The Guardian • Issue #2061

Sky News

Making it up, racism, no shame

Sky News helicopter.

Photo: Adam – Pixabay.

On 29th June Alexander Voltz of Sky News attacked the Palaszczuk government for wanting to change the name of Brisbane and its main streets to Meanjin and other indigenous names. Meanjin is a Yuggera word describing the area surrounding the Brisbane River. “According to 4BC,” writes Voltz, “Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is ‘working behind the scenes’ with both Greens and First Nations stakeholders on plans to enact the name change in time for the 2032 Olympics.”

Pauline Hanson, the leader of One Nation, weighed in saying that it was a “possibility.” Voltz accused the Labor government of Queensland of alienating Australians by instigating the indigenisation of the state in the run up to The Voice referendum. The Premier labelled the claims “absolute nonsense.” It was all “fake” news.

Underlying the whole furphy was the unstated assumption that white Australians are the only real Australians, and that the only possible reason for using the Indigenous name for an Australian city had to be hatred of Brisbane’s “proud” history. That’s Sky News in a nutshell: making things up, racism, and no shame.  When the rumour was quashed, rather than apologising for an untruth, Voltz simply wrote about how horrible the imaginary far-left name-changers were. In the Sky News world, if you’re wrong, you can just talk about what would have happened if you’d been right.

Wes Mountain warned in The Conversation in 2021 that Sky News was supporting the far right in Australia. He quoted Kevin Rudd’s observation that Sky News Australia is following the template set by Murdoch’s Fox News in the United States, to radicalise Australian politics.

One danger sign was “the unconstrained peddling of extreme right-wing propaganda, lies, disinformation, crude distortion of fact and baseless assertions.” It is how the far-right media manufactures public opinion, through a system of passionate disinformation.

Sky News has been owned by News Corp Australia since December 2016. In 2017, Denis Muller noted that Sky News was moving towards “right-leaning punditry” in prime time. Four years later Muller wrote in The Conversation that it now followed “extreme right-wing propaganda.”

In August 2018, Sky News was heavily criticised for interviewing the leader of the far-right Neo-Nazi organisation, United Patriots Front, on The Adam Giles Show. The man openly expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and boasted about manipulating women “using violence and terror.” After the interview aired, Sky News commentator, former Labor Party minister Craig Emerson, resigned in protest. Following the Christchurch mosque shootings, in March 2019, Sky News Australia was temporarily removed from Sky New Zealand’s satellite platform, because of how the channel covered the massacre.

On 13th December 2020, Rowan Dean promoted the false Great Reset conspiracy theory, claiming that it was a “serious and dangerous” threat to our “prosperity and your freedom.” In February 2021, American far-right conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, used Sky News Australia to back up his conspiracy claims. On 1st August 2021, You Tube barred Sky News Australia for a week for breaking You Tube’s rules against posting COVID-19 misinformation. In 2022, an analysis by the British Institute for Strategic Dialogue, accused Sky News Australia of being a major source of climate change misinformation.

More recently Sky has attacked the Voice, in a characteristically dishonest way. News host, Andrew Bolt, argued on 9th March 2023, that The Voice was not democratic, as it will be controlled by the “Aboriginal aristocracy” – in Bolt’s mind, this means any Aboriginal people in elected positions of power and not right-wing. Senator Jacinta Price agreed that it would be “empowering” those already at the table.

On 13th June 2023, Peta Credlin from Sky News warned “No campaigners against being complacent” because of the “avalanche of money” behind the Yes campaign.

After a poll commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age showed that support for The Voice had fallen to 49 per cent. In a great example of twisted logic, Credlin warned, “Now it’s true, given the near universal fear of appearing to be racist, this polling might actually understate opposition to a Voice.” She did not explain why the allegedly “near universal fear of appearing to be racist” was a bad thing.

On 28th June, Sky News host Paul Murray said that Australians who debate an Indigenous Voice to Parliament are being attacked, as a sign of the lack of democracy on the issue. Murray complained that too many people thought debate on The Voice is putting Indigenous mental wellbeing “at risk.” It was in reference to Linda Burney, Minister for Indigenous Australians, who said that disinformation and scare campaigns were being used in the debate to unsettle Indigenous people. Her comment was not an attack on debate, but it was against right-wing platforms, such as Sky News, which habitually use falsehoods to undermine the Yes vote. In the Sky mindset, any criticism counts as an attack.

Before the referendum in November, the false news and conspiracy theories will continue on Sky News. While its hosts may sound confident and convincing in their reporting, investigation will show that their claims are lies, falsehoods and complete nonsense. Viewers beware.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More