From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Inflight ‘news’ at Qantas. We wondered aloud last week if news of plane crashes and other aviation developments were censored out of inflight news on flights — and you obliged. A host of readers confirmed there was nothing about missing flight MH370 on the TV when they flew last week. Here’s a few examples:

“My wife and I flew Melbourne-Canberra on Monday on the national carrier, just as the chaos surrounding MH370 was really starting to ramp up, and she specifically commented on the complete and total absence of any mention of the story on the in-flight news, even though it was leading every ‘on ground’ bulletin at the time.”

“I can report that a Monday flight Sydney-Brisbane with Qantas did not report news of MH370 on the in flight news-tainment.”

And some well-placed insiders told us why. “It’s long-standing practice not to include stories about plane crashes in inflight bulletins — the airlines request it of the news organisations which produce their news. Sure it’s censorship, but it makes perfect sense not to,” a mole told us. Another said: “You’ll find that the contract that Nine has with Qantas specifically insists on no stories about plane crashes.” A third ex-Aunty spy passed this on:

“When the ABC produced Australia television news out of Darwin in the 1990s, the bulletins were available on subsequent Qantas flights going overseas, and it was routine for any airline disaster stories to be edited out of those bulletins. You can understand why. During the couple of years I was an AP/producer of that bulletin there were several significant Asian airline crashes which were obviously reported but had to be edited out of the inflight version of the news.”

But it’s been pointed out to us that on Virgin flights you get Foxtel — and that’s not edited. So presumably you see plane crashes reported from your narrow leather seat at 35,000 feet.

Almost everyone who contacted us thought it was sensible to screen out plane crashes, so as not to panic nervous flyers (which includes some in the Crikey bunker). But how about this: a frequent flyer told us the recent fracas surrounding Qantas — when CEO Alan Joyce reported a loss and all hell broke lose on foreign ownership, etc — did not feature on the inflight news, even though it hogged the on-ground news cycle for over a week.

Now, we can understand why you don’t show an apparent plane crash to a plane full of (nervous) people, but financial problems at Qantas? That censorship is not on and raises questions for Channel Nine about censoring its news for a commercial client. Can anyone clear this up for us? Would Qantas flights screen out news stories about Qantas?

Qld doctors revolt over cuts. The doctor dispute rolls on. This from a sexual health specialist serving at Brisbane’s Biala clinic:

“From March 24, I will be the only specialist to look after 732 HIV-infected patients, and this is about one third of all the patients in Queensland who have this infection at present. It is dangerous for patient care because one doctor cannot manage this case load. Queensland Health has a duty of care to these patients and a duty of care to provide me with a safe working environment. Campbell Newman is ultimately responsible for these policies.”

Worrying stuff. Our doctor reckons his case is one of the more serious instances of mismanagement he’s seen from Queensland Health. But he heard similar stories of staff cuts in public facilities at a meeting of 740 specialists at the Pineapple Hotel a couple of weeks back. The doctors have formed a collective — the Pineapple Group (“really quite sweet but can be prickly”) — to speak out.

One weapon: a YouTube campaign based on that well-worn Downfall scene. Though when Crikey looked this morning the video had “been removed by the user”. How come? It was quite funny …

Liberals a sporting chance in SA. The Liberals haven’t won government yet in South Australia — but they did significantly improve their vote. So where were the gains made? An Adelaide insider reports:

“It wasn’t about jobs in Hartley but about throwing money around to the local sports clubs in return for endorsements which they got from the bowling club and Hectorville Sports Club and possibly others. Some $2 million was promised for an upgrade of a local sports centre too. Candidate donations were thrown at the clubs during the campaign by the boys in blue T-shirts who were so prominent in the Liberal campaign. (The Libs might like to look at whether they have a problem with women as at the polling booth the numbers of young men were disproportionate.)”

Bake for the ABC (banana cake?). Would you bake a cake for Aunty? The Friends of the ABC lobby has started a virtual cake stall, asking supporters to bake, sell and donate the funds to the cause. Good luck topping this effort, with an uncanny likeness to a certain ABC host …

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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