Cash for comment on SBS?


The following is an open letter written by James Newburrie to SBS’s complaints.

Dear SBS,

I wish to officially register my complaint at two troubling “news” reports on 6 April and 7 April 2013.  It seems that cash for comment is back and this time it’s on a public broadcaster.

Ricardo Goncalves (formerly Rikki G of Joy 94.9) went to Dubai for two days financed by Qantas, who also provided production assistance and cleared the way for filming by arranging permits and such.

So what’s my problem?

Neither Ricky G nor SBS declared this sponsorship on air. Only on his blog.

Viewers were left with the impression that SBS news was investigating the culture of Dubai as part of its charter responsibility to inform Australia about other cultures and international affairs.

But these two nights of cheap PR weren’t about informing the Australian taxpayers who fund SBS.

It seems a neat arrangement – Qantas gets two nights of news coverage on SBS, arguably Australia’s most respected source for international news.  The Qantas-Emirates deal gets support by helping to defuse some of the concerns that the Australian community has with Dubai’s alien culture and Islamic legal system.  A legal system where Australian women are jailed after being raped.

What was notable about this masterful propaganda wasn’t what we learnt, but the questions left unasked.

Rikki G didn’t ask about the risk gay Australian travellers face thanks to the Qantas-Emirates deal.  Rikki G didn’t ask about the legal challenges unwed heterosexuals might face in Dubai.

No mention was made of the frightening negligence Emirates has shown in forcing travellers to run the risk of falling foul of Dubai’s draconian laws by insisting that unwed people of opposite genders share hotel rooms during mechanical difficulties and operational issues. Even though sharing a hotel room with someone of the opposite gender to whom you’re not married attracts a 10 year jail-term in Dubai.

I’m outraged at the duplicity. I’m sickened by the crass-commercialism.  And if I’m really honest, I’m disgusted at the lack of ethics.  But mostly I’m just disappointed that Rikki G would sell out for a free return airfare.

If I do not receive an adequate response from SBS on this complaint, I will be forced to lodge a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.


James Newburrie

About the author

James Newburrie is a cyber-security specialist, the man who organised a marriage equality demo outside Mt Isa MP Bob Katters office, and runs the Facebook Equal Marriage page 32001names. Never without his unrelenting sense of logic or his trusty iPad he tweets as @Difficultnerd