ANZ does not advertise on any opinion-type websites that may cause offence or segregate any individuals or group. In this instance our advertising was placed through an automatic advertising placement service and once we were alerted to the content we removed our advertising.
"The removal of our advertising should not be viewed as a violation of free speech; it's simply that we choose not to advertise on blogs that do not align to our organisational values.
If they don’t advertise on any “opinion-type websites that may cause offence or segregate any individuals or groups” what were they doing on New Matilda months after this decision was made? And how could they in fact justify being on any of the mainstream media sites? On Line Opinion doesn’t “segregate”, in fact it does quite the reverse with a degree of tolerance that is remarkable amongst media in general, and particularly online media. As for “offence”, it doesn’t matter what you publish, there is bound to be someone who can confect outrage at it, even if you’re running a tatting blog. It doesn’t leave the ANZ with a lot of choices for online advertising venues.
And in what way does OLO not align to their organisation values? Is the ANZ really telling us that it discriminates against customers based on their political beliefs, or that it supports blackmail rather than free and open, properly informed debate?
No, the only way to read the ANZ action is that for their, in their terms relatively small advertising investment in our site, it wasn’t worth the grief they thought they might get from the gay lobby, and it might prejudice their pitch for the pink dollar - they are afterall the sponsors of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. So someone decided to pull the ad.
I doubt whether the decision was thought through, or that originally it was even made at a particularly high level. No-one bothered to approach me or I might have pointed out that on top of all the other injustices they would be helping to perpetuate, they would also be damaging one of their own customers.
That’s right, The National Forum actually banks with the ANZ as a result of the long term relationship that I and my family have had with the bank that goes back over 44 years. It puts a new spin on “bankrupt”!
While the ANZ has every right to make commercial decisions they are also a major corporate citizen which receives substantial government assistance as well as earning its income through a government licence.
With its commercial rights go responsibilities, and aiding and abetting in the unethical, if not illegal, damage to someone else’s business, which just happens to be the provision of a public good, is quite contrary to those responsibilities.
Similar arguments apply to IBM.
So there you have it. We’d be happy to have the ANZ and IBM back on the site. First rule of crisis management is when you’ve made a mistake to admit it. They’ll probably pick up some customers who’d appreciate them not only supporting free speech and discussion in the community, but admitting that they made an error.
But the reality is that we probably need to find new advertisers.
I believed that the Internet opened up a huge opportunity for doing politics and governance better than we used to. On Line Opinion, and various blogs in the blogosphere, are part of that better way, but they don’t have a long-term future without financial support.
We need advertisers who understand that their profits stem from political stability and that they have a duty to support that stability, not run away from it because of a short-term, but ultimately ephemeral, dollar.
If you know any of those advertisers, please send them our way to keep this most Australian of sites, and our colleagues, afloat. Hopefully this episode can set us on the road to improved sustainability.
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