November 28, 2003, 9:49 AM — IT and Web site managers who have ever wondered about the forward-thinking capacity of traffic-hungry marketing and publicity staff have been delivered a strong lesson as to why IT should have the final say over content to hit the Internet.
After a night plagued by technical difficulties that left viewers of the Walkley Awards on Australia's government-owned Satellite Broadcasting System (SBS) TV wondering if they were on the set of Groundhog Day, publicity staff at the broadcaster upped the ante of ill-considered actions after a publicity "joke", that made the SBS Walkley's Web site look as if it had been hacked by far-right apologists, went horribly wrong.
After being robbed of many Walkley results on national television, thousands of viewers attempting to access award results for excellence in journalism online were greeted by the following words: "The Walkleys are run by the socialist media union, The Alliance. This year, international guest Jayson Blair will present the Gold Walkley, which is awarded to the journalist who most panders to The Alliance's anti-free market, anti-American, anti-family values agenda. 2003's Awards also sees the introduction of new prizes for Most Gratuitous Attack on the Federal Government and Best Propaganda in Support of a Social Cause Opposed by Mainstream Australia."
There was also a reference to a lifetime achievement award made to an individual for disservices to journalism.
SBS head publicist Mike Field told Computerworld that the errant words appeared on the site after the "online department failed to get the joke."
So too, did the Australian Federal Police and other government security agencies, which Computerworld understands immediately contacted SBS to verify the information security status of the broadcaster -- which, as a commonwealth government facility, is counted as critical infrastructure.
Field refused to answer questions as to why a television station would possibly want to make itself look as if it had been hacked, or make itself into a hacking target, saying that a "joke" press release had been sent out yesterday and had been written by "the guys at the Chaser."
Computerworld understands an internal investigation into the activities of the publicity unit is now under way within the broadcaster, not least as to what prompted them into thinking the creation of a bogus hacking incident after a technically horrendous night of broadcasting would help things.
SBS insiders, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the incident was "the last thing anyone needs after a night that totally (undermined) itself at ever possible corner."
"Some (expletive) people are going to be looking at the (expletive) Herald tomorrow, that's for (expletive) sure", said another senior SBS source.