Legal challenge to spin and pseudo-news puts media on notice

A decision in the Australian High Court this week has put media organisations on notice that crossing the line between news and advertorial can be costly.

The Australian Seven network’s Today Tonight was found to have breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act with two segments in 2004 and 2005 on an investment scheme dubbed Wildy Wealthy Women. The court said the network could not rely on section 65A of the act — the so-called publishers’ defence — partly because an “arrangement” with a marketer for WWW showed they were not at arm’s length.

Now what about this?


Yeah right!

The High Court ruling in the Today Tonight case attempts to straddle one of the most serious fault lines in the news media – the separation of commercial and public interest. This case turns on the interpretation of   “commercial arrangement” between the network and the WWW company.

Chief Justice Robert French and Justice Susan Kiefel said the purpose of section 65A “was to maintain a vigorous free press as well as to maintain an effective and enforceable Trade Practices Act”.

“Information providers are free as part of the function of an independent free press to praise or criticise the providers of goods or services and the quality of what they provide.”

But they said that rationale did not apply “when the publication concerned goods or services the publisher provided, or followed a commercial arrangement”.

[full story from The Australian]

In the commodified media world it is almost impossible to separate commercial interests out of everything the news media does and at a time when media companies are financially under the gun, the tempatation to cross the line and generate a cash-flow from the coverage you provide can be great indeed. It’s even easier in ethically-challenged places like Today Tonight, crossing the line here doesn’t even feel wrong, it feels like commonsense.

Now, EM can’t help wondering if Today Tonight is not still cosying up to pyramid sellers and “get-rich-quick” shysters. A story currently on the TT website is promoting an online money-spinner called Freagle with the catch phrase “Easiest Home Business Ever”. The copy by TT reporter Jonathon Creek [I kid you not] reads very much like some of that Viagra spam that you get from time to time.

Former Policeman Darren Boal is a convert.

He signed onto Freagle’s Easiest Home Business two weeks ago. It costs him $60 a month and so far he’s made $500 using a simple strategy, placing links to products on web pages.

“I didn’t even know how to run a blog page now it’s making me money,” Darren said.

Maintenance worker Mark Galvin is the first to admit he’s no computer expert, but the Easiest Home business is working for him. He’s made $300 in two weeks and growing.

“You’ve got to do the hard yards, do all the work, before it all starts paying off,” Mark adds.

The Freagle system is a modern day version of extreme direct marketing, but using anyone online to target potential buyers.

Actually Freagle sounds a lot like spamming. I have my doubts about Darren Boal and Mark Galvin too. They’re common enough names, but it’s just too, too convenient. They get a mention in the promotional material, but they’re not visible.

The website promoting Today Tonight‘s endorsement of Freagle is also one of those scary “Just give me a minute of your time…” whack-jobs that looks like a 14-year-old designed it. The “arrangement” here is also blatant. If you follow the links from Today Tonight to the Freagle promotion, for a limited time only,  you can sign up for a discounted rate.

P.P.S. You’ll be able to get access the system as soon as you have been approved on the freagle platform and you’ll be on your way to hassle-free, step x step training that you can immediately apply to generate extra income! (Please allow up to 48 hours to activate your freagle account due to the anticipated number of people joining the program)

P.P.P.S. This offer will be available for a LIMITED time only. The Program will still be available for purchase once the offer ends, but at a significantly increased price.

Proudly brought to you by

Wes Thornton

Freagle/Free Stuff Day


Andrew Clacy

Affiliate Marketing Guru

Perhaps Mr Samuels and the ACCC would like to take a look at this piece of promotional journalism too.

I think we might be lucky in Aotearoa that we don’t yet have any current affairs programmes quite as bad as Today Tonight, but if we dig a little, there’s every chance we might uncover some similar “arrangements” between shonky promoters and our news media.

[hat tip Roarprawn]

12 Responses to Legal challenge to spin and pseudo-news puts media on notice

  1. joe black says:

    THANKS FOR THIS! It’s so hard to find any reviews on this program on the net. (I know it’s still new) Glad I finally found one. And I am tending to agree, I think you may have hit the nail on the head.

    I was suckered into it but I’m still yet to give it a proper go and find out what it’s all about.

    I thought, okay Today Tonight are advertising it, perhaps there is some legitimacy to the program.

    See the internet is so open, that backlash from buyers of the program could spread rapidly if it turned out to be a money grabbing scam.

    I totally agree. I HATE HATE HATE the layout of the site. It’s completely the work of a child (in a rush).

    The round-a-bout gibbersh, that is telling you how wonderful life could be. They say: Let me explain how easy it is, how it works, what you’ll get. But 80 pages of nonsense later and I have NO idea of what the program is about. Each page virtually repeating what the first page said.

    I left the website and forgot about it. It was Today Tonight who brought it to my attention again.

    I know it is obvious that Today Tonight are biased. It was totally an infomercial, but without the closed captions “this is a paid advertisement”.

    So if =
    1… The unprofessional write-up with so many grammatical errors. They want to charge $700, but couldn’t get an editor to look it over. Or use a spell checker.
    2… The fact that Today Tonight advertised it.
    3… That nothing is disclosed and it’s all hush hush until you hand over your money. For all I knew I could have been paying to learn magic tricks for a traveling circus.
    4… The “JOHN SMITH” (forgot the sign off name Dave or something? ) saying how eager he is to try it, and that if it’s associated with “FREAGLE” then he has no doubt how WONDERFUL it will be. He posts in the FREAGLE FORUM and on newly created blogs the same over-the-top, this is going to be the best program, we should all join up, it’s FREAGLE, we trust FREAGLE!
    5… Everything you pointed out.

    If these weren’t to ring alarm bells in my head, then it’s a scary thought.

    They are going to make a killing just for talking gibberish. I’m sure I’m not the only sucker!

    I’ll be posting honest reviews once i have given it a chance.

    sorry. hope this is readable. i can’t be bothered editing it over. but i won’t charge your for it. promise.

  2. mutatedpixelation says:

    I think it’s time that “current affairs” shows like Today Tonight put before and after segments such as the freagle one a notice that is in fact advertisement and not a legitimate story (but even those are rare on TT)

    I also saw the story on TT and thought it smelt suspicious, went to the website and found that I was right.

  3. j says:

    guess I’ve just be sucked in too…. I should of know better.. kicking myself.

  4. John says:

    Look forward to hearing your feedback Joe Black. I was thinking of joining but thought I’d check the net for reviews first!

  5. m says:

    My advice try and get your money back before they end up in court or bankrupt the site has gone to sh*t the small legitimate businesses are going to suffer for having ever advertised on the site. I’m really feeling for the REAL businesses on there as soon as the site goes down the drain their businesses will get a bad reputation for having advertised on there. As if the little guy isn’t doing it hard enough without this scammy home business…..

  6. Jay says:

    TV is a very powerful info magnet, a lot of people watch it not only local but international as well.
    Why the heck did they put in somethin like that in a show when they did bother to check it first if legit or not. That’s incompetence…

  7. Marg says:

    I have signed up with the easiest home business ever, and i am still hoping that it will work. I have already spend approx 20 hours and not really achieved anything other than now i know about clickbank, creating a tiny url and posting something on Hot Frog (thanks to a friend) but i have not be able to actually find that Niche that they keep telling you and i find myself sitting here at the computer absolutely baffled by what i am supposed to do next!!! If anyone actually knows of anyone who is making money and does have an email address of phone number that i could talk to – it would be greatly appreciated. I dont want to pay for a scam but i dont want to quit 2 early either!!!!!!

  8. cheese says:

    Marg – the best thing you could do is request a cancellation before it’s to late.

    and for anyone else thinking about joining
    DO YOUR RESEARCH ON INTERNET MARKETING before handing over your hard earned money on some get rich quick scheme.

  9. rabbit says:

    the plot thickens..
    “he finished his schooling to become a Television news cameraman with Prime Television,”

    prime television aka channel 7 aka today tonight
    it would seems strings were pulled to get there story to air

  10. Mr Clacy is a promoter of Freagle, his “about” page links to the Seven/Yahoo story several times via “tweets”.
    Thanks “Rabbit”

  11. Darren Boal says:

    Gee Ethical Martini, you talk of being visible, well I would be more than delighted to meet face to face with you. Although I wouldn’t know who I was looking for as I can’t “visibly” see your face for the martini glass in front of it.
    Here’s a hint try contacting people before you plan to talk falsly about them. I would be more than happy to take your call.
    Darren Boal.

  12. Well Darren, you are real and an ‘internet marketer’. Too bad Freagle has gone down. But there’s no stopping you.
    It seems that you’re now spruiking this deal

    Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you on Twitter for six months.

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