American multinational tech company Apple appears to be doing Beijing’s bidding with an alleged advert ban placed upon two independent Chinese language media publications in Australia.
Management from our sister publication The Vision Times China (aka Kanzhongguo), and another Chinese language media The Epoch Times, told The Australian earlier this month that Apple will not allow its products to feature in any telecommunication adverts in either publication.
Maree Ma, the general manager of The Vision Times China in Sydney said she was told in August last year about Apple’s advert ban.
“The last time we had iPhone ads from Telstra (Australia’s largest telecommunications and media company) was in October 2015,” Ma told The Australian. “Since then, when Telstra runs their iPhone ads, they do not place any with our paper,’’ she said.
— AppleInsider (@appleinsider) March 7, 2017
“Since Apple’s products still appear in Beijing aligned or PRC government influenced Australian-Chinese media, we believe we have been ‘blacklisted’ by Apple for political reasons, as they are trying to protect their business in China,” said Ma, whose weekly paper is part of the largest independent Chinese language media in the world.
Established in 2001, The Vision Times China is now published in 17 countries. As well as Chinese and English, The Vision Times is published in Spanish and German.
The other independent Chinese language news publication, The Epoch Times – which broke the news on mass organ harvesting in China – also reported a similar situation regarding advertising featuring Apple products beginning at the same times as The Vision Times China.
“We have never had issues with Telstra. But then at the last minute, they had to pull out; then we asked why. (Our advertising agent) said it’s actually from Apple,” said a spokesman for The Epoch Times.
The Chinese government is well known for using whatever leverage it can to stifle perceived opponents, of which the free press is one.
— Bloomberg (@business) March 17, 2017
Apple’s aspirations in China are huge, and while it is one of its biggest iPhone markets, its market share has underperformed in recent months. Nevertheless, this week the tech giant announced they are investing more than US$500 million into research and development centers in China.
China expert Professor John Fitzgerald from Swinburne University said the issue over Apple banning its products from the adverts seemed to be further proof of Beijing intensifying its control of the media in Australia.
“In Hong Kong, we have seen accusations that Chinese government pressure forced two British banks to pull advertising from independent media outlet Apple Daily. I would not be surprised if advertisers doing business in China were considering where their products appeared considering Beijing’s strict media controls, which now seem to extend to Australia,” he said.
Apple refused to comment about the allegations in The Australian article.
— Swinburne University of Technology (@Swinburne) March 8, 2017
What Apple appears to have done is not an uncommon phenomenon. In an op-ed written by Fitzgerald last year for The Australian, the academic pointed out that many Australian business and political leaders are more than willing to do Beijing’s bidding.
“By appealing to the financial interests of Australia’s business, government, and media managers, China’s leaders then persuaded many influential Australians to do their talking for them.
Among business leaders, casino tycoon James Packer, media and equipment magnate Kerry Stokes, and mining billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest have been warning Canberra for years to tread cautiously on the South China Sea dispute for fear of risking their lucrative business deals with China.
Companies aligned with Beijing contracted retired Australian government ministers to lobby on their behalf. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer accepted a board position with Huawei and spoke on that company’s behalf in the face of national security concerns. Another former foreign minister, Bob Carr, founded the Australia China Relations Institute at University of Technology, Sydney, with funds from a Chinese businessman committed to advancing Beijing’s policy positions in Australia,” read part of Fitzgerald’s op-ed.
Sadly, it seems the problem is bigger than Apple.