In today’s Crikey email I have reported that Freeview Australia, the marketing arm for Australia’s free to air television industry, were indeed behind attempts to suppress a spoof video sending up the new digital multichannels. This is despite Freeview’s denials to me yesterday.

This morning I received the following e-mail from Rob Shilkin, the Head of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for Google Australia (Google owns YouTube).

“Hi Margaret – I’ve been reading your blog. We don’t ordinarily comment on individual videos or any DMCA notices that may be filed, but due to some confusion that is circulating online, I’ve made some enquiries internally.  I wanted to confirm that we received a DMCA notice for lawyers acting on behalf of Freeview Australia Limited to remove the video in question.  More information on the DMCA process is here: http://www.youtube.com/t/dmca_policy

Kind regards!
Rob Shilkin
Rob Shilkin
Head of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs
Google Australia & New Zealand

The news, and what Freeview is saying for itself now, is on Crikey. What remains is to look at what all this means.

When the video first appeared on YouTube, I noted it on this blog, saying that it had made me giggle at the end of a long day. I mentioned it with some reluctance, since it is really a free plug for the comedians involved. Nevertheless I thought it was amusing enough to earn a mention.

Amusing  – not rapier wit or cutting edge satire. I imagine that left to itself it would have circulated virally for a while and died. I and others only revived the matter because of suggestions that Freeview might take legal action. This resulted in much noise on Twitter and other social networking sites, and the inimitable Ben Grubb did an interview with one of the comedians concerned.

By trying to suppress the spoof, Freeview have ensured that it will be much more widely viewed. By denying that they tried to suppress it, they have also, for what it is worth, pissed me off.  Journalists do not like being misled.

Asher Moses of the Sydney Morning Herald picked up on the story late yesterday afternoon and confidently reported that Freeview were behind the suppression action. Given Freeview’s blank denials, I must admit I was sceptical. But Moses was right.

Now, why does Freeview exist? To promote and market digital multichannels in what is fast becoming the main battle of our television times – that between free to air and pay television. Of course, internet protocol tv has the potential to knock them both around, which is why they are positioning themselves now. At the same time, of course, some of our free to air tv networks are in financial trouble.

So how has the marketing campaign gone? You would have to say Freeview has done a spectacularly bad job in this instance. As a result of their action, Freeview has effectively promoted a spoof video alleging that the multichannels, far from being a “new era in Australian television” as claimed by the original ad, are in fact “more of the same” that will make viewers want to upgrade to watching television on broadband as fast as possible.

Own goal,  Freeview.

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