Tabloid TV Tricked
Melbourne, Feb. 7 2002 (INS News) -- Usually
when major television networks find the stories that appeared
on one of their shows reported across other media, they are
proud... but this time, they became the story and are on the
Nine's A Current Affair heavily promoted a story throughout
the weekend which claimed that a group called the "Dole
Army" was ripping off the Australian government by claiming
unemployment benefits and trying to rip off the welfare system.
Channel Seven's Today Tonight also raced for the story; so
as not to be left out of the story of the week, they ended
up paying the Dole Army $1000 Australian Dollars (approx.
US $500), which they later admitted to on Tuesday night.
if it wasn’t true, it would almost be comical.''
Today Tonight, Monday
Army (according to the reports that aired on Monday night)
live in stormwater drains and at night go to dumpsters seeking
food for the needy. The reports left many viewers wondering
if they also produced their website - using their cable internet
connection - underground as well.
claimed that the members of the Dole Army are on government
welfare payments, called them bludgers and accused them of
ripping off the taxpayers. A common tactic of these shows
is to outrage the viewer into thinking that they are being
cheated, which increases the ratings.
one of the country's best-kept secrets - a rebel army working
deep beneath the city. They live in drainage tunnels under
Melbourne and their goal is to teach people how to rip-off
the welfare system," went the story's introduction on
remain a big secret; both networks were taken in and their
lack of double checking and of control brought them to an
embarrassing situation - that their story was flawed. The
Dole Army actually live in houses; also, most of the members
have jobs and don't receive welfare payments.
aim was to promote their website and welfare issues. To do
this, they so they gave the tabloid TV shows a story which
they could hype up enough to increase the all important ratings,
which neither show questioned or resisted.
stated "the big guns of Tabloid TV fell victim to their
own sleazy set-up tactics'' and added this was in response
to previous stories which they thought were victimising the
poor and unemployed.
Tuesday editions toned down the story but failed to go as
far as correcting the stories. Today Tonight told viewers
that the group lied about who they were and also challenged
them to donate the money they gave them for the fictitious
story to charity. A Current Affair went on the defensive saying
once again that "they are a pack of dole bludgers"
and claimed the Dole Army encouraged people to rip off the
know that was another big lie''
Today Tonight, Tuesday
also said they were focussing on the website, claiming it
contained ways to cheat the welfare system. INS News could
not find any such information on the site.
Army's web page received a large increase in visitors to the
small site, which was virtually unknown before Monday. Their
guest book was attacked with numerous postings against the
group that were deleted this Tuesday morning.
still haven't explained if any measures are going to be taken
to ensure the accuracy of future stories and how they are
going to prevent further planned stunts by the group.
ends up the same though - people will still watch and the
ratings will still be there for the next scoop, regardless
if it is true or not. Whether the audience will believe it
this time is another question.
Burns in Sydney. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
View a transcript of the original story the aired
Find out more on the group and also read their media
We could not find any reference to the story on
Current Affair website.