The Company Their ABC is Keeping

The ABC has copped unexpected blowback in its collaborations to enforce censorship about COVID failures, US election-rigging and climate “emergencies”. Last November  ABC joined the BBC’s Trusted News Initiative (TNI), a consortium of Big Media and Big Tech global players. TNI’s gatekeeping goal concerning “misinformation” (i.e. contrary to the official line) is to flag it in real time, coordinate members internally and alert Big Tech’s enforcers to stamp it out.

But on January 10 President John Kennedy’s nephew, Robert F Kennedy Jr,  in a Texas District Court launched an anti-trust lawsuit for treble damages from TNI’s biggest news providers, namely the BBC, Washington Post, and global news syndicators Reuters and Associated Press. He wants TNI disbanded as an unlawful cartel. He cites the BBC because of its TNI lead role and US commercial operations involving millions of users.[1] The Kennedy lawsuit is here.[2] His brief says “It is also an action to defend the freedom of speech and of the press.”

If Kennedy wins, the consequences  are uncertain for the ABC, fellow-travelling TNI member SBS and other TNI members not named as defendants. The suit says,

Each participant in an antitrust conspiracy is jointly and severally liable for all the damages (including treble damages and attorneys’ fees) caused by the conspiracy, and the victims of an unlawful antitrust conspiracy are not required to sue all participants therein. (My emphasis, p93).

Quadrant emailed questions* to the ABC’s media team Nick Leys and Sally Jackson including:

1/ The Kennedy lawsuit makes no reference to ABC or SBS. Is the ABC  involved in the lawsuit in any way – perhaps through an amended filing by the plaintiff or reference in proceedings?

2/ Has the ABC advised its relevant Minister about its potential exposure to the lawsuit?

3/ How has ABC been implementing TNI policies? Can you give me please any examples of “misinformation” control by ABC in line with TNI guidelines?

Quadrant sent similar questions to Guy Podmore of SBS Corporate Communications, also asking him whether ABC and SBS had joined TNI as a group exercise or independently. We received no replies by Thursday’s deadline (Feb 2) after 1.5 business days.

The BBC lists TNI’s core membership as the syndicators Associated Press (1300 media outlets), Agence France Press (1700 journalists,150 countries) and Reuters (3100 reporters, 1b audience).  In TNI the ABC and SBS has also joined with the leftist Washington Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, European Broadcasting Union, The Hindu, NDTV and Indian Express (India), Dawn (Pakistan), NHK (Japan), Kompass (Indonesia), Financial Times (UK), and The Nation Media Group (East/Central Africa). The Big Tech members are Meta (aka Facebook),  Google, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter (which pre-dates Elon Musk’s ownership). The tech giants act to kneecap upstarts’ revenues with a tweak of an algorithm, intimidating thousands of other bloggers into self-censorship. The ABC release says (emphasis added),

The creation of the Asia-Pacific network will enable the TNI’s regional partners to share insights and best practices to tackle disinformation, discuss trends in the region and alert each other to the most dangerous forms of disinformation through the TNI cooperative framework.

ABC News Director Justin Stevens lauded TNI, saying that dangerous disinformation

weakens our society and is a threat that must be addressed … As Australia’s most trusted media organisation the ABC has an important role to play in tackling this problem. We’re pleased to join the Trusted News Initiative and, in the process, provide Australian audiences with a deeper and better-informed view of our region and the world.

He says TNI is entirely separate from, and does not in any way affect, the editorial independence of any partner organisation. He lists TNI’s methods as

♦ “Fast alerts” when disinformation threatens human life “or disrupts democracy”

♦ Intelligence sharing” in real time about evolving disinformation

♦ “Media education” on how audiences react to disinformation, and

“Engineering solutions”  for authentication of trusted news sources and improving the information environment

The ABC seems to enjoy its role as a minor Google vassal. Google News Lab crowed about the expanded TNI Asia-Pacific network: “Now, we’re supporting the TNI to deliver targeted, expert training workshops on a variety of digital tools to help journalists as they seek to continue day-to-day verification and fact-checking in newsrooms across the region.”

Google (market cap $US1.3 trillion) found behind its executive sofa $US300 million (equal to roughly 40 percent of the ABC’s annual taxpayer gravy) to set up “Google News Initiative” for massaging the media and journalists.[3] A BBC spokesperson, echoed by the ABC, said, “The media organisations that now make up TNI’s new Asia-Pacific network have received training, funded by the Google News Initiative, to help their journalists navigate the disinformation environment.” I’d ask the ABC for the names of their Google-trained journos, but seldom get replies.

Kennedy’s lawsuit, less kindly, claims TNI’s commercial goal is to deplatform and crush  the myriad of upstart online publishers who are contradicting the official lines and reducing trust in big media, along with its ad revenues.  The legacy, high-cost media are smarting over competition from bloggers in the shift to digital publishing, with 85 per cent of Americans now getting their news online. US newspapers’ ad revenue between 2000 and 2020 plummeted from $US48.7 billion to only $US9.6 billion, Kennedy says (p28).

A further motive for the TNI censorship, Kennedy says, is to placate governments that are threatening adverse new regulations, potentially costing Big Pharma billions in fines, liabilities and lost revenue. US conservative pundit Tucker Carlson has satirised the Big Media censorship as: “We have a monopoly on telling lies. No one else can talk.”

I set out chapter and verse of mainstream media corruption and censorship a year ago here. Among 46 countries, the US media has become the least trusted  (only 29 per cent trust it). Just 11 per cent of Republicans – who comprise half the population – trust the media, and only 10 per cent of Americans trust the media’s reporting on COVID. In Australia reporters are the second-least trusted of 30 occupations, ahead of politicians but behind delivery drivers. Only 43 per cent of Australians trust the media, which is less than in Poland, Croatia and South Africa.

Currently Big Media and Big Tech are suppressing revelations from a US sting operation against Pfizer by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas gadfly. A Veritas operative romanced a Pfizer executive, Jordan Walker, last week and video-recorded him bragging about Pfizer mutating dangerous viruses for profit, hoodwinking the public and engaging in other seriously unethical practices. As The Australian’s US correspondent Adam Creighton noted on January 30, the “jaw-dropping” story had racked up 40 million Twitter impressions but mainstream (Democrat-friendly) media in the US – except Murdoch and his Fox News – wholly ignored it.[4] Google and YouTube have reduced or deleted its visibility. Creighton appears unaware of media cartels, like the ABC’s TNI, coordinating suppression behind the scenes. A search of the ABC website on February 2 likewise yielded no current hits on Veritas or Pfizer, whether because of ABC’s TNI collusion pledge or its normal aversion to news that embarrasses the green-left establishment.

Robert  Kennedy’s own newsletters had 680,000 followers before being de-platformed, censored and shadow-banned by Google/YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook/Instagram. His writ says BBC’s Jessica Cecil, TNI’s head in 2020-21, took evident pride in the assertion that the TNI’s suppression of others’ online reporting did not “in any way muzzl[e] our own journalism”. He adds, “It was apparently of no consequence that the TNI muzzles other news publishersjournalism.” (p44). Cecil spoke of TNI’s “clear expectations” for members to “choke off” alleged online misinformation. This incidentally prevents any one member gaining traffic by publishing “prohibited reporting” the others have binned.

Kennedy says TNI’s Big Tech members collectively have a gatekeeping power over at least 90 per cent of online news traffic. De-platforming a small news publisher typically costs at least 90 per cent of its traffic. Even well-known major online news publishers can lose up to 50 per cent of their traffic from a  seemingly minor change to Google’s search algorithms.  Smaller online news publishers have been destroyed completely when shadow-banned, throttled, de-monetized, or de-platformed.

Examples from the lawsuit’s co-plaintiffs:

♦ Jim Hoft, owner of hugely-popular blog The Gateway Pundit grew from a one-man blog in 2004 to fourth-best-rated conservative US blog in 2021 with 2 million accesses monthly. Pre-censoring, and with a 1m-plus following, he specialised in reporting scandals that TNI members hushed up or misreported, including the Jussie Smollett “hate-crime” hoax in early 2019, Wuhan covid research and statistical inflations of US covid deaths. The Big-Tech’s attacks cost him $US25 million.

♦ CD [Creative Destruction] Media, owned by L. Todd Wood.  He flew Sikorski MH-53 Pave Low combat helicopters in Kuwait in 1991 and later did classified missions for three years supporting counter-terror ops for SEAL Team Six and Delta Force.  Before being shadow-banned, his multi-lingual websites ran exposures of election frauds and Biden family corruption.[5] Big Tech attacked him on many fronts including, a suspension by  the email bundler Mailchimp, freezing his funds and blocking his credit cards. His losses: $US10 million-plus.

# Erin Elizabeth Flynn, an on-line health journalist,  who pre-censoring by TNI members had 90,000 Twitter followers, a billion YouTube views and 1.2 million likes/followers on one Facebook page alone. Losses: $US2 million-plus.

# Ben Swann, owner of news website Truth in Media, won numerous Associated Press awards as well as three Emmy Awards and was a two-time winner of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award. His output with 750,000 followers before TNI  censoring was holding mainstream media to account, gaining up to 2 million page-views per month.

It’s hard to know how TNI bigwigs determine what is sacrosanct orthodoxy, especially with frequent 180-degree turns in the official narratives. Linked-In permanently banned one commentator merely for noting the fact that James C. Smith, president and CEO of news giant Reuters, also happens to be on the board of pharma giant Pfizer, and for suggesting (not unreasonably) the perception on the part of some of a conflict of interest.

As Kennedy puts it, TNI’s members boycotts were promoting vaccinations while undermining cheaper treatments. This helped generate hundreds of billions in profits to Big Pharma, which in turn paid the TNI Big Tech members billions of dollars for advertising.    

Kennedy quotes the TNI alleged cartel making admissions. Last year Jamie Angus, then the senior BBC controller of news, said:

the real rivalry now is not between for example the BBC and CNN globally, it’s actually between all trusted news providers and a tidal wave of uncheckedreporting “that’s being piped out mainly through digital platforms … That’s the real competition now in the digital media world. Of course organizations will always compete with one another for audiences.

But the existential threat I think is that overall breakdown in trust, so that trusted news organizations lose in the long term if audiences just, just abandon the idea of a relationship of trust with news organizations. [6] (p45)

The lawsuit also references suppression by the TNI group of electoral news harmful to the Democrats and other liberal establishment players. In particular the lawsuit cites the mainstream news blackout in the weeks before the 2020 Presidential election on the scandalous contents of Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop, which revealed allocating 10 per cent to “the big guy” — his father, Joe Biden — of Hunter’s lucrative influence peddling with America’s opponent nations. This coordinated blackout was justified by the lie – belatedly withdrawn by the Washington Post and New York Times 18 months post-election —  that the laptop was Russian disinformation. Kennedy blames TNI for much of the blackout, thus the  “truth controllers” propagated untruths. (The ABC originally in multiple accounts treated the laptop revelations as conspiracies or nutty, and an ABC web search finds no story yet that the laptop is genuine).

Kennedy also quotes a Facebook information-moderation executive in March 2022 emphasising that it was a mistake to think of “misinformation” as consisting solely of “false claims,” because a great deal of it is “not provably false.” (p48).

TNI silenced legitimate reporting of evidence including COVID-19 coming from a Chinese lab[7]; lockdowns, masks and social distancing being ineffective; Covid vaccines failing to prevent infection; vaccinated persons transmitting COVID; official COVID death tolls being inflated, and COVID conferring more immunity than vaccination.[8]

This TNI alliance has common elements with another consortium, Covering Climate Now (CCN), dedicated to climate news manipulation. Like TNI, this group has signed up the same AP, AFP and Reuters syndicators and the Washington Post, but also about 500 other news and opinion outlets.  Its total claimed audience is two billion. CCN members pledge to hype global warming scares and suppress ”denialist” items – whether accurate or not. [9] The ABC and SBS have not yet joined CCN, whose chief Australian members are the climate-crazed Guardian[10] and the universities-based The Conversation.

 After all this evidence of degradation of the journalism profession, you might appreciate some light relief. The TNI censors have posted a climate video panel “Trust in News – Fighting Disinformation”.  In it BBC climate editor Justin Rowlatt says orthodox climate science is not to be questioned but it is OK to get alternative views to the mainstream solutions like “using taxes, making carbon more expensive [this has been brilliantly successful], subsidising things like wind turbines or forcing people to go vegetarian.” It’s great to get this BBC agenda out in the open.

Brazil Reuters’ Adele Santelli wants every media story to be a climate story: “Well-rounded and positive coverage doesn’t happen by accident, it must be consciously planned with a commitment to continuity [i.e. non-stop].” On the Ukraine war she says,

We have to do an effort to keep the agenda to climate change … Maybe we can use this war to keep talking about climate change and how we should really be investing in energy transition, it is unimaginable  but we are still watching a war that has to do with climate change somehow.

Belatedly she recommends that journos should not be activists– but of course not give  a platform to “extremist views” and or allow “lies” to be repeated – “certainly not without calling them lies”. 

BBC compere Philippa Thomas (no relation) got more than she bargained for when asking BBC Africa colleague Marsha Ochieng about African audience response to BBC messaging. Ms Ochieng put up a slide of social media feedback including

♦ “BBC 80% fake news”

♦ “Stop these lies please, this is an evil plan”

♦ “Stop using African youth to drive  your Western propaganda”

♦ “There are young guys looking for food, give food and offer them sleep and they will all be silent.”

♦ “Africa must not worry about climate issues now. Let the Europeans, Asians and their greedy cousins in the US worry about it for now.  Our main focus should be directed towards Islamist terrorism going on in Mozambique, northern Nigeria, Somalia, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and the tribal mad things going on in Ethiopia and South Sudan.”

♦ One responder simply posted a picture of a “Bullshit Amplifier/Detector” with the dial at maximum.

Ms Ochieng sums up lamely: “We need to help our audiences understand the issue … find innovative ways to make them care about it.”

Questions from viewers produce such wonderland material as: “Extinction Rebellion accuses the BBC of suppressing the most alarming news about climate change. When will the BBC allow people to hear the most frightening news?” Ms Thomas asks the panel if BBC is really “holding back” on the bad climate news. The panel doesn’t think so.

Final thought: has the ABC become even more trustworthy since joining the Trusted Media Initiative? I don’t think so.

* Nick Leys of the ABC tells me he and Sally Jackson never received the email queries I sent them re Trusted News Initiative. These e-glitches do happen.

Tony Thomas’s latest book from Connor Court is now available: Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. For a copy ($35 including postage), email


[1] Kennedy in 2021 authored a jaw-dropping investigative book “The Real Anthony Fauci – Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the War on Democracy and Public Health”

[2] In 2018, the National Trial Lawyers Association named Kennedy and his legal team Trial Team of the Year for their work winning a $US289 million jury verdict against Monsanto for selling carcinogenic weed-killer products.

[3] The Google News Initiative is partnered with advertising agencies in a program called Trusted News for Trusted Advertising (TNTA), to ensure advertisers don’t have their ads associated with “false or misleading news,” thereby allowing them to “regain control of the media on which they publish the advertising”

[4] Creighton: “The silence was, for me, an unsettling insight into the power of pharmaceutical giants (among the biggest advertisers in the US), the groupthink in elite US media, and the Orwellian role of big tech in deciding what’s permissible.”

[5] On October 25, 2020, Facebook blocked all CD Media content after Todd Wood’s post that included images of Hunter Biden from LinkedIn and Facebook and stated, “we have the Hunter Biden sex tapes…one per hour being released.”

[6] Mr. Angus has gone from the BBC to a higher calling as executive  with Saudi Arabia’s state broadcaster.

[7] “Strikingly, all three platforms [Facebook, Google, and Twitter] not only banned the claim that COVID was deliberately created at a virology lab in or near Wuhan, China; they also banned the wholly plausible claim that COVID was accidentally created and released from a virology lab in Wuhan, China.”

[8] Kennedy says an economic motivation was expressly admitted in 2022 by the founder of the TNI, the BBC:

Of course the members of the Trusted News Initiative are . . . rivals. . . . But in a crisis situation like this, absolutely, organizations have to focus on the things they have in common, rather than . . . their commercial . . . rivalries. . . . [I]t’s important that trusted news providers club together. Because actually the real rivalry now is not between for example the BBC and CNN globally, it’s actually between all trusted news providers and a tidal wave of unchecked [reporting] that’s being piped out mainly through digital platforms . . . . That’s the real competition now in the digital media world. Of course organizations will always compete against one another for audiences. But the existential threat I think is that overall breakdown in trust, so that trusted news organizations lose in the long term if audiences just abandon the idea of a relationship of trust with news organizations. So actually we’ve got a lot more to hold us together than we have to work in competition with one another.

[9] The Australian Academy of Science has vigorously urged the tech giants to deal similarly with any  climate dissent and “inoculate” Australians against climate unorthodoxy.

[10] The Guardian stylebook mandates terms like “climate crisis/breakdown/global-heating” in place of the mundane term “climate change”.

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