The marketing arm for Australia’s free to air television industry has been caught out in giving false information about its attempts to suppress a spoof video sending up the offerings on new digital multichannels.

This morning, the Head of Corporate Communications for Google Australia, Mr Rob Shilkin, confirmed to Crikey that a spoof video sending up Freeview Australia was removed from YouTube after action by lawyers acting for Freeview.

Yet yesterday, the Marketing Manager for Freeview, Liz Howarth, told Crikey that Freeview was “not aware” of any complaints being made to YouTube. Asked whether she could say categorically that Freeview did not make a complaint resulting in the video being pulled, she said, “It did not happen.”

This morning the CEO of Freeview, Robin Parkes, claimed that Howarth was “a junior marketing manager”, “not the media spokesperson for Freeview” and “not across everything that is going on.”

The fuss over the video has been reported in detail on my blog over the last 24 hours. It began when Melbourne comedians Marc Fennell and Dan Ilic posted the spoof on YouTube. Based closely on the real Freeview advertisement, it sent up the claim that digital multichannels offered more content.

Freeview was set up last year as a partnership between commercial free to air broadcasters and the ABC and SBS to promote digital multichannels, in competition to pay television.

Last Friday, the advertising trade journal AdNews reported that Freeview were planning to take legal action over the video, but Ilic and Fennell had heard nothing, and Freeview Chairman Kim Dalton told me that no legal action was planned. “I have no idea where that suggestion came from,” he said at the time.

This morning Dalton said he was on holiday and had understood me to be suggesting that Freeview would sue the comedians concerned, rather than taking legal action more broadly.

Things got even stranger yesterday, when the video suddenly disappeared from YouTube. In response to queries, Howarth denied that Freeview had tried to suppress the video.

But this morning Google Australia, owners of YouTube, confirmed that it was a legal copyright breach notice from Freeview’s lawyers that resulted in the video being pulled.

Parkes said that the affair was a “storm in a teacup” for Freeview, and that the legal notice had resulted from “vigilance” from Freeview’s lawyers, “who are always trying to protect our brand” but that now the video had acquired a wide following and was mirrored on many sites “we are happy for it to stay that way.”

The real issue, of course, is that by trying to suppress the video Freeview have ensured that it will acquire greater notoriety, as well as drawing attention to the point it is making — that the digital multichannels may well offer slim pickings for viewers.

It’s a lesson in how not to market, one would have thought. I suggested to Parkes that this did not look good for Freeview.

“Well, everyone will have their own opinion,” she said.

At the time of publishing, you can view the spoof video here, but we anticipate it will get taken down again, so quick sticks!