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YouTube suspends Sky News over COVID content

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Sky News Australia says it “expressly rejects” that any of its hosts ever denied the existence of COVID-19, after YouTube banned it from uploading content for one week just days before it begins free-to-air broadcasting into country South Australia and other regions across the nation.

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The one-week suspension by YouTube follows a review of Sky’s content for compliance with the platform’s policies on COVID-19.

The social media platform has been issuing strikes against anyone uploading content that contains medical misinformation.

In a statement on the Sky News website, the channel acknowledges YouTube’s right to enforce its policies and looks forward to continuing posting to its 1.85 million YouTube subscribers shortly.

A Sky News Australia representative said: “We support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives which is vital to any democracy.

“We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously.”

The Sky News Australia YouTube channel has published more than 20,000 videos over the past year.

It says no videos denying COVID-19 were ever published or removed.

Last week, News Corp’s the Daily Telegraph dumped a regular column by Alan Jones over his comments on coronavirus, including describing NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant as a village idiot on Sky.

YouTube’s suspension prompted a call for the issue to be investigated by the Senate Inquiry into Media Diversity.

Committee chair Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she would be ask for representatives from Sky News, YouTube/Google and the Australian Communications and Media Authority to be called to give evidence.

“The obvious question is if the spread of misinformation isn’t allowed on the internet, why is it on television broadcasts?” Hanson-Young said.

“There are questions for both the government regulator and the companies involved, and the media inquiry should investigate.

“Many people are asking why it takes a tech company to hold Murdoch’s News Corp’s dissemination of Covid misinformation and conspiracy-theories to account. Where is the public media regulator in all this? 

“Google-owned YouTube has taken action to uphold its policies around medical misinformation on its platform and that is welcome. Governments around the world have been putting pressure on the social media giants to act responsibly in relation to COVID misinformation.

“But we aren’t talking about just any YouTube account, Sky News is a commercial broadcaster and so the very obvious question is how can they get away with it on television? Sky News broadcasts on both a subscription service and also free-to-air in many regional areas – this puts the news channel clearly in ACMA’s remit. 

“ACMA appears to be sitting on its hands while a tech giant upholds standards the government regulator doesn’t seem to have.”

Sky News last month announced that a dedicated 24-hour regional channel will become available on free-to-air television to an estimated 7 million rural and regional Australians, including in the Riverland and Mt Gambier, from August 7.

To be broadcast on WIN, the channel will carry the metropolitan-based channel’s daily news coverage, as well as its evening line-up of conservative commentators like Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Chris Kenny, Paul Murray and Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

-with AAP

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