The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) breached the ABC’s own Code of Practice 2002 by failing to make every reasonable effort to ensure that a Four Corners program about the forestry industry in Tasmania was impartial. ACMA also found the ABC failed to make every reasonable effort to ensure that the factual content of the program was accurate.
Following is some comment from Cinders, a reader of this blog and member of Timber Communities Australia:
“The ABC broadcast a summary of the finding at the conclusion of Monday’s Four Corners program but failed to apologise for the inaccurate and biased program of February 2004.
No apology was forthcoming when the ABC’s own Independent Complaints Review Panel (ICRP) found the same program inaccurate, misleading and seriously lacking in balance and fairness.
Whilst the forest industry feels vindicated by the ACMA findings, when will the ABC actually publish facts about Tasmanian forestry such as 45% of its native forest being reserved and managed for conservation, that it has a million hectares of old growth locked up as well as 97% of its high quality wilderness? That its native forest harvesting has been assessed as ecologically sustainable and complies with all Australian and State laws and is internationally accredited.
E-journal Crikey has raised another dilemma for the ABC: What to do with its Eureka award for outstanding journalism that it received for three environmental programs including ‘Lords of the Forests’?
Can the ABC continue to advertise Four Corners and its journalist as Eureka award winners in the light of this damming report?
The ACMA also needs to review its procedures. This finding comes two years and five months after the program was first shown.
Despite having extensive powers to investigate and hold hearings under Section 168 of the Broadcasting Service Act, it chose to only assess the written submissions of the ABC and the complainants. In fact it provided only the ABC with a copy of its preliminary findings, denying the complainants of opportunity to dispute findings.
Four Corners claims to be Australia’s premier television current affairs program. It has been part of the national story since August 1961, with consistently high standards of journalism and film-making earning international recognition and an array of Walkleys, Logies and other national awards. The program claims that its current team of reporters maintains a proud tradition of investigative journalism and rigorous analysis.
Can these claims and its place in TV journalism be maintained if it fails to apologise and issue a retraction over this discredited program?
Hopefully the ABC will return the Eureka Award to the Australian Museum and the $10,000 to the Australian taxpayers who sponsored the award.
Christian Kerr from Crikey summarized the case against the ABC in a piece published by the IPA titled ‘ABC’s Paralysis on Bias’ in March 2005.