Network Ten admits doctoring controversial footage

The Australian, REBECCA URBAN

Network Ten has admitted to digitally doctoring footage for a news item on the alleged spitefulness of the same sex marriage debate, digitally superimposing a homophobic image sourced online onto a stock image of a random bus stop.

A poster with the phrase “Stop the Fags”, allegedly spotted in Melbourne’s Heffernan Lane earlier this month, was seized upon by marriage equality supporters as evidence that those opposed to changing the Marriage Act were willing to resort to hateful lies and scaremongering to win the debate.

Originally uploaded on Twitter on August 19 by a childcare worker Dan Leach-McGill, the image of the poster soon went viral, sparking extensive news coverage and commentary on both social media as well as in the mainstream press. Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten weighed in, condemning the image and its message.

Yet when a Channel Ten news crew visited the alleged site on August 22, there was no sign of the offending poster.

And with a member of a global online forum for fascists claiming credit for the artwork, which has allegedly appeared on flyers across the US in recent months, and Mr Leach-McGill conceding that he had not personally viewed it, doubts have emerged over its existence.

“The poster in question had been taken down when our film crew visited the laneway in question so we were forced to source a copy online,” a spokesman for the network said yesterday.

“Unfortunately, an oversight in briefing our graphics department interstate may have created a false impression about its size and location.

“This was not a deliberate attempt to mislead our audience, but a creative error which we regret.”

The poster in question, which claimed that children of LGBTI parents were likely to be abused and of poor health, appears to derive from the US, with a member of the online fascist forum Ironmarch.org claiming credit.

Similar posters have emerged recently in various neighbourhoods in Minnesota in the US, according to anti-fascist website It’s Going Down.

Coalition for Marriage, which is campaigning for the No vote and was forced to deny any connections to the poster last week, has expressed disappointment that a major television news program relied upon a photoshopped image as evidence of “hateful” campaigning ahead of the postal plebiscite.

“After an unsubstantiated allegation that anti-LGBTI posters were displayed in Melbourne, Network Ten – instead of doing its job to investigate the facts and report on them – used manufactured images in its broadcast,” coalition spokeswoman Sophie York said.

“Other news outlets, while not as brazen to use manipulated images, still ran with the story without testing the veracity of the claims.

“There is a lot at stake when it comes to changing the laws on marriage. Instead of accurately and fairly presenting the ‘no’ case, including the very real consequences for ordinary Australians if the law is changed, media outlets have instead used manufactured stories to favour the Yes case.”

A spokesman for the City of Melbourne confirmed that it had not been able to independently verify that the homophobic poster had been displayed in Heffernan Lane. However, a campaigner from Victorian Trades Hall has claimed that an employee had seen similar posters and ripped them down, according to Buzzfeed.

Mr Leach-McGill told The Australian that a trusted friend had taken the image on his phone and forwarded it to him. However, he said he did not doubt its authenticity.

“There’s no question in my mind,” he said.

The Melbourne City Council spokesman said two similar homophobic posters were removed from Birrarung Marr on Sunday, following a tip off from a member of the public. Those posters were attributed to white supremacist organisation Antipodean Resistance. The same group was reportedly responsible for posting racist flyers directed at Chinese students across several Melbourne university campuses last month.

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