ABC: Let's have a debate

Group think on climate

Geoff Elliott, writing in The Australian, analyses the effect of ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s speech (see here):

The responses to Newman’s speech have been predictable. Some see it as management interference in the ABC editorial processes, others as a case of Newman expressing some hard truths.

Perhaps not surprisingly, first to express outrage was Jonathan Holmes, the presenter of ABC1’s Media Watch.

After Newman spoke, Scott followed with his own speech but, according to those present, did not directly address the chairman’s comments. He then opened the forum for questions in which Holmes rose to his feet and, according to those present, said: “It was an excellent speech, Mark, but I found it difficult to concentrate because I’m so angry about what the chairman just said”, or words to that effect.

Holmes’s view is that it was an inappropriate forum for the remarks. An ABC spokesman says it was an internal discussion, though a speech to 250 people at the ABC was unlikely to remain internal for long and Newman reiterated his remarks in a lengthy interview on ABC radio’s PM that night.

The Friends of the ABC says Newman’s criticism of the coverage of global warming was “extraordinary and inappropriate”.

Spokesperson Glenys Stradijot says Newman “is entitled to his personal views on controversial matters. But his expression of them while he remains head of the ABC damages public confidence in the national broadcaster’s independence”. She goes on: “Just as worrying, Mr Newman’s comments look to be an attempt to influence ABC programming to be more favourable to global warming scepticism.”

But others wonder if this argument holds, as the ABC board, as a taxpayer-funded entity, is responsible under the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act to “ensure that the gathering and presentation by the corporation of news and information is accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism”.

The ABC has been under heavy fire in the past few months for its reporting on climate change, partly with reference to the climategate emails, and as public opinion shifts on the issue, particularly after the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit. (source)

But just when you think it can’t get worse, we find the ABC spinning the recent story from China (also discussed here) regarding a senior official branding climate “denialism” an extreme viewpoint, as ABC News Watch points out:

In the AM report Xie Zhenhua is reported as saying the following in answer to McDonell (translated – by the ABC or Chinese officials?):“Climate change is a fact based on long-time observations by countries around the world. The mainstream view is that climate change is caused by burning of fossil fuel in the course of industrialisation. And there’s a more extreme view which holds that human activity has only an imperceptible impact on the natural system.”

The Reuters report however attributes the following statement to Xie Zhenhua (translated – by Reuters or other Chinese officials?): There are still two different viewpoints in the scientific field about the cause of warming,” Xie told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament. “At present, many people, or the most mainstream view, is that the combustion of large amounts of fossil fuel over the process of industrialisation caused an increase in greenhouse gases, which caused climate warming.” “Another point of view holds that the main reason is changes in sunspots, or natural changes in the environment. There is an even more extreme point of view, that human influence on changes in nature can only be miniscule,” he added.””

And as Marc concludes:

If this complaint is upheld we believe a deeper investigation, perhaps a Parliamentary Inquiry, into ABC news coverage on climate change is more than warranted. If readers can get more accurate coverage of news for free on the internet why do we need the ABC’s news service?

So true, so true.

Read Marc’s entire report here.


  1. Great work by both Simon and Marc here. I am sick and tired of the ABC using my tax dollars to push an agenda to apparently try and indoctrinate me and others when they are supposed to be impartial. How dare the ABC withhold information or distort it. How dare the ABC presume we are incapable of making up our own minds on such matters? May I suggest that any readers forward the link to Marc’s ABC News Watch site onto as many people as possible and urge them to sign up!

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