There are a couple of stories about podcasting in Australia in The Age today. I chatted with both journalists at length over the last month for the stories but ended up with two lines out of a 2+ page story. Go figure. All of my journo and ex-journo friends (including Mrs R) this morning counseled me to just wear it on the chin. And perhaps they are right. But I’m pissed off about it anyway. And here’s why.
In the main story, by Andrew Bock, the ABC, Austereo (owner of Triple M and Fox FM) and even Salty Dog (congrats Dennis!) get their download figures trumpeted. Where are TPN’s figures? Omitted. Deliberate? I don’t know.
What I do know is that Fairfax, the owners of The Age, have a commercial relationship with Austereo. Fairfax hosts Austereo’s websites. Was that disclosed in the article? No, it was not. Accidental? Perhaps. According to the article, Austereo is doing more than 850,000 podcast downloads a month across all its stations. TPN is doing about the same (we spiked a few months back and hit about 800k, last month it was about 650K, which is where Austereo’s last annual report in July 2007 said they were at). TPN is a one-man, self-funded, three-year-old operation. Austereo is decades-old, publicly-listed company with revenues in excess of $255 million pa which has some of the biggest names in radio working on their shows.
Now if *you* were writing the story about podcasting, don’t you think this would have been an interesting comparison? Apparently someone at Fairfax didn’t think so.
Fairfax also now owns Southern Cross Broadcasting, owners of top radio stations 3AW and 2UE. Was that disclosed in the article? No, it wasn’t. If you take TPN’s listener numbers (450 – 500k per month) and compare those to, say, 3AW, I think we’re about the same size, perhaps even bigger.
Does Fairfax have a conflict of interest when it covers stories about radio and podcasting? What do you think?
By the way, I don’t blame the journo’s involved. They are both swell guys. I’m sure if their stories are being edited after they submit them, and important conflict of interest disclosures aren’t being made, then they would both be concerned. Is the paper interested in reporting news or in promoting a company they have a commercial interest in?
Luckily we now have alternative places we can get our news from, such as NORG. If you aren’t contributing to that already, I encourage you to. We have the tools now to report our own news. Of course, I’ll need to get my backside out of this chair so I know what’s going on the world before I’ll have much to contribute…