by Ruth Limkin
Results from a recent cross-parliamentary report in the UK are a reminder of the now pervasive nature of online pornography, and its effect on young people. The first generation to grow up with prolific, anonymous access, the Daily Mail reveals report findings that ‘four out of five 16 year old boys and girls regularly access porn online, while one in three ten-year-olds had seen explicit material’.
It can feel like change is impossible and that providers of adult content care more about their balance sheet than the consequence of how they add to it. Yet every so often, a company makes a noble decision on this issue, and when they do, they deserve praise. For while we can be quick to condemn corporate irresponsibility, we should be just as quick to celebrate outstanding corporate citizenship. I’m rather thrilled to let you know that an opportunity to celebrate has now presented itself.
Around 6 weeks ago, I came across the Women at Telstra page which expressed excellent sentiments. These included developing a ‘supportive’ workplace for women that was ‘proactive about women’s development and gender inclusion’ so it could ‘connect women to real opportunities’.
Hence, I was profoundly disappointed to also discover that Telstra also sold adult-oriented smartphone video content through Bigpond. The videos promoted ‘ladies for viewing pleasure’, including ‘ladies straight from Tokyo’.
On one hand, Telstra seemed to have an authentic desire to respect women, while on the other hand, was profiting off their commodification. This content didn’t contribute to the promotion of a workplace or society where women of different ethnicities were respected but instead reduced them to sexual objects for viewing pleasure. Further, Bigpond Video also promoted the Playboy Video channel in close proximity to children’s video content.
Contacting the senior team at Telstra, I expressed concerns at the mismatch between the values they espoused, and one of their business activities. They could have ignored this, or paid lip service to it, yet that’s not what Telstra did. They replied in a timely manner, and they also replied thoughtfully and prudently.
With respect to the Playboy content link, they agreed that its proximity to children’s content was inappropriate and removed it from their website. They also indicated they would conduct a future review of their content policy.
That review has now been done, and friends who work for Telstra recently forwarded me an announcement from their staff newsletter.
The comments were from Telstra CEO, David Thodey, and he said:
“Recently, I received emails from customers about content promoted on our BigPond website. Those customers thought we shouldn’t promote adult-orientated movies or videos that objectify women.
I have to agree. We have therefore decided that we will no longer promote access to adult-orientated content through our websites.
Let me put this decision in context. The content accessible via BigPond is mild compared to what’s available on the Internet. None of it had an ‘R’ rating. In fact, I’m assured you could find more explicit content at your local DVD shop or elsewhere in cyberspace.
However, this is not the real issue! Why, then, have we made this decision?
The simple answer is that promoting content such as this is just not the Telstra thing to do and we cannot support anything that is sexist or that is inconsistent with our values.
We are, in many ways, Australia’s largest family company. We are owned by more than a million Australian families, many of our customers are Australian families and family businesses. And we have – through the Telstra Foundation and our corporate citizenship efforts – dedicated ourselves to promoting Australia’s cultural diversity, including gender diversity, through initiatives such as the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
Our decision is consistent with our values of respect and diversity.
If our customers want to view adult-orientated content on the Internet, they still can. That’s up to them, not us. This decision is not about censorship, but choice and respecting gender equality.”
Thank you Telstra, and thank you David Thodey.
Thank you on behalf of women in Australian (and those from Tokyo), and on behalf of every Australian family.
We not only appreciate your organisational consistency, but we celebrate your good corporate citizenship. You have provided an example we can point to of corporations who put people before profits. All of this deserves exuberant applause, and you most certainly have mine.
I’d love you to give Telstra a round of applause! Here’s a link to contact the Office of the CEO – choose ‘positive feedback’ in the dropdown menu.