Sky News Australia faces Senate grilling over Covid videos

Sydney (AFP) –


Sky News Australia will face a Senate inquiry after serving a week-long suspension by YouTube over Covid-19 misinformation concerns, the senator in charge of the hearing said Friday.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned news channel faces a Senate panel hearing on August 13.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, chair of the upper house's media diversity committee, said her panel had called Sky News Australia executives, YouTube, and the Australian media regulator to appear.

"Australians are rightly worried about the promotion and dissemination of Covid lies and conspiracy theories that put lives at risk and undermine public health," she said.

YouTube temporarily cut Sky News Australia from its 1.87 million subscribers last week, saying it had removed some videos and "issued a strike" against the channel.

Without citing specific video content, YouTube said it does not allow medical misinformation about Covid-19 that contradicts health authorities' guidance.

Sky News Australia's posts, including some questioning whether there is a pandemic and the efficacy of vaccines, are widely shared on social media forums around the world that spread virus and vaccine misinformation.

It returned to uploading videos this week under the headline: "Uncancelled: Sky News Australia Set Free."

YouTube has a "three strikes" policy on violations, with the first resulting in a one-week suspension, a second strike within 90 days producing a two-week ban, and a third leading to permanent removal from the platform.

Sky News Australia was not immediately available to comment on Friday evening.

Following the initial YouTube suspension, a spokesperson for the channel 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."

Hanson-Young also said Australia's television regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, appeared to have been "sitting on its hands".

"If information is too dangerous for the internet, surely it's too dangerous to be on our TV screens," said the senator, who has been a long-time critic of Murdoch-owned media outlets.

The Senate committee has also called the nation's chief medical officers to answer questions about the dangers posed by medical misinformation, she said.