ABC flagship current affair programs didn't cover climate change adequately, report finds


The ABC’s 7.30 and AM programs did not cover climate change adequately and related reports on drought, bushfire, fossil fuel extraction, and energy policy ignored climate change as a causative factor, a confidential report for the Australian Conservation Foundation has found.

The ACF commissioned the former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes to study the programs’ output for 15 months, between 1 October 2017 and 31 December 2018, to find out if criticism of the ABC’s coverage was valid and if he could detect a deliberate avoidance of the issues due to political pressure.

Holmes found the coverage lacking but said there was no evidence reporters were under political pressure from management. The report did not assess climate coverage across all the ABC’s radio, TV and digital output but did single out ABC online for its excellent, detailed climate change coverage from a number of specialist science, weather and business reporters.

The survey found that ABC TV’s 7.30 broadcast only eight segments out of more than 1,000 that were focused specifically on climate change and its effects. AM was more extensive but still insufficient with 60 specific segments on the morning radio program out of more than 2,500.

The report concluded that “7.30’s coverage was inadequate, bearing in mind the program’s role as the ABC’s flagship daily television current affairs program and the crucial importance of the issue for all Australians”. AM, the report found, “did better, but its coverage was barely adequate”.

A former executive producer of 7.30, Holmes says he was “occasionally disappointed” when the program allowed politicians “to make misleading statements without challenge” on climate change.

READ  Facebook CMO Antonio Lucio steps down

“Remarkably, a major three-part series on the drought by Chris Gillett, aired in July 2018, did not mention climate change or raise any question about whether it is responsible for longer or more severe droughts in Australia,” the report said.

“Nor did Leigh Sales’ interview with the chief executive officer of the National Farmers’ Federation, which followed the series. Similarly, the coverage of the bushfire that devastated the town of Tathra on the NSW south coast in March 2018 made no mention of climate change.”

The two flagship current affairs programs were praised for not including non-scientific views, or so-called climate sceptics, to counter climate scientists, which is known as “false balance”. When the programs covered climate change they did so in a “robust way, featuring reputable climate scientists”, the report said.

There was also praise for stories about the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, which all linked it with climate change and interviewed relevant scientists.

However, when major issues such as the price of electricity, drought, an early bushfire season and two years of severe bleaching on the reef were dominating the headlines, one story in 50 on AM that directly mentioned climate change was barely adequate, the report said.

It found that in more than 30 drought stories dealing with the plight of farmers no mention was made of climate change as a possible causative factor.

The report, which was obtained by Guardian Australia, suggested the reason for the lack of comprehensive global warming coverage was not political pressure. Rather, it was due to climate change being a gradual process which struggled to compete with the daily news agenda. It was also a complex topic for general reporters.

READ  Twitter restricts Donald Trump Jr.’s account over viral hydroxychloroquine video

The ABC on Wednesday said it did “more than any other Australian media organisation to inform Australians about the important issues around climate change”.

The broadcaster said the Australian Conservation Foundation itself noted that the report “should not be considered a full quantitative analysis” and that Holmes “did not conduct interviews with ABC personnel or other relevant parties”.

“The ABC rejects these views and the report,” the ABC said in a statement. “It lacks adequate context and analysis.”

The organisation said it had covered climate change “comprehensively and rigorously for many years”.

“The ABC has also been acknowledged for its exhaustive coverage of last summer’s bushfires and the aftermath, including the debate over the contribution of climate change. We are proud of the coverage we provide to audiences in this key area.”



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here