Crikey’s sin-free advertising policy has sparked a furious debate but
we’re not taking threats from the Eros Foundation and their mates and
on balance the feedback is clearly running our way.

Ross Fitzgerald
takes his revenge on Crikey

Sealed Section – February 5, 2004

There’s
a lovely ironic juxtaposition in The Australian today. Firstly, you
have the piece in the new Media and Marketing section where Crikey is
on the “publish and be damned” side of the argument about David
Hookes’s marital status.

Then you have Ross Fitzgerald’s spray
at Crikey (like so many before him, he got our name wrong and dropped
the .au) for refusing to run paid ads from those sleazebags at the sex
industry lobby outfit, The Eros Foundation. Check it out here.

Now,
we have to wonder if Fitzgerald has been stirred into action by this
recent Barry Bananas piece on Crikey criticising his soft column on
Mark Latham in The Australian: Peter Beattie’s seance campaign

There’s nothing like a bit of revenge journalism.

Eros
chief Robbie Swan was obviously looking for someone to dump on Crikey’s
no-sin advertising policy and who better than someone like Fitzgerald,
who was recently slighted by Crikey and has written a soft-porn novel.

Poor
Mrs Crikey, who is not used to seeing her name in print, professes to
be “very upset” with the following two paragraphs from Fitzgerald which
the rest of us think is hilarious:

“Mayne’s wife Paula
Piccinini, who runs Crikey’s advertising section, had presumably had a
difference of opinion with her civil libertarian husband when in late
October 2003 she wrote to (Eros boss Robbie) Swan that “Stephen Mayne
is a prune”. She continued: “We have a policy of not promoting what is
generally known as the ‘sin industries’. Sorry.” Mayne hastily
clarified one matter. In a PS to Swan he wrote: “My wife’s earlier
email to you calling me ‘a prune’ presumably was meant to read ‘prude’.”

What is Crikey’s advertising policy?

On the
question of advertising, Crikey will not accept money from nuclear bomb
makers, racists, terrorists, tobacco companies, purveyors of grog,
gambling outfits and porn pushers. If Mark Latham can ban tobacco
donations to Labor, why can’t Crikey ban porn ads which go against our
own ethical platform and would also damage our brand.

Crikey
believes in freedom of speech but that is different from having
standards in a commercial advertising policy. We also believe in
freedom of association and choose not to associate with the porn
industry. Over the years we’ve also rejected ads from Holocaust-deniers
– does Fitzgerald think we should have run that too?

We weren’t
talking about a 3 line ad in the classifieds, the email ad sleazy Swan
wanted was 120 words at the top of our daily sealed section which goes
to 14,000 inboxes – Australia’s bluest chip email list. It’s the
equivalent of a half page ad on page 3 of a newspaper. Channel Nine
would never allow sex industry ads to run in prime time.

Robbie Swan’s history of intimidation

Robbie Swan has a history of making threats on behalf of the
Eros Foundation and he certainly lobbed plenty of threats our way when
we declined to take his money.

Check out this transcript from 4 Corners

ROBBIE
SWAN: Our members have had it up to the eyeballs, and they’ve said
enough’s enough, and they’re saying that it’s time that the sex
industry fought back.

DAVID MARR: These battles
necessarily have to be fought out on the edges, and that’s why porn —
you know, completely worthless in itself — is something that has to be
contended over. Because if you don’t stop the armies there, they come
in closer.

MATT BROWN: In their attempt to stop the march
of conservative forces the sex industry has started to play dirty. The
Eros Foundation threatens to break the unwritten rule that protects the
private lives of public politicians. They threaten to publicly expose
those politicians they believe are hypocrites.

ROBBIE
SWAN: I mean, if a member of Parliament had something to hide, if he’s
had an illicit affair or, you know, whatever — if he visits sex
workers but then turns around and wants to ban brothels — I think the
public have got a right to know about that. His electorate’s got a
right to know about that double standard.

MATT BROWN: At this point the common ground between the sex industry and libertarians like David Marr begins to fall away.

DAVID
MARR: No. That’s not on, that’s not on. I think it’s — I think it is
useful for organisations like Eros to remind the politicians how very
many people in Australia, for instance, subscribe to and purchase porn
videos and that kind of thing. It should be, you know, clear to
everybody how popular the activity is, that people are trying to
suppress and censor. But no, I mean, exposing politicians’ private
lives is not on. I mean, are they seriously suggesting that?

MATT
BROWN: They ARE seriously suggesting exposing private lives. Just how
confrontational the sex industry is prepared to be was made clear in
this interview when Robbie Swan named two of the politicians he has
targeted. We’ve edited out their names.

ROBBIE SWAN:
Well, we’ve had a letter from *****’s constituency — you know, that
he’s been having an affair with ***** — you know, the member for
*****. I mean, this letter was pretty well documented. If that’s the
case —

I mean, *****’s no longer a member of Parliament,
but he made a big deal about X-rated videos as a National Party member,
and I think that the National Party — you know, constituents of his
electorate — have a right to know that he had a different agenda going
on.

Finally, here is an earlier compilation of material about those sleazebags at the Eros Foundation:
The power behind Brian Greig’s throne 

Robbie Swan hits back on sex industry discrimination

Stephen Mayne says that I have a history of making threats on behalf of
the Eros Association and he throws an old Four Corners transcript into
the ring to justify this statement.

He says I threatened Crikey as
well. Damn right I did! I ‘threatened’ to put your advertising policies
before the radiance of the Trade Practices Act to see if they wilted.
So what? Why shouldn’t I do that if I feel I’ve been done over unfairly
in the market place?

And so what if I ‘threatened’ to put your
discriminatory advertising practises before the Human Rights Commission
in the ACT where it is an offence to discriminate against people or
corporations on the basis of their ‘job, occupation, profession or
calling’?

You make out as if I’ve held a gun to your head or something.
My Moon’s in Pisces, Stephen.  I’m not like that.  If
exposing political hypocrisy and unfair discrimination in the market
place is now considered to be ‘threatening behaviour’…mate, forget
the Patrick gig…it’ll do you in.

Robbie Swan
Eros Journal Editor

———————————————-

Your feedback

We’ve already had a number of responses to the
Fitzgerald column but let’s start with our favourite from someone
who knows Ross:

“Silly old Ross Fitzgerald. Let’s accept for a moment his
argument that publishers have an obligation to accept ads from all
comers under the freedom of speech dictum.

Yes, I know
that’s nonsense, but Fitzgerald said it. Even so, why single Crikey out
for attack on this basis? Surely Ross is not so naive and unworldly as
to not know that practically every publication on the planet has some
form of selection criteria for advertising.

Certainly his
own publication The Australian newspaper does. Most newspapers refuse
or place limits on the ‘lust’ ads for brothels and prostitutes. Why not
attack them all, Ross?

Fitzgerald is a reformed alcoholic,
a strident non-drinker, with firm views on zero tolerance of alcohol as
the only way to treat problem drinkers. Nonetheless, he would surely
have to insist that the Salvation Army’s ‘War Cry’ would accept alcohol
ads – they sell it in pubs after all?

Another who shares
Fitzgerald’s view on zero tolerance, at least in Cape York Communities,
is Noel Pearson, who recently attacked the Alice Springs based
indigenous television station Imparja for accepting alcohol ads.

Presumably,
any day now, Ross will attack Pearson for attempting to limit free
speech and rush to defend Imparja. Don’t hold your breath.”

Dry Fitzgerald now dines out on sex

A subscriber writes:

Ross
is a very old mate of Robbie Swan and indeed has been dining out (sans
wine) for years with long and tedious descriptions of Robbie’s
‘humorous’ and sexy escapades, all of which which rather
suggests that lust and sexual obsession have replaced grog as a
religion for this erstwhile professor.

Cheers, JJ

Porn pusher sides with Crikey

Dear Crikey,

I
read with interest your recent posts with regards to accepting/not
accepting advertising from the porn industry. Interesting with regard
to the fact that at least you have to courage to state what your policy
is and how it is implemented.

 

Some
time ago I too, applied to advertise on Crikey (2000 ish) but was told
‘no we don’t accept advertising from ‘your’ industry’. Ok, that’s
nothing that I haven’t heard before and really didn’t worry about it,
after all that’s pretty much how every other media outlet treats
our industry and in turn our money.

 

Now
I find that Robbie Swan (head of the Eros Foundation) is jumping up and
down about you not taking their advertising. Well Robbie I have news
for you and its all bad; the majority of the media (& that’s all
outlets Robbie) will not accept advertising from any ‘Adult’ outlets or
for ‘Adult’ products. Jumping down the throat of Crikey is in my mind a
case of a little guy beating up on the ‘little guy’ of another
industry. Robbie did have a career in media publishing. How about
taking on The Age of Melbourne (no adult URL’s in the Green Guide),
Channel 9 (National, no adult advertising at ALL), Channel 7 (National,
same) and those are 3 that I can personally vouch for. I’ve no
doubt that there are many more.

 

In short Stephen, it’s your brand/business and you have the right to run it the way you see fit

but I might add or reinforce what another correspondent said and that is that if you can

figure out a way to accept advertising from ‘Sin’ industries you might be surprised at just how

much it will increase your cashflow/profit figures.

 

One
way I can think of would be too have 2 mailing lists available, 1 that
would be happy to accept ads from ‘adult’ natured industries (alcohol,
adult etc) and the other that wouldn’t, much as you run subscriber and
non subscriber mailing lists at the moment.

 

The Porn King

 

 
Free speech has nothing to do with commercial advertising policies

So Ross Fitzgerald thinks Crikey should be compelled to run ads from all comers simply to prove your commitment to free speech?
 
Normally
I’d classify myself as something of a libertarian, which is why I get
annoyed when Voltaire’s free speech arguments get applied to any issue
someone thinks should get more/better publicity. It simply has no
relevance to commercial decisions about advertising, and to say that it
does is just sloppy thinking.
 
Commercial operations are
precisely that: commercial. Much as I might wish they were more than
that sometimes, I accept that in issues like placing of advertising,
they operate on a different basis. If you tried to run an ad for
margarine in Marie Clarie, they’d tell you (in very cultured tones) to
bugger off. If you tried to run an ad for the H.R. Nichols Society in a
union paper, they’d also tell you (perhaps literally) to bugger off.
And they’d both be within rights to do so. Conversely, if a corporation
placed its product in a porn movie as an advertising strategy, it’d get
a kicking for it – in the media, and probably in the marketplace too.
 
Your
commercial decisions (particularly based on the value of your brand)
are entirely up to you. If, as a media outlet, you refused to cover the
Eros Foundation’s activities on the basis that you don’t like what they
promote, that might be a different matter. Similarly, if you refused to
let them defend themselves in your (electronic) pages, it would be much
more clearly about freedom of speech.
 
I don’t necessarily
agree with your self-confessed prudishness, but a commercial decision
is a commercial decision.  Still, it looks like one more notch for
the “if you’re getting under their skin you must be doing something
right” argument.
 
Tim
 
PS. Paula, I’m sure there are worse things than being married to a prune.
 

I’d unsubscribe if you ran porn ads
 
This is one
subscriber you’d lose…it is nice to read a bit of newsprint which
manages to avoid bums and tits. Please continue to exercise your choice
to avoid it.

CC

Stick to your guns, so to speak

Good for you,
crikey. Stick to your guns. You are fully entitled to choose who
advertises in your publication.  You have a right to protect your
brand.

I am no prune or prude, I smoke and drink, but that’s my
choice. It doesn’t mean that I want to see ads from companies who push
these drugs.

I’m particularly pleased that you don’t condone
gambling, guns and the porn industry. I get enough of the last one in
my junk emails. It’s extremely annoying. If I want to engage in any of
these questionable activities I will seek them out, I don’t want them
thrust in my face, so to speak.

Stand by your ethics. And in the true spirit of free speech, tell Fitzgerald to take a hike.

Julie

Stop resurrecting Voltaire like this

Ross
Fitzgerald is barking up the tree of morality when he accuses Crikey of
sinfulness, surely an owner of a business is entitled to his freedom of
choice – Paying the bills and eking out a profit are what business do!
And one gets tired of the constant resurrection of Voltaire when freedom of speech needs a leg-up.
 
Dean
 

Let down by Crikey
 
I’ve read in the Oz this
morning that you have refused to accept an advertisement from Eros. I
expected better from one of the few independent media voices Australia
has.
 
You don’t miss a chance to let the subscribers know
how hard up you are for a quid – and then we discover that you won’t
take advertising from ‘sin’ industries. I didn’t know I had subscribed
to a church newsletter. Next time you pass around the collection plate
I might refrain from kicking in.
 
Not happy mate.
 
You
state the following: ‘If Mark Latham can ban tobacco donations to
Labor, why can’t Crikey ban porn ads which go against our own ethical
platform and would also damage our brand.’ The rather obvious point to
make here is that Latham is a politician advocating a policy position
and Crikey, as part of the media, shouldn’t have any ‘platform’ other
than reporting and commenting on the facts.
 
Crikey
shouldn’t be an attack dog for the social conservative ideology but
instead, an independent news outlet (sorry for the gross exaggeration
but it seems to be the tenor of debate at Crikey).
 
I don’t
know how you can say it doesn’t affect editorial content when it
discloses a great deal about the ideological leanings of the editorial
staff. If the editorial and the commercial staffs were truly separate
(as Crikey would claim as an ‘independent’ media outlet) Crikey would
accept advertising from all comers comfortable in the understanding
that it couldn’t be judged for its advertising content because it
exercised no control over it.
 
I hope that Crikey discloses
that it has refused advertising from the sex industry in editorial
pieces covering the industry in the same way that it would disclose
donations it accepted from parties involved in the debate.
 
Keep up the good work.

Tim

Crikey prudes are over-reacting

I think you guys
are way over reacting with regard to adds from the “porn” industry. I
certainly would not be offended by such adds.Actually you’ve had me a
little worried lately with the direction you appear to be going, first
your habit of xing out what appear to be quite mild swear words, then
your tiresome attack on sexy billboard advertising (only the ones
showing females of course) and now taking a holier than thou attitude
to adds for a bit of non violent erotica. I’m not a greybeard yet but
I’ve been around long enough to be able to warn you, beware that thin
ice!

Evan

Don’t agree on Eros but defend Crikey’s right to choose

I
don’t agree with your advertising policy, but I’ll defend to the death
your right to have it. Actually I agree with most of your policy. If
only a few more media companies would recognise that weapons
manufacturers, gambling companies etc were “sin” industries the world
would be a better place.

I happen to disagree with you over
Eros. While their behaviour under previous leadership was sometimes
pretty shoddy, I tend to support them more than I disagree. I’d
certainly run their ads if I were you. On the other hand, I think you
are to be congratulated for having any ethical policy on who you take
ads from, and since ethics are at least partly personal, its natural
we’ll disagree on some details.

If Crikey dominated the
Australian media the way News Limited does there might be a serious
problem with you locking an organisation out of advertising –
particularly if combined with not giving them a fair run in the news.
But for a niche publisher to take a stand on who they won’t take money
from is something to be encouraged. Fitzgerald makes the mistake of
believing that freedom of speech means that whoever has the largest
cheque book should be able to win every arguement by outspending the
opposition. He’s wrong. That’s costly speech, not free.

Owen Outsider

Newspapers do the same thing

Couldn’t agree more
with your stance on advertising. Fitzgerald says himself “Free speech
is free speech” – surely that means you can’t be forced to publish
something you don’t want to publish!
 
Incidentally, I
remember some years ago the Courier Mail ran some prejudicial and
inaccurate reports about the Qld Law Society’s fidelity fund. The QLS
was given no right of reply and couldn’t get a letter published.
 
Finally
it tried to buy space in the Snail in an effort to respond – and the
Snail refused to sell the space. So perhaps Fitzgerald should look in
his own back yard before he starts criticising the state of Crikey’s
lawn.
 
Polly Peck

Eros publication is hardly sleazy

I’m a supporter
of the Eros Association and a columnist for the publication Robbie Swan
wanted to advertise on Crikey.com.au. I am also a free subscriber to
Crikey.

I am really surprised that you think this journal is
sleazy and something that your 14,000 readers need to be protected
from.  The first five features in the latest Eros Journal 
are;

1.  Erotic Meets Erotica- How the lines are blurring between what is acceptable and what is not.

2.  New Adult Industry Copyright Organisation- A new group established to combat piracy in Australia

3. 
Adult Party Plan- Girls Just Want to Have Fun- An overview of the ever
increasing number of women establishing adult party plan businesses.

4.  Should Adult Shops Replace Supermarkets in Selling Cigarettes?

5. Hear No Evil-  The effects of censorship in AIDS education in Africa.

How about allowing Crikey subscribers decide if the Eros Journal is something that they would be interested or offended in?

Fiona Patten

Crikey’s “weird mixture” is too much

Dear Crikey

This
issue encapsulates why I am no longer a subscriber. In the end I found
your weird mixture of capitalist liberalism and feminist prudery
self-contradictory, self important and pretentious. Pity, because
Crikey is an excellent concept. Instead it is being ruined by
self-indulgence and self-obsession..

Chris L

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t

Hi, just
read the sealed section and wanted to let you know that fully agree
with your stance, you have a brand to protect and a personal image to
uphold.
 
I too am for free speech but how long would it
take for the fact you were a supporter of the Eros foundation to be
used against you how pitiful are these people to use this case against
you.
 
You are damned if you do, or don’t in this case.
 
Keep up the great work, Rick
 

Why I stopped buying The Oz
 
What a load of
complete bullshit that Ross Fitzgerald article is. The reason why I
stopped buying The Australian is that I was disgusted by its selective
airing of reports, especially during the Iraq invasion.  I found
many highly newsworthy stories aired by other outlets were ignored
completely by the Oz.

I think Fitzy should make sure his own house is in order before criticising someone else’s.

Robin W

Eros are not sleazebags

I notice in your column
defending yourself against Ross Fitzgerald’s critcism in  ‘The
Australian’ of your policy of refusing advertisements form the Eros
Foundation. You can develop any advertising policy you like, but
shouldn’t you at least explain why you call the Eros Foundation
‘sleazebags’, and what it is that you find so objectionable about
non-violent erotica?

Without the explanation, we are entitled to
find that you are just an unreconstructed wowswer. Perhaps that should
be ‘prune’ as you originally were decribe, rather than ‘prude’ as
corrected, as you seem to be shrivelled, wet, detumescent and likely to
give people the shits!

Paul

CRIKEY: Irrespective of the
content we were not happy with the threats and carry-on from Robbie
Swan in our dealings with him. Obviously this then extended to leaking
our private email correspondence to a columnist mate. We don’t be
dealing with this sleazebag again until he recognises that any
publication is entitled to reject advertising it regards as unsuitable.

Rich porn spammer writes to Crikey

I’m Australian
and have been in the online porn game since 1997. Amongst people who
REALLY make money from porn the Eros Foundation is a joke. You should
take their money if they are flashing it round.

Unlike you Stephen, I have found a totally sinful way to make a living for my family online.

I’ve
made the majority of my cash from spam. I’ve been mailing since 1999
and currently send around 15 million every day. I know a bit about
email lists.

I’ve been a reader since way back and one evening over a very nice dinner with 7 other Adult guys I mentioned your tasty list.

None
of these guys are what you’d call renaissance men but 5 of them had
heard of your little biz. They LIVE online. None of them had ever
checked it out. I mentioned that you claimed around 10k of members.
This was greeted with a LOT of mirth. I explained the list was probably
a nice cross section of “heavy hitters” but almost certainly weighted
to high wealth males.

A loud chorus rang across the Brisvegas waterfront … “INDIAN VIAGRA!”

Steve,
I feel lousy every time I see another “heavy hitter” has taken more of
you and your kiddies dwindling hoard, while my latest Ferrari feels
even better than the last one.

Your sitting on a nice little earner if you can crack the “personal sin barrier”.

The Porn Man

PS..
De-stress on the annoying emails you don’t want. The same magic
technology that brings them to you is magically going to stop
delivering them sometime around 2006. They are going to VANISH. Like
me. Except I’ll be vanishing to my own island. Or my farm in a Porsche
Cayenne.
Don’t settle for a little brown house that you let tossers chisel away at… the clock is ticking.

PPS…
I do have a car fetish. I ride war horses, everyone else has clapped
out donkeys. Feel free to publish. And I’m finally subscribing after
lurking for years.

Who is “The Porn Man”?

Just thought you might like to know that the Brisbane online porn
scene is one of the biggest in the world with about 10 operators
controlling a large % (maybe 5%) of the world’s online porn $$$.

More info can be found here: Brisbane Porn Mafia

I’d personally say that letter 2 crikey would have been written by the big daddy himself Greg Lasrado.

The figures mentioned in my link above are from 2000 I’d love to crikey do an investigation and see the figures 4 today.

Anyway, legit net design guys like me struggle to get clients, who then
beat us down on price while the online porn guys drive around in
Ferraris and have big boats.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles I guess but I do not regret not
being part of the “Brisbane Porn Mafia” and agree with your decision to
not run the Eros adverts.

Brisbane Legit Net Guy

CRIKEY:  We don’t know who “The Porn Man” is and if we did we
wouldn’t knowingly out him, but as we don’t this guess is as good as
any.

Advertising for the sex industry

Please stick to your guns on your advertising policy. I don’t know much
about the legal side of such things, but I’m sure a publication is able
to set its own agenda on this score. I would not be pleased to see the
sort of ads you’re trying to screen out appear on my emails. Keep up
the good work.

Helen

Peter Fray

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