Thursday, August 08, 2013

Mythbusting: The Daily Telegraph was not handed out at Fox Studios for the Coalition's broadband launch

Here's the conspiracy theory: the evil Murdoch plan for the NBN is proven because at Fox Sports, in April, instead of a press pack, journalists were handed copies of the Daily Telegraph.

For example, from Twitter:
“Coalition Fraudband launch at Fox Studios and reporters handed details in a @dailytelegraph but no Murdoch conspiracy says @TurnbullMalcolm”

It didn't happen, and the reason I can say this is simple: I was there. I'm an eyewitness. I wasn't actually invited, in fact I regard it as one of the best press conference gatecrashes of my life, but I was there, since before Messers Turbull and Abbott arrived until after they left.

I still have the notebook I was carrying – the one I'm whacking with my pen when I'm asking Malcolm Turnbull questions in the press conference in this video, and don't I wish I was better dressed that day!

So this is a combination of my memory, and my side-notes about the sequence of events.

Yes, there were press secretaries there. What were they doing? Mostly, lining up vision with the TV producers: scribblers like me got to be bystanders. I got to watch events with nobody in my face.

So there was the exit-the-car shot, someone asking for a second go at opening the door, and Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott walking through the foyer.

No Daily Telegraph handouts.

Then the cameras rolled while someone from Sky did the show-and-tell for Tony Abbott. I could almost sympathise with a politician in this situation: it was entirely so the TV news could show Mr Abbott nodding at bits of technology, no sound.

No Daily Telegraph handouts.

And after that stuff – still without Daily Telegraph handouts – was over, we took our places in the studio used for the announcement and waited, because the two VIPs needed to be given clear air entering the studio for the cameras. No Daily Telegraph handouts.

After that, there was a brief demonstration of a 3D hologram for Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull (that would need a lot of bandwidth, which is odd as supporting material for a “25 Mbps is good enough” press conference).

And there was the press conference, and a handout at the end – without a Daily Telegraph. I still have the press pack on my desk, because I refer back to it when looking at Liberal Party policy announcements. I have it in its entirety.

The Daily Telegraph isn't there.

Was a Daily Telegraph story given to journalists? Yes: down in Canberra as a pre-launch puff to people who were not present at Sky Sports in Artarmon, Sydney.

Guess who else was not present at Sky Sports in Artarmon, Sydney? The bloggers and conspiracists who are convinced that the Daily Telegraph was handed to people like myself in lieu of a press pack.

How has this idea taken flight? Here's how:
  1. The Coalition gave the Daily Telegraph an early exclusive on the story. It drives journalists nuts if they're not the ones getting the exclusive, but it's also completely unexceptional.
  1. For some reason a press secretary in Canberra thought it would be a good idea to rub the rest of the Gallery's nose in the exclusive, by handing the story to other Gallery journalists.
This event is clearly documented by Crikey, here.

'Last Tuesday, journalists in the Canberra press gallery were eager for details of the opposition’s broadband policy, due to be announced later that morning. So they asked the Coalition’s spinners for information. Instead of a regular press release, however, the journos were handed a colour photocopy of that morning’s Daily Telegraph front page story. The headline: “Pledge to slash internet bills: NBN at half Labor’s price”.' (My emphasis)

This is clear and unambiguous: the Daily Telegraph “drop” was in Canberra, not in Sydney.
  1. However, bloggers have put the two events together and decided that the newspaper was handed out at the launch in Fox Studios. For example, courtesy of “No Fibs”:
The Coalition held its broadband policy launch at, wait for it, Murdoch’s Fox Sports, And the press secretary handed out copies of Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph instead of policy documents.”

It never happened. I was there. I have the press pack. Not The Daily Telegraph.

Why bother setting this down? Because conspiracy theories never made a debate work better.

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