirements that we have now – within just four years!”

    Ross published another article on 27 April this year entitled “The Coalition’s NBN: cheaper or a false economy?” The article attempted to debunk what it stated was a statement by Turnbull claiming that the Coalition’s rival NBN policy would be cheaper and easier to deploy than Labor’s NBN. “Initially I was all set to agree too. I was simply going to analyse whether cheap equated to value. However, more digging is suggesting that there’s nothing cheap about the Coalition’s plans. In fact they could well be monstrously more expensive,” wrote Ross at the time. The ABC’s Technology & Games site has also published several other articles by Ross broadly positive about the NBN.

    Yesterday, Ross and Turnbull engaged in a very public argument on the subject on social networking platform Twitter. “Your relentless NBN propaganda is an embarrassment to the ABC,” Turnbull told Ross. “Do you really work for the ABC or is it the NBN Co?”

    Turnbull wrote that he challenged Ross to set out the “lies” which he said Ross had claimed the Coalition was telling about the NBN. “Then I will deal with them,” Turnbull said. “Well here is a challenge to you – set out the facts that you say I have misrepresented and the facts upon which you rely. My complaint has been a lack of balance, of any attempt to consider or investigate the case put by us. You set out all the “lies” you claim we have told and I will deal with them.”

    In turn, Ross (see the ABC’s Tech & Games Twitter account here) in particular highlighted what he said were weaknesses in the Coalitions’ NBN policy, especially its focus on using a fibre to the node-style of broadband rollout rather than the fibre to the home approach Labor is currently taking. “I work for the Australian public. You haven’t ever acknowledged health, [education], business, upload speed requirements for NBN,” Ross told Turnbull. “Am more than happy to meet up and discuss this. We seem to think the NBN is for very different purposes.”

    “You can’t say these facts about the NBN without backing them up. I back up what I say more than anyone. If you can demonstrate what facts I have said that are wrong I’ll be mortified. But you need to justify your claims. I go the science route. The facts are all that matter here. Technology is blind to politics. I’ll show my working as usual.”

    Ross is correct in that the Coalition has made a number of factually incorrect claims about the NBN project over the past several years.

    Last week, speaking on Channel Ten’s Meet the Press program, Nationals Leader Warren Truss made a number of major factually inaccurate statements about the project, as detailed in this article by Delimiter at the time. In addition, Truss had previously made a number of inaccurate statements about the NBN over the past several months, and Truss’s about the NBN represent only the latest time which a high-profile member of the Coalition has made a factually inaccurate claim about the project over the past several years.

    In June, for example, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey inaccurately claimed that 4G mobile broadband had the potential to be “far superior” to the fibre technology of the NBN. In mid-May, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott misrepresented the cost of connecting to the NBN, in comments which the Government claimed represented a deliberate attempt to mislead the Australian public on the issue. Turnbull similarly made a number of factually incorrect statements on the NBN throughout March, and in January Abbott got quite a few facts about the NBN wrong in a radio interview.

    opinion/analysis
    Has Nick Ross been broadly very positive about Labor’s NBN project on the ABC’s Technology & Games site? Indeed, he has, and Turnbull has a very fair point, that the site is viewed broadly by the technology community as being supportive of the NBN project. This isn’t the best look for the ABC, which is supposed to remain objective towards the Government and the Opposition of the day and their respective policies.

    However, I consider the far greater crime to be the one committed by Turnbull and his Coalition colleagues over the past several years as they have made a substantial number of public statements about the NBN which have been shown to be incorrect. On Twitter yesterday, Turnbull challenged Ross to come up with evidence of where he had misspoken. Well, Mr Turnbull, we have the evidence. The Coalition’s misstatements on the NBN have been painstakingly chronicled on Delimiter, especially over the past year, and I encourage you to read the articles linked above and ask yourself whether you and your Coalition colleagues have always been truthful about the project as a whole.

    And if the Coalition is tempted to turn the blowtorch on Delimiter next with respect to this matter, remember this: The Coalition isn’t the only political party to have had its public statements fact-checked by Delimiter over the past year or so. We encourage those who believe so to examine the way we have kept Labor and the Greens honest as well. You don’t get a free pass just because you’re in Government, as Senator Conroy is well aware.

    Image credit: Screen cap of Turnbull and Pesce on ABC’s The Drum, believed to be fair use

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    91 Comments

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    1. Sydney
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink |

      Personally I love reading Malcolm Turnbull’s blog. He writes these feebly-argued-but-superciliously-worded articles, and then every point he has attempted to make is comprehensively, factually rebutted by people posting comments.

      Turnbull’s argument always comes back to the old conservative mantra, “we could do it cheaper, mmmkay?”, alternated with “we can give you much the same broadband you have today IN JUST TWO YEARS TIME!!11!!”

      He always completely ignores the long term view.

      • andy
        Posted 30/07/2012 at 2:14 am | Permalink |

        So? the NBN promises me the speed I have today but in 3-4 years time and will cost me $10 a month more.

        • Posted 30/07/2012 at 3:14 am | Permalink |

          How so andy?

          If you WANT the same service on the NBN (assuming you have 12 or 24Mbps) then you can have it. Guarantee you can get it cheaper though. Not $10 more.

          And if you want better, you can have it too.

          I fail to see where you’re going with that comment? Or where you got that idea from?

          • Alex
            Posted 30/07/2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink |

            Yes, people either beileive this rubbish 7T, or they (as I have found with primarily all of them who repeat such things) are on a political crusade… with the truth being the victim :/

    2. Glenn
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink |

      Labeling anyone a lair is a pretty low act, its not a lie if they believe it.

      As the saying goes, “never blame on malice what can be blamed on stupidity”, but even that is pretty harsh, people see things from different perspectives, there is rarely even an “objective truth” to lie about.

      • Noddy
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink |

        So he is stupid or a liar? Well, he certainly isn’t stupid, so what does that leave?

        • James
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink |

          Misinformed?

          • Noddy
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink |

            Well, if he is, he isn’t doing his own research or is looking to see what he wants to see. If he did even a little research on his FTTN proposal, rather than holding up examples of other countries FTTN and then ignoring them going FTTH.

      • Elijah B.
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink |

        [Quote]its not a lie if they believe it.[end quote]

        No, actually; a person may not recognise a lie as a lie, but a lie is still a lie. Subjective Reality isn’t a universal law but a system of personal preferences, as much as people today want what they believe to be truth simply because they believe it. There is a difference between subjective truth and objective truth. This is a very unpopular concept these days, so I don’t expect to get anywhere with this (and it is off topic).

    3. umberto
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink |

      The discourse between tech journalists and Malcolm Turnbull has, is and will always be dysfunctional and largely talking at cross-purposes because the former worship at the altar of technology and put all the emphasis on technical considerations whilst Malcolm as a policymaker necessarily and appropriately has to focus on the economics of infrastructure investment and put the interests of taxpayers above all else.

      • Noddy
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink |

        If you are putting the taxpayers first you don’t build a network that will not have a life beyond the time it is completed then have to spend more to do exactly what the NBN is doing now, FTTH.
        His number one interest is his job, politician. A job where the “truth” is flexible when it comes to getting into office.

        • bert
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink |

          Why are BT UK and Chorus NZ both EXTENDING their FTTN footprints?

          • Noddy
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink |

            They are going FTTH now.

          • Noddy
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink |

            Ahh, you were being very sneaky there. I just read the Chorus bit as the NZ broadband. Yes, they got rid of Chorus and are now rolling out FTTH. Chorus is doing it’s own thing with it’s cabinets.

          • tom
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink |

            Did you do any research to back up your comment?

            http://delimiter.com.au/2012/04/30/fttn-a-huge-mistake-says-ex-bt-cto/

          • Abel Adamski
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink |

            bert, have you researched the actual cost for a customer to upgrade from FTTN to FTTH with Chorus, (they have to pay the full install and upgrade cost)?

      • Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink |

        …but when his solution will ultimately cost the taxpayers more, he is actually neither “worshiping at the alter of technology” nor “focusing on the economics”.

        He’s focusing on the three-year political cycle.

        • Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink |

          *altar

        • bert
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink |

          “He’s focusing on the three-year political cycle.”

          So, Malcolm is arguing against the NBN b/c it is politically popular to do so for the next election? l thought NBN supporters were saying that Labor NBN is highly popular even among Coalition voters???

          That’s the sort of logical consistency l expect from NBNco #1 ticket-holder.

          • Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink |

            It is highly popular amongst Liberal voters…he’s ignoring what they want.

            • Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink |

              And National party members should be in favour of it – big part of the NBN was around addressing network access in the bush – hopefully leading to better health outcomes and job opportunities that have long been on the “getting screwed” end of the spectrum.

          • Noddy
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink |

            He is proposing what he can given that his leader doesn’t want anything spent on any broadband, but needs to be seen to be doing something better than Labor for political reasons.

          • Abel Adamski
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink |

            IMO defusing the pontetial political influence at election time. at the expense of the Nations future economy?

    4. Abel Adamski
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink |

      Glenn and umberto
      Correct it is about economies and taxpayer interest and the definition of those factors.
      First is the goal and intent, then the required technology to achieve that goal, then the economic structure.
      Both Parties have a stated goal and a business structure.
      One is planned for the long term for the Nations best interest for all sectors of the Nation and economy and is designed to be at no cost to the taxpayer..
      The Other is to satisfy Current consumer/public needs and in a limited manner, the needs of the short term future.
      The cost effectiveness is questionable due to thevariable state of existing infrastructure and the much higher maintenance costs of FTTN and the copper network.
      Consider the number of active powered NBN cabinets , their susceptibility to insects, rodents, water etc.
      What is the maintenance rate elsewhere in the world.
      How many Traffic light cabinets fail or require servicing per year as a percentage and they will be far less complex, plus there will be a large multiple in terms of FTTN cabinets.

      So it would be IMO a fair assumption that the maintenance costs will be many times higher, over several years completely negating the “cheaper” statement, yet for a far lesser end result.

      IMO There has been much shall we say deception, which concerns me as our economy apart from mining is limited, we need all the help we can get to restructure

      • PeterA
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink |

        Agreed. Pointing at a liar and calling him a liar (or a bender of the truth, however you want to split hairs) is not partisan, and should not be characterised as such.

        You can be objective, and call someone else’s arguments illogical or factually wrong. Doesn’t make your statements subjective or biased.

        I say this having not read (in recent memory) one of the articles in question. But I (in principal) agree that it is possible to write objective fact based editorials and come to the conclusion that much of what the coalition says on broadband is not in the best interests of the country.

        Just because the coalition says something that can be proven wrong, doesn’t mean it is partisan to point it out.
        What would be partisan, is to fail to point out the same kinds of lies and half truths from other politicians. Thing is, I am not aware of statements made by Labor that are as “wrong” as some of the statements made by the coalition.

        I am not defending Ross here, but just the potential for someone to write “pro NBN” articles and still be considered non-partisan, and you should retain the right not to be called biased.

        • Posted 24/07/2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink |

          “I say this having not read (in recent memory) one of the articles in question.”

          Mate. In this case, you have no basis commenting on this issue then.

          • Anthony
            Posted 25/07/2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink |

            Actually he has every right.
            He was making a point. And clearly stated his position.
            To me, that is a fair arguement/point.

    5. Andrew
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink |

      [ Indeed, he has, and Turnbull has a very fair point, that the site is viewed broadly by the technology community as being supportive of the NBN project. This isn’t the best look for the ABC, which is supposed to remain objective towards the Government and the Opposition of the day and their respective policies.]

      What rubbish. The ABC, or indeed anyone purporting to an objective journalist or commentator, has an obligation to be objective to the facts. If a government or opposition holds a position that is in conflict with reality and continues to make misleading statements about it then it the responsibility of any reporter worth the title to point this out. That is all Ross and the ABC have done. That doing so seems to be supportive of the government only tells us how weak the opposition’s policy and arguments are.

      Delimiter to it’s credit does exactly this. Presumably you have come to similar conclusions as Ross and the ABC (and pretty much every other informed commentator) independently based solely on the facts. So why make the above statement that this isn’t the best look for the ABC? This attitude that ‘balance’ can be achieved by ignoring the facts and giving each side’s rhetoric equal weight is not value free. It is dishonest and dangerous. It serves no purpose other than provide platforms and prestige for people to peddle arguments that would not otherwise receive nor deserve them. It is cowardly of any journalist to give any credence whatsoever to this dangerous myth.

      Renai, you’ve consistently shown at Delimiter the strength to ignore this dishonest appeal to ‘balance’, so why be equivocal in your support of the ABC’s strength to do the same. You should retract the lines above and make it clear that Turnbull does not have a fair point at all, and that coming to an independent and informed position on the NBN based solely on the facts is a very good look for the ABC indeed. Turnbull’s accusation is nothing but a cheap shot from a man desperately trying to polish a turd and foist it on the rest of us. Ross and the ABC deserve unqualified support to reject it out of hand.

      • Abel Adamski
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink |

        +100

      • Pieter
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink |

        It’s not just Malcolm Turnbull. Even Rod Bruem from Telstra has criticized the ABC:

        http://www.abc.net.au/technology/articles/2012/06/14/3524848.htm

        Rod Bruem :
        15 Jun 2012 10:20:07am

        This is a classic example of ABC political bias. You really have to wonder how shallow the editorial management pool is at the ABC to publish such partisan propaganda. The Coalition isn’t denying the need for faster broadband, it is questioning whether the expensive model favoured by Labor is the right one – and whether there would be better, cheaper alternatives to get faster broadband to Australian homes and businesses. Just as technology is blind to politics, it seems the ABC is blind to fairness and objectivity.

        • Sathias
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink |

          The problem is that calling FTTN “cheaper” completely ignores the fact that when you eventually migrate to FTTP, the end result will be more expensive. Turnbull trumpets that modern FTTN nodes are upgradable to FTTP, but completely ignores the total cost. People on Twitter were really pushing the point with him yesterday, and Turnbull would just completely ignore the point and return to his assertion that FTTN was cheaper. The most I managed to get out of him was that you would need to get power to the nodes, where you otherwise wouldn’t if you went straight to GPON. But apart from that he was just being completely evasive and disingeneous, continually returning to HIS propaganda.

        • Abel Adamski
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink |

          Vested interest?
          Under the current agreement they still own the copper, the tophats they are madly installing are effectively FTTN. ??
          What delivers the better result for Telstra. ?
          Would the alternate plan further entrench Telstra’s monopoly position, in fact will it cement the reseller rather than true wholesale environment bearing in mind Telstra’s new focuss on media and content. ??

        • Sydney
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink |

          … and, by the way, it is curious for a Telstra spokesman to be speaking out against the NBN when Telstra has comprehensively endorsed it and entered into a deal that 99.5% of its shareholders voted for. The spokesman should be doing the job of communicating the company’s views, not his own political agenda.

        • Posted 24/07/2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink |

          hey guys,

          no more discussion of Rod Bruem’s history, please — this is not the place to discuss that if you have an issue with the guy.

          Cheers,

          Renai

          • Posted 26/07/2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink |

            I should clarify that these comments are my own and reflect my personal view as a taxpayer, they do not reflect the views of Telstra Corproation Limited.

            • Alex
              Posted 26/07/2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink |

              Hi Rod,

              Just wondering what your thoughts (as a tax payer) are on the Coalition’s plan, which Citi estimated would cost us tax payers (as opposed to the NBN being debt and therefore not costing us taxpayers directly) almost $17B iirc for FttN and associated extras?

              Cheers

      • Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink |

        Andrew, you’re coming close to the line here. Please couch future comments in less confrontational language. Comments on Delimiter must be polite and yours is not.

        • Andrew
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink |

          Well Renai in all honesty and without a hind of confrontation, I’m absolutely baffled by that statement. Was it because I didn’t say please?

          I was simply making the very obvious point that you have earnt my respect as a reader by confronting Turnbull and the Liberals with the conflict between what they say and reality. So why should it be not ‘the best look’ for Ross and the ABC to do the same? No doubt many who would rather just support anything the Coalition say for partisan reasons find your work confrontational. So what? Should that restrict you in being truthful to your readers by pointing out where other’s statements are less than truthful?

          So why is it confrontational that I should ask you re-examine your own statement that gives undeserved succour to Turnbull’s accusation of bias against Ross and the ABC? It is truthful to say that Turnbull and the Liberals make many statements that are not completely truthful. You say so in your own piece, and have demonstrated the same time and again on this site.

          If it is right that you should do so (and it obviously is), then why is it not equally right for Ross and the ABC to come to similar conclusions and to say so without fear or favour? The accusations of bias are raised to try to cower the ABC from providing frank and factual reporting on the NBN. I find it confusing and indeed disturbing that you would provide even the slightest support to the accusation. There is no ‘lesser crime’ from Ross and the ABC. They are doing their job much as you are doing yours and reaching similar conclusions based on the facts. I would have thought that deserved a clear and unequivocal statement of support, not some weasel words.

          In the hope of being less confrontational I will rephrase and politely ask you to consider retracting the lines I quoted and any inference that accusations of bias against Ross and ABC might have any legitimate basis. I do so on the basis that objective, fact based reporting on the NBN, or indeed any other matter is a rare and precious thing that should be supported from unjustified attack at all times. I believe a clear and unqualified statement of support for Ross and the ABC on this matter is warranted, and your statement falls short of that in it’s present form.

          • Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink |

            Andrew,

            you made a number of emotional statements in reference to my comments; for example, describing them as ‘rubbish’. I note that your post also included such words as “cowardly”. It is on this basis that I object to your comment.

            With relation to your demand that I retract my comments, there is no need for me to do so, as they are factual. It is a fact that the ABC’s Technology & Games site is perceived as being pro-NBN and that this is not the look the ABC normally seeks to achieve. I do not believe I mentioned the flawed concept of ‘balance’ in journalism; instead I referred to the ABC’s general need to be ‘objective’.

            Just a quick note; I’m not interested in debating this point further. Further calls for me to retract these comments will be deleted as being off-topic. Please focus on debating Turnbull’s relationship with the ABC and not my own position on the situation.

            Kind regards,

            Renai

      • Trevor
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink |

        I have to agree with Andrew here. Turnbull’s statements shouldn’t be given credence when what he is trying to do is run a smear campaign against the ABC generally in order to distract focus from his (and his party’s) deceitful tactics, factual misrepresentation and political double-speak on the subject of the NBN.

        I do have some sympathy for Malcolm – it must be strange to be caught out in factual inaccuracy so unambiguously in politics. Usually a bit of obfuscation and spin is all that’s needed to weasel out of such accusations, yet on this topic people are refusing to let it go – indeed, it seems to be growing longer legs the longer it drags on.

        Which is precisely why his statements shouldn’t be given credence by other journalists – yes, the ABC should be impartial, but impartiality doesn’t mean giving both arguments equal weight and not drawing conclusions. If the coalition came up with a viable and reasonable alternative to the NBN, I’m sure the ABC would be happy to report this (and even support it). The fact is they don’t, so you can hardly blame the ABC for reporting, you know, the truth.

      • James Q
        Posted 25/07/2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink |

        +1

        Turnbull’s view of balance seems to mean publishing an equal number of articles in support of the government and the opposition.

        This is the cancer which is killing journalism.

        • Posted 25/07/2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink |

          I don’t think this is Turnbull’s view at all.

          • James Q
            Posted 25/07/2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink |

            How isn’t it? He is complaining because he is seeing so-called “pro NBN” articles only.

    6. Hubert Cumberdale
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink |

      Interesting comments form Turnbull and the coalition clowns in general. I love the “lack of balance” line, the hypocrisy is astounding. Seems facts to them are nothing but an inconvenience that must be labeled “propaganda”. Why they believe they can spout their ill-informed comments without someone quite rightly disputing them is a still a mystery but this is the sort of thing that would be expected from various religious zealots… I guess we have to keep in mind Abbott is still their leader…

      • tom
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink |

        Is Turnbull going to call out The Australian for their blatant Anti-NBN propoganda? I don’t think so.

        • Abel Adamski
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink |

          Balance ?

    7. Paul
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink |

      The ABC isn’t all about political reporting. It also has a role to educate. You can’t expect a science program like Catalyst to devote equal airtime to people claiming climate science is a socialist conspiracy or that the earth is 6000 years old just because some people feel that carries a political bias. Similarly technology reporting is going to reflect industry who mostly feel that FTTH is a good solution. I don’t think that is a bias against the coalition. The coalition has erred by attacking the technology and the NBN staff and while they may be racking up the points with grey talkback radio listeners they are pissing off small L liberals with a science/tech background by talking so much complete nonsense. They should have worked out an alternative market driven solution that offered similar capabilities to the NBN and promoted it.

    8. Brendan.
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink |

      The role of the ABC is to act as a public broadcaster.

      It also has a role to educate. That doesn’t mean “present both sides of a debate with equal footing, regardless” – it means educate.

      Being objective is detaching yourself from the situation and presenting the data. Not simply a 50/50 split of air-time. ;)

      Facts play rather an enormous part in that notion, in that, really, that’s what should be the measure.

      Otherwise, presenting non-factual data as factual is at best unbalanced. At worst, it could be construed as propaganda; it’s a bit like parties overusing the “fair go” clause for constituents; seldom ever actually the case, more often used when there’s no other factual basis.

      I’m not going to take shots at Renai (if the previous comment seemed that way, it was not intended so). Rather, it’s up to all of us, really, to be objective in what we see and hear.

      That’s weighing up the facts, not simply giving two opposing views equal airtime, regardless of any factual basis.

      • Anthony
        Posted 25/07/2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink |

        I agree to this.
        I can’t say I’ve read the ABC broadcasting rules however…
        I think I can still say, I agree to this…

    9. Abel Adamski
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink |

      As Renai points out , it is a matter of perceived bias by the ABC.
      IMO this is actually scary.

      During the latter stages of WW2 and the battle of the Kokoda Trail when things were going badly for us, the US and Aust High Command issued a press release/statement that was a whitewash of high command blaming the on site tropps and command. An ABC embedded war correspondat filed a factual report and analysis that exposed the whitewash. He lost his accreditation and was expelled from the front, subsequently was unable to obtain employment in Aust and joined the BBC reporting on the war in Europe.

      We have these statements being made by a potential senior minister of the incoming government.
      The ABC has a charter to inform, this means research the facts and report accordingly.

      A media organisation which directly controls a major component of Australia’s media supports the incoming governments position. (admittedly articles in The Australians IT sector which the general public would never read have tended to be supportive of the NBN ).

      Practically IMO we face an Orwellian future where those that fail to follow the party line are denied employment or the ability to earn an income, where facts and reasoned analysis are permitted only on certain subjects if at all

      Has democracy been sabotaged from within after all the deaths and sacrifices for our freedom and democracy.?

      The Technical and economic factors are in truth irrelevant

      This is frightening for our children and grandchildren

      • Noddy
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink |

        “The ABC has a charter to inform, this means research the facts and report accordingly”
        I think that is exactly what they are doing. Let’s hope he isn’t persecuted for it. Someone has to tell Turnbull he has no cloths.

      • Anthony
        Posted 25/07/2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink |

        My fear with the internet was always the quick spead of propaganda.
        Let’s face it, if enough people believe something, they don’t always look objectively.
        And the internet lets this lack of objectivity to spread like wildfire.

        Thankfully, the other side of the argument can spread like wild fire too. But only if enough people look for it or are open to it.

        I spent 10 years beliving Phil Collin’s In the Air Tonight was about a murder he witnessed as a kid, because I looked it up… :-s

        A bit off topic…

    10. bob
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink |

      Perhaps Malcolm could lodge a press council complaint, similar to the one made against (iirc) the Australian over it’s biased and incorrect NBN coverage.

    11. Adrian
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink |

      I agree that that ABC needs to be a bit more concerned as their funding comes from government. However trying to “balance” news with he said/she said does not win any reader/viewers and I don’t think makes for good journalism. I love to read Delimiter for their “opinion/analysis”. I think Mr Turnbull is just bullying the ABC into trying to curtail their stories and bring them inline with the oppositions policy. Politicians asking experts to change their opinion on things based on balance rather than supporting evidence is a sure sign that their policy is not quite where is needs to be.

    12. CMOTDibbler
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink |

      If Turnbull thinks Nick Ross is biased then let him point out where this has happened. I’ve read Nick’s articles and I can’t remember any bias. He explained the reasoning behind his opinions. I can’t say I found fault in any of it.

      Nick Ross clearly believes the NBN policy is good. What’s he supposed to write?

    13. Francis Young
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink |

      Renai, Nick Ross has written these pieces as technical commentary and advocacy, and they are in fact balanced.

      First, they clearly articulate the technical issues which governments since John Howard’s in 2004 have grappled with in order to deliver universal broadband services in a Telstra 100% privatised monopoly copper world. Nick painstakingly teases out the details of the optimal solution developed by experts and which Malcolm Turnbull unhesitatingly agrees is the best, but will not support. He explains why alternative technology mixes were rejected. So far, the ABC is doing its job as an educator.

      Nick then quotes Malcolm Turnbull’s assertions regarding the NBN project, and explains why they do not withstand scrutiny against the agreed optimal solution and its funding model.

      In this way, the ABC is doing its job of presenting both sides of the argument. Malcolm Turnbull has a lot of airtime on the ABC, and uses some of it to attack the NBN.

      Where, in all of this, is the ABC failing to do what we expect of it?

      Malcolm Turnbull has proven himself the Shadow Minister for Last Century Broadband. It is he who has failed to live up to expectations of his party, which will suffer another avoidable hung result in 2013 unless it adopts the NBN.

    14. Posted 24/07/2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink |

      I think Turnbull is barking up the wrong tree here.

      He’s doing this because the ABC gets grassroots support from alot of Liberals….and those Liberals are listening to Nick Ross.

      Is Nick pro-NBN? Yes. Does he make that clear? Yes. Does he say anything factually incorrect? I haven’t found anything yet and I’d be the first to pull him up- I always pull up those on Whirlpool, here and anywhere else who try rhetoric/FUD instead of facts over the pro-NBN position. That’s just as bad as anti-NBN FUD.

      Turnbull is starting to attack the media direct (the easiest target being the government (Labor) funded ABC) because he can’t attack the pro-NBN lobby easily without huge backlash now. It has grown too much. The reason he hasn’t attacked the other media outlets is, in general, all except SMH have been 75% more negative than positive of the NBN. And it’d generate a furore to attack a commercial media outlet. Attacking the ABC is something “everyone does” when they appear to be taking the government of the day’s side.

      This is schoolboy behaviour- “You don’t like my idea just because your mum has a better one!”…..well, yes, if it’s a better idea, why wouldn’t the ABC “educate” the people about it?

      I’m increasingly disappointed in Turnbull of late. He seems to be slipping further and further into “politics” rather than “being a politician.”

      • Posted 24/07/2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink |

        “Is Nick pro-NBN? Yes. Does he make that clear? Yes.”

        This is precisely Turnbull’s point — an ABC editor has no business being publicly “pro” or “anti” anything with respect to debatable government or coalition policies.

        • Posted 24/07/2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink |

          While I agree Renai a Journalist must maintain impartiality…..Nick Ross was posting under blog and opinion headings…..not ABC Technology News.

          Certainly the “NBN stats: Australia’s broadband future and why the Coalition’s alternative ‘won’t work’” one is.

          Afaik the others are too.

          This is I think where Turnbull is becoming desperate and where I believe IMO you’re being slightly unfair to Nick- Nick is Technology Editor and has presided and edited, presumably, many articles on Technology News which are, just that, news. But his own posts on the NBN are almost always Opinion or Blog postings.

          You do so yourself here- you label them Opinion/Blog and we know we can have a crack if we don’t agree with your assumptions.

          However, what Turnbull is doing here is accusing Nick of “biased reporting”. in other words, what The Australian and The Telegraph have been doing to the NBN; presenting the “news” in the worst possible light for the NBN.

          Afaik all his “news” articles are edited well and without bias. His opinion.blog articles are not required to be BUT Turnbull believes that, because of his public stature and respect as a tech journalist, he should NOT post these “pro-NBN” articles, even IF they are labelled “Opinion/Blog.” And I’m sorry, but in no way is that right.

          Any number of tech journalists have weighed in on one side or the other on the NBN in the opinions sections or blog posts. But their news articles are always factual.

          Turnbull just can’t handle the fact that Nick is so good at getting these opinions across eloquently and insightfully, while he struggles against what he sees as a tide of stupidity, that the opinions are widely regarded as being true, because of the facts and evidence he produces.

          I don’t think it is right to call out Nick for being “biased” towards the NBN as a journalist- From what I have seen, his news articles aren’t. But he is perfectly entitled to his opinion and to publicly report it AS LONG AS he labels it as such, which he does.

          I guess the ABC system is different to many news outlets- after all, if you look up Technology News and then click on a news item within their “News” heading, it takes you through to the “Technology Section” of the ABC news site, rather than heading it as “ABC Technology News”. However I would assume, being Technology News, Nick would still edit it. And if you look at their news feed….none of his blog/opinion posts are in there….

          Do you disagree?

          • Paul Grenfell
            Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink |

            Spot on..

          • Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink |

            Please note: I’m not defending Turnbull’s point of view.

            However, the facts of the matter are that Ross has published an ongoing series of analytical articles attacking the Coalition’s rival policies and arguing that Labor’s NBN is the correct path forward.

            I don’t think anyone would have a problem with this per se, even Turnbull. But where I do think Turnbull has a valid point is that I don’t think Nick has done enough to publish the alternative point of view.

            Turnbull often does raise very good issues with respect to the NBN, and as you’ll notice, we tend to cover these on Delimiter because they are objectively interesting and valuable additions to the debate. But I haven’t seen Ross cover these so much on the ABC’s Technology & Games site, which has led to a perception that the site has too much of a pro-NBN slant.

            In the same vein, several News Ltd outlets probably haven’t gone enough to fairly represent the Government’s view on the NBN, leading to a perception that they have too much of an anti-NBN slant.

            Given the Coalition’s falsities on the NBN and the need to redress much of the anti-NBN spin from the mainstream media, as I noted in the article, I don’t think Turnbull has grounds for a complaint against the ABC on this issue.

            But objectively speaking, it is a fact that the ABC’s Technology + Games site has indeed developed a pro-NBN reputation, and objectively speaking, it is a fact that this not the general editorial reputation the ABC seeks.

            • djos
              Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink |

              Renai, It’s hard not to be broadly supportive of a REAL forward looking, well designed NATIONAL broadband network plan that is actually being implemented as we type and has obvious future benefits for the nation.

              This is the network that has prompted global IT giant HP (my employer) to invest over 100 million dollars in an Australian data center (they have only 5 tier3 DC’s worldwide including the Sydney DC) and countless other companies are gearing up to take advantage of the NBN and yet the Liberal party want to scrap it!

              If the liberal party actually had a meaningful NATIONAL* broadband policy it would be hard not to be supportive of that too! (but they dont!)

              *a patchwork quilt of obsolete tech plus a lucky few in new estates getting FTTH is not a national network!

              • Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink |

                It is not the job of journalists to be “supportive”. It is our job to inform and educate. Whenever someone asks me to “support” their project, I laugh in their face.

                • djos
                  Posted 25/07/2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink |

                  Since when has “informing” readers that something is worthwhile and why you believe this when the facts are on your side been considered un-balanced? it would only be un-balanced if the facts where not on the side of the journo doing the reporting (ala Noise Ltd reporting which flat out ignores the facts).

                • Anthony
                  Posted 25/07/2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink |

                  Didn’t Einstein once say something along the lines of (I paraphrase):
                  “You can give me 100 experts with the same opinion, but it only takes 1 with a fact, to refute them all”

                  If Nick Ross is reporting the facts, and that’s If, what exactly is the problem?

                • djos
                  Posted 25/07/2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink |

                  Renai I dont understand how being in favor of the best solution is being biased?

                  Next you will be accusing Motor of being biased towards which ever manufacturer wins the yearly BFYB (bang For Your Buck)performance award simply because they discussed all the relative merits of the competing cars and recommended the Best one!

                • Alex
                  Posted 25/07/2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink |

                  I believe (in a perfect world) it’s a journalists job to bring the news to the masses as ‘honestly’ as possible.

                  Herein lies the problem – honesty doesn’t always equate to impartiality and impartiality doesn’t always equate to honesty.

            • djos
              Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink |

              PS, forgot to mention – MT is the bloke who reckons the 600million being spent of new BB satelites was wasted on the bush and yet has the gall to say the Liberal party with give the bush better BB? Now that is pure biased BS!

            • Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink |

              Fair call Renai.

              I understand your motives- you’d like all Journalism to apply critical analysis to both sides.

              It’s certainly something I’ve noticed and try not to do myself, when it comes to pro-NBN people, they tend to ignore any possibility of positive points within an opposing POV. It certainly couldn’t hurt for Nick to try and cover an analysis of the Coalition Policy.

              I think where this falls down at the moment is…..there isn’t any facts in this country to draw from to discuss the possibility of a primarily FTTN NBN (whether that be to 40% or 90%). It is difficult analysing that which you have very little information on!

              I guess that was what my point was ultimately- it is ridiculous for Turnbull to be calling what Nick is doing on the ABC “propaganda.” Everything he writes is factually backed up. It IS however skewed towards the pro-NBN POV.

              If he’s gonna call what Nick writes propaganda…..what on Earth is the mainstream media writing or he himself writing on his Blog???

              • djos
                Posted 24/07/2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink |

                I can answer that ST, they are writing outright barefaced lies!

              • Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:41 pm | Permalink |

                True, the propaganda call was perhaps an exaggeration on Turnbull’s part.

              • Justin
                Posted 25/07/2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink |

                I think it’s probably difficult to critically analyse the coalition’s plan given it’s not really obvious what that plan is. All we really hear from them is:

                - it’ll be cheaper
                - it’ll roll out faster
                - they’ll subsidise commercial entities to do it
                - it’ll be a mix of technologies
                - it’ll incorporate FTTN

                Those points have been covered by Renai and the ABC. But there’s not really enough detail to do any real critical analysis of it. All you can do is say this is what the NBN is doing, here’s how the price and timeframe may compare.

        • CMOTDibbler
          Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink |

          Will Turnbull take the same line with the editor of The Australian? It would be hypocritical not to.

        • Mudguts
          Posted 25/07/2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink |

          So a politician has a problem with what a journo has written?!?

          Oh the humanity!

          Wait a minute, this just in….. all politicians are tops!

          Back to our regular scheduled programming…..

    15. Goresh
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink |

      If the cost of pproviding “balance” is to repeat or at best, fail to comment on, factually incorrect opposition pronouncements, then the cost is too high.

      If the ABC is perceived to be in favour of the NBN, it can serve only to balance the position of media such as the Murdock press, which has been shown to be repeatedly publishing factually untrue commentary.

    16. Goresh
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink |

      If Turnbull has any instances of factual inaccuracies in anything the ABC has to say, he should lodge a complaint.

      If there are no factual inaccuracies, then it is reporting, not propaganda.

      • GongGav
        Posted 25/07/2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink |

        If Turnbull has any instances of factual inaccuracies in anything the ABC has to say, he would have shouted them to the world…

    17. Karl
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink |

      Why shouldn’t the ABC be positive about a government project which is set to bring the nation into the modern era? Turnbull might want to politicize everything, that doesn’t mean every comment is either pro-Labor or pro-Lib. Maybe if he and his party stopped spreading lies about the NBN, fair and honest journalists wouldn’t have to set the record straight all the time.

    18. Neil McAliece
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink |

      Aaron Sorkin’s new TV drama comes to mind when media and balance comes up. Sometimes both sides don’t deserve equal footing in a debate.

      If Turnbull wants parts of the media to take his position more seriously, he needs to get serious about communications infrastructure and policy and start making more sense. Turnbull has dragged the coalition back from lunacy on communications policy, but he needs to stop his party from lies and misrepresentations and he needs to be a little more careful about what he himself says.

      • Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink |

        @Neil

        “If Turnbull wants parts of the media to take his position more seriously, he needs to get serious about communications infrastructure and policy and start making more sense.”

        Precisely. But he won’t, because….

        “Turnbull has dragged the coalition back from lunacy on communications policy, but he needs to stop his party from lies and misrepresentations and he needs to be a little more careful about what he himself says.”

        No, he hasn’t. He has realised he himself cannot argue “We do not need an NBN” or “Wireless can do it better”….and yet the rest of his party still does. Turnbull has been put in Comms Portfolio to try and keep him out of the power. He won’t “change” Abbott’s mind on the NBN. That is patently obvious, with all the contradictory statements.

        And he won’t GIVE us any details, because he can’t get the support from Abbott to delve into them with costings, reports and analyses.

        WYSIWYG with the Coalition Policy IMO. It’s not gonna get any better defined.

        • GongGav
          Posted 25/07/2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink |

          “WYSIWYG with the Coalition Policy IMO” — I’m still a little bit unsure what I actually DO see with their policy… Are exchanges contracted to be rolled out inside of 3 years going to stay FttH, or revert to FttN? how about regions surrounded by FttH? Will they be FttH as well to be consistent, or condemned to decades of being a red headed step child?

          The ‘policy’ stated so far is very vague, and will remain so. Its couched in very specific terminology to preach to the swaying masses, but there isnt enough substance to really know what we’d be voting for.

    19. djos
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink |

      “Has Nick Ross been broadly very positive about Labor’s NBN project on the ABC’s Technology & Games site? Indeed, he has, and Turnbull has a very fair point, that the site is viewed broadly by the technology community as being supportive of the NBN project. “

      It’s hard not to be broadly supportive of a REAL forward looking, well designed NATIONAL broadband network plan that is actually being implemented as we type!

      If the liberal party actually had a meaningful NATIONAL broadband policy it would be hard not to be supportive of that too! (but they dont!)

    20. Observer
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink |

      To best understand Turnbull position you have to look at the rest of the political debate. In most area, the coalition has set the agenda and Labor has been on the back foot most of the time. With the NBN it is the government that has set the agenda. Turnbull was given the task of destroying the NBN. From then on, events have forced him to come with something more intelligent. So bit by bit, he has tried to salvage a reasonable policy and doing so with interference from his colleagues.

      Imagine now the complexity of the work needed to flesh out a detailed, fully explained and costed policy. Imagine also, all the hurdles you are going to find along the way.

      Going back to the rest of the political debate, the media (including the ABC) are generally depicting the government plight as close to hopeless but with the NBN there is some support. Can you understand Turnbull frustration? He’d got the short straw. Surprising? Not really, given his leader.

    21. Elijah B.
      Posted 24/07/2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink |

      The words “pot”, “kettle” and “black” come to mind about Turnbull complaining about bias being exhibited by Ross.

      Frequenters of Delimiter and Whirlpool NBN boards may be well aware of the many pro-coalition and anti-NBN articles and radio comments produced by most of the more popular media in this country. Turnbull has not made any complaints about this, of course; perhaps because they support his party’s position; journalists’ objectivity and independence isn’t evident when the party line is parroted. Turnbull has shown repeatedly that he can make an anti-NBN statement of exaggerations, distortions and half truths and that certain media has frequently run with it, generally without asking even a perceptive question, let alone a hard one, and generally hasn’t pulled him up on his misleading and factually incorrect statements, or asked a counter opinion to give the articles “balance”.

      Ross may be partisan on this one particular matter, but it isn’t necessarily that he is pro-Labor (whether he is or not I don’t know); but it’s hard not to appear pro-NBN when, to objective analysis of the NBN and coalition broadband policy, the NBN appears to be the better broadband option being presented of the two.

      If Turnbull presented a much more detailed Liberal broadband policy that included such things as projected costs, details of method and time frames that could stand scrutiny, as well as answering the questions that reasonable people might have, he might make a case; but he hasn’t done so. Maybe he will eventually someday, but he hasn’t now, and now is where we are at, and the NBN plan is the only plan that can be scrutinized.

      In this sense I suggest that Ross can’t help but appear to be pro-NBN. It can be argued that he should hide his preference and just present analysis of both the NBN broadband plan and the coalition broadband statements and ask hard questions of all sides, but he would inevitably arrive at a conclusion, and with that he would still appear to be partisan.

      • Daniel
        Posted 24/07/2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink |

        You don’t understand, Elijah B, the Coalition policy is wrapped around “Productivity Commission”.

        • Alex
          Posted 25/07/2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink |

          …ironically a government department itself (somewhat like NBNCo).

          And a government dept which the government of the tiime are not compelled to heed the advice of *sigh*

      • RocK_M
        Posted 27/07/2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink |

        @Elijah: Ross could run an article about the Labor vs Coalition NBN plans. But there is one major stumbling block for such a comparison. You can’t compare something w/ nothing.

        “We will make it faster and cheaper”

        is NOT a plan. It’s a line, a catch phrase a slogan. It’s a bit unfair to compare a complete several page business analysis w/ a catchphrase. There is no substance to a line, no hard facts, no numbers. NOTHING!

        Sure you can argue against the NBN based on the drawbacks and merits of its own business plan. But you cannot compare it w/ the alternative if the alternative is for all purposes of debate non-existant. And when all you have is a business plan all you can really compare it against is real time technology studies, findings, submissions and general tech journals. All of which still point to the current plan as suitable for now and the future.

        Now *once* the Coalition have something more concrete in mind besides their slogan only then can you start a real debate of comparison between both plans w/ input from the tech studies and journals. And thats really all the tech people are asking for – a concrete plan! A LOT of other people have been more than willing to back up a Coalition plan once its out in the open and open for scrutiny but given the choice between fluff and a plan pragmatism kicks in to say that we should go for the concrete and planned fix as opposed to “we’ll fix it! trust us!” approach…

    22. Brendan.
      Posted 25/07/2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink |

      I’m reminded of The Australian’s view on the NBN, whenever I pick the damn thing up.

      And yet, Turnbull is not squealing at the (obvious) anti-NBN bias. Why? It’s clearly not presenting a level view — what about “just the fact’s ma’am”. Isn’t that the same thing?

      No? Context is everything.




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