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Credit card company American Express has pulled its advertising from Australia’s Sky News channel after the network broadcast an interview with Blair Cottrell, a local far-right extremist.
American Express’s Australian division made the announcement on Twitter, saying “recent content” on Sky News “does not reflect our brand values.”
Sky News, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., is in full damage limitation mode following the Cottrell interview, which aired on Sky News’ The Adam Giles Show on Sunday. Cottrell is the former leader of anti-immigration group United Patriots Front and has called for pictures of Adolf Hitler to be displayed in Australian schools. Last year, Cottrell was convicted of inciting contempt of Muslims.
On Monday, Sky said it was suspending The Adam Giles Show and was banning Cottrell from appearing again on the channel. Also on Monday, former Australian politician Craig Emerson announced he was resigning as a Sky News commentator as a result of Cottrell’s interview.
“My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interred in a German POW camp,” Emerson wrote. “The decision to allow neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell onto the channel was another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry in our country.”
Sky News’ political editor, David Speers, also delivered an on-air condemnation of the decision to air the interview, describing Cottrell as a “neo-Nazi.” In his commentary, he noted Sky was not the first Australian channel to give Cottrell airtime, but added: “That’s no excuse. He should never have been invited on the Adam Giles program last night and someone should have stopped that happening. This isn’t about censorship, it’s about avoiding the deep offense and hurt it has caused to give a platform to a self-confessed Neo-Nazi…legitimizing, normalizing or mainstreaming these sorts of repugnant views is not OK.”
Sky also announced a restructuring of senior management at the network, with news director Greg Byrnes being moved into a newly created role of acting program director and replaced by new acting news director Kaycie Bradford. Following the American Express announcement, Sky News said it “respected” the company’s decision and that it was addressing its concerns “in the strongest possible way.”
Amex’s move comes amid an activist campaign by the group Sleeping Giants Oz, which aims to fight the normalization of racism and far-right speech in Australia by targeting advertisers. After Cottrell’s Sky News interview Sunday, the group tweeted out a list of companies that had advertised with Sky News that night, including commercial airline Qantas and glasses retailer Specsavers, both of which said they had no plans to change their agreements with Sky.
Tech platforms have also cracked down on hate speech recently. On Sunday night, Apple removed content produced by right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from iTunes and the Apple podcasting app. Facebook, YouTube and Spotify all followed suit Monday.
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