NBN, on a national level, is all about politics. For local newspapers, though, it is all about when their area will get the NBN, and complaints about not getting the NBN as fast as they’d wanted. NBN, in what appears to have been the first time the government-owned company has taken a case to the Press Council, complained about two such articles appearing in the regional independent newspaper Tully Times from October and November last year.

The first article quotes only a local businessman from the Cassowary Coast area about his views that people in the area will not get fibre or wireless NBN, and will instead be stuck on the satellite service, which he said could be oversubscribed. In the second article, journalist and owner of the Tully Times, John Hughes, said he had taken calls also complaining about the NBN, and noted a “response blackout” from politicians and NBN about the article.

“The responses could be still in the mail,” he said.

NBN complained to the Press Council that the articles were misleading and not balanced because the articles relied on the one opinion, and no comment had been sought from NBN. Responses were sent, but were not published. In response, the publication said that it didn’t go to NBN’s media representative because they wanted “a response from a qualified technician on behalf of NBN” rather than a spokesperson.

The Press Council said today that Tully Times should have sought comment, but said the factual inaccuracies in the articles “were not major ones”.

Despite NBN often seeking to correct the record on media reporting about the broadband network project, it is believed to be the first time NBN has taken any publication to the Press Council. Someone else took The Daily Telegraph to the Press Council in 2011 over a series of articles about the then-fibre network project, and that complaint was also upheld.

Hughes died of a suspected heart attack in May, and it is unclear whether Tully Times is still publishing.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey