The worm controversy: When election debates can be censored

The controversy over Channel 9’s use of the worm and their refusal to pay for a feed for the National Press Club-hosted Great Debate last night is a lot more important than most realise. The fact that the National Press Club – supposedly an independent forum for journalistic integrity – was prepared to act on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia in pulling the Channel 9 feed because it ran the worm is frankly, outrageous.

The Great Debate is supposed to be an opportunity for voters to hear about the policies of the major parties and for them to judge on the merits of the leaders of those parties. Regardless of who chose to pull the feed, and whether there was any contract in terms of the use of the worm, the point is there should never have been any attempt to censor the packaging of the debate.

Regardless of how well or how poorly any individual presents in the debate format, the debate is now a common aspect of election campaigns here in Australia and in other supposed ‘democracies’. It is a useful way of communicating policies and it is an opportunity to exhibit leadership qualities. Censoring the manner in which participants are presented is nothing short of deception. It isn’t journalism. It’s collusion.

This is a disgusting episode from the National Press Club, and all those associated with the situation should be ashamed of themselves. And the Management of the Press Club should all be sacked.

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