APPEA first brought complaints against what it regarded as 35 instances of inaccuracy in December last year but the ABC’s investigation into the complaints was only released last Thursday, well outside the broadcaster’s 30-day target response time.
The peak body lashed out at the timing of the public availability of the 32-page document, accusing the broadcaster of trying to sweep its mistakes under the carpet by outlining its admission a day before the Easter weekend.
“It’s disappointing the investigation took so long, that so many inaccuracies have remained on the site and that the final report was released in a manner which clearly attempted to avoid scrutiny of what is an extremely embarrassing series of editorial breaches and factual errors,” APPEA eastern chief Rick Wilkinson said.
“The ABC’s own inquiry has found six contraventions of the ABC’s editorial standards and it is worth considering whether any single piece of ABC journalism has ever achieved such a damning report card.”
Despite the admission, the ABC said the site should not be damned for its breaches.
“However, the website should be seen in its entirety,” the broadcaster said in its response.
“Overall it gave prominence to some of the most important arguments in favour of the development of the CSG industry: that it will contribute enormously to economic growth, employment and government revenue for the country as a whole.
“Overall, while conceding that errors of judgement were made, Audience and Consumer Affairs conclude the production team sought to gather and present information for the website in an impartial manner.”
Among the inaccuracies was the omission of important context in the presentation of carbon dioxide emissions data and the failure to include reference to environmental offsets, which the ABC said arguably had the effect of excluding a principal relevant perspective on the matters to hand.
It said the presentation of information relating to audits of the CSG industry erroneously implied the CSG industry was in some way “caught out” by unscheduled audits and was hiding something from regulators.
The ABC said material inaccuracies over-emphasised the negative aspects of the CSG industry, or implied inadequate regulation of the industry by government.
Despite the admissions, in a statement to the media APPEA said while it was a start, it intended to take the ABC to task over what it considered to be further inaccuracies.
You can find the full report in PDF format here
This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication EnergyNewsBulletin.net.