Lachlan Murdoch has been invited to appear before a reconvened Senate inquiry into YouTube’s temporary ban on Sky News Australia for uploading videos in breach of the platform’s Covid misinformation policy.
If the co-chairman of News Corp accepts he will appear alongside his Sky News Australia presenters Alan Jones, Rita Panahi and Rowan Dean who have already agreed to give evidence before the media diversity committee on Monday.
“The committee has called Mr Murdoch to front the inquiry to explain his role in the direction of Sky News and News Corp’s other media outlets,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia.
“Mr Murdoch has the opportunity on Monday to put his case to the Senate inquiry. I look forward to asking the co-chairman about the standards of journalism and accurate reporting at Sky News and across Australia’s most dominant media company.”
Sky’s chief executive, Paul Whittaker, is also on the witness list for the hearing which is investigating why the broadcaster was suspended from YouTube for seven days and whether the media watchdog should have taken any action against the Covid misinformation on subscription or free-to-air television.
The senior manager, government affairs & public policy for Google Australia, Samantha Yorke, and the director of public policy for Google Australia and New Zealand, Lucinda Longcroft, will give evidence for the digital platforms.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the department of communications and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) will also appear next week at the rescheduled hearing.
Murdoch, who is also executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation, splits his time between Los Angeles, New York and Sydney. He would give evidence remotely due to Covid restrictions.
Hanson-Young said the inquiry would seek to understand how and why it was left to the tech giant to pull down potentially dangerous material.
“If these conspiracy theories and disinformation was too dangerous to be online, surely it was too dangerous to be broadcast on our television screens? What was the government’s regulator, Acma doing?”
She said the dominance of the Murdoch-owned News Corp was pervasive in Australia’s media landscape.
“The parallels between the promotion and dissemination of Covid lies and conspiracy theories on Sky News has clear parallels with the false and dangerous claims of the stolen US election which resulted in the Capitol riots,” Hanson-Young said.
“There are serious questions to be asked of media outlets who peddle lies and the media authority that regulates them.”
At the time of the YouTube ban, Sky News Australia released a statement that said: “We support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives which is vital to any democracy. We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously.”
Guardian Australia revealed last month that Sky News suddenly deleted at least 31 videos questioning the public health response to Covid-19 after the YouTube ban was lifted. The broadcaster has not explained why.